Dissertation Discussion: Giovanna

What is your title?

Skin and Mirrors: The surface and self in the copyright albums of Madeline Vionnet.

What prompted you to choose this subject?

The subject of the first History of Dress Research Forum, Addressing Images event, was one the images from the photographic albums. After discussing the image, I went and did some research and realised that there was little writing about this rich collection of images, which were considered purely as a means of documentation for her designs and as copyright tools. My dissertation will consider how these photographs function both within and beyond the genre of ‘documentary’ and focus on how the visual tropes of skin and mirrors link to Lacanian ideas of the ‘self’.

Most inspiring research find so far?

I have just returned from a very exciting research trip to Paris! There I was able to see some actual Vionnet gowns at the Fashion Forward exhibition at Les Arts Décoratifs. Unfortunately I was not able to see the actual photographic albums held in their archive collection, due to them being in conservation. However I was able to see digitised versions of all the 75 albums, which in hindsight was good thing as there were thousands of photos to get through. Seeing the unpublished album photographs was inspiring as there were shots that really surprised me, including some half body photographs that looks strangely like prison mugshots, showing shirts that look as if they were designed by Ann Demeulemeester or Yohji Yamamoto.

Favourite place to work?

I love to switch up my routine and make sure that I work at many different cafes and libraries to best use all the (caffeine and) resources available to me. Of all the London libraries my favourite one to work at is the beautiful V&A National Art Library (preferably in a window seat overlooking the John Madjeski garden), but I normally find myself working more often at the British Library because it is more local to me and open later.

Photograph from the Madeline Vionnet Copyright Album (1935)

Photograph from the Madeline Vionnet Copyright Album (1935)

Two Vionnet gowns and a Schiaparelli cape at the Fashion Forward exhibition at Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris.

Two Vionnet gowns and a Schiaparelli cape at the Fashion Forward exhibition at Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris

Performing for the Camera at Tate Modern: Dress & No Dress

Amalia Ulman, from Excellences and Perfections, 2014; Yves Klein, ‘Leap into the Void’ (Saut dans le Vide), Fontenay-aux-Roses, France, 1960.

Amalia Ulman, from Excellences and Perfections, 2014; Yves Klein, ‘Leap into the Void’ (Saut dans le Vide), Fontenay-aux-Roses, France, 1960.

Clad in his classic bourgeois suit, Yves Klein leaps into the void. Captured in a Christ-like posture, his silhouette hovers over a street, the deadly landing point of the Parisian bitume in view. It is perhaps the void that Amalia Ulman evokes too – a hollowed sense of identity left to exist solely through Instragram snapshots. Klein opens the Tate Modern’s Performing for the Camera, Amalia Ulman acts as an allusive conclusion.

As an additional shot reveals, a group of Klein’s friends holding the tarpaulin into which the French artist was meant to safely fall was erased through photomontage. The photograph was then printed on the front page of a spoof newspaper, disseminating the aura of Klein’s eerie figure to the masses. Ulman’s lingerie selfie is a shot from her instagram feed, blown up to museum proportions. It is taken from a three-part tale, in which the artist assumes the identity of a provincial girl with dreams of making it in LA, and acts out her downfall into drugs, surgery, and suggestive selfies. Finally, redemption – in the form of juices, yoga, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Klein’s image condenses many of the themes the exhibition sets to unpick: the camera as record of an art performance, the photographic image as the site for which the performance is conceived, and finally the photographic document as proof – conscious or unconscious – of a performed identity, whether part of the work itself as an intentional act of self promotion for instance (Koons’ magazine advertisements) or as an attempt to create a seemingly authentic (artistic) persona (Klein’s suit). This last aspect is not overtly addressed by the exhibition but lingers over it, as artists dress or undress for the camera.

Artistic authenticity comes in the form of nudity, or so it seems considering the vast number of images of naked performance on display. The subversive quality of nakedness seemingly ensures the authenticity of the performing artist, literally stripped bare of ‘superficial’ signifiers. Costume, as a sort of manifest addition to the body, appears to stand as another strategy used to subvert identities, highlighting their contingency, yet one that also retains or marks the distinction between the performed role and the ‘true’ identity of the performer.

