Thursday, May 14, 2009

before the baby boomers

Photograph by Richard Avedon. Model is China Machado. Suit by Ben Zuckerman, hair by Kenneth. New York, November 1958.

"See the great China (pronounced Chee-nah) model fashion's new couture-inspired designs that you can sew yourself," cried the six-column newspaper ad for Macy's 1961 Spring Fabric Fashion Show. "Whether or not," continued the pitch, "you're an aficionado who adores China's rhythmical stroll along fashion's illustrious runways, you must come see her . . ." What made the invitation ir resistible was the accompanying portrait of "the great China," a model of ex quisitely earthy elegance — who makes her own clothes. Born in Shanghai of a Portuguese father and a Siamese mother, China Machado, now 25, worked her way around the world as a Pan Am stewardess and cinemactress, became the top mannequin for Givenchy in Paris at age 21. Also modeling for Simonetta, Fabiani and Balenciaga, she was finally coaxed to the U.S. in 1958 by Oleg Cassini. But for all her experience on haute couture's most exalted runways, last week's star billing at Macy's left China all but speechless in each of her seven languages. As yet unaccustomed to the merchandising methods of the miracle workers of 34th Street, she shuddered, "It sounds a little like a circus."

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