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ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Pat is back to present a brand new show from Gimlet Media called The Nod. Hosted by best friends Brittany Luse and Eric Eddings (who reported the Undone episode The Deacons) The Nod gleefully explores all the beautiful, complicated dimensions of Black life. This episode will especially appeal to fans of Undone as Brittany and Eric look back at one night in 1973 that transformed the fashion world. This is the story of The Battle of Versailles—where one Black designer and his ten Black models brought legitimacy to American fashion, forever changing the game.
English
United States
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TRANSCRIPT

00:00:00hey everybody this is Pat it's been a little while I want to drop in here to tell you about a brand-new gimlet show I think you'll love it's called the nod and it's all about Black Culture and its co-hosted by Eric eddings you might remember Eric from the undone episode The deacons which he reported about a group of black men who took up arms to fight back against the KKK in the 1960s the nod which Eric host with his best friend Brittany loose has lots more stories like that one if you're a fan I'm done you'll really like their newest episode it's kind of an undone style story about the Fashion World and race and this wild night in 1973 where a battle happened in a dilapidated French Palace by the end of it everybody in the room knew that fashion have been changed forever after you had the preview be sure to go and subscribe can hear the show every week on Apple podcasts or wherever else
00:01:00listen here's the knot
00:01:07from gimlet media this is the not I Am Britney loose and I'm Eric getting
00:01:19if I tell you to name some famous fashion designers like what names come to mind Ralph Lauren
00:01:33mini club
00:01:35in a unicorn store now are YSL True Religion
00:01:54play some company in. Marc Jacobs so you know what this show is about like yes so what is something that you noticed that all the people that you just named had in common that may be at odds with the premise for the show they are most of the big designers people who are showing at Fashion Week and whose clothes are going to be in your fancy department stores and whatnot most of those people are in fact light supper Kanye West
00:02:42that's a good point fashion Houston I'll always be like that though I don't know when this was actually in in the early in the early 1970s things were things were a little different very diverse
00:02:56and do a lot of us to sign is that the time
00:03:01and it was very open didn't feel discriminated against there anything by the name of Stephen Burrows can you describe the scene for me a little bit like what was it like to be in that world back then work all day and party all night we all ran around together they will come to my house and steal all my clothes and we would walk around at the same time and create quite as seen you guys were like a super group that kind of group around them you had someone who was the DJ someone who was the plans God you said the plant he said somebody who is the DJ somebody who is the what
00:03:47the plants are the Florence you have flowers like in the ceiling sure I got you Lord I'm slow and when Steven and his Squad went out partying like they were easy to spot I mean these clothes were loud green red purple on the same outfits so perfect for like you know like 1970s disco nightclub and his aesthetic was like really popular at that time we actually you know the entire New York Fashion seen it had a lot of black influence like let me give you a picture of just found a purse the scene was back then are you familiar with
00:04:40Bergdorf Goodman like that fancy New York Department Store in name only I have never been inside but I have heard that name and I passed it so yes I know that would you categorize overdrive Goodman as being like well known for its clothes made by black people I would not ask yes yes or no not at all well I talk to this fashion critic Robin Devon and she told me about this fashion show in 1969 that Stephen and a bunch of other people from the fashion industry were at and it was called Basic Black at bergdorf's at all these socialites showing up and there was this jazz band where the members were dressed in dashikis and they serve chitlins and collard great they served chitlins at Bergdorf yes they did my hand to God and that just
00:05:40delighted me to no end because it was just so strange and I just cookie I tried to fix you something like that happening now and I just it's not coming together it's tucked away together and it was it was a fascinating little blip that sounds way more than that I thought it would be I don't know what I was expecting but I was not expecting that she is I don't know you know you never been burnt or so they could still be doing this if it's possible I mean
00:06:14okay so I would like that's all pretty wild right A New York had this eye-popping black fashion scene with these like really amazing designers like Stephen and they were putting on shows with chitlins at Bergdorf Goodman and that's what I want to tell you about like this incredible moment when black people were like actually like an influential important part of fashion and how peek of that time they actually helped put American fashion on the map but like worldwide