It is precisely the boundaries of costumes and theater that allow Sarah Bernhardt to flaunt a more liberated body, both through dress (clad in male attire) and her comical poses. Nadar’s studio is made into an extension of the theater stage, in which actresses such as Bernhardt embodied a wide array of identities, yet upheld her image as ‘the eternal feminine’ in the eyes of critics. From Nadar, the exhibition takes us to an endless archive of images from big names (Andy Warhol, Hannah Wilke, Joseph Beuys, Cindy Sherman etc.) to a younger bunch, among them Romain Mader (featured on the show’s poster) and Amalia Ulman.

Jeff Koons advertisement in Art in America, 1988-9; Sarah Bernhardt in ‘Pierrot Assassin,’ 1883

Jeff Koons advertisement in Art in America, 1988-9; Sarah Bernhardt in ‘Pierrot Assassin,’ 1883

In Ulman’s shot, the distinction between artistic self and performance blend. In an interview, Ulman reveals that a gallery had concerns over her credibility before the artist revealed the spoof, namely that the shots of herself were part of a performance. ‘I was acting, it wasn’t me.’ The need to emphasize those boundaries exposes the necessity for an ‘authentic’ self to exist outside of what we are caught easily judging as inappropriate or superficial (as Simon Baker notes, the comments on her Instagram feed are as much part of the performance as the images). Perhaps more than confronting us with our daily selfie routines, Ulman’s performance draws attention to our own highbrow assumptions of what constitutes an ‘appropriate’ display of the self.

Performing for the Camera is on display at Tate Modern until June 12, 2016

 

Mary Louise Roberts, Disruptive Acts, The New Woman in Fin-de-siècle France (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002)

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/performing-camera

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/photography/what-to-see/is-this-the-first-instagram-masterpiece/

Posing the Body: Stillness, Movement, and Representation (May 6 – 7)

We wanted to share the programme and information regarding a fascinating symposium partly organised by Rebecca. Do Book NowAdmission: £26 general admission £16 students, concessions (over 60) and Courtauld staff/students.

Posing has been central to art, dance, and sculpture for thousands of years. In recent years, the growing interest in fashion media and modelling has also focused attention on questions of pose and posing. Incorporating notions of movement and stillness, posing can be understood in terms of historical modes of representation, as well as contemporary media and rapidly evolving relationships between bodies, subjects, and technologies of representation. Posing incorporates symbolic and semiotic meaning alongside embodied action and feeling. Recent coverage of the work of choreographer Stephen Galloway in 032c magazine, and new publications such as Steven Sebring’s Study of Pose: 1000 Poses by Coco Rocha testify to the growing interest in the cultural significance of posing and the pose – yet both remain under-researched areas with little discussion of their significance.

This symposium will assert the importance of pose as both a creative practice and an emerging area of critical inquiry. It will bring together multi-disciplinary academics and practitioners to discuss and develop new ways of understanding pose and posing in a historical and contemporary context. We encourage proposals for papers that address pose from global and diverse perspectives.  This event represents a potentially fruitful and exciting moment to bring these strands together to the benefit of researchers within practice and theory-based media, historians of dress, photography, art and film and allied disciplines. The keynote lecture will be delivered by David Campany, internationally recognised writer and curator, and Reader in Photography at the University of Westminster.

Programme

Friday 6 May. University of Westminster, Regent Street Cinema, London W1B 2UW

17.15 – 17.50            Registration

18.00 – 19.00          Keynote address: Dr David Campany (University of Westminster) – Title TBC

19.00 – 19.15           Comfort Break

19.15 – 19.40           Performance choreographed by Christopher Spraggs

19.40 – 21.00          Reception

Saturday 7 May. The Courtauld Institute of Art, London WC2R 0RN

09.30 – 10.00            Registration

10.00 – 10.15            Welcome and Introduction Dr Rebecca Arnold (Oak Foundation Lecturer in History of Dress & Textiles, CIA)

10.15 – 11.15            Session 1: Posing Directing Moving (Chair: TBC)

