Fashion Now Archive

Review of Inside Vogue: A Diary of my 100th Year by Alexandra Shulman

Alexandra Shulman, Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year (London: Fig Tree Penguin, 2016)

Cover of Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year by Alexandra Shulman (London: Fig Tree Penguin, 2016). Photograph courtesy of publisher.

The centenary year of British Vogue saw numerous celebratory events, from a bumper June issue covered by the Duchess of Cambridge to a retrospective exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, a BBC2 documentary punnily titled Absolutely Fashion and a Vogue Festival featuring Grace Coddington, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele, Kim Kardashian and Charlotte Tilbury as speakers. Inside Vogue – the final treat of this momentous year for the magazine established in 1916 – is a personal account of the hard work that went into these events, the pressure, frustrations, and challenges faced in doing justice to Vogue’s legacy.

A rich picture is painted by Inside Vogue’s author, editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman. What could have easily have hit shelves as a puffed-up piece of marketing is in fact peppered by nuanced criticisms. Absolutely Fashion’s narrator is rightly a cause for concern, as is rogue photographer David Bailey, though real indignation is reserved for the hypocritical jabs at Vogue’s portrayal of women made by The Daily Mail’s Liz Jones and Sarah Vine. Beauty confessions (‘I can only stick so far to “Il faut souffrir pour être belle”. The less souffrir going on the better, I feel.’) and reminiscences about growing up as the daughter of features writer Drusilla Beyfus and theatre critic Milton Shulman are interrupted – as even the most fabulous working lives are – by domestic chaos, spontaneously combusting bins and failing boilers.

Cover of Vogue Centenary Issue, June 2016

Cover of Vogue Centenary Issue, June 2016

Interior of Vogue Centenary Issue, June 2016

Interior of Vogue Centenary Issue, June 2016

Preview of Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year

Page preview of Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year

Structured as a diary, Inside Vogue also provides a valuable first-hand account of what is takes to produce a contemporary record such as Vogue magazine. How best to showcase Vogue’s contribution to readers’ awareness of contemporary conversations, culture and styles, and determine which faces from the worlds of fashion, art and music most deserve places in Tim Walker’s ‘hall of fame’ shoot? How to do this in the face of a digital revolution, with new challenges for print publishing; how to fight for a gold foil-embossed logo on instinct alone? Shulman’s accounts of her meetings with the Duchess of Cambridge will likely prove an essential source for our understanding of (and indeed future studies on) the representation and role of the royal family in these times. That the palace is easier to deal with than Naomi Campbell and David Beckham is just one takeaway.

Although Shulman makes clear the account is somewhat polished, not unlike Instagram – ‘everything we put out about ourselves is edited’ – there is plenty here to delight, intrigue, and learn about what life is like at the helm of Vogue, that powerful force in documenting fashion.

Alexandra Shulman, Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year (London: Fig Tree Penguin, 2016). Photograph courtesy of publisher.

From Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year. Photograph courtesy of publisher.

From Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year. Photograph courtesy of publisher.

From Inside Vogue: A Diary of My 100th Year. Photograph courtesy of publisher.

Somerset House Welcomes a New Addition

In Somerset House’s long history, many artists have walked through its courtyard and created their works in the endless nooks and crannies of its maze-like interiors. The long legacy of vision, beginning in 1779 when the Royal Academy of Arts became the first resident in the newly refurbished Somerset House, through its many Royal Academy Exhibitions, the move of The Courtauld Institute of Art into the North Wing of the building, becoming the home of British Fashion Council and London Fashion Week, to hosting blockbuster fashion and art exhibitions as well as multiple annual festivals such as Pick Me Up and Photo London, now continues with a new venture.

From October 2016, the New Wing of the former sixteenth century palace has been transformed into a home of Somerset House Studios, a new experimental workspace for a wide spectrum of creatives. Musicians, filmmakers, performance artists, designers, writers, architects, visual and internet artists are among the first residents in the repurposed, 36,000 sq ft space, soon to be joined by 25 new arrivals. Eventually, the space will house 300 creators, inventors and originators, making Somerset House a vibrant hub for London’s visionaries.

Somerset House Studios comes at a time when London’s uncompromisingly high rent has driven out artists such as Gareth Pugh, a world-renowned British designer, from their previous spaces. Pugh laments, “there is so much about creativity and how London is this place people go to and look to, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to actually make ends meet and make things work. Responding to this very serious problem, the Studios are offering up to two and a half years of residency at a capped rental price equivalent to 2014 rates for workspaces, allowing creativity to flourish, while offering much needed security to vulnerable artists and at the same time preventing the flocking of precious British talent elsewhere. The community Somerset House Studios will create is also crucial, as musician, artist and writer Brian Eno highlights: “People sometimes think that everything artists need is in their own minds. But it isn’t: as well as talent and enthusiasm, they need good places to work, and they need people to talk to and share ideas with…it represents a lot of possibilities for creative cross-pollination.”

