Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Brief History of Vera

If you have been reading my blog, it's obvious that I have a slight interest in Vera textiles. So, what's the deal with Vera?

Here it is:

Vera Neumann started out as an artist, utilizing watercolor, oil paint, and collage to create bright blooming florals and strong geometric prints. She married in the 1930s and began her textile business in the 1940s. The New York City apartment that Vera shared with her encouraging husband and business partner, George Neumann, quickly became an art studio where her designs were silk screened onto textiles to create placemats, napkins, tablecloths, fabric and even wallpaper. One of their first orders in 1943 came from F. Schumacher & Co! The budding enterprise later presented their designs to the 5th Avenue department store B. Altman, who in turn placed a huge order and the rest is history.

The Vera brand quickly took off, and soon, American women everywhere wanted a piece of it. A household name of the 20th century, Vera's textiles captivated people (and still do!) with her strong use of color and graphic prints.

There's no doubt that she was an innovator. Tablecloths and napkins featured bright oranges and warm reds, saturated greens and blues, and each one was signed with her stylized signature and often accompanied with the infamous ladybug. Vera said that she chose the ladybug as her trademark to "bring good luck, long life, and happiness to everyone."

The linens our grandmothers used on a regular basis are now collectors items. The designs that Vera created are timeless, and to me, will always be desired. I just don't see how they could ever feel old or dated. Do you? They seem as contemporary as any other print available for purchase today.

In 1972, the Smithsonian featured Vera's influence on the American design industry in an exhibition called, "Vera: The Renaissance Woman". Then, in 1975, the Fashion Institute of Technology honored her significant impact on American design by displaying 67 of her original paintings (some dating back to 1945).

Vera Neumann died in 1993, and with a series of buyouts and changes in management, an archive of her contemporary work was left in a storage facility in Georgia. In 2005, the work was purchased to launch a new line of Vera collectibles. In fact, today you can buy the "we heart Vera" collection at Anthropologie. Not exactly the real thing, but pretty darn close.

Some fun facts about Vera linens:

*Harry and First Lady Bess Truman lived with Vera wallpaper in their home at the White House!

*The Vera company purchased left over parachute silk after World War II, which led to her widespread success with ladies silk scarves!

*Marilyn Monroe loved Vera prints, as seen in her infamous nude photo session where she only wore sheer Vera scarves (didn't Lindsay Lohan try to duplicate this?)

I have a set of Vera coasters in the shop, and one large tablecloth. Check them out HERE and HERE.

Are you a Vera fan too???


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Style Court said...

Yes, and Kelly this is a terrific post!

Kelly Robson said...

Thanks, Courtney. I cannot get enough of these Vera prints right now. It sort of relates to your "artist palettes" post this week too!

Stacy said...

Wonderful post!! I'm a huge fan of the scarves they are just so chic and the colors so fun.

Anonymous said...

Dear Kelly,

This is my first visit to your blog. I found it through Style Court.

What a lovely trip down memory lane it is for me every time I see the Vera signature and the ladybug.

I am a 40 something designer and as a young child 5- 10 I would help my Father a sales rep for women's sports wear - gently fold and place each Vera scarf into a slick white ultra thin and chic - colorfully lined boxes. I wonder if these might have been gifts for shop owners or buyers at the major department stores that my Father called on.

I fondly remember the sea of color, smell of fabric dye and the feeling of silk when I was trusted to "help out."

To this day seeing some of the prints from the late 60's and mid 70's unlock some compartment in my brain - they seem like old friends or even family.

It seems subcounsciously I even nicknamed our daughter Jillian (practically grown now) "Ladybug."

I never knew the history of Vera the woman - and am thrilled to have come across your well researched article about her.

With my thanks,

Mrs. Knox Fitzpatrick

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