“Old is gold,” as the saying goes. Age and experience are what make things in life (in)valuable. For Tatiana Sorokko, a fashion influencer referred by the press as the “Queen of Vintage Couture,” collecting historically and aesthetically beautiful garments has been of prime mission.
The Russian-born fashion journalist and runway model recently spoke about “Cristobal Balenciaga, 1967: The Story of One Dress,” at the Faith Temple Church in San Francisco.
The event was presented by Visions of La Moda Fashion Studio for Youth, a nonprofit organization in San Francisco’s Bayview district that helps children, aged 12-18, learn the works of today’s vast fashion industry. The organization’s founder and executive director, Traci Peace Greco, was thankful to have Sorokko offer her knowledge of the history of fashion to her students, as an indispensable source of inspiration.
Visions of La Moda is a home to youths who aspire to succeed in the world of fashion. With the help of instructors Paula Soares-Lavaud and Julia Soares Barbosa, the school offers a hands-on approach to learning, where students are exposed to foreign languages, such as Italian and French, as well as sewing and pattern-making.
“Over the years, Tatiana has helped the school in so many ways. From donating tons of vintage fabrics to her book, our school appreciates her contribution to our growth”, Greco recalled of the fashion icon, who has contributed to Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Vanity Fair and whose collection has been shown in the exhibition, “Extending the Runway: Tatiana Sorokko Style,’’ at the Russian Fashion Museum in Moscow.
Sorokko’s lecture was bountiful with imagery from the 1960’s illustrating the influence that the First Lady at the time, Jacqueline Kennedy, had on the American fashion industry. Mrs. Kennedy’s trip to India in 1962 created a whirlwind in the world of couture.
She explained how Indian fabrics, colors and drapes inspired Cristobal Balenciaga to create the famous golden Sari dress that was donned by Elizabeth Taylor at the premiere of the New Review Lido in Paris in 1964, shortly after her marriage to Richard Burton.
A couple years later, another version of the dress was found in a vintage store at Paris, and Tatiana managed to buy it. She revealed the piece to the audience, who responded with exclamations of awe followed by applause. The drape, made of gold lamé, shimmered with a line of the most exquisite of hand embroidered borders. Despite the amount of handiwork that went into it, Balenciaga’s creation stood the test of time, and thanks to Sorokko, a timeless fashion article made its appearance to the lucky guests present at the event.
It was evident that Sorokko’s love for vintage fashion knows no bounds and that to her, fashion is an art that endures over time.
“Fashion is all about creating an instant classic,” she stressed. “Today, it is often associated with a shock factor. This is what makes the art of dressing unsustainable, thereby ultimately losing its value.”
Coming from a small town in Russia, now called Sarov, Tatiana’s exposure to fashion was limited at best in her youth.
After moving to Paris when she was discovered by a modeling agency in 1990, she was shocked to see so little individuality in what people wanted to wear. “I was very curious, and my love for collecting vintage pieces was borne out of the understanding that individuality had been a necessity at the time,’’ she recalled.
So she set out on her own path and what began as a hobby -visiting flea markets on the streets of Paris – eventually grew to be a labor of love which she cannot live without.
“Creating your own style is surely important in today’s fashion scenario,” she advised. This is the same mantra that the students of Visions of La Moda, like Arielle Piamonte and Arianna Manning, have been following.
Piamonte and Manning recalled their experiences in the school and how their growth as young artists opened their eyes to bigger and better things in the fast-paced world of couture.
“I make my collections ‘mine,’” Manning emphasized. “To present my work to Mrs. Sorokko is a dream come true. And coming to this school gives me a chance to make my tutors proud – which is everything to me.”
“Always be curious,” Tatiana Sorokko advised the students.
“It’s vital to be knowledgeable and inquisitive of matters around you. Museums and exhibitions are great places to learn from, Fashion shouldn’t be about striving to follow a crowd; it’s about standing out of it and being your own person.”
Her message was well received – the only thing left was to embark on our own fashion journey to uniqueness and individuality.
Text by Nivetha Sundar, MA Fashion Journalism.