Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Gene Berk for Paganne


Gene Berk began his fashion career as a menswear merchandiser. By the early 60s, he was designing sportswear for Oleg Cassini, both in America and in Italy. He designed for Cole of California and even worked in a few movies. In 1965, Berk went out on his own and formed Paganne, Ltd. He was the president and designer of the company. In 1967, his company was bought by Printogs and was operated as a wholly owned subsidiary.

1974 "Bicycle Race" print

Though not trained as an artist (he was a pre-law dropout), all of Berk's prints began as small sketches that he drew on a pad in his workroom. Those sketches were then sent by air mail to artists in Como, Italy, where they were translated into life sized paintings, then into screens, then into sample swatches of fabric. Each step was sent back to New York for approval by Berk before going on to the next.


When the rolls of finished fabric arrived in New York, Berk's imagination would go to work. Yards of fabric would be unrolled onto a work table and he would then conjure up various ways to use the print in several garments. His sketches inspired the fabric, then the fabric inspired the clothes.

1974 "Vagabonda" print

In the early years of Paganne, Ltd. garments were made of silk jersey, cotton knit, wool knit, and velveteen. Later in the 60s and then into the 70s, most of the garments were made of Quiana nylon, Antron nylon, or Banlon nylon. Most of his prints were signed "©Paganne". One print would often be made in several color variations.

Couture Allure currently has one Paganne dress for sale, a geometric nylon in blue and white on black.

Please note: Biographical information about Gene Berk and Paganne is copyright of Couture Allure and may not be copied without permission.


Erin said...

Very interesting. I've often wondered how one gets into designing fabric. Is there a "typical" path into that line of work or do people just fall into it. I'd love to see a series of posts someday on the type of education and work experience you would have in various areas of the fashion industry, including those who do the less glamorous work of clothing construction.

frazzledsugarplummum said...

Very interesting. Thank you for the post.

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

Erin, that's a great idea! I'm glad you both liked the post. I had an email from someone who actually owns the bare midriff set in the second photo!

Jonathan said...

hey, wait a second... that's my dad!

Anonymous said...

for the sake of accuracy I 'd like to make some corrections to how the prints at paganne were made as I was very good friends with one of his print artists and was acquainted with the other two.
Gene Berk had 3 artists in NY one, eva was hungarian, the second rosa, was italian, the 3rd kenneth was an american and my close friend, all were extremely talented. Gene would usually come in and tell them what kind of prints he had seen at print shows and on his travels (he was there only a week or two every month, frequently travelling and in Como), he also pulled tear sheets from european magazines to give them. They would then sketch and paint, in those days all painting was done by hand. Gene would select those painting he liked send them to Como where the screens would be cut and fabric would be printed. Print swatches of each print or in some cases a yard of each print was reviewed by him and approved or rejected. The approved prints were then printed into the requested yardage rolls and dresses cut. Just FYI many times the print painting were shown to the buyers for their approval before even being sent to Italy for a strike off.

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

Thank you for those added details, anonymous. They help a lot!

Paganne (official) said...

Thanks for the great article! As fans of vintage Paganne, you may be interested to know that Paganne is currently gearing up for a 2013 comeback, with the assistance and consultation of Gene Berk himself. We'd love to see you on Facebook. (www.facebook.com/paganne)

Sarara Vintage said...

I can't wait to see the new Paganne line, but I love the old designs so much. Great post, love the old ad image. My passion for them was recently fueled when I found more than 10 different dresses in the collection of a store buyer in the 60s. You would be amazed, the flapper design, cheetahs, lions, an amazing deco print, aztec designs.... Thanks again!

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