My name is Megan Robles and I am the Curatorial Assistant Co-Op at the Fox Historic Costume Collection. I have been working at the FHCC since the end of September and I am enjoying my time here. There are a variety of tasks for me to work on and I have learned a lot about the collection.
Recently I was asked to look through garments pulled for an upcoming exhibition to see if they had any tags indicating their retailer. I found the label for Nan Duskin in a handful of the garments including designs by Jean Muir, Hanae Mori, Norman Norell and a day dress by an unknown designer. After discovering this label in various garments I did some research into the retailer’s history and significance.
I found an article on Philly.com posted on November 11, 1994 that discussed how Nan Duskin in Philadelphia is closing after it filed under chapter 11 in January 1994. The shop, named after its founder, opened in February 1927 on 18th and Samson Street. Then in 1936 the store was moved to the 1700 block of Walnut Street and eventually took up the space from 1723 to 1729 Walnut. The store stayed in this spot until 1989 when it moved to Rittenhouse Square where it remained until it closed in 1994. Nan Duskin was a three-store chain with two other locations in Strafford and Haverford, both acquired in 1971. The Rittenhouse Square location was the flagship store and the last to close.
Nan Duskin was an internationally known boutique that dressed Philadelphia’s high society. They carried merchandise from major designers such as Chanel, Donna Karan, Giorgio Armani, and Yves Saint Laurent to name a few. Nan Duskin was an important part of Philadelphia’s fashion history because it was place for women to get the latest fashion styles.
In January 1994 the co-owner of Nan Duskin, Louis N. Marks, his sister Marilyn Cooper and two other investors filed to reorganize under chapter 11 because the store hadn’t paid its rent since June 1993. Many of the high-end labels pulled their merchandise from the store once it filed for bankruptcy. At the time this article was written the store was beginning its final clearance sale.
The most interesting thing I found about reading the Philly.com article is the public’s response to Nan Duskin’s closing. Many people expressed how this was the “end of an era” and how it was sad to see a renowned fashion store close it doors. I believe that the article captured the essence of Nan Duskin with a quote from Susan Schwartz, owner of Sophy Curson, who said, “Nan Duskin had a worldwide name – people who came to Philadelphia knew this store. She had a great eye, and she carried all the best lines, and had the courage to be avant garde” (Campbell). I am glad that I had the opportunity to reasearch Nan Duskin and learn about a significant part of Philadelphia’s retail history. I am excited to continue my co-op and explore different retail companies and designers.
Campbell, Roy H. “Nan Duskin Store Bids Phila. Au Revoir The Exclusive Retailer Is Closing After It Filed Under Chap. 11 In Jan. A Clearance Sale Will Begin Today.” Philly-archives. N.p., 11 Nov. 1994. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.
Curatorial Assistant Co-Op