Listen to personal recollections of Charles James from those who knew and worked with him. Former clients, assistants, muses, and friends share their stories with fashion journalist and editor Alina Cho, illuminating the life and work of the legendary couturier.
The interviews are chronologically ordered according to the date each subject knew Charles James.
Christophe de Menil
Christophe de Menil—daughter of Dominique de Menil, a great art patron and major James client in the late 1940s and early 1950s—knew James as a young teenager. She describes James's lavish redecoration of their Houston family home and recalls wearing his iconic "Clover Leaf" gown to a ball as a teenager. She also discusses James's influence on her own creative pursuits. See the transcript in Met Media.
Ms. de Menil is a designer of jewelry and clothing.
Image: Christophe in the "Clover Leaf" gown, ca. 1953. Courtesy Menil Archives, The Menil Collection, Houston. Photo: S. de l'Epine
Mary Ellen Hecht
Mary Ellen Hecht, MD was James's client and close friend in the mid-1950s, the most active years of his career. She shares lively stories of both his irascible temper and prodigious talent. See the transcript in Met Media.
Dr. Hecht is a retired orthopedic surgeon and author.
Image: A portrait of Hecht from the period in which she knew James
Elsa Peretti first served as a fit model for James before becoming his muse and close friend in the 1960s and 1970s. She describes his charisma and genius, as well as his relationship and eventual falling-out with his former apprentice, Halston. See the transcript in Met Media. Note: This interview was conducted over the phone.
Ms. Peretti is a jewelry designer.
Image: Elsa Peretti. Photograph by Carola Polakov
R. Couri Hay
R. Couri Hay was James's close friend in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the designer was living in the Chelsea Hotel, then a frenzied scene of artistic expression. He explains James's mastery of the silhouette and also discusses the designer's infamous falling-out with Halston. See the transcript in Met Media.
Mr. Hay is a publicist and society columnist.
Image: Hay with James in the early 1970s. Photograph by Anton Perich
Paul Caranicas knew James in the late 1960s and 1970s through the illustrator Antonio Lopez, who sketched hundreds of James's pieces during this time. Caranicas explains James's artistry and distaste for business and offers amusing anecdotes from these later years. See the transcript in Met Media.
Mr. Caranicas is a painter.
Image: Caranicas (left) and James in the Chelsea Hotel lobby, May 1975. © Estate of Antonio Lopez & Juan Ramos. Courtesy Paul Caranicas
Elizabeth Strong-Cuevas was James's close friend and one of his loyal supporters in the 1970s, his final years. She had also known James when she was a young girl in the early 1940s. Strong-Cuevas shares stories of their friendship and speaks about his personality quirks and vast interests. See the transcript in Met Media.
Ms. Strong-Cuevas is a sculptor.
Image: Strong-Cuevas with James in the mid-1970s. Strong-Cuevas's dress is one of James's last designs. © Estate of Antonio Lopez & Juan Ramos. Courtesy Paul Caranicas
Homer Layne was James's last assistant, from 1971 through 1978. He attended a class James taught at Pratt Institute and later became his trusted assistant. Layne held onto James's designs and archives for thirty-five years before they were acquired by The Costume Institute. Layne reveals heartfelt memories of the designer and discusses the extraordinary vision behind his designs and theories.
See the transcript in Met Media.
Mr. Layne is a retired fashion designer.
Image, from left to right: Layne, Stephen Washington, James Harwick, James, Owen Hartley, 1975. Washington, Harwick, and Hartley were James's other apprentices. © Homer Layne