This artistic exchange will not be exclusive to the residents, however. Instead, performance spaces, event and exhibition rooms will showcase the talent to over 3.2 million guests which come to Somerset House each year. The first round of exhibitions, called Somerset House Studios 01 has already been a great success. Newcomer but already one of the most exciting London designers, Charles Jeffrey, hosted one of his famous LOVERBOY raves in his space during the opening night. Inés Cámara Leret conceived an out-of-the-world cube which catches the spectators’ breaths and imprints them, creating a tangible object out of our DNA, while design practice Superflux set up a fictional court case, leading the visitor from their lab through sheets of plastic hanging off walls to the crime scene itself, posing questions about the world of gene-fixing and genetic profiling. What makes this work really compelling is its interaction with the audience, a new area which art is just beginning to tap into, but is already very much at the forefront at the Studios. Exciting things are happening at Somerset House and we cannot wait to see the incredible, inspiring and invigorating work which will once again announce London and one of its iconic buildings as the leader in artistic innovation.

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                                     Gareth Pugh | Sycorax | Somerset House Studios | Image by Dan Wilton

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                                     Charles Jeffrey | Somerset House Studios | Image by Dan Wilton

Applications for Somerset House Studios are open until 7 January 2016.

 

References:

Somerset House Studios Press Release (https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/press/somerset-house-studios accessed on Monday, 14 November 2016)

R. Dex, ‘Gareth Pugh gets a studio at Somerset House after being priced out of Dalston’ in Evening Standard (Wednesday, 19 October 2016) (http://www.standard.co.uk/fashion/news/gareth-pugh-gets-a-studio-at-somerset-house-after-being-priced-out-of-dalston-a3373406.html accessed on Monday, 14 November 2016)

The Life of a Young Fashion Designer: Yordan Mihalev

Born in Bulgaria, Yordan Mihalev is a 26-year-old fashion designer who studied at Varna Free University in Bulgaria, with a semester abroad at Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp that also educated designers such as Dries van Noten. With a first prize for “Young Designer”, television interviews and an Italian shop interested in buying his latest collection, he is on his way to establishing his brand.

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Designer: Yordan Mihalev | Photographer: Juanistyle Photography | First Model: Aïsha Bénédicte Mibenge |  Ethno Tendance Fashion Weekend Brussels, 2013

What have you been working on since completing your study?

My first fashion show took place about a month before my graduation at Ethno Tendance Fashion Weekend Brussels. The idea of the event was to gather a lot of designers from different countries to create a collection that was inspired by their own culture, so my entire collection was inspired by Bulgaria and presented by models of African origin.

Afterwards, I moved to Paris where I had a normal, paid job for an American brand, which I wasn’t really interested in. In addition to the job, I did a lot of side projects with different stylists, designers and artists which was really nice, but not spectacular. One of the projects, perhaps the most interesting one, was for Palais de Tokyo. I worked with a stylist and designer who is mainly famous for working with Lady Gaga. He’s a big name and a very interesting guy and I was lucky to have the chance to work for him as an illustrator.

I returned to Bulgaria about nine months ago, because I discovered that it was impossible for me to do what I wanted to do in Paris. I was first thinking about going to Germany, but Bulgaria was a more obvious choice because I would have much more space to create my collection. Since February, I have constantly been working on my new collection, which I presented at the beginning of October at the Salone della Moda, a yearly event in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

What is your favourite part of designing fashion?

The beginning and the end. The beginning and end are the most interesting because the beginning is when you have ideas; a vision of what you want to do. You’re only drawing and sketching and it feels free and you can experiment. The end is when you finally see everything three-dimensionally; everything is done. I don’t know about other designers, but I am always surprised at the end at what it finally became.

Are you now working on setting up your own brand in Bulgaria?

Yes. It’s interesting because for a lot of years I thought that I would have to be outside of Bulgaria, in France, Italy or the US, somewhere where fashion is huge. But this collection, for example, I made in Bulgaria, showed in the Netherlands and now I am going to sell it in Italy. Fashion is very international and the world is such an open place that it doesn’t really matter where you are physically based. I really want to establish my collections in Bulgaria, so that one day I can create spaces and jobs for people in my own country, but after that I want it to be everywhere.

