Monday, September 23, 2013

I. Magnin's Miss Stella

Stella Hanania was born in Lebanon and was taught to sew in the Parisian convent where she went to school.  After moving to New York, she went to work in the custom salon at Bergdorf Goodman where she worked with Bernard Newman.  When Newman moved to Beverly Hills to design for Hollywood movie stars, Stella came along as his assistant.  She chose to stay in California and went to work for I. Magnin in 1947.

A Miss Stella creation, 1965.  A sequined jacket with real coral beads
floats over a white silk shantung skirt.
Miss Stella, as she chose to be called, was head of I. Magnin's custom couture salon in Los Angeles for 30 years.  All of the garments she created for her custom clients were designed specifically for that client and were made completely by hand.

The Custom Salon on the second floor of I. Magnin, Los Angeles.
This was Miss Stella's domain.
Twice a year, Stella would travel to Paris for the couture showings.  She purchased selections from the couture houses and received permission to copy them in America and also used what she saw for inspiration for her own designs.

Beaded evening helmet by Miss Stella, 1965.
Stella did not like ready-to-wear clothing, calling it "plastic."  She met individually with each client and understood their needs and body shapes, then designed their wardrobes encompassing their personal taste and style.  Miss Stella retired in 1977 and at that time was the last custom couture designer in a US department store.  She died in her sleep in 1987.