Sophie Vieille

For the Fashion Lounge of the Times Square Show, we purchased five hundred kilos, five hundred pounds, or five hundred dollars worth, I don't remember which, of schmata from the Salvation Army, the kind that is sold and shipped to Africa (by the way, completely destroying the local textile industries, from cotton farms to spinning mills and local production). A parallelepiped of three cubic meters, it was huge and stayed in the entrance room until it disappeared. We, the fashion girls—Mary Lemley, Paula Grief, Karen Lunar, Ester Balint, Vicki Pederson and I—used most of it for the Fashion Lounge. This second-floor corner room had knee-high-to-ceiling windows facing Seventh Avenue and 41st Street. Our fashion installation mimicked its surroundings. Mary painted a round corner settee a pearly grey, probably the only place to relax in the whole building, and next to it stood a metal shelf full of the clothes she transformed, cutting and painting them. She asked Jean-Michel [Basquiat] to do a painting and it was to be his first inside, on three wooden panels above the entrance door. Karin painted a whole collection of bras that were hung. And I installed stacks of clothes neatly folded and piled in front of the windows, these too were painted in various colors. Mary was a real diva, with a sense of color and decorum, who studied art in Florida. She would paint her shoes white or orange to match her outfit as we were getting ready to go out nightclubbing, that was her style. She brought us into this event. At the time she was living with Michael Glier and Jenny Holzer and followed the Colab meetings. Last I heard of her, she was living in London and had floated huge colorful sheets down the Thames.

Downstairs, the stack of clothing slowly diminished as everyone found something to his/her liking: the best was probably Bobby G's pea-green jersey lounge suit. For years, one could track various pieces of clothing in the group back to the TSS.

And to finish, we organized a fashion show: "Wraps and Raps." Charlie [Ahearn] had just been filming up in the Bronx and none of us knew what rap was about. We had a beautiful invitation and a poster done by Paula Greif, a graphic designer from Conde Nast, and I rented a sound system by withdrawing money that I did not have with a credit card. There was a stage. A girl band with Virginia Piersol playing toy instruments started the evening, and then Johnny Dynell and his band animated the fashion defile. Twenty some persons showed off their very own creations, from Judy Rifka roller skating on stage wearing her dirty whites and Christy Rupp, who might have worn one of her very first rat t-shirts, to Kathleen Thomas wrapped in white foam held together with silver tape. Sally Beers was probably there, but wearing what I can't remember. John Duka from the New York Times stopped by on his way from work and so became an aficionado of that emerging downtown scene that was to flourish in the years to come (he had a column on Tuesdays). The whole evening was good fun and clearly unpretentious. It was about stating one's personal style, miles away from the fashion industry, which was insecure fashion-wise and influenced by the Franco-Italian know-how. 

Sophie Vieille, June 8, 2012

Sophie Vieille (b. 1954, France)
Sophie Vieille moved to New York City in 1977 after studying law and political science in Paris. She worked in the garment district and lived downtown. In 1979, she produced Witness New York at Hurrah, a nightclub at Broadway and 62nd Street. Witness New York featured the films, music, and fashion of the downtown scene, including Jim Jarmusch, Eric Mitchell, and James Nares on screen, the Lounge Lizards and Boris Policeband on stage, and Andy Blinx, Eric Broaddus, Betsey Johnson, Mary Lemley, and Natasha on the runway. Vieille also produced the Ballgown show at the Mudd Club, New York City. As a freelance fashion journalist she contributed to publications such as SoHo News and the Village Voice.

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