Since the interview, a shop from Dubai has also shown interest in selling Mihalev’s latest collection.

 

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Designer: Yordan Mihalev | Photographer: Tsanislav Hristov

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Designer: Yordan Mihalev | Photographer: Tsanislav Hristov | Model: Alina Volkanova | Make-Up: Ivana Dimitrova

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Designer: Yordan Mihalev | Photographer: Tsanislav Hristov | Model: Alina Volkanova | Make-Up: Ivana Dimitrova

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Designer: Yordan Mihalev | Photographer: Tsanislav Hristov | Model: Alina Volkanova | Make-Up: Ivana Dimitrova

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Designer: Yordan Mihalev | Photographer: Tsanislav Hristov | Model: Alina Volkanova | Make-Up: Ivana Dimitrova

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Designer: Yordan Mihalev | Photographer: Tsanislav Hristov | Model: Alina Volkanova | Make-Up: Ivana Dimitrova

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Designer: Yordan Mihalev | Photographer: Tsanislav Hristov | Make-Up: Maico Kemper | Models from left to right: Jalisa Minnaar, Aissa Sow, Julia Zendman, Liora Schoew, Djerra Zwaan, Sensemielja Letitia Sumter and Lauren Parmentier.

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Designer/Illustrator: Yordan Mihalev | Photographer: Denitsa Diyanova

http://www.mihalevcouture.com/

Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior

After Raf Simons abruptly left his position as creative director at Dior after just three years last October, Dior was left with the task of recruiting, once again, a designer that would be able to continue the legacy and shoulder the burden of designing for one of Paris’ grandest fashion houses.

Maria Grazia Chiuri was announced as Simons’ successor, the first female creative director at Dior and lately of Valentino, where she formed one half of a successful 26-year-long design partnership with Pierpaolo Piccioli that began in the accessories department of Fendi. Her debut was scheduled for the 30th of September, at the end of a season fraught with questions of see-now-buy now, the pace of the system, and street-style spats, that also saw new hands at work at Saint Laurent (Antony Vaccerello) and Lanvin (Bouchra Jarrar).

The opportunity afforded by a single fashion show is well known to the house of Dior. In February 1947, a single presentation saw the popular dress of that decade transformed. Heralded as the most influential fashion event of the century, the collection was worthily dubbed the ‘New Look’ by Harper’s Bazaar’s Carmel Snow, and subsequently took on a mythic quality. The clothes’ exaggeratedly feminine silhouette, marked by tiny waists, generous hips and skirts full of volume were explicitly conceived in marked opposition to post-war, uniform-like austere dress. These new designs were created for ‘flower-like’ women. Dior’s awareness of the power of a single fashion show was re-established with the 2014 documentary film ‘Dior and I’, which captured the weeks running up to and including Raf Simon’s debut. Following in the footsteps of star designers and creative caretakers of this legacy (John Galliano and Yves Saint Laurent amongst them), under the scrutiny of the international press, crucial clients, and with a 1% drop in sales in the first quarter of 2016 having just been reported, Maria Grazia Chiuri faced one of the industry’s greatest challenges.

As guests took their seats in a simple, wooden-floored tent in the grounds of the Musee Rodin, a clue would emerge from the catwalk – laid out in the same format as the vast majority of Chiuri’s previous Valentino presentations. Striding out a soundtrack of Beyonce’s ‘Flawless’, featuring author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx talk on feminism, a newly pixie-cropped Ruth Bell sported a fencing-inspired ensemble, complete with heart motif on her left breast. Dior’s signature bar jacket, here with the regal peplum slimmed down, was relegated to the 31st look.

Rather than referencing and reworking the house’s famous feminine silhouettes then, Chiuri had opted to explore the house’s feminine principles – a t-shirt bearing the slogan ‘we should all be feminists’ was matched with a long, flowing tulle skirt. Instead of voluminous proportions and nipped in waists, dresses were straight, sheer, revealing the straight up and down proportions of an especially youthful crop of models. Sportswear elements finished off many pieces, underwear was visible, braided hair referenced skaters. Inspiration for the slew of evening gowns’ ethereal embroidery was sought from Christian Dior’s highly superstitious nature, but were altogether too reminiscent of Valentino for many commentators (the top to toe blood red of two looks, the only explicit colour in this offering, is a particular Valentino signature). A regular visitor to clairvoyants, Dior was said to read tarot cards before each of his shows; motifs from these, lucky clovers, hearts and the number 8 were scattered throughout Chiuri’s designs. Dior and Chiuri happen to both be Aquarius. Astrologers would forecast that the age of Aquarius would bring upheaval; Chiuri’s debut was certainly a departure from her predecessors, but will have the impact of the New Look? Or was there simply not enough that was new?

As Tim Blanks noted, Chiuri has not had the ‘time to osmose the extraordinary archives at Dior; it was inevitable that she would fall back on what she was familiar with from her time at Valentino.’ CEO Sidney Toledano stated that Chiuri’s experience creating buzz-generating accessories was an important factor in her appointment in an interview with the Business of Fashion. Aside from explicit ‘J’aDIOR’ branded underpinnings (which, at a more ‘accessible’ price point will surely fly off shelves as logos see a surge in popularity this season) the issue for the consumer and regular deep-pocketed clients though is whether the clothes are evocative enough of a heritage that can arguably be pinned on a specific silhouette, here in dispute, to be worth investing in. Only next year’s financial report will tell.

References:

http://www.vogue.com/fashion-shows/spring-2017-ready-to-wear/christian-dior#collection

https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/news-analysis/sidney-toledano-maria-grazia-chiuri-talk-about-new-dior

https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/fashion-show-review/just-in-christian-dior-springsummer-2017

Jonathan Saunders for Diane von Furstenberg

Jonathan Saunders Spring 2017

Jonathan Saunders Spring 2017

Looks from DVF Spring 2017

Looks from DVF Spring 2017

After several years of attempting to pass on the reigns of her eponymous company, Diane von Furstenberg has at last seceded creative decision-making power to Scottish designer Jonathan Saunders, who has led the DVF design team as Chief Creative Officer over the past three months since his appointment in May 2016.

Saunders debuted his first collection Spring 2017 at New York Fashion Week on September 10, 2016. The new collection marks a drastic departure from the traditional DVF aesthetic and signature styles – jersey, chiffon and silk printed wrap dresses, skirts and tops. New is most definitely not bad, and indeed there is much good that will shortly be discussed. However, the collection seems to contradict several core DVF principles that have been firmly established since Von Furstenberg re-launched the label in 1997. These key tenets include effortlessness and femininity, which seem to be almost completely absent from Saunders’ collection.

Saunders has indeed reinvigorated the brand with his use of beautifully bold and modern new prints developed in-house, which should be especially commended as previously appointed creative directors at DVF have been known to repackage prints from the archives. The collection showcased knits, furs and outwear­–newer looks within the DVF repertoire – in addition to the more traditional separates and dresses in high quality fabrics either cut on the bias, draped or tailored to a generally chic “oversize” fit. However, while the brand will surely benefit from the reset, the former ease, understatement and femininity of DVF garments seems to have been lost in the excessive use of asymmetry, oversizing and ruffles.

Overall, the limited 30 looks released to the public (the collection was only debuted in front of a small group of fashion press) were beautiful – the print combinations were artful and several looks seemed wearable – especially a blue and burnt orange handkerchief dress styled with a neutral belt and sandals. However, I particularly found many of the one-shoulder blouse looks combined with ruffles across the chest puzzling. The blouses and over-flared trousers in particular seemed to obscure the natural feminine form lost far underneath the garments. Further, almost all of the looks that were waist-centric used belts instead of the more convenient, traditional wrap ties to cinch the waist. While on the whole the collection was refreshing, as a DVF collection, the woman who DVF designed for, and always maintained at the center of the brand, seems to be missing.

The 30 looks from the collection can be viewed on Vogue.com here.

Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage Review

For our American readers, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage (April 30, 2016 – January 22, 2017) is a must see exhibition. In my opinion, it is perhaps one of the best fashion exhibitions since the Brooklyn Museum’s Killer Heels in spring 2015 and even surpasses the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s China Through the Looking Glass in terms of depth and nuance in its discussion of the “West meets East” fashion narrative. Further, it pairs its canny observations with well-curated, stunning textiles.

Dress, designed by Inge van Lierop for Vlisco. Bloom collection, season 2, 2014. Cotton; wax block print. The Bloom collection included the classic Fall Tree design from 1933. The designer has cleverly cut and reconfigured the thirty-six inch repeat into a seath dress, using the borders to define its shape.

Dress, designed by Inge van Lierop for Vlisco. Bloom collection, season 2, 2014. Cotton; wax block print. The Bloom collection included the classic Fall Tree design from 1933. The designer has cleverly cut and reconfigured the thirty-six inch repeat into a seath dress, using the borders to define its shape.

 

The original Fallen Tree print. Cotton, 1933.

