"Fleur on Flair is a landmark exhibition. Flair was one of the most talked about, coveted and influential magazine ever created. Half a century after its twelfth and final issue was printed, Flair continues to be an icon as does its founder, the indomitable Feur Cowles, in the worlds of fashion, journalism, graphic design, and publishing." - Marc Rosen, designer, trustee, Pratt Institute

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Fleur on Flair: A Magazine and its Legacy

About the Exhibition: .Fleur on Flair, at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery, 144 West 14th Street will run through Saturday, July 26, 2003

Draped in delectable shades of pink and seated demurely on a small settee in the middle of a large room, the legendary Fleur Cowles looks like her name--flower, in French. The occasion is a retrospective of Flair, the magazine this former Look editor began in the Fifties that became one of the most influential style publications of all time. And on June 5th at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery, some 50 years after her creation ceased publication, here we all are, several hundred of us, paying homage to the small women with the big vision.

Flair lasted for only a dozen issues, but what issues they were! Designed for a dual audience, Flair celebrated the art, fashion and beauty, humor, decor, entertainment, travel and literature that reflected life in the Fifties. The list of contributors is a virtual who¹s who of the time: Jean Cocteau, Tennessee Williams, Gloria Swanson, John O'Hara, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bernard Baruch, Gypsy Rose Lee, the Duchess of Windsor, Lucien Freud, Salvador Dali and Saul Steinberg, among many others.

Flair's design was as innovative as its content. A peephole adorned its trademark covers and there were often inserts of various sizes, papers and formats bound within the covers of an issue. The pages themselves resembled artistic tableaux and Flair became a monthly feast for both eyes and mind. The exhibit, conceived of by Marc Rosen and curated by Dorothy Globus is a tour de force. And a work of love, especially for Rosen whose wife Arlene Dahl was featured in the pages of Flair and Look. "As a trustee of Pratt and friend of Fleur, whom I met through my wife 20 years ago, I wanted to do something that would be meaningful for all concerned," says Marc Rosen, explaining how the exhibition came about." I felt this was something that needed to be done. And as original and iconic as Flair was, I didn't realize how many people of all ages were cult fans of it."

The event was underwritten by Henri Bendel, whose vice president, Ed Burstell explained the store's involvement," It was a personal mission of mine to expose Flair to a new generation. It¹s so today...as fresh now as it was then. Flair influenced the times, which is very different from reflecting them."

Could Flair exist today? I ask Yoehlee, who happens to be standing next to me. "Everything that happens that¹s fabulous is unique in its time, so it¹s difficult to compare," she says enigmatically. Helen Gurley Brown, on my other side, is more direct. "If someone has the courage, guts, enthusiasm, flair and money, there can always be a successful, newly recreated magazine. Look at me and Cosmo," she points out. And indeed, she should know.

As the evening draws to a close, I catch Fleur's eye and go over to congratulate her. I also tell her that if she brings Flair back, I want a job.

-Susan Sommers

Author of the fashion/beauty books, French Chic and Italian Chic, Susan Sommers writes about style. She lives in Manhattan with her faithful puppy, Romeo. Read other recent reviews by Sarah Valdez: Richard Avedon Exhibition; Herman Landshoff Exhibition at F.I.T.; First Assistants Show; Extreme Beauty: The Body Transformed exhibition at the Costume Institute and the Guy Bourdin photo exhibition at the Pace/MacGill Gallery.

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