The creativity of two remarkable personalities is on display in an exhibition at Liz O’Brien’s New York gallery this fall. The show is a time capsule of photographs by Mark Shaw of the wildly innovative fashion designer Tiger Morse, known as much among style insiders for dropping out of the fashion business than for contributions to it.
Mark Shaw, whose photographs of Christian Dior couture and of John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy have been rediscovered in recently published books, was a personal friend of Morse’s. Mark Shaw and Tiger Morse ran in the same circle of creative high society. Both were clients of Max Jacobson, the notorious “Dr. Feelgood,” known for liberally supplying his celebrity clients (including JFK) with “vitamin” shots of super-charged doses of amphetamines.
In 1962, the year Shaw captured her on film, Morse was a fashion entrepreneur with a chic boutique, “A La Carte,” which opened in 1955 in an Upper East Side townhouse. Her clients included Jacqueline Kennedy, Jean Harvey Vanderbilt and Mrs. Harcourt Amory, Jr., which led to her designation as “the design pet of the jet set.”
The daughter of a prominent New York architect, Morse grew up in Manhattan and graduated from a posh boarding school. In addition to her background and design talent she had the advantage of her looks: the body of a model and the face of marvelous character. Her exuberant spirit was captured in early blackand-white studio portraits by Mark Shaw, never-before-published and included in the exhibition.
Morse traveled throughout Asia on fabric buying trips and, on assignment from LIFE Magazine, Shaw accompanied her, documenting her itinerary in brilliant color. In Shaw’s photographs Morse visits a street market in Hong Kong, rides an elephant in Benares, exchanges fashion tips with a Shinto priest in Kyoto and visits waterside weavers’ compounds in Bangkok. Multiple changes of outfits show that Morse was her own best model but Shaw’s fashion portraits of Morse’s clients, including Academy Awardnominated young actress Nancy Olson and socialite Mrs. Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, show off Morse’s singular influence.
The exhibition is curated by design historian Alan Rosenberg with the Mark Shaw Photographic Archive. The show runs from November 5th to December 18th 2015 at Liz O’Brien, 306 East 61st Street in Manhattan.