Sunday, November 8, 2009

Author Profile: Alexandra Palmer

Alexandra Palmer, the author of Dior: A New Look, A New Enterprise 1947-1957, is the Senior Curator of Costumes and Textiles at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Her research as a costume and textile historian focuses on the history of western textiles and fashionable dress with an emphasis on the 20th and 21st centuries.

Alexandra has a BA in Art History from the University of Toronto (1979), a MA in History of Costume and Textiles from NY University (1981) and a Phd in Design History from the University of Brighton, England (1995).

Dr. Palmer is the Clio award winning author of Couture and Commerce: The Transatlantic Fashion Trade in the 1950s (2001). As well, she authored Fashion: A Canadian Perspective (2004), Old Clothes, New Looks: Second Hand Fashion (2005) and contributed to numerous exhibition catalogues and books including:The Golden Age: Haute Couture 1947-1957, The Victoria & Albert Museum, London (2007), PaperClothes, Benaki Museum Athens (2007), Un Secolo di Moda (2004), Villa Medici, Rome.

This busy mother of two boys also is a professor of Fine Art History of University of Toronto, an adjunct professor for the Graduate Programme in Art History at York University and the exhibition editor for Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture.

Dr. Palmer is currently working on curating an exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum planned for 2011 on Christian Dior.

I came to know Alexandra through my interest in the Patricia Harris Costume and Textiles Gallery at the Royal Ontario Museum. I was honoured that she asked me to read through the final drafts of the Dior book and called upon my previous experiences in finance, publishing and fashion to provide comments on the book. Alex agreed to be interviewed for this post and her responses are shown below in italics.

1. How does this book differ from the other books on Dior?
My book looks at the company from a global perspective and relies heavily on the Dior archives in Paris.

2. What was the biggest surprise or revelation that you uncovered during your research?
I was surprised at how smart Monsieur Dior was in terms of design and business.

3. During the book launch party, you mentioned that other fashion houses do not have archives like Dior. Why do you think Dior kept such meticulous records compared to other designers?
The records are not meticulous but are extensive. The house of Dior has never moved its location and it has always had large statistics and business offices and staffing.

4. How many years did you spend researching and writing the book?
It took four years to write the book, because of the research and my many other duties.

5. Where and when will the book be available?
It is for presently for sale in the ROM bookshop and can also be ordered from Amazon, Indigo and the Victoria and Albert Museum website.

6. What is your favourite Dior ensemble or dress?
I cannot say that I have a favourite. All of Dior's creations are interesting for different reasons.

7. You mentioned coveting a Dior record case during the book launch. If you could have one Dior item for the ROM collection, what would it be?
I would love to have a wool late day or cocktail piece with brilliant cutting.

8. Will the book be translated into any other languages?
It may be translated into Spanish. I'm not really sure at this point.

Leave a comment if you wish to be entered in the draw for a copy of Alexandra Palmer's book on Dior. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, November 10, 2009.