PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston December 2021

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REDISCOVERING THE GENIUS OF JEWELER A NATIVE TEXAS SON WHOSE JEWELRY HOUSE ONCE RIVALED CARTIER AND VAN CLEEF. I n a Vogue ad from the 1930s featuring an illustration of a diamond radish brooch, Paul Flato says, "There is nothing more awful than to wear new jewelry and have nobody notice it, a contingency you can easily avoid by making sure yours are Jewels by Flato, which is to say, conversation pieces." Indeed, this was no idle, boastful claim. Flato was the toast of three towns as he opened jewelry salons in New York on Fifth Avenue, Beverly Hills, and Mexico City. Stars of the day vied to wear his jewels both on and off screen, and his designs were sprinkled like stardust across the pages of Vogue. In his era, Flato was more famous than Harry Winston or Tiffany & Co. Almost 100 years later, Flato's bold, witty, and distinctive body of work stands as a testament to his talents as a designer. But it was his natural ability for self- promotion and branding (before branding was even a concept) that made him such a fascinating i n n o v a t o r. I n o r d e r t o understand Flato's place in the history of 20th-century American fashion, design, and culture, one must first examine his dramatic, often turbulent life story — the ultimate conversation piece — which happened to begin and end in Texas. To decipher this narrative, I tracked down the jeweler's descendants, a respected Fort Worth family whose name graces the social directory. South Texas to Manhattan + Fort Worth In 1900, Flato was born to wealth and privilege in the Wild West, in the town of Shiner, Texas. His grandparents, German immigrants who founded the town of Flatonia, Texas, the name extracted from the Flato family moniker. He grew up in Kingsville, Texas, where his parents moved in order to be closer to friends, the King and Kleberg families — owners of the legendary King Ranch. During this fabled period of Texas history, visitors traveled to the famous ranch from around the world, attending grand parties in lavish dress and fine jewels PAUL FLATO BY ATLEE PHILLIPS 88

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