BillyBoy™ Couture Collector Extraordinaire
By Terry McCormick
Some people seem to have lives full of sunshine and joy. BillyBoy is such a person. He has one of the largest collections of couture clothing and jewelry in the world. The spirits of Chanel, Schiaparelli, Poiret, Lelong, and other great designers live in his collection. Pieces in his collection were owned by the greatest beauties and style leaders of their times: Josephine Baker, Mrs. Daisy Fello wes, B abe Paley, even Marilyn Monroe, are represented in this sublime collection. BillyBoy himself lives and works on the rue de la Paix in Paris, probably the most famous street of fashion in the world.
The collection began when BillyBoy was 13 (he's 30 now) and found a Schiaparelli hat in a Paris flea market. He showed it to one of his aunts, who told him about Schiaparelli, introducing him to the world of the couture. That hat, he says, set the direction of his life. Over the years he has collected over 11,000 pieces of couture clothing and accessories, and is building a museum in Switzerland to house them. He employs four assistants to help him maintain the clothes, and says it is an incredible task. His other occupations have grown from, or complement, his collection of couture. At age 15 he opened his own design house, "Surreal Couture" on Park Avenue in Manhattan. Thenhebegandesigningjewelry. BillyBoy Surreal Biyoux™ jewelry is worn by famous people, shown in museums, and sold in the most elegant stores all over the world. He designed Barbie dolls for Mattel, wrote the book Barbie, Her Life and Times; and has just launched his own designer fashion doll: the Mdvanii doll. Just a simple, downhome, superstar!
Paris Vogue did an article about BillyBoy, called Le Passions De BillyBoy, so VCN doesn't want to be left behind! BillyBoy first floated into my life at 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning. He was calling from Paris, and had forgotten about the time difference. He is such a delightful person that soon we were chattering away, and I forgot I was shivering in my bare feet. We've had a few conversations since then, and I wanted to share this charming person with you.
"Butterflies. Collecting historic couture is exactly like collecting butterflies, a constant obsession with gossamer-winged exquisite perfection, elusive and mysterious."* BillyBoy collects from his heart and soul. He says he has hundreds of stories of finding couture pieces; impossible stories. He can be walking down the street and suddenly know he is going to find a couture dress in a shop around the next corner. And he always does. "You won't believe this," he says "You'll think I'm crazy, but..."
When you look at a couture garment, 'Take a hard look at these clothes. Then, step back and take a soft look. Look at some detail or aspect of these clothes and you will see immediately what the difference between these masterpieces and commercially manufactured clothes is."* When BillyBoy first began collecting, he found couture pieces in flea markets and thrift stores for a few dollars; sometimes a few cents. I asked him if he still found vintage couture, especially in America. "Yes," he said. "At one time American women bought couture clothes from Paris all the time. Not only in New York, but wealthy women in cities all over the country. I still find couture clothes wherever I go, sometimes in the most unexpected little shops, stuffed in boxes, where you would never dream of finding them." He not only collects the great designers that are well known today; but also the work of couturiers who were famous in their own time, but whose names have faded into obscurity.
His latest passion is his Mdvanii doll; a doll inspired by the grand couture of the 1950's; and intended as a collectible "toy for adults." The doll took 2 years to design and is beautiful; "More beautiful even than I thought she'd be. She seemed to take on a life of her own." Thedolls are individually handmade, as are theclothes, and the deluxe edition dolls are numbered. BillyBoy says that he's put together everything he loves in this one doll. The wigs are designed by Alexandra of Paris and each garment is named and numbered. New collections are presented twice a year, as in the real couture.
In promoting Mdvanii, BillyBoy has taken selected garments from his collection, and shown them in cities around the world. I think it's wonderful that he shares these treasures with others. After all, the clothes were made to be admired, not to lanquish in boxes. BillyBoy points out "And of course remember, it's all about attraction, sex, fun, flirtation, glamour, and 'show-off-ishness,' all things human beings adore."*
BillyBoy's autobiography, My American Family: In One Era, Out The Other, will be published soon. His inspiration is Elsa Schiaparelli, and he keeps her autobiography, Shocking Life, close at hand. "Whenever I open it I find something relevant to what's happening for me. A thought, an anecdote, a solution to a problem. There's always something for me." Another important book to him is Paul Poiret's OnDressing The Era. He never met Schiaparelli, but Diana Vreeland was a close, supportive friend. If you want to contact BillyBoy about his dolls, or with a couture garment or accessory to sell him (he will also trade clothes he's found that are not couture, but excellent pieces), the address is: BillyBoy, 6, rue de la Pix, 75002 Paris, France. Telephone from the U.S. is 011-33-1-47 03 42 88 or 47 03 90 45.
A quote from the Mdvanii catalogue beginning with Diana Vreeland:'"..! mean, a new dress doesn't get you anywhere; it's the life you're living in the dress, and the sort of life you lived before, and what you will do in it later.' " From BillyBoy: "It's this type of thinking, the personal auras of human lives who knew the luxury of elegance which keep me forever chasing butterflies."*
To end, my favorite Diana Vreeland quote: "What it comes down to is, we just love clothes."
© Copyright 1990 - All Rights Reserved, Terry McCormick, Vintage Clothing Newsletter
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