Stephen Gerald Burrows was born on 15 September 1943 in Newark, New Jersey. He studied at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art from 1961 to 1963 and at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York from 1964 to 1966. Perhaps most influential to the future career of this original American designer was his seamstress grandmother, Beatrice Simmons, who taught him to sew when he was eight years old. At an early age he discovered and delighted in the zigzag stitch that would become a signature.
As a designer, instead of hiding stitching, Burrows celebrated and exaggerated it by using contrasting thread colors. He used a close, narrow zigzag stitch to create his trademark fluted “lettuce hem.” In an endless range of shapes and combinations Burrows placed bright contrasting colors of chiffon or knit fabrics in a single ensemble.
After having success selling pieces to friends, Burrows cofounded the O Boutique at Nineteenth Street and Park Avenue South in 1968. Attracting the countercul-tural luminaries that hung out at Max’s Kansas City across the street, the shop and its proprietor gained a following, but Burrow’s lack of business experience resulted in O Boutique’s eventual closure.
In 1970 Geraldine Stutz, president of Henri Bendel, gave Burrows a space in the workroom of Bendel’s Studio, the small manufacturing part of the store, and Pat Tennant, the manager of the design studio, became an important mentor to the designer.
Stephen Burrows World opened in the summer of 1970 on the third floor of the store, as a packed audience watched a fashion show set to disco music. Leather garments with nail-studded embellishments, midiskirts, skin-tight sweaters, suede bags dripping with fringe, and Burrows’s famous super bright jersey knits shown on ethnically diverse male and female models impressed audience and press alike.
Burrows’s fluid, sexy separates are iconic of the individualist, confident woman of the 1970s. The “black is beautiful” philosophy of the 1970s was showcased through Burrows’s use of African American models and his success as an African American fashion designer. More than any other designer of the 1970s, Burrows captures in his designs the vivacious energy of the disco scene.
By 1973 he was at the top of the field, winning the prestigious Coty award, the highest honor in American fashion, which he was honored with again in 1974 and 1977. He was one of five American designers invited to show their clothes along with five French designers at a fashion spectacle at the Palace of Versailles in 1973.
Influenced by his success and the lure of Seventh Avenue, Burrows moved out on his own that same year. With this move he lost the guidance and protection of Bendel’s staff, however, and his business suffered due to poor management. Used to overseeing the details of his clothing line’s production, he was unable to achieve the same quality utilizing mass-manufacturing processes.
From 1977 to 1982 Burrows relaunched a successful collection with Henri Bendel. He stepped out of the New York fashion world in 1982 when the mood in fashion was changing and the disco era was coming to a close. He relaunched a third time with Henri Bendel in 2002, when his now-retro fashions were once again in demand.
Source: Fashion Bank
Fashion designer Stephen Burrow’s who was called by The New York Times as ‘ the brightest star of American Fashion.. He is best known for his work in the prime of the disco era in the late 7o’s early 80’s.
Burrows won three three consecutive Coty Fashion Awards. He was the first African American to win this award. Burrows’ work became internationally recognized and worn by many celebrities including Liza Minnelli, Pat Cleveland, Iman, Grace Jones, and Cher.
Burrows’ was also one of American designers who represented and won victoriously against the French designers at the infamous fashion battle in Versailles.
The Museum of the City of New York, showcased Stephen Burrow’s retrospective called ‘ When Fashion Danced ‘ of the fashion designer’s work
In May 2006 the CFDA honored Burrows with “The Board of Directors Special Tribute;” adding the designer to the ranks of such previous luminaries as Tom Ford and Alexander McQueen.
Around the same time, Burrows was invited by the Chambre Syndicale de la Mode to return to Paris to present his Spring/Summer 2007 Collection in the Carousel de Louvre. “BURROWS IN PARIS” was presented to resounding applause as part of French Fashion Week
Fashion critic Suzy Menkes of “The International Herald Tribune” praised Burrows as “the Master of matte jersey and colour combinations!” In addition to “Stephen Burrows World”, Burrows expanded his company to include a number of labels drawn from various points of inspiration. “S by Burrows” was created for a venture with Home Shopping Europe (HSN) in Munich, Germany, while “Everyday Girl” was inspired by Anna Cleveland, daughter to muse and model Pat Cleveland, and “SB73,” a cut and sew knit line that was developed based on Burrows’ hallmark, color-blocked creations of the seventies.
First Lady Michelle Obama’s choose to wear a Burrows Jersey pantsuit to a Washington DC event. Remarking on the significance, Vogue Magazine wrote, “It was a wonderful acknowledgement of Burrows, one of the great African-American designers and a Harlem resident known for his inventive cuts and bias technique.”
Also in 2010, Burrows opened his new showroom and design studio in New York City’s Garment Center.
2011 marks Burrows’ 45th year as a designer. It began with Burrows co-hosting the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Celebration of models in The Battle of Versailles Fashion Show that altered perceptions of American fashion’s presentation on the world stage.