00:06:46it all happened on one night in 1973 and it was called the Battle of Versailles
00:06:57so in order for me to tell you the story you first have to understand a little bit of where exactly the American designers were on the fashion food chain like internationally okay so the French designers like they ruled the whole Fashion World and they took their fashion shows like very seriously so I usually a show is totally Silent Hill come out in a variable expression very stiff and they would hold the number that would represent their outfit while they were walking up and down the runway so it's not like America's best that's good so like you know the Americans were kind of like new to the whole fashion industry in the 1970s wear as the French you know they have a long history of dominating the Fashion World so you're familiar with the Palace of Versailles in France he's heard of it made part of it it's more like French royalty live like Way Way Back like Marie Antoinette let them eat cake
00:07:57she's living in this house every time she was like the huge trendsetter issues like in a way there Rihanna of her time until I can. As a result of her being who she was kind of became like the epicenter of French fashion but I saw you now like the the Passover side is like you know one of France's like most popular tourist attractions but in like the 70s like it was like long overdue for some major repairs like it was just jacked up and so the French were trying to raise money for this huge restoration project and so when the Americans heard about this they were like this is our big opportunity like what if we organized a benefit you know we get the American designers and the French designers come together and put on a fashion show at the Palace of Versailles the French people can raise a little money and the American people that can finally level up
00:08:57get some shine exactly. And shine so the Americans brought up the idea to the French in the French were like totally down here's our fashion expert again raghavan did not particularly see it as any kind of competition because they didn't see the American designers as being competition for them so they weren't even on their radar basically
00:09:22yeah I mean I would be a little bit like Serena Williams doing a charity tennis match against you know the top player from the local college and it's this idea of how great you know will raise some money it'll be entertaining but really I'm going to win this match it's no big deal so each side was told to pick 5 designers and Team France I mean they assembled an All-Star team they had their Digimon Tri Emanuel ungaro Pierre Cardin Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent even if you think you've ever heard some of these names before I mean like go back and just listen to like every little Kim song ever recorded like three or five of those names are going to come up more and Christian Dior they got it clothing store near me
00:10:15why are selling at a decent block Boosie same and watch that keeps riding in the Maserati but the Americans had nothing close to that kind of Starpower be like for a really long time America didn't really have any original like clothing designers basically they would just like copy whatever came down the Paris runways and then bring that like bring those designs back and put them into American department stores but then like starting in like the 60s American fashion got like a lot more legit designers like Stephen came on the scene and they started making like a really interesting original designs like you know Club is closed didn't really offer a woman a lot of help if you if you know what I mean but you had a lot of clothes that you can you put them on and maybe they help suck you into
00:11:15go back to make you feel a little bit more tone Stevens closed in do that I mean base word of slithered over your body and revealed it was still even with all of these hip designers like Stephen coming on the scene the Americans couldn't really like shake their reputation as copycats so they saw this show at the Palace of Versailles as like their chance to kind of like prove to the world like hey we know what we're doing we deserve to be here so the Americans decided to put together a Little Dream Team up their own you know in some of these designers are pretty famous now but back then they were like really fresh to like the Fashion World they had Halston Oscar de la Renta Bill Blass and Klein and of course Steve Burrows here is Robin again and I mean she was the hots Buzzy young designer and he was inspired by French fashion
00:12:14she had no Hang-Ups about having to prove himself in comparison to French designers you know it's kind of like the Americans are kind of like the Looney Tunes like maybe The Underdogs from Jersey is is is Michael Jordan Michael Jordan exactly and then the French people are monsters at the one who are the French word so I only really knew about son of Ron which was appealing to Steven Steven didn't care about French designers or Society life or anything like that he got the inspiration for his clothes from like his life just being a young guy in New York City and he was really inspired by all the black models that were working in Industry back then
