Admit it, U Want the Look. On May 18, Julien’s Auctions put garments, artifacts, and objects from the life and career of Prince under the hammer. In July, for true super fans, Premiere Properties will auction the musician’s five-acre, 10,000 sq ft Turks & Caicos Estate.
The icon died two years ago without a will, leaving his US$200 million estate in probate hell, with entertainment lawyers charged with maximising value before potential heirs step in. Graceland Holdings, which has overseen Elvis Presley’s Graceland since 1982, has taken control of Paisley Park, Prince’s home and production complex just outside Minneapolis. But not all of the pop star’s stuff is staying there.
Auction lots include a five-piece set of custom wedding china for his first marriage to Mayte Garcia – mother to Prince’s only children, neither of whom survived infancy – and many of his stage-worn bespoke ensembles, including a purple, long-sleeve turtleneck jumpsuit with purple glitter sequins. More wearable, perhaps, is a pendant in 14ct yellow gold, topped with a round cabochon amethyst and ending in 19 pave-set full-cut round diamonds.
Part of the appeal is that Prince didn’t merely go shopping at luxury boutiques for his many glittery things. Minneapolis is home to one of the most robust theatre communities in the world, and Prince took full advantage, hiring an army of world-class costume designers and fabricators that were just a purple motorcycle ride away.
“He never wore ready-made clothing,” says Prince scholar Karen Turman. Even his beach estate in Turks & Caicos was customised to have a purple driveway
Liz Bucheit, from Crown Trout Jewelers in Lanesboro, Minnesota, was a contractor for Paisley Park from 1991 to 1994, between the “Batman” and “Love Symbol” eras. She made shoe buckles and zipper pulls (such as Lot 46), plus most other jewellery that Prince and his performers wore during that time. “I cut so many ‘Love Sexy Symbols out of brass in a lot of different sizes,” Bucheit says. “He put them on everything, and they took a lot of time to finish and polish.”
We asked her and Turman to give us an insider’s look at the parts of his legacy that are up for grabs.
How involved was Prince?
Bucheit: He was very hands-on with his wardrobe, and design revisions were always a given! As a metalsmith and jewellery designer, I was given the task to produce pieces (mainly involving metal decorations for his shoes, zipper pulls, etc) based on drawings and specific directions from Stacia Lang [Prince’s head designer]. His ideas and vision for his many looks were manifested between himself and his designer. He would often send tear sheets of designs out of fashion magazines to Stacia, who would work with me on the technical aspects of honouring his requests.
Turman: He drew from everything, yet never seemed to be beholden to the trends; rather, he would set his own style that would constantly evolve. At one time, he was really into [Jean Paul] Gaultier corsets and netting. But if you look at the progression of his looks throughout his 40-year career, he has phases with both hair and fashion but would move on to an entirely different look in a short span of time. Most of the looks seemed to last about a year (or album-tour).
Were fabricators simply handed down plans, or were they involved in creating looks?
Turman: Everything was custom-made and -designed. He had a large design department that was housed in Paisley Park and moved to the space above his Glam Slam club in the Warehouse District of downtown Minneapolis during the 1990s. Stacia Lang has talked about how she would sketch designs for him, and all she would get back was a Post-It that said “approved”. She knew he liked the outfits if he asked for them in multiple colours.
Bucheit: It was always exhilarating to meet with Stacia and her team. There were works in progress we were not allowed to talk about, so it was terribly fun to have a juicy secret about some new look Prince would be trotting out on the red carpet.
Turman: For the backless yellow pants [infamously worn during his 1991 MTV Video Music Awards live performance], Prince gave a vague idea about wanting a backless look (he was not verbose), and Stacia presented him two different designs: one with the entire back of the legs backless, and one with just the cheeks. He chose the one with the cheeks, as we all know. They all had to keep it a secret before the live performance, so he was wearing some type of cape to cover his backside, and even the backup dancers didn’t know about it until the performance. You can see a look of surprise on their faces during the performance.
If you could get your hands on one particular item from Prince’s archives, what would it be?
Bucheit: Just one?! I recall a beautiful pair of pants he wore made entirely of Versace print fabric. I believe they were silk. He wore them during the Diamonds and Pearls tour.
Turman: I’m obsessed with the cloud suit worn in the “Raspberry Beret” video. It’s constructed of blue silk, with hand-painted clouds. The same fabric covers the Cuban 3-inch-heeled boots he would wear over the years.
Music Icons: Featuring Property From The Life and Career of Prince auction took place at the Hard Rock Cafe New York on May 18.