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Category: Barbara Tfank

New York Fashion Week Fall 2012: Barbara Tfank

Barbara Tfank
The magic hour, that cinematic term for the time of day when the late afternoon light transitions from the blush of sunset to the translucence of a starry sky. That was the fall inspiration for designer Barbara Tfank, who lives in Los Angeles and is married to an AFI film professor.

"It's all about enchantment," she said, pointing to an ocean teal metallic tweed slim dress worn with a weightless Saga fox fur jacket, a blush gold chiffon gown with a bias-draped cap sleeve, and a twinkling black and antique gold daisy chain coat.

Barbara Tfank
Tfank is amassing quite a following of discerning customers, from First Lady Michelle Obama to Adele. The collection appeals to a woman "who doesn't want clothes that look like they belong on her daughter," said retailer Susan Foslien, who sells the Tfank collection at her Susan store in San Francisco. "A woman who is independent and extremely wealthy."

-- Booth Moore in New York


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Photos of Barbara Tfank's fall 2012 collection. Top photo and bottom photo far right, Amy Sussman/Getty Images. Bottom photos left and middle, Joe Kohen/Getty Images.

Barbara Tfank trunk show to feature Liz Taylor-inspired line

With the Elizabeth Taylor auction just weeks away at Christie's New York (Dec. 13-17),  La Liz fashion fever is in high gear. Which is why it's the perfect time to swing by Neiman Marcus and check out the trunk show of the spring 2012 collection by Los Angeles designer Barbara Tfank. She was inspired by the legendary screen siren who died in March, to create a dazzling range of hip-hugging sheaths with slashed necklines, taffeta cocktail dresses with lace-trimmed decolletes and dramatic palazzo pants.

Tfank got her start in Hollywood and has always been a film buff. (Her husband, Peter Markham, heads the directing department at the American Film Institute Conservatory). Lately, she's been rewatching lots of Taylor films, listing "Butterfield 8" and "A Place in the Sun" as favorites.

"When you look at Elizabeth Taylor in the 1950s and 60s, there's no question she was one of the most beautiful women to ever live," Tfank says. "Beauty has been given such a bad rap lately, with this need for everything to be perversely beautiful or screwed up. But the way she was dressed by [costume designers] Edith Head and Helen Rose brings to mind the pleasure you can get from seeing someone so well and appropriately dressed."

Tfank has been on the road doing trunk shows, and says she's been hearing the same thing from customers everywhere she goes: Yhey are craving femininity and beauty. "We're living in such a troubled world," the designer says. "And it's this idea of beauty as comfort."

Tfank started her eponymous label in 2001. Her clothes, all made from exquisitely designed textiles, have been worn by Michelle Obama, Angelina Jolie and Adele, just to name a few.

Barbara Tfank trunk show, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday, Neiman Marcus 2nd Floor, 9700 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 550-5900.


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Top photo: Elizabeth Taylor and her third husband, producer and showman Michael Todd, react after he receives a best picture Oscar for "Around the World in 80 Days." The photo appears in the Los Angeles Times book, "High Exposure: Hollywood Lives -- Found Photos from the Archives of the Los Angeles Times."

Bottom photo: Looks from the Barbara Tfank spring 2012 runway collection shown during New York Fashion Week. Credit: Bryce Pincham

New York Fashion Week: Barbara Tfank


"Into an age of perky, unthreatening blonds she came, a brunette whose voluptuous face was mirrored in the unconstrained curves of her body," designer Barbara Tfank wrote in her collection notes. "With her dark brows, violet eyes, full lips, full body and frank gaze, she could look like no one else."

The one woman who fits the description is the late, great Elizabeth Taylor, Tfank's inspiration for her spring collection. When Tfank moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990s, it was to pursue a career in costume design. So it's understood that she has spent a lot of time studying the details of clothing on-screen, and on screen sirens, who learned (or were taught, in Taylor's case) how to play up every feature.

Tfank did her homework when it came to her collection's leading lady, finding a muse to bring a new sexuality and attitude to her designs.

The hip-hugging sheath with a dramatic slashed neckline was the opener. It came in white silk or black pique, but also nude jersey. With three-quarter-length sleeves, the jersey version looked very modern and very Michelle Obama. (The first lady is a fan of Tfank's designs.)


A black taffeta cocktail dress was positively coquettish with stand-up lace trim bordering the decollete, as was a black pique bustier worn with palazzo pants in a fabulous floral print featuring birds-of-paradise and other exotic succulents.


Other pieces evoked Taylor's girlish side: a fit-and-flare dress in a shocking pink, outsized floral print and a white eyelet ruffle blouse tucked into a black pencil skirt.

The star's jet-setting lifestyle was represented too. The height of chic off-duty clothes? A gold caftan tunic in weightless silk organza, paired with cheeky gold brocade capri pants.


Tfank was even able conjure Andy Warhol's portrait of Taylor with exploding floral prints and acid brights.

If anyone is ever interested in making an Elizabeth Taylor biopic, they know whom to call.


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-- Booth Moore

Photos: Looks from the Barbara Tfank spring 2012 runway collection shown during New York Fashion Week. Credit: Bryce Pincham

New York Fashion Week: Barbara Tfank does denim


Los Angeles-based designer Barbara Tfank's retro ladylike dresses have caught the eye of Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie, among others. And this season, she added to her repertoire denim and leather pieces designed in collaboration with Henry Duarte.

This was denim at its most elegant: a Japanese-sourced, platinum-colored pleated denim capelet, lined in a peppy navy and gray floral print, and matching denim flared trousers; and a gunmetal denim cape jacket, worn with a floral velvet straight skirt. The soft black leather capelet jacket and belted leather dress were nicely done too.


