Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Out & About--Old Hollywood Glamour from Los Angeles' Mon Atelier

For those of us who love the style of the Golden Age of Hollywood, our imaginations run wild at the thought of the studios' costume design departments.  Designing giants such as Adrian and Helen Rose at MGM and Travis Banton and Edith Head at Paramount had lavish salons where they saw their clients, the most beautiful women in the world.  Stars like Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor, and Grace Kelly visited these lavish ateliers that were filled with racks of custom-made gowns and fit to perfection by an army of assistants in front of three-way mirrors.  And in between their costume changes, the ladies could lounge on chaises, light a cigarette, and sip coffee (or cocktails) while gossiping about their life in Hollywood.  Though those days of the great studio system are now long gone, one Los Angeles boutique has done more than remember that time....Mon Atelier has brought that storied elegance back in both its couture as well as its stylish salon.

ABOVE: lemon chiffon dream fit for Lana Turner in the window at Mon Atelier

Edith Head at her Paramount salon with Grace Kelly preparing for To Catch a Thief

The design talent behind Mon Atelier is Ali Rahimi, a couturier whose brilliance appeared early in life; family found him creating clothes as a mere 6-year-old.  He studied design at school then worked his way through the fashion industry from sourcing to pattern making (the key to a great production process) to full-time design.  His love for classic cinema informed his design as well as the steadfast belief that the right dress makes a woman come to life.  Thus, he decided on a course of custom-made couture and started Mon Atelier in 1990.  He and partner John Barle opened their boutique on La Brea Avenue in 1996 and customers came running, including many second generation Hollywood like Mariska Hargitay (Jayne Mansfield's daughter), Joely Fisher (Connie Stevens' daughter), and Anjelica Huston (John Huston's daughter).  Oscar nominees Angela Bassett and Amy Adams are also among their fans.  As a testament to their timeless style, their clothes have been worn by girls of all ages--from a 3-month-old in a wedding to a 94-year-old Carol Channing when she performed at the Kennedy Center Honors.

I may not be a customer (yet), but I have experienced the luxury of Mon Atelier.  When you arrive, the salon is bathed in a warm glow and walled with gowns in the most luxurious (often vintage) fabrics you've ever seen.  Silks, sequins, feathers, and lace are all around you.  It's hard to miss the infusion of Old Hollywood style, especially in the extraordinary craftsmanship of their built-in corsets and hand beading.  I've enjoyed hours with Ali and John talking about classic cinema and fashion.  For them, the connection is direct.  They are well-versed in film history and sources of inspiration frequently come from costume designers Jean Louis and Helen Rose as well as stars like Lana Turner, Doris Day, and Loretta Young.  In fact, anyone who works with the duo is given a list of required viewing, including Lana's Jean Louis wardrobe in Imitation of Life (1959) and one of my own Style Essentials Pillow Talk (1959).

Mon Atelier is known for gorgeous gowns, but they also have tailored suiting for women that is equally timeless in its design.  In fact, I was first introduced to the brand by Patricia Ward Kelly--Mrs. Gene Kelly--at the TCM Classic Film Festival.  There she stood on the red carpet in a perfectly cut navy suit from Mon Atelier, which made me immediately approach her.  Because of my own classic style, we struck up a conversation that included her great compliment to me, "Gene would approve!"  An introduction to Ali and John quickly followed as well as an invitation to the Centennial Tribute to Gene Kelly at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science (AMPAS).  There she looked radiant in Mon Atelier once again.  And she wore yet another custom-made suit when she recently appeared on TCM to introduce Gene's greatest movies--such as An American in Paris and Singin' in the Rain--on what would have been his 100th birthday.

Everyone understands my passion for classic cinema and its incredible style, and Mon Atelier is some of the most perfect design I have ever seen.  It captures the magic that we love from Old Hollywood costume design while making it absolutely modern for today.  And because each of Ali's gowns, dresses, and suits are custom-made...well, you just have to feel like the luckiest woman in the world wearing them.  So steady yourself, ladies.  If you love fashion at its highest art form, Mon Atelier will positively set your heart racing.

Welcome to Mon Atelier

The sitting room is perhaps my favorite part of the salon

Mon Atelier is famous for luxurious fabrics that even include limited supplies of vintage
that are used to their best advantage in both men's ties as well as newly designed dresses

One wall of the atelier is full of color-blocked gowns

A favorite Little Black Dress--it's perfect, isn't it?

Speaking of perfection, you can see inspiration from Lana Turner 
in their yellow and white goddess much my own personal style

Ethereal gowns in white line the other side of the salon

I adore white dresses...look at the detail and design differences in these gowns

Caftans are all the rage and I adore this one in orange floral sequins

John capturing me in a mirror that once belonged to MGM (and possibly Helen Rose herself)

Time to say good-bye...for now

Meeting Patricia Kelly at the 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival in Mon Atelier suiting (above)
and once again at the Centennial Tribute to Gene Kelly at the AMPAS


Melissa Clark said...

What a beautiful place! I bet you felt like a kid in a candy store, with all those beautiful clothes around. :-)


Anonymous said...

Oh Kimberly! How beautiful, thank you for taking us inside the shop. I fell in love with the lemon yellow chiffon in the photo at the top--then loved it even more when I saw the delicate swirls of fabric. Your blog and the photos are excellent--I'm getting such a wonderful education. Kit

Christian Esquevin said...

Great write up Kimberly! And super photos of all those stunning gowns and garments. It must be quite the place. Thanks for covering it in your blog.

Kimberly Truhler said...

Thank you, Melissa! My goodness, you would absolutely DIE in their store. I mean, Doris Day is one of their high points of inspiration, so yes...a kid in a candy store!

Kimberly Truhler said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Kit! Isn't that yellow chiffon FABULOUS? I feel faint even thinking about it...I mean, they basically had to kick me out to stop me from stealing it. So many gowns whose styles are right up my (style) alley. Just so timeless. The ones they have ready-to-wear are customized to whomever purchases them. And other gowns, dresses, and suits they do start to finish with their clients. Incredible quality and service. I aspire to shop there one day!

Kimberly Truhler said...

Thank you, Christian! I know it's a place that you would appreciate. They're drawing inspiration from the best of the best in costume design and really know their movies. Hours fly by because each gown seems to have a connection with a movie or star, and that would just launch an entire conversation! Really refreshing to see that level of craftsmanship and that deep appreciation for classic cinema and its style.

Marline said...

SWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON. That yellow chiffon is MARVELOUS, but the MIRROR is what had me seeing stars! I cannot wait to visit this place when I'm next in LA. Remember the Paul Gallico story "Mrs. 'arris Goes to Paris"? About a British charwoman who saves for years in order to buy a custom Dior gown? That's how this story made me feel. Glorious! Thanks so much for sharing and thanks to the designers who opened their shop to us! Love, Kay

Kimberly Truhler said...

I know, Kay...RIGHT? What a lovely comparison to that story because that's exactly what it's like. And with Mon Atelier, every penny is worth it. Built in corsets, custom made fabrics, the works.

The mirror had me feeling faint, too. I mean, WHO stood in front of that thing?! The number of names flashing through my mind was making me reel, from costume designers to stars. Really shows you how much Ali appreciates that history and continues to be inspired by it.

Going there is by appointment only, so when you're in town next I'll see if we can go over to say hello and drool over those dresses. ;)

James said...
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