Me and Mr. Parks in the Trench

Here’s a cute picture of my Burberry trench coat. I’m pretty loyal and I’d always thought that since I had a Burberry trench coat I was pretty much covered in the trench department – I didn’t need another. I never would have thought I’d have had eyes to stray.


Then, while home in MN this recent trip, I fell in love with another trench. This one was a fabulous Bonnie Cashin for Sills, Frank Murphy version (below) at my favorite vintage store. It had a cream leather belt and trim and an incredible fur collar! Alas, I walked away from the store without it because I live in LA. AND I have a Burberry trench. I will never need another! Let alone one lined and with a fur collar!! So I told myself. But the next day, I told my mom I was still thinking about it so she went back to the store and bought it for me as an early birthday gift. Then she told me a story about the Frank Murphy store I hadn’t known, which just made me love the coat more.

She told me the story of how the famous African American photographer Gordon Parks got his first big break:

It was 1938 when he walked into Frank Murphy’s, an exclusive women’s clothing store in downtown St. Paul, and asked if they needed anyone to take photos of the store’s runway models. He didn’t mention that he didn’t own a camera and that his only experience with models was a recent perusal of Vogue magazine. Frank Murphy turned him down, but on his way out of the store, Mrs. Murphy suggested that Parks return after the store closed. “Later I asked her why she took a chance on me, and she said she had just had an argument with Frank and was trying to get under his skin,” Parks recalled. “Actually, I think she was just a woman who had a great heart.” (online Source.)
Parks grew up in poverty and from Frank Murphy’s he went on to photograph for Vogue and Life, co-create Essence, shoot for Hermes and many other maisons de couture. After his start as a fashion photographer, he became a photojournalist, a film director, an accomplished writer, poet and musician, even the boyfriend of Gloria Vanderbilt 😉 I love the pic above for the perspective of the street behind her. Early Sartorialist?
The other thing I discovered, besides now really wanting to read his autobiography Voices in the Mirror, while looking up Mr. Parks’s pictures:
He looked darn good in a trench himself!

13 thoughts on “Me and Mr. Parks in the Trench

  1. elauinc

    just today, i thought to myself: "i need a good trench." love the gordon parks story — serendipity mixed with a bit of guts, sass, and loads of talent.

  2. patty

    You did a wonderful expansion of the story i told you. Also, you didn't mention that the daughter of the Murphy's, Shannon Murphy Pulver lived next door to us for a time on Oseola when we first moved here. And, once i called her after she moved and said i wanted to get in touch w/Gordon Parks and she gave me his number where he lived at the UN Bldg in NY. I called him and he actually called me back and left a message on my answering machine. Alas, we never did connect. Shannon was so nice. She died a few years ago. (ANd, i didn't save that message—darn)

  3. Jennifer

    This a a great post. Ditto what Heather said, basically. So jealous of your Bonnie Cashin find. You will look amazing in that trench- and you'll totally get use out of it with all of your travels to NYC, Paris, MN!Never knew about Frank Murphy's when I lived in Minneapolis. Nice to be reminded of the Oval Room and of course the dashing & talented Mr. Parks 🙂

  4. Jennifer

    Happy New Year, Clare!Everyone loved their Vivier gifts at Christmas:)Love this post. Thank-you for reminding me of the Oval Room, and Mr. Parks.You'll look amazing in your Cashin (jealous!)trench!!


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