Return to Previous Page

October 23rd, 2009
Exhibition Honors Creative Legacy of the Late Fashion Visionary Tom Marotta

Inspiring Fashion: Gifts from Designers Honoring Tom Marotta presents a collection of runway styles donated by 17 designers in recognition of the creative legacy of the late fashion visionary Tom Marotta, who was vice president of couture at Saks Fifth Avenue. Obtained through the auspices of Saks Fifth Avenue, the garments are all gifts to the Museum and have become part of the permanent collection.

“Tom Marotta had an enormous impact on the fashion world,” said Kristina Haugland, Associate Curator of Costume and Textiles. “Designers may have their creativity sparked by Hollywood films, historic styles, or pop culture, but they also depend on the fashion acumen and support of people like Marotta, who had his finger on the pulse. We are delighted to recognize his work through this exhibition in his memory, while examining the inspiration behind each designer’s aesthetic.”

Inspiring Fashion, which runs through summer 2010, is installed in the Costume and Textiles Study Gallery in the Perelman Building, one of the two new Costume and Textiles galleries opened in 2007, and features styles ranging from classic to cutting-edge. A Ralph Lauren black evening dress from fall/winter 2007 transforms a traditional masculine cummerbund into a dramatic bodice, while a Peter Som fall/winter 2008 cocktail dress designed for Bill Blass, Ltd., is made of bright purple ostrich feathers. Badgley Mischka’s Resort 2009 strapless evening dress revives the glamour of Hollywood, while Ralph Rucci transforms the shape of a utilitarian apron into a wool jersey and silk taffeta evening dress and wrap from fall/winter 2008, with shaped tucks inspired by quantum mechanics.

By contrast, Peter Som’s intensely colored, asymmetrical cocktail dress, also from fall/winter 2008, was inspired by early 1960s advertising and by Diane Arbus’ idiosyncratic photographs of intentionally askew New Yorkers. Designers Marc Jacobs and Zac Posen also looked to the past for inspiration in their spring 2009 line: Jacobs’ dress reworks turn-of-the-last-century American prairie styles in metallic-laced luxury fabrics, while Zac Posen draped pale pink synthetic stretch jersey to create an evening dress that references the classical world.

Other signature runway styles on view include Diane von Furstenberg’s sequined wrap evening dress; Valentino’s chiffon gown and shawl in his signature red; and a Missoni evening gown that overlays the company’s distinctively patterned knit with clear sequins. Burberry Prorsum and Carolina Herrera both donated glamorous variations on trench coats, while Zandra Rhodes shows her distinctive textile designs in burnt-out velvet embellished with fur, and Nancy Gonzalez presents a one-of-a-kind crocodile bag covered with feathers. Donna Karan is represented by a sophisticated evening gown of draped satin, Michael Kors by a leopard-patterned sequined mini dress, and Oscar de la Renta by a feminine black tulle and lace full-skirted cocktail dress.

“Tom Marotta had an amazingly intimate understanding of customers and markets,” said Haugland. “He formed close relationships with fashion houses and encouraged many design careers. The gifts given so generously in Marotta’s honor are a most welcome addition to the Museum’s outstanding collection of Costume and Textiles, and demonstrate the Museum’s continuing commitment to collecting the finest contemporary fashion.”

About Tom Marotta:
Tom Marotta (1933-2007) was born and raised in South Philadelphia and spent more than 40 years working in fashion, including many at Philadelphia’s highly regarded Nan Duskin specialty store. He worked in Los Angeles in the late 1950s and early 1960s as road manager for singers such as Fabian and Frankie Avalon. After marrying a Philadelphia native, he returned to his hometown and began his career in fashion. Working in menswear at The Blum Store in Bala Cynwyd, he became a buyer at Nan Duskin, and eventually rising to senior vice president. In 1994 Marotta was hired by Saks Fifth Avenue as vice president of couture. Responsible for overseeing the buyers of over 50 department stores, he insisted on maintaining Philadelphia as his base.

Tom Marotta was highly regarded for his thorough understanding of customers and markets. According to Carolina Herrera, “He was like a thermometer, always knowing what’s going on.” His clients respected his advice, recognizing that he aimed to make them look their best, and were drawn to his charm, big smile, and sincerity. He enjoyed a special relationship with established European houses and classic American designers and used his imaginative fashion vision to encourage and support many young talents.

Related Events:
A cocktail reception on October 28 at 6 p.m. will celebrate the gifts given to the Museum in Tom Marotta’s honor presented in the exhibition Inspiring Fashion: Gifts from Designers Honoring Tom Marotta. Sponsored by Saks Fifth Avenue – Philadelphia, the event recognizes Marotta’s impact on fashion and the great esteem and affection he engendered in the fashion world. In addition to a private viewing, Saks will present models wearing fashions of some of the featured designers, and designers Peter Som, Mark Badgley and James Mischka will be in attendance. Guests will also have a last opportunity to see Shopping in Paris: French Fashion 1850-1925, on view in the Joan Spain Gallery of the Perelman Building through November 1. Proceeds from the celebratory event will benefit current and future exhibitions in the Costume and Textiles Study Gallery.

Social Media
Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Tumblr/YouTube: @philamuseum

We are Philadelphia’s art museum. A landmark building. A world-renowned collection. A place that welcomes everyone. We bring the arts to life, inspiring visitors—through scholarly study and creative play—to discover the spirit of imagination that lies in everyone. We connect people with the arts in rich and varied ways, making the experience of the Museum surprising, lively, and always memorable. We are committed to inviting visitors to see the world—and themselves—anew through the beauty and expressive power of the arts.

For additional information, contact the Communications Department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art phone at 215-684-7860, by fax at 215-235-0050, or by e-mail at The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. For general information, call (215) 763-8100.

Return to Previous Page