The original Fallen Tree print. Cotton, 1933.

 

The exhibition focuses on the colorful wax printed textiles (batiks) associated with Central and West Africa. Although consumers in Africa and the diaspora have historically embraced the fabrics as African, the textiles have long been designed and manufactured in Europe– mainly the Netherlands and United Kingdom. The most luxurious of these textiles are the wax prints designed and manufactured using an eight-step process in the Netherlands by Vlisco, founded in 1846. The company began by exporting imitation batiks to the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) however, three decades later, Vlisco found a new, lucrative market in West Africa.

Around 1906, Vlisco acquired a duplex roller printing machine following the example of its main competitor, Haarlem Katonen Maatschappij (Haarlem Cotton Company). This machine replaced the original La Javanaise from 1852. It too replicated the crackling effects characteristic of Indonesian batiks. Additional colors were added by hand block printing, giving each textile its own character. Vlisco no longer hand blocks additional colors; these are now replicated by machine. However, each length of wax printed cloth continues to be unique. The steps involved in producing a wax printed cloth are shown in the textiles on this photograph beginning with the top row: left to right, then bottom row: left to right.

Around 1906, Vlisco acquired a duplex roller printing machine following the example of its main competitor, Haarlem Katonen Maatschappij (Haarlem Cotton Company). This machine replaced the original La Javanaise from 1852. It too replicated the crackling effects characteristic of Indonesian batiks. Additional colors were added by hand block printing, giving each textile its own character. Vlisco no longer hand blocks additional colors; these are now replicated by machine. However, each length of wax printed cloth continues to be unique. The steps involved in producing a wax printed cloth are shown in the textiles on this photograph beginning with the top row: left to right, then bottom row: left to right. 1. Cloth printed with Resin 2. Cloth with Resin is dipped into a color bath 3. The Resin is mechanically removed 4. A second layer of color, in this example pink is added 5. The resin is chemically removed, which results in white irregular bubbles 6. Additional colors, in this example blue are fitted into the design 7. Another color is added to the areas previously unstamped, in this case, yellow is added to the mirror. 8. The cloth is finished Text Copyright: Philadelphia Museum of Art

The printed cloth leaves the Vlisco factory identified solely by a stock number. However, the female traders who sell the cloth in open-air markets, known as Mamas, and their customers name the patterns after local proverbs, current events, politics, religion, and material culture. One design can have many interpretations depending on the community where it is sold. The most crucial point is that it is only through this collaborative naming process that the prints acquire social meaning, status, and value and ultimately become culturally assimilated into society.

Textile. Designed by Cor van den Boogaard. Sparkling Grace collection, May 2010. Cotton; wax block print. This design featuring the Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star logo pays homage to the women market traders. The brand is seen as a symbol of their success.

Textile. Designed by Cor van den Boogaard. Sparkling Grace collection, May 2010. Cotton; wax block print. This design featuring the Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star logo pays homage to the women market traders. The brand is seen as a symbol of their success.

Textile. Designed by Haarlemsche Katoen Maatschappij - Haarlem Cotton Company. 1930; printed 1987. Cotton; wax block print. The names of many patterns identy with a womans family and marital relationships. In Côte d Ivoire, the classic Jumping Horse, also known as Je Cours Plus Vite Que Ma Rivale I - I Run Faster than my Rival - expresses the rivalry between co-wives. In Nigeria, Igbo women favor this design for Aso-Ebi - family cloth - to express unity at their annual womens meeting, held every August.

Textile. Designed by Haarlemsche Katoen Maatschappij – Haarlem Cotton Company. 1930; printed 1987. Cotton; wax block print. The names of many patterns identy with a womans family and marital relationships. In Côte d Ivoire, the classic Jumping Horse, also known as Je Cours Plus Vite Que Ma Rivale I – I Run Faster than my Rival – expresses the rivalry between co-wives. In Nigeria, Igbo women favor this design for Aso-Ebi – family cloth – to express unity at their annual womens meeting, held every August.

Dress. Designed by Inge van Lierop for Vlisco. Tell collection, season 3, 2015. Cotton; wax block print. The 1950s classic shirtwaist dress is made in an updated version of the 1930 Jumping Horse pattern shown in the previous image. The textle has been recolored in vibrant blue, pink and gold.

Dress. Designed by Inge van Lierop for Vlisco. Tell collection, season 3, 2015. Cotton; wax block print. The 1950s classic shirtwaist dress is made in an updated version of the 1930 Jumping Horse pattern shown in the previous image. The textle has been recolored in vibrant blue, pink and gold.

