The Mystery Bonanza of 1980s Fashion

[What you need to know to start the day: Get New York Today in your inbox.]

On a late-summer afternoon 11 years back, Gaetane Bertol was hurrying past the corner of 14 th Street and Ninth Opportunity in Manhattan, when she saw a big stack of yellowing boxes on the sidewalk. At the top of the pile was an open binder containing color slides.

At the time, Ms. Bertol, an artist and set designer, was developing small collages from colorful bits clipped from publications, so the slides caught her eye. When she held one of the sleeves up to the sun, she could see high ladies parading down a runway in brilliant clothing.

” The colors– that’s what really caught my eye,” she stated. “I believed to myself, ‘What is this? Whose stuff is this?'” She looked around, but it seemed clear the boxes were left on the curb as trash.

She chose to take a few boxes house and incorporate the slides into her own artwork. So she hailed a taxi. The 6-foot-4 cabdriver, who didn’t entirely understand her instructions, filled all of packages– 22 in all– into the trunk.

Prior to she carried them as much as her Park Slope apartment or condo, she went through each box to make certain there were no dead rats or bugs in them. “I suggest, this is New york city,” she said, “and it’s garbage.”

What she found were countless slides from 1980 s and ’90 s style programs and events, labeled with names like Bob Mackie, Anne Klein and Oscar de la Renta. Thirty-six slides per container, about 30 containers per box. Twenty-two boxes. Upward of 20,000 slides.


Credit Mary Inhea Kang for The New York Times


Credit Mary Inhea Kang for The New York Times

Because she didn’t operate in fashion, she didn’t recognize a lot of the faces in the shots. “However then I saw Ralph Lauren. I resembled, I know this face.”

Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford were all there, too.

Ms. Bertol positioned packages in her art supply closet, and there they sat until she transferred to Prospect Lefferts Gardens about five years earlier, when she put them in a larger closet.

At some time, as she rummaged through the boxes, she encountered an invoice from a film designer constructed to Yuriko Tomita, who turned out to be a style journalist. She searched online for the name and eventually located the Tomita family, who said Ms. Tomita’s boy, Kishimitsu Hada, had shot the slides. After a fire in Ms. Tomita’s apartment, the smoke-damaged boxes were put out on the street. The family didn’t want the slides back. Ms. Tomita died in 2017.

Ms. Bertol considered making a wall divider out of the slides, which shimmered like stained glass when held up to her windows. “However a voice in my head said, ‘Are you truly going to ruin this collection?'”


Credit Mary Inhea Kang for The New York Times

Then last fall, Ms. Bertol had lunch with a pal, Tzili Charney, who owns 1441 Broadway near 41 st Street, which had been one of the centers of the fashion business with display rooms and workplaces for a number of the major designers. Ms. Charney just recently founded a gallery in the lobby of 1441 Broadway– also called 10 Times Square– called ZAZ10 TS.

She illuminated when she found out about Ms. Bertol’s slides. “I’ll tell you exactly what you’re going to do with them,” Ms. Charney remembered just recently. She called Ya’ara Keydar, a fashion historian and manager.

” It resembled finding a bonanza,” said Ms. Keydar, who was born in1980 “I grew up throughout the time these slides were shot. These programs and models developed my views on style.”

The slides, she said, resemble a time capsule of an era that redefined the fashion industry– “a time when images were taking up physical space in our lives. They remained in boxes on the street. That’s almost unthinkable to youths today.”

This was the era of supermodels and designers becoming celebs, with females running multi-million-dollar brands. It was the age of the power match. “Taking a look at these images is like looking at the golden age in New york city style,” she said.

As they examined the slides, they realized that some of the shots were even taken within 1441 Broadway– Perry Ellis once inhabited 20,000 square feet in the structure, and Liz Claiborne had three entire floorings.

The building’s elevators were as soon as filled with fashion designs. “You should have seen the lobby back then,” Ms. Charney said. “Guys simply was available in to view the girls.”

For the next few months, Ms. Keydar narrowed down the countless slides to 30 images for the program, using the designers who inhabited the building as her criteria. “10 Times Square: New York Fashion Rediscovered 1982-1997,” consisting of prints of designers like Ralph Lauren, Liz Claiborne, Isaac Mizrahi, Donna Karan and the top supermodels of the day– opened last Thursday at the start of fall style week and runs through January.

The designer Gemma Kahng, who when rented area at 1441, appeared at the exhibit to find a giant blowup of herself from the ’90 s.

Ms. Kahng retired from the fashion market 2 and a half years ago and moved upstate, where she has actually ended up being a painter, catching what she calls “fashion in nature”– the striking colors of birds and animals.

” I sort of buried that part of my life. It was a truly, actually long period of time ago,” Ms. Kahng said. “However when I existed the other night it all of a sudden didn’t seem so long ago.”

A variation of this article appears in print on

, Section


, Page


of the New york city edition

with the headline:

A Secret Trove of ’80 s Style Order Reprints| Today’s Paper| Subscribe

Find Out More Protection Status