Last April, Sotheby’s New York hosted its most successful design sale of all time when the collection of late DC Dean Michelle Smith went up for auction, fetching a record $ 45 million. Now Chicago-based Hindman Auctions keeps track of the philanthropist’s incredible assemblage of haute couture, designer clothes and accessories.
September 21, A Life in Couture: The Michelle Smith Collection will present one of the most important private collections of contemporary haute couture in recent history. Composed of more than 300 lots, the sale highlights remarkable works by Balenciaga, Dior, Ralph Rucci, J. Mendel, Emilio Pucci, Halston and Stephen Burrows among others.
Before her passing late last year, Smith, a native of Washington, DC and daughter of real estate mogul Robert H. Smith, the visionary who developed the “futuristic” neighborhood of Crystal City, not only led founding his family, but also served on the boards of directors. organizations like the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Whitney Museum of Art, the Kennedy Center and the National Gallery of Art.
“Michelle Smith has surrounded herself with important and carefully selected works of art, and her wardrobe is no exception,” says Timothy Long, Director of Fashion and Luxury Accessories. “Her conscious and deliberate choices are reflected not only in the contemporary fashion collection, but also in the preservation of clothing related to key moments in her life, dating back to the 1960s.”
The work of four different creative directors working at Maison Dior, from 1979 to 2019, is reflected in the collection, starting with Smith’s haute couture wedding dress designed by Marc Bohan. The white silk-embroidered nylon mesh dress, with its scalloped neckline and organza skirt (est. $ 500- $ 700), is strikingly similar to the dress that Bohan designed for Princess Caroline of Monaco for her wedding in 1978 with Philippe Junot. Apparently, a few days before the royal nuptials, details of the dress leaked to the press, so Bohan had to quickly make some changes to the design. Smith’s version, worn the following year, likely incorporated many of the original details from the previous model.
Other pieces from the Dior workshop include high fashion wool and crepe looks from the John Galliano era (est. $ 1,000 to $ 2,000) and sets produced under Bill Gaytten and Raf Simons (est. 600 $ to $ 800). Seminal looks designed under the watchful eye of current Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri include a high-fashion ‘domino’ pattern wool coat (est. $ 4,000 to $ 6,000) from Spring / Summer 2018, and a set of two-piece black taffeta palazzo pants (est. $ 500- $ 700) from spring 2019, inspired by the famous Bar suit from Dior’s New Look collection in 1947.
More than a dozen intricate and visually sophisticated jackets and tops by Ralph Rucci, dating from around 2008 to 2014, anchor Smith’s aesthetic during this period. From a hand-braided woven leather jacket (est. $ 2,000 to $ 4,000) and a two-piece printed silk top set (est. $ 600 to $ 800) to a cashmere coat with piping. Mongolian lamb fur (est. $ 500 to $ 700) and mesh wrapped ostrich feather jacket (est. $ 1,000 to $ 2,000), each piece is a technical masterpiece from the hands of the artist. old Rucci workshop. “It’s a technical and conceptual marvel,” Long says of the ostrich feather jacket. “Both organic and heavily structured, the jacket is a prime example of why he became the second American invited to present at Haute Couture.”
Additionally, a selection of luxurious custom furs from J. Mendel and its fifth generation Creative Director Gilles Mendel – ideal for East Coast winters – includes a Barguzine sable stroller coat (est. $ 2,000 – 3,000 $), a golden-tipped Russian sable hooded jacket (est. $ 3,000 – $ 5,000) and light-swept natural mink vest (est. $ 1,000 – $ 2,000).
“In addition to promoting and supporting the arts, she has, over the years, worked closely with contemporary designers to create the largest private collection of contemporary haute couture that I have ever seen in my career as a historian. of fashion, ”adds Long. “She also collected historical clothing, denoting her knowledge of history and the importance of fashion in the modern world.”
Previously, Hindman auctioned off the wardrobes of Oscar-winning actress Olivia de Havilland, Valentino devotee Adele Bergreen, socialite and model Betsy Pickering Kaiser, and the Ebony Fashion Fair, among others. The previews of the upcoming sale are by appointment only.
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