00:13:14Muse for life has the same useful when a Stevens Muses was a woman named Beth Ann Hardison what was the role of the model and fashion in the 70s the fashion model especially the runway model she was Queen I mean she was the one who basically you know help deliver what was being seen by the world what was it like to be a black model during that time it was good in a sense because it was all everything was happening everything was creative everything was wonderful with it then so things could just happen naturally and remember we just came up to be no Rights Movement 2 with black is beautiful that whole theme happened so it was given to a point that you didn't think about all that's a black girl but every Steven's house model and one of his assistance and I mean I guess if you like a picture what she looks like like too skinny she had like this deep rounds can show these huge like brown doe eyes and she had look really closely cropped hair like a tiny
00:14:14afro so pretty and you know before she became model like it's just a girl from Brooklyn like she used to like street fight when she was a kid know she was like she's like 9 10 11 like like she's to get in the street fights but she also put a lot of energy into dance when she was a kid and she knew how to serve a look I was well known to be really good entertaining model and I was know about the stage right now to you know when a crowd you know is as a child of the child have to answer and once I hit the runway that became Like Home to me so the waitress and explains it like black girls kind of brought something special to the runway like when a black girl was modeling she wasn't just like coming down the runway like some sort of manic it like when a black girls coming down the runway those clothes were hers so when it came down to us on that one way the white girl had to work work twice as hard as hell
00:15:14black girl that was like freedom for her to be able to Stage so the Americans pick 36 models to join them at Versailles 10 of them were black including the fan and you know now that they have their models their dream team was ready to go so they start preparing for the show you know they renewing passports and choosing outfits and excited like the anticipation of the whole night is building and right before they're supposed to leave they find out that women's wear daily which Erica's is like basically like the Bible of fashion so women's wear daily they been writing these previews of the show and it kind of started playing up this rivalry between the French and the Americans they started saying it's the Battle of Versailles do have a nice little church meetings at as big as it all out brawl in the Harlem bar you know everybody was involved with getting a little nervous like
00:16:14okay I didn't think we were going to compete you know now the pressure's on
00:16:20so the week of the show arrived and the Americans get on a plane to Paris and according to Robin like these models were like living it up I mean on the plane there like you don't smoke in a little bit we just try to take the edge off it for a lot of the models like this was their first time you know going to Europe from leaving the country I mean like this is exciting
00:16:43he's just imagine you know you're pulling up to the gate of like you know one of the most beautiful ostentatious most famous European Royal palaces we win a cold classic it was the designer shoe fit and they have to bring food and toilet paper toilet paper for the girls in the bathroom so, they were kind of running around the theater and they were rehearsing with all of these different set pieces and costume changes in are they ended up not leaving anytime for the Americans to rehearse so the American choreographer barely had any time work with any of the model so Steven in and a few other designers were actually forced to just like make up some last-minute choreography off the Dome and to top it all off there was a
00:17:43home with the scenery the American set designer totally screwed up the set that he built didn't fit because he measured it in feet instead of meters at them and they were like y'all suck they look very critical role during the week like what are they doing they didn't do very much we haven't done anything like that they had did they say these things to you guys or did you just kind of here whisper things are getting pretty tent at this point but to take it see my in my calm and they would counting it gets into accounting with which puts more pressure I knew that what we had was good for all I would do but you don't know what the other guy has but you know that whatever they've always had his always been brewing
00:18:35it's not looking good at this point
00:18:43alright so Team America has no set no moves and no time whatsoever to impress a bunch of Stuffy French people how in the hell are we going to pull this off you will find out right after break
00:19:10okay so to set the scene it's November 28th 1973 it's the evening of the Americans big debut
00:19:25it was actually quite romantic and dramatic night because there was this very light snowfall and as our fashion expert Robin Divine was telling me all these lavishly dressed High Society guest or like basically just gliding into this beautiful theater Southway leading to the courtyard and end to the theater I mean it was lined with these men wearing sort of stuff full Livery of them in the red jacket and the powdered wig
00:19:59all the women were wearing designer gowns from people like Matt Gray and there were incredible jewels that a lot of these women know they pulled out of the Vault some of them were wearing Tiaras
00:20:17they really pulled out the store.
