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Taylor’s jewellery up for auction December 14, 2011

The diamond ring from Richard Burton is expected to reach up to $3.5m (£2.2m)

A collection of jewels owned by late actress Dame Elizabeth Taylor is being auctioned at Christie’s in New York.

One buyer has already paid $600,000 (£388,000) for a diamond and sapphire ring given to Taylor by her friend, late singer Michael Jackson.

Nearly 400 dresses the actress wore to premieres and movie awards will also go under the hammer as well as the 269 items of jewellery.

It has been estimated the four-day sale will fetch more than $30m (£19m).

Before the sale began, Marc Porter, chairman and president of Christie’s Americas, said: “Spanning over 50 years of fashion, this is a highly personal collection, every stitch of which is reflective of Elizabeth Taylor’s sense of fashion and the development of her distinctive style.”

A three-month tour, which began in September, has showcased some of the highlights of the sale.

Known for her love of diamonds, the actress owned some of the world’s most expensive stones.

In 2003, she published a book entitled Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry.

Mr Porter said the sale would be the “greatest private collection ever assembled in one place”.

Dame Elizabeth Taylor was known for her love of diamonds

The first lot to be auctioned, a gold and gem bracelet valued at up to $35,000, sold for $270,000.

It is thought the 33.19 carat diamond ring, which was a gift from her fifth husband Richard Burton in 1968, will fetch up to $3.5m (£2.2m).

The two wedding bands she exchanged with the actor in 1964 and 1975, and a ruby and diamond ring he put in her Christmas stocking one year, are also to be auctioned off.

Taylor, who was best known for National Velvet, Cleopatra and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? died in Los Angeles earlier this year at the age of 79.

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Murray Arbeid obituary October 31, 2011

Murray Arbeid, who has died aged 76, was a “garmento”, as they are called in New York, immersed in the garment trade from childhood and never more content than when solving a three-dimensional problem in cloth. An Arbeid evening gown – he didn’t do clothes that had to get up, go out and earn a living before the cocktail hour – would be bang on the fashion yet considerate of its wearer. Maintaining that duality is not easy, and Arbeid’s skill was perfectly demonstrated by two midnight-blue dresses of related cut from the 1980s, for Diana, Princess of Wales, and Shirley Bassey, that showed off the unique shapes and assets of both: ingeniously secured for generous Shirley; strapless for toned Diana, who wore it for an official portrait.

Diana, Princess of Wales, in a midnight-blue creation by Murray Arbeid. Photograph: Nils Jorgensen/Rex Features

His father, Jack Arbeid, a master diamond-cutter who inherited a jewellery business, and his mother, Ida, were from London’s East End, where most people they knew were in the schmutter business, wholesale and retail. Murray was evacuated to Cornwall during the blitz and, back in London after the war, went to Regent Street Polytechnic (now the University of Westminster), and then the London Institute of Fashion, to learn the complex geometry of pattern drafting. He found a first trainee job as a 30- shilling-a-week cutter with a gown house in the garment district that ran north of, and parallel with, Oxford Street.

Arbeid had the taste, and the talent, to aspire to couture, and in 1952 was taken on as an apprentice by Michael Sherard who, unusually, ran a formal Paris-style house in London; some of his staff had served their own apprenticeships in Paris, notably Mme Raymonde (trained by Madeleine Vionnet, prewar mistress of the most difficult simplicity), who became Arbeid’s mentor. His next teacher, the dressmaker Alice Edwards, had excellent contacts in Paris, as her clients expected her to modify Gallic fashion for their figures, and she became Arbeid’s social finishing school.

With enough introductions it was possible then even for a very young newcomer to set up a small salon, and Arbeid was in his mid-20s when he rented space in the garment district, where the workshop junior had only to sprint half a mile to match samples. In the 70s, he moved up to Bond Street, where he and his partner, the milliner Frederick Fox, shared premises. By then the garment district was shrinking, the old independent mid-price labels ceding their business to high-street chains. He later relocated to Sloane Street, taking his loyal hands with him, such as the legendary Irma, whom he had poached from Balenciaga in 1955: outfits for his private customers were usually single-needle – one worker sewed them from start to finish.

