Hue is sad to report that James Daugherty, who taught Fashion Design-Art and in the Saturday Live program at FIT, died last month. According to Women’s Wear Daily, he was one of the first African-American designers to have his own collection on Seventh Avenue.
A few years ago, Hue interviewed Mr. Daugherty, whose storied career took him deep into Hollywood’s backstage. He was born in L.A. and got his first job in the film industry sketching for storied costume designer Edith Head on The Ten Commandments. Head, he said, was “a lovely, lovely person, and a perfectionist. It was wonderful to see all her Academy Awards. She came to Saks for one of my trunk shows [years later].”
Daugherty sketched for costume designers Sheila O’Brien and Jean Louis on several Joan Crawford movies, including what Hue thinks is The Campiest Film of All Time, Female on the Beach. “Sheila was nice to me, though Joan was not nice to Sheila; it was like she didn’t respect her. To see Joan Crawford in those gowns, with coats and furs! It was unbelievable—but that’s what she wanted. The first time I met her, she’d just had a face lift. She still had bandages.”
He also worked on Queen Bee. “That one was over-the-top—but it worked.” Hue remembers Daugherty’s eyes twinkling a bit when he said, “What went around the lot was, ‘All you need for Joan is a bed and a bottle of vodka.’ She loved sex!” (Somehow, Hue isn’t surprised.)
Daugherty worked with fabled interior designer Tony Duquette on his costumes for Kismet, sketched for Rita Hayworth, met author Christopher Isherwood and composer Igor Stravinsky. He loved it, he said, but in the 60s, Hollywood began using ready-to-wear clothes for costumes, and he was out of a job.
He came east and worked for designers Bill Blass, James Galanos, and Rudi Gernreich (he and Gernreich had the same birthday) before establishing his own company. It produced elegant sportswear from 1974-1979. (See the WWD obituary for a slideshow, including some of Daugherty’s designs.)
Early on, Daugherty worked on costumes for I Love Lucy. “We had to design things that framed the face,” he said. “That’s why today I like sketching faces. The face comes first.”