  • Dr Penelope Rook (independent Scholar): From Couture to Clochard:  Posing the body in Vu
  • Dr Peter K. Andersson (Lund University): Everyday Posing and Performativity in the Late Nineteenth-Century Street
  • Marketa Uhlirova (Senior Research Fellow, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London): Choreographing the body: early fashion film, 1909-1920

11.15 – 11.30            Discussion

11.30 – 12.00            TEA/COFFEE BREAK (provided, Seminar Room 1)

12.00 – 13.00            Session 2: Art Fashion Sculpture (Chair: Dr Katie Faulkner, Visiting Lecturer, The Courtauld Institute of Art)

  • Dr Madeleine Newman (University of Leeds): Sculptural Fashion Shows? Pose, Parody and Performance 1968-1978
  • Nancy Troy (Victoria & Roger Sant Professor in Art, Stanford University): The Art of the Pose: Performing Saint Laurent Performing Mondrian
  • Dr Luisa Fink (Independent Scholar): Sculpture and Pose The Actor in the Work of Franz Erhard Walther

13.00 – 13.15            Discussion

13.15 – 14.15             LUNCH (provided for the speakers only)

14.15 – 15.15            Session 4: Movement and Dance (Chair: Katerina Pantelides, PhD Candidate, The Courtauld Institute of Art)

  • Tiffany Boyle (PhD Candidate, Birkbeck University of London): Pausing the Performance: Artistic Gymnastics and the Statuesque
  • Dr MJ Thompson (Concordia University, Montreal): Posing and Concert Dance: Steve Paxtons Proxy
  • Elizabeth Welch (PhD Candidate, University of Texas at Austin): Deliberate Poses: George Platt LynesDance Photography and the Dancer as Sculpture

15.15 – 15.30             Discussion
15.30 – 16.00            TEA/COFFEE BREAK (provided, Seminar Room 1)

16.00 – 17.00            Session 4: Bodies Gender Politics (Chair: by Dr Eugenie Shinkle, Reader in Photography, Westminster University)

  • Lauren Downing Peters (PhD Candidate, Centre for Fashion Studies, Stockholm University): Fashion Plus: Pose and the Plus-size Body in Vogue, 1986-1988
  • Dr Sara Knelman (Assistant Professor, Ryerson University): Posing and Re-posing: Photography and the Politics of Posture
  • Felice McDowell (Associate Lecturer & PhD Candidate, London College of Fashion): Writing about Posing: myths and narratives of post-war fashion modelling

17.00 – 17.15                       Discussion

17.15 – 18.00            Panel Discussion (Chair: TBC)

  • Jan de Villeneuve (fashion model), Julian Marshall (fashion photographer)
  • Caroline Hamilton (dance and costume historian)

18.00                         Drinks Reception

Gazette du bon ton, 1921, History of Dress Collections, The Courtauld Institute of Art

Gazette du bon ton, 1921, History of Dress Collections, The Courtauld Institute of Art

Posing the Body Conference: Stillness, Movement & Representation

Please join us May 6 & 7, 2016 for Posing the Body, a conference on Stillness, Movement & Representation organised by The Courtauld Institute of Art and The University of Westminster.

Gazette-du-bon-ton

Gazette du bon ton, 1921, History of Dress Collection, Courtauld Institute of Art

Posing has been central to art, dance, and sculpture for thousands of years. In recent years, the growing interest in fashion media and modelling has also focused attention on questions of pose and posing. Incorporating notions of movement and stillness, posing can be understood in terms of historical modes of representation, as well as contemporary media and rapidly evolving relationships between bodies, subjects, and technologies of representation. Posing incorporates symbolic and semiotic meaning alongside embodied action and feeling. Recent coverage of the work of choreographer Stephen Galloway in 032c magazine, and new publications such as Steven Sebring’s Study of Pose: 1000 Poses by Coco Rocha testify to the growing interest in the cultural significance of posing and the pose – yet both remain under-researched areas with little discussion of their significance.

This symposium will assert the importance of pose as both a creative practice and an emerging area of critical inquiry. It will bring together multi-disciplinary academics and practitioners to discuss and develop new ways of understanding pose and posing in a historical and contemporary context. We encourage proposals for papers that address pose from global and diverse perspectives.  This event represents a potentially fruitful and exciting moment to bring these strands together to the benefit of researchers within practice and theory-based media, historians of dress, photography, art and film and allied disciplines.

