The Art of Kenneth Paul Block
By Susan Mulcahy
Fashion / Lifestyle
Published Spring 2008
216 pages / Over 200 Illustrations
The primary colors in Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche October 1971 ready-to-wear collection were very different from the darker shades usually seen in his couture clothes.
Drawings made during Paris couture shows included, top right, coiffures by Alexandre, for many years the leading hairdresser in Paris, and, bottom left, a Dior silhouette from the 1960s.
During a Courreges show in Paris in the 1960s, Kenneth sketched one of the designs on an invitation to the show.
Kenneth’s drawing of the Duchess of Windsor, wearing Yves Saint Laurent’s pale-blue organza evening gown, appeared on page one of WWD on April 9, 1962.
In December 1964, Kenneth and WWD fashion writer June Weir were seated next to Kennedy at Le Mistral (a New York restaurant “so popular and elegant you could hardly get in,” declared the paper), where he made this drawing. Kenneth’s design for an aubergine velvet inaugural gown for Kennedy appeared on WWD’s front page.
In April of 1972, both Women’s Wear Daily and W ran this richly colored drawing illustrating “The Big Coat.” From left to right, designs by Oscar de la Renta, Geoffrey Beene, Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo, Bill Blass, Chester Weinberg, and Donald Brooks.
This portrait of de la Renta was drawn for WWD. The broad brush strokes in this watercolor convey the vibrant sophistication of an Oscar de la Renta coat from the early 1980s.
Issac Mizrahi’s kilt dress, under a taffeta parka, was a W cover in May 1989. Mizrahi was also lauded on an October 1989 cover as “Irresistible Isaac” with this drawing of his “All-American tennis shirt” in cotton trimmed with organza and worn with a satin dirndl and glen-plaid “mini-trench” coat.
Kenneth infused this drawing from November 1971 with rich color to make the point that Saint Laurent had done the same thing in his collection for Rive Gauche, his ready-to-wear line. This charcoal portrait of Saint Laurent was drawn for a Bonwit Teller newspaper advertisement.
Tunics over trousers or skirts were among the evening styles shown by Saint Laurent in early 1976.
In February 1990, Kenneth painted the full spectrum of color in Versace’s “Harlequin-inspired silk velvet swing coat.”
As the cornerstone of Women’s Wear Daily’s fashion illustration department for over 30 years, Kenneth Paul Block witnessed and recorded one of the most important periods in fashion history. Drawing Fashion is the first monograph on the artist and brings together a lifetime of drawings, watercolors, and observations. Whether drawing the latest from Balenciaga, Chanel, and Saint Laurent or sketching sensational portraits of Gloria Vanderbilt and Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis, Block’s style is unmistakable, and captures a critical moment in time when fashion, art, and commerce coincided.
About the Author
Susan Mulcahy is a writer, editor, and media consultant based in New York. She has been an editor of the New York Post’s “Page Six,” editor in chief of Avenue magazine, vice-president of Starwave, a Web content company, producer of the CD recordings of the monologue artist Ruth Draper, and the author of My Lips are Sealed (Doubleday).
Why We Published This
A visit with Kenneth Paul Block in his Upper West Side Manhattan apartment was an invitation into a sophisticated, cultured world that simply no longer exists. The artist’s studio, with drawers filled with his remarkable sketches, his memories of the ins-and-mostly-outs of the fashion trade —from the exclusivity of the Paris couture runways to the always dramatic goings-on at Women’s Wear Daily—begged to be recorded for a new generation.