COOPERMADE: Accessories Take Center Stage

COOPERMADE: Accessories Take Center Stage

From the start, clothing designer Vera Neumann A'28 (1907-93) took a very hands-on approach to creating her company, which began on her kitchen table where she and her husband converted her paintings into silk screened textiles made from surplus army silk. Their venture grew to become one of the best-known clothing brands of the 1960s and ‘70s. Neumann, whose highly familiar logo was a script version of her first name embellished with a small ladybug, brought a brightly colored, charming aesthetic to sportswear, housewares, and most famously, scarves.

Having studied painting at Cooper, she later became a practitioner of the Japanese art of sumi-e, ink brush painting, which she used frequently in her designs. Neumann and her body of work embodied the optimism of the era with her impressionistic interpretations of nature, often flowers, that became the must-have accessory for American women. Marilyn Monroe, Jane Fonda, and Grace Kelly were among Neumann’s contemporaries to be photographed in her designs; more recently, Isla Fisher and Ashley Olsen have turned to the Vera catalog to compliment a retro ensemble. Neumann herself collected the work of artists she loved, most notably Alexander Calder. She commissioned her friend Marcel Breuer, one of the giants of 20th century modernist architecture, to design her Hudson Valley house and her first showroom.

In 2019, the Museum of Arts and Design mounted a retrospective of Neumann’s work called “Vera Paints a Scarf: The Art and Design of Vera Neumann.” The show emphasized the democratic ethos of her work and her desire that all people could have access to good design. Deeply influenced by the Bauhaus approach to craft and industry, she worked hard to make her products widely available and at reasonable prices. At the same time, she kept close watch over the quality of design with every product sold under the Vera label starting as a unique artwork. As she once said, “I put into my work a painter’s idea about what a scarf should look like.”


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  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.