The keynote lecture will be delivered by David Campany, internationally recognised writer and curator, and Reader in Photography at the University of Westminster.

Please click through to the conference programme to find details of speakers and papers being presented, and follow this link to book your place! We hope to see you there.

Documenting Fashion: History of Dress MA Dissertations since 2010

As the summer term starts, all thoughts turn to dissertations. While this year’s students focus on their writing, let’s take a look at the wonderful array of subjects covered so far.

All dissertations are available on request at The Courtauld Book Library – click here for details: http://courtauld.ac.uk/study/resources/book-library/collections-services/dissertations-theses

Processed with MOLDIV

2010/11

Rachel Boddington – ‘Feminine identity and the consumption of synthetic fabrics: the projection of social judgment onto synthetic fabrics, and its ramifications for female identity in the 1930s’

Harriet Hall – ‘Nostalgia, innocence and subversion: Kawaii and the Lolita fashion subculture in Japan’

Hannah Jackson – ‘Representing femininity: Madame Yevonde’s Goddess series, 1935’

Jemima Klenk – ‘A process of reorganisation: the construction of modern classicism as a social, fashionable and political response to modernity 1930-1939’

Lily Le Brun – ‘”Life lived on a plane of poetry”: images of Siegfried Sassoon in the Lady Otteline Morrell album collection’

Uthra Rajgopal – ‘The release of fancy dress in interwar Britain: a closer look’

Emma McClendon – ‘”First Paris fashions out of the sky”: an examination into the effect of the 1962 Telstar satellite on the dynamic of the transatlantic fashion industry’

Katy Wan – ‘Photographic and bodily exposures in Garry Winogrand’s “Women Are Beautiful”’

2011/12

Alexandra Dives – ‘Swimwear in aspirations of modernity and identity: the healthy ’mindful body’ in politics, class and gender in 1930s Britain’

Elizabeth Kutesko – ‘Representation of Moroccan women’s dress in National Geographic, 1912-2012’

Lucy Moyse – ‘”A seductive weapon… a necessary luxury”: the fragrance ventures of Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli during the interwar period’

Amanda Pajak – ‘Low: a psychogeographic analysis of the American and German influences on David Bowie’s image during the 1970s’

Natalia Ramirez – ‘Blogging and the reinvention of the fashion industry in the early 21st century’

Rebecca Straub – ‘Man-made: gender performativity in the costume and practice of rehabilitation at Walter Reed General Hospital’

2012/13

Sarah Heather Brown – ‘The look of citizenship: subjecthood in Humphrey Spender’s ’Worktown’ photographs’

Emily Collyer – ‘Selling with sex: underwear advertising in women’s magazines, Britain 1946 – 1955’

Katherine Gruder – ‘Modernity, vitality and freedom : the factors behind the founding of the men’s dress reform party’

Michele Levbarg-Klein – ‘Styling identity: character construction and contemporary culture in the fashion editorial imagery of American, British, French and Italian Vogue 1990-1999’

Madeleine Piggot – ‘Alexander McQueen: a construction of Britishness in the media, 1994-2010’

Charlotte Smart – ‘Constructing identity through adornment: the jewellery of Wallis Simpson and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons, 1919-1939’

Antonia Their – ‘Undressing Scorsese : theorising film costume as text and subtext’

Nadya Wang – ‘Fashioning multiracialism: (ad)dressing the modern Singapore woman in “her world” in the 1960s’

2013/14

Fruzsina Bekefi – ‘Fashioning the future: High treason (1929) and the wardrobe of tomorrow’

Elisa de Wyngaert – ‘Inhabiting art and fashion: the case of designer and artist Helmut Lang’

Jessica Draper – ‘The space between a uniform and a utopia: an exploration of how Sophie Hicks’s style wields power’

Jennifer Potter – ‘Consuming fashion and selling social dance: Irene Castle’s performances in early twentieth century consumer culture, 1912-1915’

Julia Rea – ‘Adorned in myth: the significance of mythology in Chanel jewellery, 1932-2012’