The exhibit thus asks the question– are the textiles European or African? Or can they be both? Whilst the design and production process of the unique fabrics takes place in the Netherlands, they are not named and endowed with meaning until they are sold at market in Africa. Further, the Mamas provide customer feedback to the Dutch whole-sellers, such as which prints are selling well in what colors and which designs are popular or not. The sellers then take this into account when manufacturing fabric and designs, and the Mamas, also known as Mama Benz, receive high status, wealth and respect in their communities. Recently, perhaps in acknowledgement of the prominent role local communities play in the evolution of the textiles to garments, Vlisco has attempted to move the design process to Africa, employing African-based designers.

Gala Dress. Designed by Lanre da Silva Ajayi for Vlisco. Splendeur collection, season 4, 2014. Cotton; wax block print. Lanre da Silva Ajayi is one of Nigerias foremost fashion designers.

Gala Dress. Designed by Lanre da Silva Ajayi for Vlisco. Splendeur collection, season 4, 2014. Cotton; wax block print. Lanre da Silva Ajayi is one of Nigerias foremost fashion designers.

Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage is a wonderful exhibition and worthy of a visit if you are in the Philadelphia area.

For the fashion-inclined, there is a lot to see this Autumn. Here’s a brief list…

Rush to see these two fantastic exhibitions in London at the Photographer’s Gallery, before they end on the 25th September!

Terence Donovan: Speed of Light

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The opening wall of floor 5 is dedicated to Donovan’s work from the 1970s through to the 1990s.

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This is the first major retrospective of British photographer Terence Donovan (1936-1996). Alongside David Bailey and Brian Duffy, Donovan helped redefine fashion photography in the 1960s (Cecil Beaton referred to them as the ‘The Terrible Three’). The exhibition covers four decades worth of work over two floors with an emphasis on the 1960s. (A review of this exhibition will be coming soon to Documenting Fashion!)

Made you Look  – Dandyism and Black Masculinity

Young Man in Plaid, NYC, 1991 by Jeffrey Hansen Scales on the cover of the PG’s programme.

Young Man in Plaid, NYC, 1991 by Jeffrey Hansen Scales on the cover of the PG’s programme.

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The most fantastic images are on display, taken by an unknown photographer using glass negatives and dated 1904. Thought to be taken in Senegal, they show some very early photographic instances of self-fashioning.

Curator Ekow Eshun explores ‘dandyism as a radical personal politics’ through an array of images that document black men’s use of provocative styles as a way of resisting processes of objectification. The exhibition includes both archival documents and a range of works by contemporary photographers.

And finally… coming soon!

Malick Sidibé: The Eye of Modern Mali

The late Malian photographer will have is first UK major solo show at Somerset House this fall.

The late Malian photographer will have is first UK major solo show at Somerset House this fall.

To note as well, an exhibition dedicated to Malick Sidibé’s work – on view in Made you look – will open during the Contemporary African Art Fair taking place at Somerset house from 6-9 October. The exhibition will stay on until 15 January 2017.

The Birth of Cool: A Research Forum Event

BOC-hi-res-jacket-for-Courtauld-e1464705512832-1024x672Please join us on Monday, 20 June for a Courtauld Institute Research Forum, The Birth of Cool: Style Narratives of the African Diaspora. The event is organised by our own Dr Rebecca Arnold with guest speaker Carol Tulloch, the Professor of Dress, Diaspora and Transnationalism at the University of the Arts, London, based at the Chelsea College of Art. Carol Tulloch’s practice of research in dress studies has invariably been inspired by an image. This was the case for her recent publication The Birth of Cool: Style Narratives of the African Diaspora. In this informal illustrated talk Carol will discuss the role images have played in the writing of her book and why certain images had to be included.

Carol Tulloch is also the Chelsea College of Arts/V&A Fellow in Black Visual and Material Culture at the V&A Museum. As writer and curator, Carol’s recent work includes: the book and exhibition Syd Shelton: Rock Against Racism (co-editor and co-curator 2015), the articles A Riot of Our OwnA Reflection on Agency (2014), Buffalo: Style with Intent’ (2011), ‘Style-Fashion-Dress: From Black to Post-black’ (2010); and the exhibitions ‘The Flat Cloth Cap’ in Cabinet Stories (2015),  International Fashion Showcase: Botswana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone,British Council (2012), Handmade Tales: Women and Domestic Crafts, Women’s Library London (2010-11), Black British Style (co-curator 2004).

http://professorcaroltulloch.com

Event Details:

Monday 20 June 2016

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

Research Forum Seminar Room, The Courtauld Institute of Art

Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 0RN

http://courtauld.ac.uk/event/the-birth-of-cool-style-narratives-of-the-african-diaspora


The Research Forum “Dress Talks” is a series of lunchtime events bringing together a roster of invited speakers to talk about their current research, and encourage discussion about dress history now. Each term academics, curators and dress and fashion industry professionals will share their insight and analysis of an aspect of dress and fashion history to provide a platform for new ideas and approaches to the subject.

