Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Defying Photography

Photographers are now able to construct their own representation of the human face and body. Digital retouching enables them to transform physical attributes to an unseen scale, allowing young people to become old and men to become women.

Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin: Lady Gaga - V Magazine, 2011

Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin use technology to defy our perception of identity by bringing innovative elements into their photographs. Their work has graced the walls and pages of some of the world's finest galleries and fashion magazines.

Taschen has just published a sumptuous retrospective set celebrating two decades of Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin's fascinating work, which has brought them to the forefront in the fields of both art and fashion.

"We always say that what we do is shoot human beings, whether it is for fashion, which is a glorification of a certain aspiration, or showing an internal experience that means more in the art world." Ines van Lamsweerde 

Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin: Alexander McQueen, 2004

One thing is certain, you never remain indifferent to their photographs. There is always a disturbing quality to them which challenges our perception of reality in an irreverent and rebellious way.

In a time when every image is retouched to create people who look perfect with no wrinkles or spots it's refreshing to have artists who go against our need to be seduced by the allure of the ultimate super-human.

Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin: Kate Moss - Yves Saint Laurent, 2008

"When it comes to retouching wrinkles, we try to be as conservative as possible. But it is part of our culture now: we have all become avatars." Inez van Lamsweerde

Maybe in the future we will go far beyond image manipulation and plastic surgery, being able to manipulate genes in order to build up our predisposition to happiness and intelligence as seen in Gattaca, a film directed by Andrew Niccol in 1997 with Ethan Hawke, Jude Law and Uma Thurman.

Inez van Lamsweerde/Vinoodh Matadin: Pretty Much Everything
by Penny Martin, Michael Bracewell, Olivier Zahm, Bruce Sterling, Antony, Glenn O'Brien (£450, Taschen - Limited art editions available)

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Saturday, 28 January 2012

Paris Couture: Dream Woman?

When I read the Hollywood exhibition review on Guardian newspaper, I thought why is Brokeback Mountain costume design but not Breakfast at Tiffany's? It's all about dressing a character... But now I get it.

Zuhair Murad and Versace (vogue.it)

Costume design is about dressing a 'real' and believable person while fashion inhabits the realm of dreams, translating the vision of a designer who can easily describe who is the woman he or she is portraying.

Alexandre Vauthier and Zuhair Murad (vogue.it)

Valentino woman, Gucci woman, Versace woman... Haute Couture in particular is the ultimate fantasy, it embodies a dream in such a powerful way that creates a huge profit far beyond clothes because when we buy a perfume that world is within our reach.

Versace (vogue.it)

Haute couture is growing and selling to a changing clientele as Donatella Versace said "they are much younger, less European, a lot of girls are from Russia." Versace returned spectacularly to haute couture after eight years, with golden metal embellishing gorgeous lace dresses tight to the body.

Zuhair Murad (vogue.it)

Zuhair Murad also revealed the woman's body in a magnificent way, bringing to mind the glamour of the silver screen and the moment when the ultimate show girl, Marilyn Monroe, sang happy birthday to President John Kennedy.

Giambattista Valli (vogue.it)

Giambattista Valli opted for an austere look with elegant details while Valentino designers continued to embrace romanticism and purity but this is probably a bit too cautious and definitely a far cry from the former Valentino woman, who was very confident about her sensuality.

Valentino (vogue.it)

Christian Dior was also slightly disappointing, beautiful clothes but not as spectacular as they were with John Galliano, we can all agree that what he said was unspeakable and surely unreflected but how we miss his talent!...

Christian Dior (vogue.it)

Giorgio Armani stayed true to his vision of elegance. It's not a coincidence that he's a favourite of movie stars such as Cate Blanchett, Claire Danes and Scarlett Johansson... Not to mention the music world and the infamous Lady Gaga...

Armani Privé (vogue.it)

Elie Saab was certainly thinking of the red carpet when he was creating his feminine dresses in shining fabrics. He chose trendy sorbet colours and lace to create his vision of a beautiful woman.

Elie Saab (vogue.it)

Karl Lagerfeld recreated the interior of a jet inside the Grand Palais, for the audience to experience the lifestyle of the Chanel haute couture woman. It was a beautiful collection with characteristic details reflecting a contemporary approach to the brand.

Chanel show (guardian.co.uk)

But after all the haute couture shows in the city of light, somehow I miss the wow factor, the collection that would take your breath away with a woman coming out of a dream world...

Chanel (vogue.it)

But there was certainly a foxy lady emerging on the catwalk of both Versace and Zuhair Murad, wearing a body armour with shorts, definitely causing a great impact. You can so see Beyoncé wearing one of these in her music videos!

Zuhair Murad and Versace (vogue.it)

Other related posts:
V&A Unveils Hollywood Glamour
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The Power of a Dress

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Lagerfeld, Missoni and Birthday Thoughts

Yesterday was the launch of Karl Lagerfeld's collection on Net-a-Porter.com, in London it was revealed in Convent Garden with different people queueing to scan the window display with their i-phones and iPads in order to shop online.

Karl Lagerfeld for Net-a-Porter.com in Convent Garden

The collection is edgy and tailored for a younger customer with a strong and irreverent attitude towards life. It certainly attracted bloggers and fashionistas alike, showing up stylish and embracing the latest technologies. 

"Today everything is about technology, not only in terms of communication but also in terms of working, creating materials... Everything is changing." Karl Lagerfeld

Karl Lagerfeld interviews himself on a video interview for Net-a-Porter.com, as an alter ego, an interesting concept, particularly if you build up a public persona to face the world.

For Lagerfeld, there is no secret for success, "the only secret is work, to get your act together and perhaps a decent life: don't smoke, don't drink, don't take drugs, all that helps, one survives better."

But even though he is a quite intellectual, he creates his collections by instinct which makes me think that a creative genius is always someone very visceral, of course you can develop your talent more and more, effort and hard work are inevitable, but it's definitely something you're born with.   

Gianluca Longo and Angela Missoni, V&A

I then headed west to V&A for an evening talk with Angela Missoni, the Creative Director of this well-known Italian brand. She was interviewed by Gianluca Longo, who guided us through the roots of Missoni's family venture.

When you think of Missoni, colourful patterns and family values come to mind probably due to their clever advertising campaigns as intimate family portraits. But as Angela Missoni pointed out, they are not a marketing project, they are real, the family is real.

Her parents actually met in Piccadilly Circus underneath the cupid statue and together they started building a brand which has been revived and successfully moved forward by the younger family members.

Margherita Missoni, today a celebrity in her own right, has also become involved with the family business, admitting to her mother how close it is from her heart. As Angela described: "you grow up seeing beautiful things and you try to translate what's around you."   

When you take a look at a Missoni advertising campaign, you see everything it represents: innovative patterns, Italian tradition, crafstmanship and family values.

Angela has worked with the best photographers to get this message across, from Mario Testino to Juergen Teller, also selecting the most powerful models, from Gisele Bundchen to Kate Moss

Missoni latest ad campaign was revealed at this intimate and relaxed evening talk at the V&A, featuring Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, two of his muses and the family.  

This event was streamed online by Harper's Bazaar magazine, it was a day marked by new technologies, they have a huge potential which is becoming more and more prominent in our lives, internet sales keep growing and we now have multiple platforms to communicate.

Ladies' room at Sketch

By the time I left V&A, my friends were already waiting for me at Sketch to celebrate my birthday. I couldn't help but wonder how challenging my life has been after my BBC redundancy.  

 Anna Wintour, one of the most successful women in the fashion industry, said being unemployed was the best thing that happened to her. You're not finished when you face defeat but only when you give up. And giving up is the last thing on my mind...

"It's up to you to make a day as perfect as possible, it's a question of will and discipline." Karl Lagerfeld

La Digue, Seychelles

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Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Balenciaga Evening

Balenciaga is one of today's most influential forces in fashion, the mastery of techniques and cut along with the talent of its Creative Director, Nicolas Ghesquière have been instrumental to the House's success.

