Jeanne-Marc: West Coast designers with a neon palette

Spring and summer will be a blaze of unrestrained color wherever Jeanne-Marc designs abound. This San Francisco-based team, Jeanne Allen and marc Grant, built their fine reputation on uninhibited use of colors, originally seen in bright patchwork quilted jackets and later in dresses, skirts, and pants.

The Jeanne-Marc label embraces such combinations as teal-orange-mint-and-red, or magenta-gold-lilac-and-turquoise, all bound in contrasting trim. Such brilliant flashes are not for the timid, the "shrinking violet" dresser. In fact, violet is one of the predominant colors in these neon palettes.

That there is ready acceptance of these freewheeling combinations is evident in the nationwide success of the creations emanating from Jeanne-Marc's multiple operations here.

In their fashionable Sutter Street boutique, these amplified colors vie with the rock-and-roll music on the hi-fi. But in the their new factory over on Third street, the loudest sound is the melodious hum of 36 sewing machines.

In addition to their factory and boutique, his talented team has two factory outlet stores in the North Beach section of the city. Interspersed with all this enterprise, they are now designing a line of home furnishings, table covers , place mats, aprons, and bedding.

How did such a couple who work so well together ever find each other? Jeanne Allen, who edits the collection, selects fabrics and colors, and supervises production in the factory, comes from the Pacific Northwest. She received her BA and Ma dedgrees in English and political science from the University of Washington and was awarded a Rotary Club Scholarship and a Ford Foundation grant in political research.

After some experience in retail stores, she became a department manager at Design Research International in Cambridge, Mass., and later in San Francisco, where she managed the Marimekko dress line

Marc Grant, the design force behind the collections, is a native Californian. He studied on scholarships at La Jolla's Art Center School and the San Francisco Art Academy, exhibiting in California museums, the Metropolitan Museum of art, and the Smithsonian Institute. While still an art student in San Francisco, he worked as a display and grapics director at Design Research, where he met Jeanne.

Shortly thereafter they went to Finland, where both worked at the Marimekko factory. After subsequent travel throughout the Continent they went to England, where Marc attended the Brighton College of Art and Design.

Living on a shoestring, Jeanne would canvass the street markets and "jumble sales," picking up bits and scraps of prewar cotton fabrics to quilt together into jackets.

Returning to San Francisco in 1974 and still living on a shoestring, they sketched, stitched, and sold these jackets and coats and other items which caught the attention of store buyers. With a $900 investment their career was launched.

From the first, color was the most outstanding aspect of their productions. "We spend a lot of time on our colors, just moving them around to see how they'll relate to each other," Jeanne says.

The spring collection, in stores like I. Magnin, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman-Marcus, includes zingy balloon and harem pants, bloomer suits with spencer jackets, terry jumpsuits, dresses, and a multitude of separates.

Shapes here are full and easy, with wide, floaty skirts. Fabrics are crepe de Chine, polyester, silk, cotton batiste, and poplin. Most outstanding are the pieces printed or woven exclusively for Jeanne-Marc.

Paul Bianculli, a local artist, hand-waves multicolored ribbon, braid, trimming, and chinille yarn into two-yard pieces of 29-inch-wide fabric. From this Jeanne-Marc will create a one-of-a-kind jacket elegant enough to do the work of a fur jacket (and almost as expensive).

The spring collection is suitably light and summery, though Jeanne says: "Our things are generally of a more seasonless nature. We feel our textiles transcend trends and seasons. We expect this spring's tops to go well with last year's pants, for example. We think of them as additive." And indeed Jeanne-Marc design have become collectibles to many movies stars, career women, opera-and theatergoers, and young matrons who can afford them.

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