Wednesday, December 04, 2013

It's Splendiferous

Those of you who have read my blog over the years know that I am a fan of the work of Zajac & Callahan.  Edward Zajac, along with his late partner, Richard Callahan, set the decorating world on fire during the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s thanks to their bold interiors, which were often furnished with confident color and even more confident-looking prints and patterns.  And perhaps even more notable was the design duo's custom designed furniture and objects, which could be described as unusual, dashing, and downright good-looking.  It's no surprise that many design aficionados clamored for these pieces when they were auctioned off by Bonhams last year.

A few weeks ago, I was in Philadelphia giving a lecture to a women's club, and while there, two very stylish Philadelphians, Dottebob and Reva, mentioned the work of Zajac & Callahan to me.  It seems that they too were fans of the designers.  And then, just a few days later, I had the opportunity to actually meet Mr. Zajac, who was kind enough to attend my book party at Donghia. (You can see the two of us, above.)  Needless to say, that was a real thrill for me.

My week of Edward Zajac reminded me of a few photos about which I had been meaning to blog.  It seems that back in the mid-1960s, Zajac & Callahan decorated a chichi women's clothing store named "Splendiferous".  Opening in 1963 on Manhattan's Third Avenue and expanding in 1967 to a second location at 16 East 56th St., Splendiferous was evidently the last word in women's fashion.  Owned by Jerry Goldfarb and Terry Ryan, the store sold fashions by Oscar de la Renta, Kenneth Douglas, and Rudi Gernreich, just to name a few designers.  In fact, Splendiferous was at the vanguard of daring fashion, having sold 77 of Gernreich's infamous topless women's bathing suits- more than any other store in this country.  And the various departments within the store had catchy names.  Handbags were sold in the "Moneybags" department, gourmet food in "Posh Knosh", and lingerie in "Underneath It All", while sale items were relegated to the "Nobody Loves Me" section of the store.  It seems that Splendiferous was popular with the well-heeled crowd, with customers like Jacqueline Kennedy (whose purchases included brown crepe culottes trimmed in ostrich feathers and a Rudi Gernreich Shaker knit dress), Princess Margaret, and Evangeline Bruce frequenting the store.  Did they shop there because of the clothes?  Or was it because the salespeople were men with then-fashionable long hair?

Clever marketing aside, it was the E. 56th St. branch's decoration by Zajac & Callahan that seems most memorable- along with those Rudi Gernreich bathing suits, of course.  The store's furbishment cost $150,000, which paid for such features as a water fountain that held 9,000 colored marbles, a glass elevator, and Zajac & Callahan's signature patterned fabrics and wallpaper. I wish that I could show you photo after photo of the store's interior, because I have a feeling it was really something else.  However, Splendiferous photos are hard to come by.  I managed to find a scant three photos of the store, which had been featured in the September 1967 issue of House & Garden.  I am assuming that these photos show the 56th St. location rather than Third Avenue. 

Alas, all good things must come to an end.  Goldfarb and Ryan shuttered the business in 1973 and moved to Florida.  In 1999, they opened another boutique, this one located in Delray Beach, Florida.  Its name?  I Love Dazzle.  I can't determine if that shop is still in business or not.

I know that the Splendiferous photos seen here don't really capture the store's interior in all of its glory, but they certainly have piqued my curiosity.  I'm going to continue to search for more images.  But, in the meantime, have a look at what was once Manhattan's most cutting-edge fashion emporium.

Image at top: Photo courtesy of Editor at Large.  Remaining photos from House & Garden, September 1967.


  1. Jennifer, how wonderful to meet Mr. Zajac. The images are as fresh and current today as in the 60's!
    The Arts by Karena

  2. Great brought back memories of one of my favorite shops...Gorgeous store, gorgeous things to buy! Splendiferous was a treasure!

  3. I remember it like it was yesterday! I used to go with my Mom who bought Gernreich dresses! Z&C were incredible.....kind of the Diamond and Baratta of their day. Such a shame they never were ever able to do a book!

  4. Jennifer,
    What a great post! Love the shot of you together!!! Mr. Zajac was an assistant to Billy Baldwin- and I think he knows Hal and Winton too- I once experienced one of the fabulous Z and C rooms at the Kips Bay Showhouse- it was a bedroom, and I think I am still getting over how exquisitely "belle epoque" and yet modern it was! I spotted one of the iconic mirrors they designed on first dibs a couple of years ago- they scream glamour! Thanks for sharing, and keep up the great work, hoping you can autograph my copy of "In With The Old" before too long...
    Dean, Naples

  5. Dear Jennifer,
    today, you were covering one full page of my newspaper, the Bangkok Post!!
    I just wanted to drop you that note, couldnt' find your email, so I thought I write a comment.
    The article (in the life style section) is probably 1:1 the one that was published earlier in the New York Times. Congratulations! You became so "big"! And I also learned you published your own book. Wow! Fantastic!
    Do you remember me after all these years? We both startetd blogging in 2006. In 2007 I was writing for a magazin in Beijing, China and you were one of the bloggers we choose to feature... Your blog is on my fav blog roll since ever. Keep up the good work!
    Cheers from Bangkok, Thailand

    1. Dear Suzie, I certainly do remember you! Thank you so much for letting me know about this. I hope that you are doing well and enjoying life in Bangkok!
      Best Wishes,

    2. Dear Jennifer,
      life is nice in Bangkok, since this is the cooler season here as well. Merry Christmas and all the best for a happy and healthy New Year!

  6. Anonymous2:47 PM

    Are you affiliated with this website? because they have an exact replica of your blog posts there.

  7. Anon- Thank you for letting me know. Never heard of this site before but will contact them. It's always something!