8.29.2012

Vintage 101 :: Vera Neumann


Ask me my all-time favorite designer when it comes to vintage and, hands down, Vera Neumann and her iconic ladybug will be my answer. The breadth of this woman's creativity, and the overall whimsy and light-heartedness of her designs, just draw me in like a bug to a porch light (but without such a violent end). And while she's most certainly known for being the pioneer in signature scarves, I have to say my favorite finds of her designs are in the fabric napkin form.

Anyway...I've been wanting to do a little research about Vera for a while now, and through various websites, here is what I was able to find out:

Born as Vera Salaff on July 24, 1907, the future textile designer came from what seemed to be a supportive, creative family. According to an article from 1970 in the Oakland Tribune, "Fanny and Meyer Salaff ... encouraged each of their children to find a passion and follow it – in her case drawing and painting. Her father gave her 50 cents for each sketchbook she could fill with her drawings as well as taking her to The Metropolitan Museum of Art every Sunday."

After design school, she became a fashion illustrator, then a textile designers, and, before marrying her husband, George Neumann, also in textiles, she designed fabric and murals for children's rooms. After they were married, Vera and George moved into a small studio in New York and combined their talents, founding a company called Printex. They built a silkscreen printing press to fit their dining room table and began designing and printing place mats, then curing them in the oven. As the business grew, they kept upsizing into bigger and bigger apartments, until the couple finally bought an abandoned mansion near the Hudson River, where Vera set up her studio.


Then came WWII, and with it the supply of linen dwindled. While searching for replacement textiles, Vera found parachute silk at an Army surplus store, and thus her iconic scarf line was born.

After her husband's death in 1962, Vera sold the company, but remained creative director. Eventually, her designs expanded into sportswear and luggage. The company was sold again, and she stayed with it as head designer until it was closed in 1988. After her death in 1993, the licensing was sold to The Tog Shop and was bought by its VP of merchandising when that company was sold, which leaves us with The Vera Company today.

According to its website, you can find Vera designs at several stores in today's market, including Crate and Barrel, MOMA, Anthropologie, Bloomingdales, Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom, Macy's and Bed Bath & Beyond. So do be careful when you're thrifting these days, as you might come across what is a vintage Vera print, but in new form!

Some additional resources you might find interesting...

This Flickr group, as well as this one.

How to date Vera scarves according to the "Vera" mark, at the bottom of this blog post.

The Vera Company website, which owns all the copyrights of Vera's work.

A book, Vera: The Art and Life of an Icon, which I will get in the mail on Thursday!

And her nephew, Fred Salaff, created two documentaries about his iconic aunt.

{Image sources: 1, 2, 3}

8 comments:

  1. Loved this post. I have loved her stuff for a long time and I am always looking for her stuff at various garage sales and vintage shops that I frequent. Good stuff.

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    1. For sure! She is absolutely my favorite textile designer. So inspiring!

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  2. Oh I've only seen and purchased her scarves, didn't really know much about her or that she made napkins. I have to keep an eye out for that now!

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    1. You definitely should! Some of my favorite things of hers that I have are her napkins and some pillow cases. It's so fun that you could literally bring Vera designs into most parts of your home!

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  3. Awesome and informative post. I just stumbled upon a Vera scarf, not knowing a thing about her. (I'm better with vintage electronics and books. I swear) The scarf I picked up has a retro glasses print. I got it for my sister, not even knowing it's value beyond the $3 I spent on it from Salvation Army. You can see a photo of it on this post: http://letsgothrifting.blogspot.com/2012/08/go-north-young-thrifter.html

    Thanks again for the info on Vera...very helpful.
    <3 Jackie @ Let's Go Thrifting!
    http://LetsGoThrifting.blogspot.com

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    1. Yes! I have seen that print before, and just read about it in that Vera book I linked to above. The best thing about her stuff was she wanted it and her art to be accessible to everyone, so while most companies were selling silk scarves for $20-$30, she kept hers anywhere from $2-$10, which apparently served her well!

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  4. FYI : http://www.brighton.com/ just introduced a Vera collection today. ;-)

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    1. Oh. My. Gosh. This is amazing news! They're SO pretty!

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