Wait! That’s not Purple!
I was so saddened to hear about the death of Prince. It seems like so many cultural icons are leaving us in such rapid succession that I thought it best to post this before another one bites the dust. News of his passing stirred up a memory from long ago. Back to a time when I made a brief but meaningful contribution to the fashion evolution of the Purple One.
It was 1991, I had recently moved to Los Angeles and was transitioning from a career in Fashion Design to my first love, Costumes Design. I found a job at a now defunct fabric store in West Hollywood called ‘Left Bank Fabrics’, a retailer that sold some of the most beautiful and expensive fabric ever and was patronized by some of the biggest names in Hollywood costume design. It was a great springboard job that helped me to make a lot of connections and gave me hands on learning into the creative process. My boss was a woman named Barbara who was a very interesting person to work for. Her only problem was that she was insane. Sadly it appeared that the entire crew of that establishment had drunk the same psychotropic kool-aid which made for some very tense moments on the job.
One fine day we received a letter from the creative director of Paisley Park Productions in Minnesota. The letter requested some fabric swatches for the development of costumes for their only client, with of course a focus on the color purple. The letter did not name the client and I am guessing the reason for that was that they assumed that we already knew who that client was;
Sadly, the ladies at Left Bank Fabrics did not have a clue who they were dealing with, because that letter from Paisley Park Productions languished on Barbara’s desk for days until one day I took an urgent call from Paisley Park inquiring about the status of the swatch request. This was in the days before internet ordering and transactions of this type were still being done in the old school methods of phone calls and letters. I remember having to explain to Barbara’s assistant that we were dealing with an Oscar winning artist with deep pockets. One who could open a whole new market for them. I think they found it hard to believe that anyone who was that important actually lived outside of Los Angeles.
So Barbara immediately delegated the swatch selection duty to her assistant who promptly passed the buck over to yours truly. A very common practice in that establishment, I might add. So of course I began to diligently cut swatches with a focus on the color purple while grumbling profanities under my breath. Not that I didn’t want to be selecting swatches for a costume that was going to be designed for Prince, but for the fact that I was having to do someone else’s job for a fraction of the salary.
But I digress.
After about an hours time of cutting almost every swatch of purple fabric in that place my eyes were drawn to bolt of lemon yellow Guipure lace fabric. This fabric was so hideously fuddy-duddy that even
Queen Elizabeth would think it was dowdy! It’s only salvation was that it had a paisley motif. So in a totally subversive gesture of subordination, I grabbed my scissors and cut a generous swatch to
send off to Minnesota. As I was labeling and preparing the items for shipping, someone in management noticed the swatch of yellow and barked:
“WAIT! THAT’S NOT PURPLE! Dont send it, they’re not gonna like it”.
In a sea of purple that yellow stuck out like a sore thumb. I made
the gesture of tossing out the swatch but the minute her back was turned I shoved it back in the
envelope and sealed it shut so that no one would notice this act of rebellion. The package was
henceforth sent off to Paisley Park Productions never to be heard from again.
After about another month of working at the place, I had grown tired of the baloney and politicking.
Having already made enough contacts in the industry, I was able to fly the coop to bigger and better
things. Eventually I heard through the gossip mill that Left Bank Fabrics had gone out of business
and that ‘Barbara’ had left the country stiffing the remaining employees of their final wages.
Way to go.
But wait, the story is not over!
It has a very ‘Happy Ending!’
Later that year I was watching the MTV Music Awards when they announced that Prince was about to perform.
LO and BEHOLD!
He jumped on to the stage wearing a jumpsuit made out of none other than the lemon yellow Guipure lace fabric!
And of course there was a strategic cut out in the buttocks area!
As I always say, if you are going to be exposing your back side, it is only appropriate that it’s done wearing lemon yellow Guipure lace! Only Prince (or his designer) could make something so unfashionable look so fashionable!
So there you have it. My minuscule contribution to Prince’s enormous fashion lexicon.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
To see his performance at those long ago awards show please click on the link below: