Partner Richard Keate

Queer Places:
Chequer, 3rd Ave & E 50th St, New York, NY 10022
Chequer West, 8620 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90069

Picture of Carlos McClendon (October 12, 1923 - July 16, 2008) was an American designer and shop owner. He is probably the most famous "unknown" model of George Platt-Lynes, the one who graces the cover George Platt-Lynes's most recent coffee-table book. McClendon was in relationships with Christopher Isherwood, George Platt Lynes and Denham Fouts. He had encounters with Monroe Wheeler, Lincoln Kirstein, Paul Cadmus and Bernard Perlin.

Carlos McClendon was born in Bakersfield, CA on October 12, 1923 and lived the early years of his life in Southern California. He attended schools in Long Beach and later earned a BA from UCLA. During and immediately after his college years, he worked in the design department of MGM Studios. During this period he was also a dancer with the Marie Bryant dance troupe.

Christopher Isherwood met McClendon through Denny Fouts and John Goodwin in the 1940s when McClendon often visited the beach in Santa Monica. The friendship continued long after McClendon left Los Angeles in the early 1950s.

In early 1950, McClendon moved to New York City where he quickly became an early and influential force in boutique retailing, before the word boutique was in general usage. His shop, called Chequer, at the corner of Third Avenue and 50th Street specialized in unique objects, furnishings and clothing from places like Mexico, Haiti and Morocco which he chose on his travels. The shop was an immediate success, notable for McClendon's special "eye" for the beautiful and unusual, and he counted Greta Garbo and many of the trend-setters of New York among his regular customers. The shop also inspired several imitators.

by George Platt Lynes

1947 Carlos McClendon Male Model By George Platt Lynes Vintage 16x20 Photo  Art | eBay

In the late sixties he moved back to Los Angeles and opened Chequer West in Hollywood and duplicated the success of his New York years. The uniqueness of his inventory and the fine workmanship of his hand-made clothing quickly attracted an all-star clientele like Barbra Streisand, Candace Bergen and the ballerina Nora Kaye. The boutique featured fashions in the most fabulous fabrics east of the Far East. Exclusive West Coast designs by owner Carlos McClendon and by JoAnn Lopez. Specialties were exquisite long, unfitted gowns for women and handsome caftans and robes for men, all of incredibly beautiful materials like Indian sari cloth, tie dyed chiffon, Persian embroidered silk, antique fabrics and collage patterned silk. Each was one of a kind. Gowns were priced from $120 to $500 and caftans and robes from $40 to $300. Men's shirts were designed by Ken Scott and by McClendon in very colorful prints and solids, tagged from $20 to $60. For men also were 41/2 inch ties in silk prints and pure wools and embroidered vests from Afghanistan. The boutique was a delight for poking around. In the back patio were unusual pieces of furniture hand-painted by Micela Livingstone. In the front and upper areas was a vast selection of weird and wonderful imported gifts, new body sweaters, scarves and jewelry and intriguing odds and ends from everywhere.

The Mendes firm in Paris became an international production and marketing complex that manufactured clothes by such names as Yves Saint Laurent, Rive Gauche, Givenchy, Nouvelle Boutique, Jean Muir, Christian Bailly, Roland Chakkal, and the rising star from the Land of the Rising Sun whose clothes were first brought to Los Angeles by Carlos McClendon of Chequer West.

Jobey Baker was an actor and artist who, in the 1970s, became jewelry maker. His pendants and rings in ivorv etched with silver, priced from S190 to $2,000, were at Chequer West. Also on display was Carlos Mc-Clendon's rag chubby, an amazing jacket made of remnants of Eastern fabrics and sewn together with the effect of fluffy fur. With it came a long denim skirt, trimmed again with the remnants in calypso-style ruffles.

In 1976 Pamela Dewey created a new collection called "Addables and Wadables" sold at Chequer West. The designer hand-dyes cotton batiste skirts, tunics and tops in Popsicle colors allowed the wearer to use "fashion like an accessory mixing them the way the woman wants." According to Carlos McClendon: "When I met Ms. Dewey at an experimental fashion show I thought she had a special talent. Her clothes are lively, cheerful very elegant but relaxed. She has a feeling for what California women want right now. It's very liberated clothing." Pamela Dewey's big seller was a concoction she labelled "the half-dress" that consisted of two separate vertical dress-halves that tied at the sides to become a conventional wrap-dress. The halves could be interchanged to create different color combinations. Each half was $25.

McClendon retired in 1986 and moved to Pojoaque where he continued as an anonymous supporter of the arts. He moved to Puerto Vallarta in January 2008 to spend his last months by the Pacific Ocean he loved.

 A resident of Pojoaque/Nambe since 1986, died of natural causes on July 16, 2008, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. McClendon leaves no family survivors, but a cadre of old and new friends. Cremation took place and his ashes were scattered in New Mexico in accord with his wishes.

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