2014/15

Brianna Carr – ‘Motif as motive: representations of Helena Rubinstein’s brand of beauty in America, 1915-1930’

Lauren Dobrin – ‘Embodying the nation: dress, image and performativity in the Miss America pageant and protest of 1968’

Lisa Osborne – ‘Pleats and folds: modernity, technology and atemporality in the designs of Mariano Fortuny and Issey Miyake’

Emma Parnis England – ‘”Between two lives”: fashioning T. S. Eliot’s fragmented self in modernist portraiture, 1925-56’

Nicole Prattis – ‘Lee Miller’s war photography: the boundaries between civilisation and demise (as seen in Vogue)’

Rosily Roberts – ‘Performances of Mexicanidad: displaying nationalism in representations of Mexican dress after the Mexican Revolution’

Halston– Fashioning the American 1970s

Dissertation research for my topic, Diane Von Furstenberg, has taken me on a colorful journey of the American fashion industry of the 1970s. With many thanks to Rebecca for lending me several books on the period, I’ve been lucky enough to encounter the gregarious and charming Roy Halston Frowick (April 23, 1932 – March 26, 1990). Halston (pronounced Hal-stone), as he became widely known when he rose to international fame in the 70s, is recognized as the creator of luxury American fashion, whose groundbreaking designs have influenced the aesthetic of the modern “American Look.” First known for his innovation in millinery (his hats graced the covers of Vogue), Halston used his signature materials of jersey, cashmere and suede to reinvent the jumpsuit, shirtdress and caftan.

Four Vogue covers featuring Halston's hats. Image: Screenshot.

Four Vogue covers featuring Halston’s hats. Image: Screenshot.

Although Halston is constantly associated with the Studio 54 crowd and glamorous women of the era, it is his business ventures as a leading designer of made-to-measure who tried to break into the ready-to-wear clothing market that fascinate me. His career provides one of the first case studies of a designer who tried to design for the couture consumer and mass-market simultaneously.

Halston, Bianca Jagger and Liza Minnelli at Studio 54. Image: screenshot

Halston, Bianca Jagger and Liza Minnelli at Studio 54. Image: screenshot

Halston was born in the mid-west (De Moines, Iowa) to a humble family. After a somewhat difficult childhood, and a brief flirtation with higher education (he only completed one semester at Indiana University), he moved to Chicago in 1952 where he opened a small business in the preeminent Ambassador hotel as a milliner. Not long afterwards, in 1957 Halston moved to New York City where he worked his way up to become head milliner at Bergdorf Goodman. This opportunity provided an introduction him to society’s most well known and powerful, including none other than Jackie Kennedy, for whom Halston famously designed the pillbox hat.

Jackie Kennedy sporting the Halston designed pillbox hat at John F. Kennedy's inauguration January 20, 1961.

Jackie Kennedy sporting the Halston designed pillbox hat at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration January 20, 1961. Image: screenshot

After he left Bergdorf’s in 1968 to start his own business, he continued with millinery, reluctant to transition into ready-to-wear immediately. Interestingly, at this moment Halston began to explore with the idea of selling to both the up and down markets. He designed two separate lines: Halston USA, a lower-priced mass-market line, and Halston Ltd a higher-priced collection to be made in his custom workroom and sold at the high end department stores of the day, Neiman-Marcus and Bonwit Teller. When Halston USA sold over $200,000 in 1968 dollars wholesale in its first six weeks alone, Halston said, “And when you consider that the millinery market is dying on the vine, [it] said something to me.”

In September of ‘68 Halston announced the formation of his own ready-to-wear business with dresses priced at about $150, coats and suits, $200; officially cementing his transition from milliner to dress-maker (not unlike Chanel). His plan was to keep the line exclusive by restricting sales to one store in each major city, but keep it current in by sending new merchandise every six to eight weeks, which was perhaps an overly ambitious plan. Halston used the mass-market model to sustain his custom order business throughout the 70s– his ultimate aspiration was to become America’s couturier and open his own “house”. However, sadly, the tensions of balancing his brand’s exclusivity and profits ultimately overwhelmed the business itself.

In the upper left corner: Marisa Berenson models hat and shift dress from Halston's first ready-to-wear collection. In the Upper right: Pat Cleveland models Halston. Forefront: 1970s Halston designs.