00:20:23So in the audience you got a ton of European Superstars like the princess of Monaco you like Princess Grace like she was there but then time for the show to start so the curtains open and the French rap first
00:20:36and I got like a live Orchestra and like really elaborate sets
00:20:45it all starts with this Cinderella theme and there's this giant pumpkin Carriage on stage
00:20:52they have performance at the performance at the performance at the performance I thought they going to shoot somebody out of the cannon that's why it was so much going on we were like whoa it was kind of like a very over-the-top and even though the show itself was over-the-top like the models were a little more subtle like they were kind of more like statues in motion just likes Showcase in the clothes instead of like characters I mean and they have this show planned out to a t like they had Josephine Baker come out and sing this song about how much she loves France in France was her country ever that shake was Josephine Baker is actually American my best a little dig you can I see that
00:21:38a party
00:21:44so that was a big closer the whole show overall lasted for almost 2 hours
00:21:53and there wasn't an emission the truth blissfully Busey intermission which had them close to you know midnight practically and then it was the Americans turn to perform so the Americans they didn't have a live Orchestra their music was on tape and it was all Real to Reel Once you turn it on that was that I'm so there were built in causes to account for when one designer show would end and the next designers presentation would begin
00:22:29but if anything was off you know if models fail to walk out at precisely the right moment you could end up with everything kind of going awry so one of the other American designers goes first and thankfully none of her models messed up the music use and then it was Steven Stern
00:22:51what did you tell them in terms of how to walk like how to move down the runway how did they walk
00:23:05strong confident sexy
00:23:11having fun smiling reaches switch send out girls one by one and then all the girls walk forward
00:23:21to the stage front and start voting of course we didn't call it voting then it was just posing this your arms and showing off in front of a group of people
00:23:39so Stevens models are wearing his signature right body-hugging clothes and they were twirling and bogie posing and setting out their hips I mean you could have been the club
00:23:54and one of the last models out was Beth Ann Hardison this is the Brooklyn girl the tap dancer the street fighter and she is wearing this like gorgeous like son yellow down like it reaches down to the floor and it extends like way way back to has this long long train and it's not like you know Stevens usual jersey fabric like this is like Silk and it's like it's kind of has this like a Couture feel but like it's something completely new
00:24:24she was ready to make a grand entrance
00:24:32the classical music that the French used the Americans made the decision to like bring in regular people music like The Music of the moment like stuff you hear the club songs like the Creative Source cover of the famous Bill Withers song Who Is He And what is he to you and I came down coming down for you so I came down to win I came down to to let them know that we were here and I mean in every step I took at I run but I could hear a drum the beat of the it was almost like a kid but cushon when the music and I use a profession that way I walk
00:25:12I can hear the melody now butthead you know I'm walking to it
00:25:18Stevens presentation we are all addresses were done with trains and had a binky holder where we had it on our fingers when we walk by time of that sit in this stage I threw mine down and stare the other two I wouldn't move until they felt experience
00:25:41I was shaking she is with my eyes when I stood there but I knew the perfect
00:25:59at first I thought something went wrong
00:26:02but then it turned out it was a ploy that was they were completely freaked out
00:26:14that's when they started stopped at feet and you know bravo bravo bravo
00:26:24and then they said it Stephen King Stephen and Stephen comes running over and I'm staring that crowd down and do his famous quite something
00:26:33the French using so uptight
00:26:40we don't think anything that could happen after that that would be as great as that moment and believe me we knew that we'd then had not come to fail we had come to win and we will we were winning
00:26:53the friend show took 2 hours or so to 37 minutes and we kill them
00:26:59Josephine Baker found bethann Hardison that she was like I want to come backstage and meet the girl that you have to take me back you have to take me back
00:27:06and I took a backstage to meet the girls and of course the cows died it was so inspired that they met Joe Baker and Josephine was saying oh my God this is so I'm so proud of everyone and of color and to see these girls do what they did and how how they were Showcase in men everything so the Americans gave one back Josephine Baker and they've shown the French that they're not just copy cats that you know they actually have something original to bring to the table how did you feel after the show San Ramon told me I'm a beautiful clothes what did that mean to you Yves Saint Laurent telling you that you made beautiful clothes it made my day
