By Petra Dieners
When I started my blog I already knew that I wanted to interview Monika Gottlieb some time. Some years ago I visited one of her antique & vintage fashion exhibitions at the Dorotheum in Düsseldorf and I was thrilled!
Monika Gottlieb is a fashion collector with passion! She speaks six languages and knows the fashion world as hardly anybody else. For her, fashion is not a short trend. Monika Gootlieb is interested in the background and can tell a lot about every designer and each fashion icon.
On the photos she is wearing a skirt made out of a Hermès scarf made by her friend Siggi Spiegelburg. The blue bodice dress is by Balmain from the year 1954.
The decorated historical shoes are on a side table.
Just recently I met her for an interview. I could have spent hours listening to her if I did not have to prepare lunch …
You grew up at the Königsallee in Düsseldorf. How was your childhood?
Beautiful and exciting! From my nursery I had a view on the Königsallee. On my way to the kindergarten I passed all the nice boutiques and I knew all the products from each store window. When something nice was sold I was sad. I knew all the owners and I was given sweets from everyone!
My parents also sold exclusive leather goods in their perfumery. Actually it was a concept store as one would say today. After the war we were the first to decorate our windows with luxury articles such as bags and beauty cases in crocodile and tortoiseshell garnish, individually monogrammed in gold.
The State Visits to Bonn, our previous capital city, came to Düsseldorf to Hotel Breidenbacher Hof first, and we lived next door. During this time, I was a friend of the daughter of the hotel owner and had the opportunity to see guests such as Princess Margret, Soraya etc.
Favours were often bought in our perfumery. We were really special! We had the first coloured bags from Paris and Italy. During my first buying trip we bought beauty cases in 17 colours. In our boutique we always had shoes in the same colours as the bags, fashion jewellery and many accessories which are collectibles today. On these trips I soon got to know the great couturieres of the time.
1967 Celine began to make fashion, motivated by five customers and one of which we were. Celine has certainly developed since then! Celine started with a grey flannel suit, a few ties and some silk scarfs.
I could speak Japanese and the Japanese came in their hundreds to our concept store. During this time Celine was much more popular than Hermès.
We were also the first to present the perfumes of Christian Dior in Düsseldorf. As a child I experienced Monsieur Dior as a lovable man, who always took out a piece of chocolate when he went through the Studio.
What led to your collection?
It has grown with time. I bought in small boutiques in Italy what they sold exclusively.
The nice flacons date back to my parents’ shop in 1950. I collected many great things from different designers from my parent’s concept store.
One time the chief editor Christiane Arp of the German Vogue asked my when was I planning to have an exhibition. It was then that I realized what treasures I have!
I had my first exhibition at Dorotheum in Düsseldorf and in autumn in the Hotel de Louvre in Paris together with 5 other Hermès collectors. There is a small film VIMEO, HAUTeLUXE.net.
For March 2017 we are planning an exhibition during Paris Fashion Week with special objects such as fashion, jewelleries, fashion drawings and photography.
Did you never give away something or sort out your wardrobe?
Pieces that no longer fit so well into my collection I give away, unfortunately I have also sold things that I now regret!
Recently you told me that you have been on the MS Europa. Did you holiday on board of the cruise ship?
I have held four lectures on board about Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, the Duchess of Windsor and about jewelry boxes of the Icons of the last century: Liz Taylor, Barbara Hutton and der Maharani Sita Devi of Baroda, who I met myself during her visit to Düsseldorf at the Hotel Breidenbacher Hof. Childhood memories!
What means style to you?
Style is my personality, what comes out of me. As Coco Chanel said: Fashion is short-lived, style remains.
The attitude how to move etc.. Style has nothing to do with money and fashion. It is how one behaves and maybe how one was brought up.
How would you desribe your favourite style?
How you see me now. Colourful. I´m not a friend of purism. It can be simple but I´m not the type. I´m influenced by my home and a baroque time of glamour and elegance.
The skirt, I´m wearing today is made of a Hermès silk scarf what I have for over 30 years and love the colours. Siggi Spiegelburg made a skirt out of it. The blouse is from Siggi, too. The shoes are from Roger Vivier. My eyes tell me what they want.
I always buy countercyclical. When I see nice shoes in a special colour I buy them. They will defiantely match with something later. My favourite shoes are from Yves Saint Laurent. They are grass green and purple. There was an offer and I bought them for EUR 100 a pair. People always ask me about these shoes although they are already many years´ old. It was a lucky shot! Last season this model was on sale at YSL again.
Each women should buy things which she like at the moment even it is not needed. If you really need an evening dress you cannot find it!
I mix old and new. For my collection I also buy new things otherwise I would be overworked! I love to find pieces which in a few years I know will be special objects. (The following photo shows a bag from Delvaux which she has just bought).
The old has an history which matches to the new. This makes it exciting!
Nothing is so nice as the description of a Hermès crocodile bag which I found on an aution: ” Selected in Paris, endowed in New York, worn in Saint Tropez and auctioned in London.” This says it all! This bag had a life!
From where was the outfit that you wore at the Hermès Event?
The coat is from Mary McFadden, a designer in New York from the seventies. I love it so much as she gets her inspiration from art. At the Art Cologne two collectors asked me about the coat and were impressed how art can be transferred. The coat has been in my wardrobe for 6 years but I had never worn it before. I combined it with an orange silk suit. There was a picture in the Bunte Magazine.
How has your style been developed?
In our boutique I saw very well dressed women every day. I was especially influenced by the ladies who stepped out of the car in front of the Hotel Breidenbacher Hof with their long coats and long gloves. The elegance caught my eye
Is there something you would never wear?
It is not important to wear what is up to date right now. You can move with the times but it has to fit type and age.
Who are your favourite designers?
Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Alexander McQueen, Elie Saab.
Where would you like to travel?
Europe but I also like Asia. My grandpa was in China with the German Emperor in 1902. Therefore I have a special relationship with China.
Where do you like to live?
I could live anywhere. I speak 6 languages and that makes it easier. In the last two weeks I have been to New York, Brussels, Paris, but when I come home and see my baker in the old town of Düsseldorf and he says to me: “Are you back?” That means home to me. From Düsseldorf you can travel very quickly to anywhere in the world.
Your biggest failure?
Not to be able to say no when I see something nice.
It is worth keeping and it deserves a new place!
These bags from Roberta Di Camerino I could take them all…