Balenciaga SS12 (vogue.it)

Just as Chanel and Vionnet, it was founded in the early twentieth century by a visionary - Cristóbal Balenciaga. Many books have been written about him but the latest, published in October 2011, is the first serious publication by a Basque fashion historian, who has undertaken a thorough research covering Spanish archives and museum collections. 

Cristóbal Balenciaga

Last night, the Victoria and Albert Museum hosted an evening talk about the book  Cristóbal Balenciaga: The Work of a Master with author Miren Arzalluz, who was wearing an amazing vintage Balenciaga ensemble.

Balenciaga: L'Officiel (October 1950) and Harper's Bazaar (November 1950)

Arzalluz, who is also the curator at the Balenciaga Foundation, presented the man behind the label and the roots of his Parisian success. It was very inspiring to go through his life and all circumstances which made him one of the most outstanding designers of the twentieth century.

Oldest known model to date: 1912 tailored suit and cocktail dress, 1962

Having lost is father when he was just 11 years old, he started to help his mother, who was a seamstress to the Spanish upper class. Due to his mother's clients, he entered a world of refinement.

Evening Dress 1959 (metmuseum.org) 

One family in particular was very influential, giving him access to an impressive art collection, from Velasquez to Goya, and to fashion magazines and books. After an apprenticeship finished in record time, Balenciaga started to work as a tailor when he was only 16 and in 2 years he secured a position in a department that enabled him to travel to Paris.

Dress Ensemble 1965-66 and Day Dress 1955-56 (metmuseum.org)

He established his business after the first World War, when wealthy foreigners were escaping to San Sebastian bringing with them the most well known couturiers of the time, from Worth to Chanel and Vionnet.

Baby Doll Dress 1958 (critobalbalenciagamuseoa.com)

Balenciaga moved to Paris after the Spanish civil war, when he was 42, but his success was not due to luck but the result of years of hard work and incredible talent.

Evening Cape 1963 (vam.ac.uk)

His clothes have their own artistic autonomy based on Balenciaga's view of the human body as conceptual. His meticulous technique and creative genius became legendary and his creations are timeless, undoubtedly the mark of a true visionary!   

Dovima in Balenciaga photographed by Richard Avedon, 1940

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Sunday, 22 January 2012

Period Style: Art Deco

Fashion trends for Spring/Summer wouldn't be complete without Art Deco, the style that took the world by storm in the interwar years. Gucci was the most obvious catwalk show celebrating this period.

Gucci (vogue.it)

Frida Giannini did an amazing job with her latest collection, from short jackets to dresses, this great style was taken to the forefront of the 21st century. Art Deco is also depicted in movies such as The Artist and The Great Gatsby which will be released by the end of this year.  

Etro (vogue.it)

There are several books about this fascinating style, one particularly related to fashion - Art Deco Fashion by Suzanne Lussier. Rizzoli will publish in March George Barbier: Master of Art Deco by Hiroshi Unno, featuring illustrations, costumes and set designs Barbier (1882-1932) did for theatre, film and ballet.

Georges Barbier, Fashion Illustration 1914

For those seduced by Art Deco fashion, I highly recommend a free lunchtime lecture on this subject by Dr Clare Rose at the Victoria & Albert Museum (21st March).

Ralph Lauren and Roberto Cavalli (vogue.it)

The elegance and glamour of this period was epitomised by Jeanne Lanvin, one of the most influential designers of the 1920s and '30s. Her amazing evening gowns revealed her skilful use of intricate trimmings, embroideries and beaded decorations.

Jeanne Lanvin dress, 1928

Josephine Baker also represents this era, she was an international star of sensational and exotic cabarets, having performed at the infamous Folies Bergères and at her own night club, Chez Josephine in Paris.

Josephine Baker

Art deco's linear symmetry with geometric and angular shapes inspired other designers such as Ralph Lauren, Roberto Cavalli and Alberta Ferretti, amongst others.

