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Living with Flair

Fleur Cowles was a remarkable woman. She was a writer, an artist, a collector and a visionary. She was a renowned hostess who had long-standing friendships with some of the most brilliant minds of her time such as Salvador Dali, Winston Churchill, and Elsa Schiaparelli, and she was the original tastemaker. She even represented the United States at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. But her greatest legacy is Flair, the groundbreaking style and culture bible she created in 1950.

Fleur Cowles by Rene Gruau.

Flair was the ultimate style book, covering everything from fashion, art and society to travel, entertainment, and food. Every issue was presented in a stylish and innovative way, with many small touches that brought the magazine to life such as peek-a-boo covers, secret inserts, and pop-out features, always printed on high quality paper in a variety of different textures and colours, giving each feature a unique flavour. Fleur's wide circle of friends contributed content, including Pablo Picasso, John Steinbeck, Jean Cocteau and Rene Gruau, the end result being that each issue is a work of art in itself.

Flair was in publication for only one year - ultimately it became too expensive a project to carry on, but it remains one of the most influential fashion publications of the 20th century, and a constant source of inspiration to me. Several years ago I found a rare copy of the first issue of Flair, with all it’s original inserts in immaculate condition, and I spent hours taking it all in. I haven’t been able to track down any other issues to date but in 1996 Cowles released an amazing retrospective with Rizzoli, “The Best of Flair”, highlighting the magazine's inventive design and original content. Cowles died in 2009.

A letter from the editor.

All Black and White - accessories feature from the first issue.

Rene Gruau illustration.

Pull-out feature on the Paris home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Photo by Georgy Hoyningen-Huene featuring Harry Winston diamonds.

Fun flower feature.

From "The Best of Flair".

"Portraits" feature by Saul Steinberg from the March 1950 issue.

Jean Cocteau feature.

Fleur Cowles with Salvador Dali.

Fleur Cowles with the Duchess of Windsor.

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