Just One Good Thing: Andrée Putman, 1925–2013
by Michael Maharam
I met Andrée Putman when I was in my twenties during my first chapter at Maharam. She was riding the immediate fame that followed the opening of Morgans Hotel, the project that made her an icon. I had the idea that she might lend her talent to designing modest textiles, as she had to that modest hotel property. She declined. Over the years we became friendly, and when I returned to run Maharam in 1997 she offered to assist in the reinvention of the company. I explained that our stage was so poorly set that any effort was sure to fall flat. She countered with the idea that we might get started by developing an affordable synthetic horsehair for a collection of luggage she was designing. We ended up liking the textile so much that we were inspired to adapt it for seating, and thus she became Maharam’s first de facto collaborator, paving the way for more intensely focused collaborations to come.
Memorably, Andrée and I were walking to lunch at the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station one day, and along the way we were amused by a shop window brimming with the sort of faux cinematic baubles typically featured on television shopping networks. Andrée dragged me into the shop and—in her uniquely sonorous baritone—insisted that we were obliged to find “just one good thing.” The fact that she felt that one good thing could be found in this gilt treasure chest amazed me, but after a few moments, she succeeded in her unceasingly stylish way, and a valuable lesson was taken in the unlikely origin of beauty and the substance instilled in an object through authoritative interpretation. Andrée lives on, through this and the many lessons she shared with me and all those who knew her and admired her work.
Image: Portrait by Pierre et Gilles, courtesy of Andrée Putman SARL.