Alberta Ferretti (vogue.it)

This trend is gaining momentum so I would expect it to hit the catwalk again for the Autumn/Winter 12/13 season which is due to start next month.

Balmain and Paco Rabanne (vogue.it)

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Friday, 20 January 2012

V&A Unveils Hollywood Glamour

This exhibition will only open this fall but the press was invited to have a sneak preview with a live presentation by Professor Deborah Nadoolman Landis, a leading Hollywood costume designer and author, who has been nominated for an Academy Award.

Keira Knightley as Cecila Tallis in Atonement (2007)
Costume Designer: Jacqueline Durran
Focus Features, the Kobal Collection, Alex Bailey
(Exhibition Highlights)

She is the senior guest curator of this exhibition and her enthusiasm about costume design filled the entire room, speaking passionately about unforgettable costumes and the people who have inhabited them.

"On every film, the clothes are half the battle in creating the character. I have a great deal of opinion about how my people are represented. We show a great deal by what we put in our bodies." Meryl Streep

Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Costume Designer - Hupert De Givenchy
(Exhibition Highlights)

Other speakers included Professor Sir Christopher Frayling, guest curator, and Keith Lodwick, assistant curator who is writing a chapter on the fascinating journey of finding the clothes for this exhibition in Hollywood Costume by Landis, which will be published in October.

They all have been working on this exhibition for the past 5 years and we couldn't be more excited about it, it's such a breath of fresh air, light but poignant as many movies capture a particular moment of civilisation with such vividness that they overcome the barriers of time and go on living in our minds.

Joan Crawford as Anni Pavlovitch in The Bride Wore Red (1937)
Costume Designer - Adrian
(Exhibition Highlights)

We all have our favourite so-called fashion movies, from American Gigolo to Breakfast at Tiffany's, (these were actually designed by Giorgio Armani and Hupert De Givenchy) to Some like it Hot, Cleopatra and Atonement (who can forget Keira Knightley's emerald silk evening gown?), this exhibition features the most memorable Hollywood characters.

As Deborah Landis said in her presentation movies are about falling in love with people brought to life by talented actors and costume design plays a pivotal role in bringing these people to life. The audience has to believe people in the movies are real.

Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Costume Designer - Adrian
(Exhibition Highlights)

"Everything about costumes have to resonate true. Even the heel height tells the story." Deborah Nadoolman Landis

The movie that I have watched more times in my life was Out of Africa, I love her bravery and his free mindedness, the breathtaking landscapes, the extraordinary music and of course, her clothes. I love Karen Blixen's book and my affection for Meryl Street comes from that role in particular despite her brilliance in other films.

Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels in The Birds (1963)
Costume Designer - Edith Head
(Exhibition Highlights)

Whatever the movie you're most drawn to, it's very likely that you'll find the costume on display, it's a comprehensive exhibition which even includes films that are on show today such as The Iron Lady.  

The costume designer takes centre stage and his ability to interpret a character is duly recognised. It's unbelievable that it took 20 years for the Academy Awards to recognise the costume designer!

Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic (1997)
Costume Designer - Deborah L. Scott
(Exhibition Highlights)

This presentation made me realise why I love fashion, it's not only its changing nature which can be perceived in everything else and the way it translates the present moment, but above all it's the transformation.

Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976)
Costume Designer - Ruth Morley
(Exhibition Highlights)

Clothes can communicate so many things about us, making us look many different people... It's such a powerful way of expressing ourselves! We can see this happening not only in Hollywood but in the music industry, music videos also depict singers in a myriad of ways. 

But this would be another exhibition, Kylie Minogue's outfits have already been on display at the V&A... Certainly a museum at the forefront of innovation.

Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Costume Designer - Deborah Nadoolman
Lucasfilm, Paramount, The Kobal Collection
(Exhibition Highlights)

Hollywood Costume
Victoria & Albert Museum
12 October 2012 - 27 January 2013

Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Costume Designer - Penny Rose
(Exhibition Highlights)

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