www.carrozzieri-italiani.com

The ultimate italian coachbuilder site

This is how Michelotti influenced American fashion trends: The Lilly Ann Ferrari

In the 1950s, Luigi Chinetti, official Ferrari importer for the United States, tasked Michelotti with designing a Ferrari 250 MM bodied by Vignale, commissioned from him by the owner of the “Lilly Ann Corporation,” a large U.S. chain of women’s fashion stores.

The primary emphasis of Lilli Ann Company revolved around the production of women’s suits and coats. Established in 1934 by Adolph Schuman in San Francisco, the company derived its name from his wife, Lillian. Following World War II, Schuman ventured to Paris and began incorporating “Paris” into the label, as reported by Vintage Fashion Guild. He played a pivotal role in rescuing numerous French companies from closure by procuring textiles from them post-war.

Lilli Ann extensively promoted its brand through various vintage fashion magazines such as Glamour, Bazaar, and Vogue from the late 1940s to the early 1950s. The pinnacle of Lilli Ann’s fashion influence was witnessed during the mid-1950s.

The Lilli Ann silhouette from the mid-50s exuded a sense of timelessness, elegance, and sophistication.

The main request of the American customer, was to have a car equipped with original bodywork and stylistically appropriate to promote the company’s business.

Luigi Chinetti some years ago recounts as follows: “I’ll always remember that one day I had him (Giovanni Michelotti) design a car that I wanted to make for a friend (Adolph Schuman) in California who was in fashion, making ladies’ clothes, and he was very successful over there: he said it had to be a Ferrari with a new custom body and that it should make an impact for his business as well.

So I asked Michelotti: “design the car but the most important thing is that you have to make it stand out in a certain way that that car will help him in his business.”

photo courtesy of iandrummondvintage.com

And Michelotti replied, “…but how, he already has one of the best fashion stores in San Francisco!”

I had Michelotti draw three or four Ferrari sketches with a ‘Lilly Ann Corporation’ store in the background, in which in the windows, you could see the dresses and outside, the car with a beautiful young lady about twenty-five years old, whom I saw in person one day in front of the store. So I said to Michelotti, “Make the dress for that lady there, and we’ll put her beside the car.”

A few months after the approval of the design, the Ferrari Vignale one-off was delivered by Chinetti, along with the figurines made by Michelotti which shows, as mentioned, the car in combination with that elegant woman figure, with a dress matching the colors of the bodywork.

These illustrations had the purpose of being reproduced in copy and displayed in the stores to emphasize the exclusivity of the products.

The whole operation went very well, and afterwards, when Chinetti sent the Ferrari to Schuman, he asked him if he was satisfied with the car.

“‘Very happy!” he replied, “except that when it rains it is so watertight that when the water comes in it doesn’t come out, but I love it anyway, and besides that, it’s made me earn so much money!”

Chinetti asked Schuman how he earned money since he still had the car and did not sell it. Chinetti himself didn’t earned anything on the sale since he did it as a personal favor.

The sketches were so successful that the “Lilly Ann Corporation” produced the Michelotti-designed suit model, making 5,000 units, as well as numerous series of derivative variants.

detail of Michelotti's designed dress. Courtesy of Archivio Michelotti

Answering Chinetti’s question: “I manufactured and sold a remarkable quantity of 5,000 suits of the dress worn by that stunning lady reproduced on the sketch, within an exceptionally short period. Subsequently, I created additional models owing to Michelotti’s innate artistic talent. Not only did he craft a stunning automobile for me, but he also left a lasting impact on the fashion trends of America during that year.” replied Schuman.

The acquisition of that Ferrari resulted in a significant profit rather than a substantial expenditure.

In addition to this, throughout his lifetime, Schuman played a pivotal role in guiding European weavers towards the path of modernization. Regrettably, he passed away in 1985, and subsequently, the company ceased its operations by 2000.

Giovanni Michelotti’s talent and brilliance are once again showcased by this anecdote, highlighting his genius not only in the automotive industry but also in various other domains. For further stories, don’t miss Giovanni Michelotti’s book “A free stylist” available here.

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Tribute to Marcello Gandini with the Prototype Unveiled at the 1972 Geneva Motor Show: A Unique Model Exuding Elegance and Personality

From May 24 to 26, the BMW Group Classic and the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este will host the legendary Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. The most spectacular cars from different eras and around the world will compete in various categories to win prestigious awards. Among these are the coveted BMW Group Trophy awarded by the Jury, the traditional Coppa d’Oro based on public votes, the Design Award for concept cars and prototypes, and the special ASI Trophy for the best-preserved post-war vehicle.

The presence of the Automotoclub Storico Italiano (ASI) at this unmissable international event is highlighted by the display of the Citroën GS Camargue prototype from the ASI Bertone Collection. This car enriches the theme dedicated to Marcello Gandini – the recently deceased master of car design – set up in the park of Villa Erba on Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26. Also at Villa Erba, as part of the “Amici & Automobili” event, the ASI-affiliated Veteran Car Club of Como will accompany the Camargue with a precious selection of historical cars from its members.

The Citroën Camargue was first presented at the Bertone stand at the 1972 Geneva Motor Show, where it was met with great enthusiasm from both the public and the press. Built on the innovative Citroën GS platform, which was launched in 1970, the Bertone coupé, styled by Marcello Gandini with the assistance of Marc Deschamps, retains the compact sedan’s layout and dimensions. The car features distinctive front and rear overhangs – the front being much more pronounced to enhance the car’s dynamic look. Lower and wider than the GS, the Camargue boasts a wedge-shaped front typical of Gandini’s style, contrasting with a truncated rear end supporting a broad, panoramic canopy with amber-tinted glass, paired with a chic metallic champagne-colored body. Despite its striking and original design, the Bertone proposal did not reach commercial production due to Citroën’s economic crisis during those years, which led to its merger with Peugeot in 1974.

The format of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este includes a double location in Cernobbio, on the shores of Lake Como. On Saturday, May 25, the exclusive Hotel Villa d’Este’s park will host the display of all competing cars, the jury inspection, voting, parade, and the awarding of the Coppa d’Oro and special prizes. Simultaneously, Villa Erba will host the “Amici & Automobili” meeting with an exhibition of historical cars from clubs and enthusiasts.

On Sunday, May 26, the event will continue at Villa Erba with a festival celebrating automotive passion: all cars in the competition will be displayed in the park until the concluding parade, where the Design Award, class prizes, and honorable mentions will be awarded.