It’s a local-boy-done-good story. In this case, beautifully good.

The Queens Historical Society unveils “Jay Jaxon: 40 Years Of Fashion Design Brilliance | Past, Present, Future” in Flushing on Saturday, Feb. 8.

Set to run until December, the exhibition celebrates the story, aesthetic and influence of a Haute Couture and costume designer from South Jamaica who had a tremendous career at a time when African-Americans faced discrimination in the fashion industry. Objects from Jaxon’s personal design archives will be on display, as well as primary sources provided by curator Rachel Fenderson, who is also an artist and fashionista from Southeast Queens.

Jay Jason Jaxon was born on Aug. 30, 1941. According to legend, the Jamaica High School graduate tailored a girlfriend’s dress while a student at NYU School of Law at age 24. This led to a rapid career change and an equally rapid rise in the fashion industry. In 1968, he moved to Paris, where he worked for Yves St. Laurent and Christian Dior. He became the first American to helm a Paris fashion house after Jean Louis Scherrer hired him to rescue a failing line.

In the mid 1970s, Jaxon, whose last name was “Jackson” at birth, returned to NYC as one of the leading 7th Avenue Designers of Haute Couture during this style’s peak period. He created his own collections, while also designing for Pierre Cardin and other brands. Over time, he became the personal designer and fashion consultant for many celebrities, including Sammy Davis Jr. and Luther Vandross, eventually moving to California to work on such television productions as “Ally McBeal” and “American Dreams.” He died in 2006.

Fenderson, the curator, has a master’s degree from The New School’s Parsons School for Design. Her thesis, “JAY JAXON: A Biographical Study and Critical Discourse Analysis Reinstating A Designer Into Fashion History,” is the first biographical study of Jaxon. She has also curated exhibitions on Jaxon at the Mona Bismarck American Center (nka American Center for Art & Culture) in Paris (2018) and Queens Public Library’s Central Branch in Jamaica (2019). She’s also a designer in her own right, as she and her sister, Marshea, run the Pepper Jacques luxury clothing brand for women.

Fenderson will talk about the exhibition and Jaxon during an opening reception with light refreshments on Feb. 8 from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $5, but students and seniors can attend for $3. An RSVP is required.

The exhibition is at Kingsland Homestead, where the Queens Historical Society runs its educational programs, exhibitions, and a research center. Located at 143-35 37th Ave., the two-story dwelling – which boasts a gambrel roof, Federal-period chimney piece, and Dutch-style, two-level front door — dates back to 1785. The first floor, where “40 Years Of Fashion Design Brilliance” is on display, has a 1,350-square-foot exhibition-and-lecture space.

The second-floor has a parlor designed in a Victorian style representative of the 1870s with lacework and items (i.e. notebooks, eyeglasses) that former inhabitants used. Another exhibition, “Queens’ Green Thumb: The Flushing Garden Club,” is on the second floor until November. It celebrates The Flushing Garden Club, an all-female volunteer group founded in 1914 that was involved in community efforts such as establishing Kissena Park and other public green spaces.

Office hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. The society offers guided tours from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday.

Images: Courtesy of Rachel Fenderson/Queens Historical Society


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