Tuesday, November 02, 2010
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.
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.
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.