Aug 22, 2011

Designer du Jour: Malcolm Starr

Malcolm Starr (1924 - 2008) was a popular American dress manufacturer and head of the ready to wear company  that bore his name at 530 Seventh Avenue. From a March 21, 2008 article in  Women’s Wear Daily: 

“The dress company he operated, Malcolm Starr, was started in the Forties by his father, Frank, a well-known figure in the textile industry. During that period, the family was one of the first to lease factories in India and China for manufacturing, and also operated boutiques in Hong Kong and Japan. ‘Even members of the royal family in Japan wore his fashions,'' said Starr's sister, Gloria Starr Kins. "They were the number-one country club set dresses. You would always see at least 30 percent of the women in any elite country club wearing a Malcolm Starr.’"

This label, although best known for beading and glitz, also produced a charming series of felt applique skirts with circus and carousel themes including clowns, tigers, and elephants. Elinor Rizkallah Simmons received label credit for the firm as did Youssef Rizkallah. Additional designers were Bill Tice, Jay Arthur Kobrin, and Carol Horn.

The embroideries and beading used on their line were elaborate and were often done in Hong Kong. A typical 1960s dress from Malcolm Starr would have be simply cut, perhaps in a shantung with curved sculptural seaming and have bold three dimensional beading at the neckline, collar or under bust. And jeweled buttons of course. There would quite often be a matching coat. Another classic line from them was the all over beaded sheath dress. Malcolm Starr also produced formal gowns in lace, silk and  chiffon with lurex, plus a variety of day wear dresses and coats.  But they were best known for cocktail and evening wear.  Elinor Simmons of Malcolm Starr is listed as the women’s costume designer for the 1967 Frank Sinatra and Jill St. John film, Tony Rome.

Frank Starr died in 1969, and Malcolm ran the business until 1976, when it was sold. From WWD: “Starr continued to be active producing clothes in Hong Kong and India and wanted to revive the Malcolm Starr line, but the Sept. 11 attacks cut short that effort.“

A small gallery of this line now available, plus one from our archives I couldn't resist including:

 1960s Cream Lace Malcolm Starr Dress now available at Past Perfect Vintage

 1970s Black and Gold Chiffon Evening Dress from 
the Past Perfect Vintage archives 

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