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Arthur McGee and Jeffrey Banks

Photo By Robert Mitra


 

WITH HONORS: On Monday, the Metropolitan Museum of Art honored designer Arthur McGee. Lesser known in wider fashion circles, McGee, who worked with Charles James as a student, became the first African-American to head a design studio on Seventh Avenue, at Bobbie Brooks in 1957. Jeffrey Banks, Bethann Hardison, André Leon Talley, Steven Kolb, B. Michael, Stephen Burrows, Thelma Golden and Susan Fales-Hill were just some in the glamorous crowd who came to tip their hats off to McGee at the luncheon. “I have been in this business a long time,” McGee, who was born in 1933 in Detroit, said. “Look at the room. Everybody’s here, from now and from years ago.”

The event was hosted by the Metropolitan Museum’s Thomas P. Campbell and Harold Koda, and Richard Baker, chairman of Lord & Taylor, where McGee once sold his clothes.

Koda was inspired to honor McGee when Aziza Braithwaite Bey approached him about a television documentary on defining style, with a commentary on African-American talent. “One of the bad things about fashion is that we are in a constant cycle and sometimes forget the past, so I thought we should recognize Arthur’s contributions.”

“This tribute is long overdue,” said actress Cicely Tyson, in her remarks about the designer.

The recognition may not end with the luncheon. “I once did a show with Richard Martin, and we used one of Arthur’s ballgowns made with mudcloth,” Koda said. “We can’t locate it anymore, and we are looking for it.”

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