Supermodel Iman Channels Trailblazer Josephine Baker

Blog Part Nouveau, or ‘partly new’, delves into fashion history to showcase the inspiration–be it art, photography or design–behind some of today’s biggest fashion moments. It’s fascinating and impossible not to get lost in, so we asked the site’s founder, Lilah Ramzi, to give us a little history lesson each week. Today's lesson is all about groundbreaking icons.
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Blog Part Nouveau, or ‘partly new’, delves into fashion history to showcase the inspiration–be it art, photography or design–behind some of today’s biggest fashion moments. It’s fascinating and impossible not to get lost in, so we asked the site’s founder, Lilah Ramzi, to give us a little history lesson each week. Today's lesson is all about groundbreaking icons.

Blog Part Nouveau, or ‘partly new’, delves into fashion history to showcase the inspiration–be it art, photography or design–behind some of today’s biggest fashion moments. It’s fascinating and impossible not to get lost in, so we asked the site’s founder, Lilah Ramzi, to give us a little history lesson each week.

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A pioneer for African American women, Josephine Baker is commonly associated with her seductive banana dance performance at the Folies Bergère, costumed in a skimpy skirt constructed with a string of artificial bananas. When racial prejudice proved to hinder to her career, Baker moved East; first, to New York and then Paris, where Baker would ultimately achieve great success as a cabaret performer and later as an actress. The bohemian culture of interwar Paris embraced Baker's skin color, allowing her to catapult to stardom. In 1929, neoclassic photographer George Hoyningen-Huene would capture "the black Venus" standing tall and in a state of dishabille with her metallic dress all but covering her nude figure. In 1988, photographer Andrew MacPherson undoubtedly looked to Baker's well-known portrait when photographing another groundbreaking woman of color, Iman, for the September issue of Vogue Paris.

Josephine Baker by George Hoyningen-Huene, 1929

Josephine Baker by George Hoyningen-Huene, 1929

Iman by Andrew MacPherson in "Les Nuits d' Iman" for Vogue Paris September, 1988

Iman by Andrew MacPherson in "Les Nuits d' Iman" for Vogue Paris September, 1988