Arbeid predated the designer-as-cool-public-figure era, preferring the professional respect of his peers for his speciality, evening wear. “Others do day clothes better,” he said, “so let them get on with it.” He joked that if there were a Nobel prize for taffeta, he would have won it. He might have ventured earlier in the afternoon for ensembles for receptions, to be worn with Fox hats. But no wedding dresses: “There are enough pressures in life without having to put up with neurotic mothers of the bride, and there is no other kind” – although he did concede that brides-to-be could choose a gown from his range and have it made up in white. The “range” was his wholesale collection, available in stores and what used to be called “modom shops”, sold in France, Germany and Japan, but selling strongest in the US, where he adopted the garmento approach of lugging a trunk show to upmarket department stores across the country: women without youth, but with ample money and engagement diaries, bought and bought.

He kept a sense of humour about presentation. At the end of a 1989 leopard-skin print collection, a Tarzan figure threw Arbeid over his shoulder and carried him off the runway. In 1985 he paraded his models down the aisles of a London-Houston Continental Airlines flight, mid-Atlantic. “It was a bit like Dallas without the sex, actually,” he explained. They had to change in the galley to a strict countdown, “sort of an army manoeuvre”.

In the years after her marriage, Diana needed for public appearances the drama and volume of Paris or Milan show-stoppers, but from British houses, and Arbeid became a regular at the palace, supplying what the designer Bruce Oldfield described as “gorgeous loss leaders” – party pieces that barely recovered the extra costs to Arbeid of fittings and long consultations (Diana economically wore them again and again with changed accessories). Still, they promoted his rails of retail, especially in the US, and attracted Queen Noor of Jordan, Estée Lauder and the novelist Danielle Steel, among others, as clients. He produced a guest collection for the house of Norman Hartnell after the royal designer’s death in 1979, although he was just as satisfied being among fellow garmentos at his trade stand at London Fashion Week at Olympia, with or without a visit from the Diana entourage.

Arbeid retired in 1992. He was told in 2000 that he would die from an inoperable cancer by the end of the year, but he outlived the prognosis by more than a decade. Fox, his partner for 53 years, survives him.

• Murray Dennis Arbeid, designer, born 30 May 1935; died 22 August 2011

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Robert Whitaker obituary September 28, 2011

Although his work ranged across art, music, fashion and reportage, Robert Whitaker, who has died of cancer aged 71, was best known for his photographs of the Beatles. He gained particular notoriety for his sleeve photograph for the 1966 US-only Beatles album, Yesterday and Today – which depicted the foursome clad in butchers’ coats and festooned with dismembered dolls and chunks of raw meat. His relationship with the band during the mid-1960s enabled him to document their changing image and final world tour.

“I had this dream one night about the Beatles being ripped to bits by all these young girls when they came out of a stadium,” Whitaker said of the inspiration behind the controversial cover. He had planned it to be part of a triptych, which was never completed. John Lennon saw it as an iconoclastic assault on the Beatles’ cheeky moptops reputation. “Like the naughty boy I am, I wanted to break the Beatles’ image,” he said. “I wanted to show that we were aware of life, and I really was pushing for that album cover.”

In a further version of the story, it was Paul McCartney who was keen to use the photograph, which he considered to be a comment on the Vietnam war. In any event, it was controversial enough for Capitol Records to replace it with a far more staid image (also by Whitaker). An original “butcher” sleeve is now one of the most valuable items of Beatle memorabilia.

Whitaker was born in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, to a British mother and an Australian father. His parents encouraged him to take an interest in art and photography, and from an early age he was fascinated by the work of Salvador Dalí. In 1961 he took a government-subsidised voyage to Australia as one of the “10 pound Poms”, and after working as a film editor for television, he opened a photographic studio in Melbourne. He undertook fashion shoots for Australian Vogue and rubbed shoulders with such dynamic contemporaries as Barry Humphries, Germaine Greer and Richard Neville.

He first came into contact with the Beatles in 1964, when they toured Australia. Whitaker was asked to photograph the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, for a feature in Melbourne’s Jewish News. “I saw Epstein was a bit of a peacock and a cavalier,” said Whitaker, “and I put peacock feathers around his head in photographic relief. He was knocked out when he saw the picture.”

Further impressed by Whitaker’s exhibition at the Melbourne Museum of Modern Art, Epstein offered him the job of staff photographer at his company, Nems, whereupon Whitaker found himself back in Britain in August 1964, photographing Epstein’s roster of artists, which included Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cilla Black and Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas. He also shot several sleeve photos for the Australian folk-pop band The Seekers.

