Labels & designers

Estate find: Edmund Kara for Athena (?)

Y’all. At the very same estate sale at which I found my colossal pants, I also found this amazing 1950s cocktail dress.

I was afraid to steam this out any more in case it would damage the silk, but you can still get an idea of how incredible this is. The ruching, the construction, the design–it’s really beautiful. All this ruching!

At first, I couldn’t find a label in it. But then today as I was photographing it for etsy (It’s way too small for me or I might keep it) I found this label:

Yes, this lining is crepe. Fabulous.  Yes, this lining is crepe. Fabulous.

When I saw this I thought, Aiheua? What the hell is that? But the columns tipped me off that it might be Athena, with the Greek thing and all. And then I hit a series of dead ends trying to research it, I guess because Athena is a kind of common word and also because it wasn’t a very large shop. Eventually I found an address, next to two couturiers on Robertson Boulevard.

I didn’t find a lot of other garments online with this Athena label, but this one is stunning:

And then I found this:

Seems pretty consistent, right? Except for the address being on a different part of Robertson. Maybe they moved; who knows. What’s really interesting about this image is the source. A designer, artist and sculptor named Edmund Kara was working in New York in the late 1940s-early 1950s, as a designer for Lena Horne. After traveling around the world for a couple years, he moved to LA and began working as a freelance fashion designer around 1955.

“One of the shops that used to make clothes for Lena was run by a woman named Athena, and she had a partner who was a rather well-known actress named Odette Myrtil. They owned a custom-made clothing shop on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, and I became a designer for them. Athena was going into wholesale suit manufacturing, and I was a [ghost] designer for her company.”

— Edmund Kara, interview by David Jay Brown, March 29, 1996

Robertson, Wilshire, what’s the difference? So that might explain the lack of another label – Kara worked without a credit for Athena (and another label ‘Jewel’) and took a lot of other freelance design work before moving to Big Sur in 1962. He also did dresses, like this late 1950’s example:

So yeah, turns out he can do draping pretty well too. I don’t really know if my dress was designed by Edmund Kara, but it’s still a stunning piece of history. Look for it in my etsy shop soon.

in July 5, 2014

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