Taking place over the lunch hour, these sessions are free and open to all.

 

The Met Gala – A Forgotten History

Recently, I had the pleasure of watching The First Monday in May after at last finding it online (this took an unhealthy amount of time searching the depths of the internet as its UK debut is not until September, I suppose patience is a virtue that I lack). Ever since watching the trailer earlier this year I have anxiously awaited its release. The film marks the first time the Met gala has been the subject of a full-length documentary, and closely scrutinized by a relative fashion and art industry outsider. Critically acclaimed director Andrew Rossi has previously focused the attentions of his documentaries on industries such as journalism and education including, Page One: Inside the New York Times and Ivory Tower, but never the opaque fashion or art worlds.

The trailer promises to follow the creative process–with unprecedented access–behind the curation of “China: Through The Looking Glass,” the museum’s 2015 spring exhibition curated by Andrew Bolton exploring Chinese-inspired Western fashions, and an exclusive look at what it takes to organize the logistical Everest that is Met Gala. Co-Chaired by Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Anna Wintour, the Gala has recently become known as the “super bowl of social fashion events”. It not only marks the grand opening of the spring exhibition, in this case “China”, but also functions to fundraise the Costume Institute’s operating budget for the entire year. #NoPressure

Overall, I immensely enjoyed the film, and do highly recommend watching it now that its on iTunes. However, I found that although it lived up to what it promised to deliver, and beyond in many senses (interviews with Harold Koda, Karl Lagerfeld and Jean Paul Gautier in particular provided unique perspectives on the “Is Fashion Art?” debate), it missed an important opportunity to examine the Met Gala’s cultural significance within the fashion industry beyond its connections to celebrity culture. The film only briefly paid homage to former Vogue Editor, Diana Vreeland, whose contributions as a “special consultant” to Met in the 1970s (she joined in ’73) are largely credited with reinvigorating public interest in the Institute. And furthermore, it entirely overlooked the Costume Institute and the Gala’s deep connections with the development of the American fashion industry; especially the key role both played in establishing American designer sportswear as a legitimate alternative to Parisian haute couture in the post WWII era.

Indeed, since its founding in 1940 the Costume Institute has been an advocate for American sportswear. Not only did it function as a historical resource for New York-based fashion and theatre designers, it also served to establish the intellectual community and rhetoric needed to exalt the virtues of American fashion to the world, including words now commonly used: democratic, functional, rational and/or versatile.  For example, when the Museum of Costume became The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum in 1945, it presented an exhibition called “American Fashions and Fabrics” in collaboration with sportswear designers such as Clarepotter and Claire McCardall to showcase the skills of American sportswear designers, or as former Costume Institute curator Richard Martin said, “represent the unceasing creativity of American fashion”.

Lastly, and perhaps most sadly, the documentary overlooked the critical roles Eleanor Lambert, the renowned fashion publicist behind the creation of Fashion Week, the International Best Dressed List and “Battle of Versailles”; and Dorothy Shaver – the groundbreaking President of Lord & Taylor – played in the gala’s creation. Both collaborated in establishing the COTY American Fashion Critics’ Awards (the precursor to today’s CFDA awards), whose first ceremonies interestingly took place on January 22, 1943, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Perhaps they knew they were on to something because in 1948, almost 70 years ago, Lambert and Shaver went on to establish the Party of the Year, an annual fundraiser now known as… the Met Gala.

The dresses in this gallery, including the one featured in this image were by John Galliano for Christian Dior and Maison Margiela. Galliano was inspired by Beijing opera, an art formed governed by the overriding principle of beauty. The dresses were placed in a gallery that explored the exhibition's subtitle, "Through the Looking Glass," which translates into Chinese as "Moon in the Water," suggesting something that cannot be grasped and has both positive and negative connotations. Using a projector and the sounds of water dripping, the curator's created the impression of the moon rippling in water, reflected on the black laquer - a Chinese plastic used as an artistic medium for centuries. "When 'Moon in the Water,' is used to described a beautiful object, it can refer to a quality of perfection that is either so elusive and mysterious that the item becomes transcendent or so illusory and deceptive that it becomes untrustworthy." Quoted Text: Metropolitan Museum of Art Image: Carolina Reyes