But his work with the Beatles overshadowed everything else, and Whitaker spent two years following them on tours to the US and the far east, as well as at home and in the recording studio. His pictures were also used for the sleeve of their Revolver album.

“I learned when to poke a camera at them and when not to,” he said. “They were being photographed every single second, and there were times when you could get two fingers stuck up at you.” He became especially close to Lennon, because “he was not just a Beatle. He was a writer, poet and painter, and I could have a conversation with him.”

Whitaker left Nems in August 1966, after the Beatles decided to quit touring, and moved to a studio space in Chelsea which he shared with a friend from Australia, Martin Sharp. Between them they created the psychedelic sleeve for Cream’s album Disraeli Gears, then collaborated with Neville and Greer in creating the counterculture magazine Oz, whose early editions included many of Whitaker’s images.

He began to broaden his work beyond pop music. He was the official photographer for two films starring Mick Jagger – the psychological thriller Performance and Tony Richardson’s biopic of the outlaw Ned Kelly, which was shot in Australia. Photos from the latter were published in a 1970 book, Mick Jagger Is Ned Kelly. Jagger nicknamed the photographer “Super Click”.

Whitaker’s admiration for Dalí led him to strike up a rapport with the surrealist painter, whom he photographed on several occasions between 1967 and 1972. Whitaker experimented with a technique of taking whole reels of extreme close-ups of Dalí from which he would create a single portrait, dubbed a “Whitograph”. He published the pictures as In the Company of Dalí (2007).

Whitaker proved he was not afraid of physical risk by undertaking photojournalism assignments for Time magazine and the New York Times in Vietnam (where he was wounded) and Bangladesh during its war of independence in 1971. Then, with his wife, Susie, he retired to his Sussex farm for nearly 20 years before reappearing in 1991 with the book Unseen Beatles, a collection of previously unpublished photos. This was followed by a successful international touring exhibition of Whitaker’s 60s pictures, Underground London.

In the mid-90s, the Beatles’ company Apple Corps tried to negotiate the use of 300 Whitaker images for the TV documentary The Beatles Anthology, but arguments over price and copyright prevented a deal being struck. In 2002, a 40th anniversary retrospective of Whitaker’s work – Yesterday and Today: Robert Whitaker – A Survey 1962‑2002 – was held at the Monash gallery in Melbourne. In 2008 he took a final look back at his Beatles years with the book Eight Days a Week: Inside the Beatles’ Final World Tour, where he added his own commentary to his 1966 photographs.

He is survived by Susie, a daughter and two sons.

• Robert Whitaker, photographer, born 13 November 1939; died 20 September 2011

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New York fashion week: Marc Jacobs hints at Dior move September 16, 2011

New York fashion week has finished with what looked like a very clear nod to Paris fashion week, which begins in three weeks.

Marc Jacobs brought the curtain down with his show for his mainline eponymous label but, as beautiful and striking as the show was, it was difficult not to be distracted by the various hints he appeared to be dropping about another label.

Ever since John Galliano was fired as the creative director of Christian Dior earlier this year after he shouted antisemitic abuse in a Paris bar, there have been many rumours, and no confirmations, about who would take over at the august French label. Almost six months later, many fashion insiders are whispering that Jacobs has all but signed the contract to take the Dior mantle and an official announcement will be made at the start of Paris fashion week.

Even though Jacobs will forever be associated with the grunge look he so adored in the 1990s – an adoration which got him fired from his first label, Perry Ellis, when he made a grunge collection for the brand – the truth is that he left those grittier origins behind long ago and has been catering for a decidedly ritzier customer. After all, as well as designing his own label and its diffusion offshoot, Marc by Marc Jacobs, the man is the creative director of Louis Vuitton, and if there is one thing ritzier than a French brand known for astronomically priced luggage like Vuitton, it’s a French brand known for astronomically priced fashion, like Christian Dior. His time at Vuitton has proven that he can handle being at the helm of a major French label, and his increasingly experimental looks at Marc Jacobs prove that he could happily fit in at a label that created the New Look more than 60 years ago.

In his own label he has jettisoned the girly look he once specialised in for far tricksier proportions. (Although perhaps the proportions he has experimented with the most are his own: Jacobs has long since forsaken the Jewish schlubby look he had in his early days and is now an obsessive bodybuilder to the point that he was nigh-on unrecognisable when he took his bow this week.)