00:27:51so if you're thinking about it like a battle then it seems like the Americans were so like what did you notice as far as immediate responses like how is it talked about in the media it may have been a little blurb in women's wear
00:28:09the society page but that's about as far as and when he was a great thing that we went over and did it and then we came back they said yeah right on clap clap and then you went back to your job
00:28:24damn yeah that's rough man it is rough but slowly like in the month after that all of a sudden these black models start working in France or Italy in Europe they had never seen so many black girls in one place at the same time only especially in the fashion show a lot of girls who became like I'm uses for European designers like she thought she saw those girls at the Versailles show he like started booking them for his shows he had an entire like group the color could Bean this whole cabeen was like like girls cuz they had the sauce so like they started getting work and then after that you know you have models like Aman I know Mom yeah Beverly Johnson Naomi Campbell for Annika web and bethann like she got a lot more work after the battle of Versailles
00:29:24model of color was recognized in a proper way
00:29:27so there's a lot that happened from that show that was more than you know just going and waiting and walking away and it's deep considering not many people actually knew that this thing happened exactly but the thing is you know that bump in popularity it only lasted until like the mid-90s does he like fashion is all about Trends and for a while black models were like all the rage but then you know in the 90s the Eastern European look starts to become more popular and like heroin Chic which is basically just asking why people and they called it hurt when she did was call her when she can questionable yeah that became a thing and like the black cool looks it kind of fell out of style so Stephen Burrows you know he still designing now but the height of his career was pretty much happened in the 70s that kind of sucks he was on track to
00:30:27you like the man I mean the thing that really gets me is like this show at the Battle of Versailles like it was it was huge you know so you would think that like a whole bunch of other black designers would come up after him do you know what I mean and also be able to make it really big but I mean don't get me wrong like there are quite a few black designers that are animation High fashion and doing really amazing things but like there aren't as many as I think there should be that have really big careers you know I'm saying like there's no there's no one having like that battle of Versailles moment you know I'm saying like there's no chitlins at bergdorf's and that's a travesty I'm serious the diversion of the fashion industry that existed in the sixties and seventies as you described it sounds really fucking cool
00:31:20you don't it's a it's a rare to it's rare to be able to look to like look far in the past and Mike
00:31:31long for the opportunities of your as a black person that's not really it's not really our Birthright and I find myself in a very peculiar position as a black person of wishing for the past that is it's weird yeah I agree I want to go back to that and I want to go back to chitlins and jazz bands we should bring some supper. I thought this was your history
00:32:15let me take a love story
00:32:21The Knot is produced by me Britney loose with Eric eddings K Parkinson Morgan and James T green are senior producer is Sarah abdirahman we were edited this week by Jorge just in any Rose dresser with any help from Alex blumberg Pat Walters and Morgan Jerkins engineering from cedrick Wilson and Bobby Lord our theme music is by Kelly be additional music in the show by dr. Crosby Little Richard Philip Peterson and Bobby Ward are fact Checker is Nicole book swoca special thanks to Argo Studios if you're interested in learning more about the Battle check out Robin Givens book The Battle of Versailles the night American fashion stumbled into the spotlight and made history
00:33:07after the battle of Versailles did you see start to see more of your own influence in the fashion industry
00:33:19and sexier call which today is the reigning thing it is couldn't tell you what I started working at 21 years old and when I started work I have no appropriate office close I had 11 spandex dresses
00:33:43Eric yes I want to be pretty decent DJ in France or NES in France in the early 70s sadly that's not surprising seriously but I was not expecting that time for the show to start
00:34:01it sounds awesome
00:34:08sounds of really fucking cool
00:34:20okay okay what if we did a live Orchestra I would not no no no no no
00:34:34totally screwed up

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