The dresses in this gallery, including the one featured in this image were by John Galliano for Christian Dior and Maison Margiela. Galliano was inspired by Beijing opera, an art formed governed by the overriding principle of beauty. The dresses were placed in a gallery that explored the exhibition’s subtitle, “Through the Looking Glass,” which translates into Chinese as “Moon in the Water,” suggesting something that cannot be grasped and has both positive and negative connotations. Using a projector and the sounds of water dripping, the curator’s created the impression of the moon rippling in water, reflected on the black laquer – a Chinese plastic used as an artistic medium for centuries. “When ‘Moon in the Water,’ is used to described a beautiful object, it can refer to a quality of perfection that is either so elusive and mysterious that the item becomes transcendent or so illusory and deceptive that it becomes untrustworthy.” Quoted Text: Metropolitan Museum of Art Image: Carolina Reyes

A porcelain- inspired couture gown included in "China Through the Looking Glass". Image: Carolina Reyes

A blue-and-white porcelain- inspired couture gown included in “China Through the Looking Glass”. The exhibition pointed out that the story of blue-and-white porcelain encapsulates centuries of cultural exchannge between the East and the West. It was originally developed in Jingdezhen during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), and was exported to Europe as early as the sixteenth century. However, because of its popularity potters in the Netherlands, Germany and England began to produce their own imitations with a particular willow pattern, causing Chinese craftsmen to begin producing their own hand-painted versions of the willow pattern. Image: Carolina Reyes

A Chinese Calligraphy inspired dress by Dior. As the wall text pointed out, Dior was likely unaware of the semantic value of the words on his dresses, which in this case resulted in a humorous juxtaposition. The dress is adorned with characters from an eighth-century letter by Zhang Xu in which the author complains about a painful stomachache.

A Chinese Calligraphy inspired dress by Dior. As the wall text pointed out, Dior was likely unaware of the semantic value of the words on his dresses, which in this case resulted in a humorous juxtaposition. The dress is adorned with characters from an eighth-century letter by Zhang Xu in which the author complains about a painful stomachache. Image: Carolina Reyes

On the left: Eleanor Lambert On the right: Dorothy Shaver. Founders of the "Party of the Year" now known as the Met Gala.

On the left: Eleanor Lambert On the right: Dorothy Shaver. Founders of the “Party of the Year” now known as the Met Gala.

Undressed at The V&A

by Aric Reviere

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Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, V&A Photo: Authors own

Last weekend, on my semi-regular sojourn to the V&A, I decided to attend the Fashion Department’s new exhibition “Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear.” To my surprise the exhibition garnered quite a bit of attention the morning of my visit, with the exhibition space itself full of visitors and lines of spectators inching slowly past the glass displays of historic underwear and garments.

My initial expectation of the exhibition imagined the display to be a spattering of various undergarments from different eras, but with a noticeable emphasis on the corset and hoop skirt. To be fair, these elements were featured prominently in the display, and even though most of the visitors flocked to these body contorting contraptions, the rest of the exhibition presented a delightful overview of innovations in underwear from an impressive range of eras. I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on the evolution of lingerie design toward the end of the exhibition, which traced developments in the industry from the 1920s to the 1930s. Compared to the hyperbolic manipulation of the body evident in the miniscule waists of the corsets on display, the body sculpting garments from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s seem tamed. Upon closer examination, however, the garments’ structures constrict the form and manipulate it into an ideal shape. From an academic perspective, the garments provide a perfect point from which to examine the power structures connected to standards of beauty. They enable the viewer to question what motivated a wearer (and still does) to physically transform their body via the adornment of garments that often use metal structures to manipulate the form? What gaze ultimately develops that definition of beauty and through networks disseminates and propagates an entire system of dress to elevate certain ideals? How do such beauty ideals limit the wearer’s agency within various social contexts, but also enhance his/her agency within others?

The second half of the exhibition attempted to blur the demarcation between under garments, lingerie, etc., and outerwear through the presentation a numerous outfits from the V&A’s permanent collection. Personally, I found this section disconnected from the first half of the exhibition with certain ensembles on display not particularly resonating with the exhibition’s theme. With that said, I must admit that the Ulyana Sergeenko couture pieces were to die for and on my list of most coveted items.

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Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, V&A Photo: Authors own

 

Ulaan Sergeenko Couture, Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, V&A. Photo: Authors own

Ulyana Sergeenko Couture, Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, V&A. Photo: Authors own