His show on Thursday proved all this again and more. While the Christian Dior woman might balk at cellophane and silicone dresses, or pop socks with silver shoes, beneath the showiness was real showmanship. Skirts ended right on the knee and were paired with rounded cropped jackets, creating a silhouette that was prim but strikingly distorted, as though one was looking at Peggy from Mad Men in a fairground mirror. The evening wear – a crucial part of the Dior business – was simply beautiful, with an enormous amount of handiwork in the form of beading and careful cutting and tailoring. The one definite lack in the show was – surprisingly from Jacobs – a tempting bag. Instead, the man who has surfed the It bag trend for some time showed leather bags that veered on the dull side, looking like watered-down takes on the bowling bag Prada did almost a decade ago.

But maybe that, too, was a statement from Jacobs: he is done with being known mainly for leather goods. It is time for couture.

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Uzbek dictator’s daughter latest attempt to stage fashion show foiled

With its art deco frontage and celebrity clientele, it was an unlikely venue for a clash between human rights campaigners and the “single most hated person” of a former Soviet republic.

But on Thursday, anti-child labour protesters gathered on the pavement outside Cipriani’s, one of New York‘s most exclusive restaurants, where the president of Uzbekistan‘s eldest daughter, Gulnara Karimova, organised a catwalk show for her latest clothing collection.

After similar protests days earlier, IMG, the organisers of New York fashion week, cancelled a scheduled show by Karimova, who runs the label Guli. Undeterred, Karimova, who has been fêted as dictatorial president Islam Karimov’s likely successor, attempted to save face by moving her catwalk show to a private venue.

If her backers hoped to avoid a demonstration, however, they failed.

Impeccably dressed fashionistas who turned up at Cipriani’s faced anti-child labour activists chanting slogans, waving banners and handing out leaflets, while extra security slowed the activists’ progress inside by checking their passes. The enthusiasm of security guards, specially drafted in for the event, also affected Guli’s publicity, as some fashion magazine photographers covering the event were refused entry.

Protesters outside Cipriani’s. Photograph: Karen McVeigh/Guardian

One protester, from the Uzbek People’s Movement, held a placard declaring: “I always dream about going to the park with my mum and dad, but I’ve got to pick cotton for Gulnora Karimova’s fashion week.”

Uzbekistan, one of the largest cotton-producing countries in the world, habitually removes up to 2m children from schools across the country and forces them to gather the cotton harvest, according to the International Labor Rights Forum.

Yusuf Sabirov, 45, said that his 16-year-old daughter, Madina, who attends college in Uzbekistan, is forced to pick cotton every afternoon or her college will throw her out.

“It is back-breaking work, very, very hard, and most children have to work from sunrise to sunset every day until the harvest is finished. No weekends, nothing, for two or three months. A child can pick up £100 a day – which is about $5 – if they work very hard. If I protest about my child, I will get thrown in jail. But I have a chance to protest here.”

Abby Mills, of the American Federation of Teachers, said: “Despite the IMG uninviting her, Karimova has refused to back down, and she has the funds to stage a private show at a place like Cipriani’s. We cannot let her slip out of the spotlight to a different location when there are children as young as 13 forced to pick cotton as we speak. They are kicked out of school, forced to work and make less than $5 a day.”

Asked what she made of the protest, one invitee, who did not want to be named, said: “It’s unfortunate what’s happening in Uzbekistan. Her father’s reputation is not good, but she [Gulnora] wants to change things.”

Karimova, who was not believed to have attended her own show, has held several high-level positions in her father’s government, which has been criticised for its record on human rights.

On the international scene, the 39-year-old Karimova is known as a fashionable jet-setter, who even had a pop career as GooGoosha, most famously singing a duet with Spanish crooner Julio Inglesias.

In Uzbekistan, Karimova has a carefully managed reputation as an accomplished diplomat, academic, and charitable giver, and women’s and children’s rights advocate, but according to US cables published by WikiLeaks and the Guardian – which paint her as a likely successor to her father – she remains the “single most hated person in the country” who is viewed as something of a “robber baron.”

Reid Maki of the Child Labor Coalition said: “We want the world to know what’s going on in Uzbekistan, and we want the Uzbek government to know child labour it is not acceptable.”

Last week, organisers of the New York event, IMG said: “As a result of various concerns raised, we have cancelled the Guli show on 15 September.”

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