How fashion design of the past influences designers of the future
A blog story about how my Grandmother Maria’s love for Lilly Pulitzer's early designs, became the inspiration for Brinko Ties.
Ahhh..the content monster, something we all have to face when running our own business and websites. Sometimes the ideas are running full speed ahead and sometimes it seems impossible to come up with things to engage your audience. Then there’s that Aha moment and you realize there is a wealth of content right in front of your face and you haven’t even explored its potential! That’s exactly what happened here. For those of you familiar with our company, you may already know Bethany’s Grandmother Maria inspired it. For those of you who are not familiar with our story, you can read up about it at http://www.brinkoties.com/pages/our-story
But lets get right to how Lilly Pulitzer inevitably played a role in the birth of Brinko Ties and why we chose to start the blog with this collection
II. Maria & Me
Maria was a socialite, business woman, fashion designer and fashion collector. She loved going to down to Palm Beach during the cold winters. She began frequenting Palm Beach “the suburbs of NYC” in the late 50’s/early 60’s. That is where she discovered Lilly Pulitzer. My Grandmother always taught me, that if you found something you liked, buy two. When you found something you really, really liked, buy as much as you feel necessary. Now, fast forward past all those years of her hob-knobbing, shopping, socializing and vacationing in Palm Beach. It is now the 2000 and Maria has stopped her annual trips to Palm Beach. Maria never made her age public knowledge so I can’t tell how old she is at this point however, I am now a full grown adult. My Grandmother and I had lots of conversations about all things fashion, business, life, people and men. When we would discuss the subject of smart fashion design, Maria would tell me that she would buy the men’s Pulitzer tie and men’s Pulitzer jeans because of their beautiful bright prints. She did not care if they were for men, if she liked them and they fit well, she would buy them. Maria was not afraid to step outside the box when it came to fashion. My Grandma Maria was always ahead of her time and her fashion choices were no exception. Maria would style them so no one could tell she was wearing men’s jeans. She got a real kick out of that. We have a few pairs of these amazing jeans on the blog to show you. When my Grandma Maria wore Lilly Pulitzer's men’s ties she tied the knot low and then put one of her fabulous brooches on the knot. She called it her lady tie.
I thought it was such a great idea, but it would irritate me that we had to use a man’s tie and it was confounding to me that women didn’t have their own tie accessory. I would ask her, “How come women don’t have their own tie"? Grandma Maria’s response was, “You’ll just have to make one”. That’s exactly what I did. I designed a women’s tie that goes on like a necklace and comes with a vintage brooch. To think this was all inspired by my Grandmother who turned a men’s Lilly Pulitzer tie into her own women’s tie over 40+ years ago. I have that tie and the brooch that she paired with it. (See photo below)
Many times I begged her to keep everything she had procured in her life or made from her time as a designer. Maria warned me that she had a lot of clothes and amazing ones at that! However I did not truly understand the magnitude of her collection until I had the momentous task of cleaning out her large home in New Jersey. Needless to say, I was extremely close with my Grandmother, and I admired her tremendously. My Grandma Maria honored my requests to keep everything. I brought back her mint condition collection to my home in Charleston, SC where it’s well cared for and preserved. I wanted these pieces to be saved so that maybe one day they can inspire other designers too.
While thinking about a content piece that could be inspiring to others, the light bulb came on. How about a blog featuring Maria’s amazing collection called Maria’s closet?! I thought we would start it off with the Lilly Pulitzer collection since it had such an influence on the creation of our company. So here is a little bit of information about Lilly Pulitzer and these specially selected pieces. We hope you are inspired and enjoy the collection. We have lots more vintage fashion pieces to share and we hope that you’ll want to see them in the future but for now, let’s start here!
Lillian Mckim married Peter Pulitzer in 1952. Lilly and Peter decided to settle down in Palm Beach where Peter owned several Florida citrus orange groves. Lilly decided to open a fruit juice stand using the citrus produce from her husband's citrus groves. Her designing began as a way to conceal the fruit juice stains that she would get on her clothing from working at her stand. She first designed a simple cotton A line dress with bright citrus inspired colors and a robust print. Her customers loved the dress so much that she made more and started selling her dresses at her juice stand. By 1959 Lilly became the president of her own company the same time my Grandmother began vacationing in Palm Beach. Lilly had her factory located in Miami and her fabrics were made at the Key West Hand Print Fabrics Company. Lilly’s clothing line was popular from the 1960’ s-1980. The likes of Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis, Caroline Kennedy and members of the Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Whitney families all wore her clothing. By 1984 Lilly no longer wanted to continue her clothing line and she shut it down completely. In 1993 the rights of the brand were acquired by Sugartown Worldwide, Inc. Lilly would occasionally consult with them on creative decisions but it was no longer her company.
The Lilly collection I inherited from my Grandmother are pieces from the 1960’s-1980’s while the company was still run by Lilly. Lilly’s courage and vision to do things her own way, in turn inspired my Grandmother, also a woman who did things her way. My Grandmother’s forward thinking, vision, fashion sense and business sense inspired my business partner Elizabeth and I to also do things our own way too. We hope you enjoy seeing this one of a kind vintage Lilly Pulitzer collection and reading the blog. We also hope this story and these beautiful pieces stir inspiration inside of you!