The little Festsaal of the Jewish Museum on the Dorotheegasse was packed to overflowing on a night in June 2007. For the 80th birthday retrospective of the charmed life of fashion designer Lucie Porges and her cartoonist husband Paul-Peter, with podium interviews, reminiscences, an exhibit and slide show selected works from their major retrospective, Style and Humor, mounted there in 2000.
It was a gala evening, the Porges radiant in the collective embrace of friends and family, crowned by a surprise fashion parade of Lucie Porges designs. If she had figured out what was up, she never let on, and sat, her face wreathed with pleasure as she watched a catwalk show covering four decades of stunning creations, borrowed surrepticiously from her own closet and modeled by her teenage grandchildren and their friends, as no professional would have been small enough to wear them.
The Porges did lead a charmed life – at least in retrospect. Viennese, Jewish and enormously talented, their traumatic uprooting in 1938 led them on a path of bold deceptions and near tragedies to Belgium, then France and finally Switzerland, where they met at art school after the war. Separated then for several years, they met again in New York, where they married and thrived – he as a cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine, she as the designer and right hand to fashion doyenne Pauline Tregères – at the heart of the city’s creative scene.
The last time Lucie Porges and I met was six months ago, perhaps a little more, for coffee at the French bistro Le Bol on the Neuer Markt, just across from their hotel. It was a sunny, mild morning, and she appeared, flawlessly turned out, as ever, and full of questions about developments at the paper, exuding warmth and encouragement. We talked about changes here and at home in New York, and about Vienna’s emerging fashion scene, which she hoped we would write about.
Then she asked to be reminded on which occasion we had first met – PPP had asked and she couldn’t remember. It was 2007, the 80th birthday celebration, at the fashion show…
"You were there?" Her eyes light up. "I will never forget it," I said, meaning it absolutely.
"Yes," she smiled. "We had such a good time."
Lucie Porges died in June in New York, after a long illness.