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A Sixties Tie-Dye Pioneer Marks 40th Anniversary

Maya Romanoff pioneered the tie-dyed look with T-shirts worn on stage by rocker Roger Daltrey of The Who.

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Maya Romanoff presentation at Bergdorf Goodman
Maya Romanoff presentation at Bergdorf Goodman

Forty years ago, Maya Romanoff pioneered the tie-dyed look with T-shirts worn on stage by rocker Roger Daltrey of The Who.

With the same expressive spirit, Maya Romanoff, both the man and the company that bears his name, evolved into creating commercial and residential wall coverings, window shades, fabrics and related products that have adorned Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Victoria’s Secret and Express, among other stores. Now an anniversary collection of interior furnishings that take the tie-dyed look to new levels is on display in Bergdorf Goodman’s seventh floor and in a 57th Street window, through March. It also had a one-day retrospective Wednesday at the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan, conceived by David Rockwell. Amy Lau  curated the Bergdorf show.

“We’ve come full circle,” said Joyce Lehrer Romanoff, the wife and business partner of Maya Romanoff.

And the Romanoffs are considering whether to roll out an array of licensed products, from tie-dyed leather handbags to tabletop. Lehrer Romanoff recently returned from Hong Kong, where the company is developing a wide, gold and silver leaf canvas wall covering.

The Romanoffs’ Chicago base has grown from an atelier into a bona fide factory with a staff of artisans, producing handmade materials for interiors. Lately, when retailers design their interiors, “They are trying to use very special finishes,” Lehrer Romanoff said. “A lot of them are natural and wovens.” Sometimes, she added, they can get glitzy, like what Neiman Marcus used for its 100th birthday celebration in Dallas, where Romanoff applied the firm’s “Beadazzled” technique, a covering of glowing, clear glass beads through which murals or large photos are seen in a different way.

For fashion presentations, “We are selling retailers backgrounds [on which] to hang their clothing so it looks gorgeous,” she said. “The background never overshadows what they are trying to sell. In our custom designs for the most cutting-edge retail environments, our surfacing materials contribute to the conversation. With our reinvention of tie-dye, we have our eye on reentering fashion. Handbags seem to be a natural extension.”