The ballots are in and the winners chosen, by 600 fashion authorities across the United States who have voted on a ballot selected by representatives of 12 of the nation's fine stores. This year's winners of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S Design Awards are Melville and Archibald Davidow, who have captured the senior Sporting Look Award, and John Weitz, Designer of the Year.
To the Davidows, the award came for "continuously contributing to the American Sporting Look over the past 10 years." Their Davidow suits of soft-colored plaids and tweeds are by now an American institution. They have been made and sold in this country for more than 30 years, first by William H. Davidow, father of the brothers, who started the family business in New York in 1880 with the manufacture of men's shirts and women's skirts. Coats and suits were added to Davidow's collections in the '20s, and the firm has made its fame and fortune on the now familiar three-piece ensemble: coat and suit of matching or harmonizing fabrics. The style of these suits changes only subtly from year to year, and this seems to be a secret of their charm to the wearer, who knows that her outfit will always be recognized as a "Davidow suit."
In the past five years, since Gabrielle Chanel returned to the couture in Paris, the Davidows have revived an old connection and have bought and reproduced the designs of Chanel in this country. The firm, which bought from Chanel during her first great period in the '20s, is currently shipping a spring line of 12 Chanel models. Davidow uses many of the same fabrics in its Chanel adaptations, and changes the models only in sizing to fit the typical American figure. "Davidow," says Hector Escobosa, president of I. Magnin Co., "makes Chanel suits better than Chanel makes 'em."
John Weitz (above), winner of the Designer of the Year Award for making the most significant contribution to sportswear during the past year, has breezed to success since 1951 primarily as a designer of sports car fashions. A driver and racer himself, Weitz was one of the first to design the "car coat" and slim-fitting pants for the woman who, according to his definition, should wear pants.
Dressing Americans for a particular sport has turned out to be a most effective formula for Weitz. This year he formed his own design studio, and five firms, including a children's sportswear maker, manufacture his clothes. By fall, when he plans to add a men's-wear firm, he will be designing for every member of the hypothetical young American family he has in mind and which he characterizes as "the type that buys a Jaguar on time." To keep in touch with these customers, who are both his inspiration and his bread and butter, Weitz travels extensively. During March he clocked 15,000 air miles, including trips to New Orleans to address a charity organization, and to Portland, Ore., where he urged young designers to shake off staid tradition and "get with" the hep young set of doers that he has in mind. Weitz, who was born in Germany, educated at Oxford and worked as a young man with European dressmakers, subscribes to the theory that designers are not artists but dressmakers who must make clothes for people whose way of life they understand. John notes that women are still stealing more fashion ideas from men and concentrates on fabrics and types of clothes he would wear himself.
This year's Design Award winners competed for the first time against nominees from other countries. The Davidows were chosen from a group that included Bill Atkinson, Mary K. Dodson, Margit Felligi, the Goldworms, Tina Leser, Vera Maxwell and Emilio Pucci (of Italy). John Weitz's competitors were Elisabeth Beck, Ellen Brooke, Donald Brooks, Jane Ford, Polly Hornburg (of Bermuda), the Lazars, Reiko, Ricci, Samuel Robert, Frank Smith and Pembroke Squires.
Members of the committee of leading U.S. merchants who drew up the slate of nominees are Nan Duskin, Hector Escobosa, Adam Gimbel, Andrew Goodman, H. D. Hodgkinson, Albert D. Hutzler, Lawrence Marcus, Arthur Madison, Herbert Seegal, Dorothy Shaver, W. E. Simmons, William C. Stetson—and Fred R. Smith of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.