But the designer hasn't gone all sporty. Her hand-designed prints were as lush as ever, especially the peacock, hot pink, persimmon and gold brushstroke print on the V-neck floor-length gown, inspired by the color-streaked canvases of artist Larry Poons.


The orchid-hued silk opera coat was a showstopper. And the solid-color peacock satin tunic top worn with floral cigarette pants was a fresh alternative to a cocktail dress.

-- Booth Moore in New York

Photos: Looks from the Barbara Tfank fall-winter 2011 runway collection shown during New York Fashion Week. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson and Peter Stigter / For The Times

Designer Barbara Tfank scores with Mrs. O


Add Los Angeles-based Barbara Tfank to the list of illustrious designers who have dressed Michelle Obama. The first lady wore this delightful box-pleat dress with a funnel neck from Tfank's collection to kickoff the Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride at the White House last month. The silk jacquard dress is available by special order from Barneys in New York and Chicago or from Susan of Burlingame in San Francisco.  

The outing was a long time coming. The dress was snapped up by Obama's unofficial stylist, Chicago retailer Ikram Goldman, back in March when Tfank was showing her sample collection in Paris. It wound its way back to the designer's L.A. atelier, into production and into Obama's closet in just days. "I had to have the finished dress in Chicago by Wednesday and it was a Sunday," Tfank said by phone on Tuesday.

Not that she minded one bit. "I am honored that she wore it and honored that she wore it for such a wonderful occasion. I'm very touched," Tfank said.

It's great exposure for the designer whose star is rising with women who put a premium on quality fabrics and timeless silhouettes. Bravo.

-- Booth Moore

Photo: First Lady Michelle Obama with wounded soldiers on April 28 wearing a Barbara Tfank dress. Credit: Samantha Appleton / White House

Barbara Tfank's grown-up glamour for the 'Mad Men' set

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New York Fashion Week: Barbara Tfank's grown-up glamour for the 'Mad Men' set

Barbara tfank fall 2010
What's so powerful about L.A. designer Barbara Tfank is she knows what she does -- grown-up glamour with the finest fabrics in the world --  and what she does not do -- trends and in-your-face glitz. And she never wavers.

For years, she has used vintage Bianchini-Ferier fabrics in her collections. And this season, she went one step further, designing her own textiles inspired by Fauvist painter Raoul Dufy.

The peppy florals and moody roses add whimsy to classic ladylike shapes, such as a midnight-blue and emerald rose-print shift with a back panel and a neckline that sits just off the shoulders, and a column gown in a Fauvist black-and-blue floral print with a grosgrain ribbon at the waist.

These are clothes for the "Mad Men"-loving set and for women who want to leave something to the imagination -- a black cocktail shift with crisscrossing velvet ribbons hugging the bodice; a "poison-green" bow-back opera coat that's as perfect for making an exit as an entrance; and a charcoal-gray, wear-anywhere jersey dress with sunburst pleating defining the waist.

It's no wonder Susan Foslien of the Susan of Burlingame boutiques in Northern California, and a bevy of Vogue editors, were singing Tfank's praises. In a season when so many designers are trying to be timeless, she is way ahead of the game.

-- Booth Moore in New York


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Photos: Courtesy of Barbara Tfank

New York Fashion Week: Vera Wang, Badgley Mischka, Barbara Tfank design for grown-ups

Badgley-mischkaAfter so many thigh-high hems (Herve Leger) and peekaboo skin-baring cutouts (Max Azria), it was refreshing to see a trio of grown-up spring collections in the middle of New York Fashion Week, from designers who had real women, not just 100-pound, 22-year-old starlets, in mind.

Statement jewelry isn't going away anytime soon judging from the Vera Wang and Badgley Mischka collections. At Badgley Mischka, necklaces and bracelets with chunky starfish, shells and pearls were the counterpoint to timeless summer wear.

The designers covered all the bases, from daytime to evening, with a coral colored cotton tweed kimono jacket, worn over cuffed white shorts; the perfect pair of black Shantung, wide-leg, paperbag waist trousers with a crisp white shirt tucked in; a white matte jersey short-sleeve dress with coral beaded keyhole cutouts; and a white silk Shantung ball skirt fluttering with all-over clover-shaped cutouts, topped with an elegant black silk Shantung blazer.
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Fashion Diary: Barbara Tfank at Lily et Cie

Gossip, first impressions, trends-in-the-making, celebrities and style setters. A regular feature by fashion critic Booth Moore.Alise_rage

I have always loved Barbara Tfank, whose vintage brocade and floral evening wear is so emblematic of L.A.'s artisanal fashion community, the same one that spawned James Galanos, Rodarte, Koi Suwannagate and Juan Carlos Obando. Like so many others, Tfank first made her mark on the red carpet, while working as a design consultant for Prada. She created the ethereal lavender gown worn by Uma Thurman at the 1995 Academy Awards that put the Italian fashion house on the map.

A former costume designer, Tfank launched her own label for spring 2001, with cinematic metallic brocade cocktail coats, capelet jackets and dresses with nipped waists and full skirts, beginning at $1,500. Tfank_rage Her clothes have an Old World feel and a specialness that's missing in so much of the designer market. I also  appreciate that they are for grown-up women of all ages and sizes. (A few of her dresses even, gasp!, have sleeves.) Adele wore a custom black gown by Tfank for the Grammys in February.

Tfank's line has been available at Susan in San Francisco, Barneys New York in New York and Chicago, but not in her hometown. Until now.  Her spring collection has just landed at Lily et Cie in Beverly Hills, where I imagine it hangs quite nicely next to the 1950s Balmain and Dior haute couture.

Barbara Tfank at Lily et Cie, 9044 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, (310) 724-5757.

Photos of Tfank's designs available at Lily et Cie. Credit: Kevin Sturman 

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