In the upper left corner: Marisa Berenson models hat and shift dress from Halston’s first ready-to-wear collection. In the Upper right: Pat Cleveland models Halston. Forefront: 1970s Halston designs.

In 1983, Halston signed a six-year licensing deal, worth a reported $1 billion, with J. C. Penney. The line, called Halston III, consisted of affordable clothing, accessories, cosmetics and perfumes ranging from $24 to $200. However, the move was extraordinarily controversial at the time, as no other high end designer had ever licensed their designs to a mid-priced chain retail store, and Bergdorf Goodman wasted no time dropping Halston Limited shortly after plans for Halston III were announced.

While Halston felt that the deal would only expand his brand, it in fact had damaged his image with retailers who felt that his name had been “cheapened”. As modern retailers such as Michael Kors struggle with the exact same issue, it is fascinating to see how, in fashion especially, history always seems destined to repeat itself.

Interview with Edie Locke – A career in fashion media

Image 1 Edie Locke today

Edie Locke, March 2016

One of the many things I love about being a dress historian is meeting inspiring women through my research. Women who have pioneered aspects of our industry, worked to connect with female readerships and to forge successful careers. Edie Locke is one such woman. I was introduced to her via email by model turned photographer Pam Barkentin (my interview with her will follow soon).

Locke has had a fascinating life. Born in Vienna in 1921, she went to New York alone in 1939, as the situation in Europe worsened.  She attended school in Brooklyn – where she learnt to speak English, and then embarked on series of jobs in fashion. Locke generously agreed to answer some questions via email in fashion media:

What was it like working at Junior Bazaar? And with Lillian Bassman? Did your experiences there impact your approach at Mademoiselle?

[In 1945-46] I was working as an assistant to the Ad Manager of Harpers Bazaar, when Hearst Magazines launched Junior Bazaar, as a ” competition” to Mademoiselle.  A short-lived, futile idea! But knowing how much I had hoped to be on the editorial side of the magazine, my then-boss arranged for a transfer to the merchandising department of Junior Bazaar [1946-47] consisting of my covering the very minor dress manufacturers (largely out of St.Louis) and occasional weekend photo shoots, no other editor wanted to go on.

[I] never worked with Lillian Bassman! But did get to know and work with Pammie’s father, [photographer] George Barkentin! When Junior Bazaar gave up its ghost, I followed its then Editor, Kay Long, to the very well-known fashion advertising agency, Abbott Kimball.  [From 1947-49] I became its fashion ” guru” –  [I] wrote the Newsletter the agency sent to clients and business friends and went on all fashion shoots.

[In 1947] one of the Newsletters reached Betsey Blackwell, Editor in Chief of Mademoiselle and prompted a phone call from her office to arrange a private meeting with her and a job offer to join the magazine as an Assistant Fashion Editor, covering the dress “market”. (My ex-boss offered a huge salary raise… trips to Europe…etc to keep me from jumping to Mademoiselle, but after some excruciating evaluations of my options, I happily phoned [Betsey Blackwell] with an enthusiastic YES).

Fashion magazines are so collaborative – how did you organise and manage the various interconnecting fashion and beauty stories for any one edition?

I do believe that you’re only as good in what you do, as the people who work with and for you. Having the right individual editors in place to head the different departments of any magazine is key. And then trust their expertise and opinions and ideas and judgements. When I became Editor in Chief of Mlle, I was blessed with a great editorial staff – Fashion Editor, Features Editor, Beauty Editor, College and Career Editor and Art Director. And a Publisher who respected editorial content, direction and use[d] it all well to “sell” the magazine to potential advertisers. Two things that are crucial: strong circulation and demographics ( 18-35 at Mlle )  and a readership that is financially compatible with the price range of the products you feature, clothes etc etc – whether self-earned or “parental” income.

Several meetings with all editors come first – each Editor presenting her ideas for the upcoming issue. Discussions, more meetings, until the whole content gels and is one-of-a-piece …. hangs together!

How did the nature of fashion photography included connect to your readership? It’s so interesting that college girls formed such a major part of your target audience, how did you feel about the annual college edition and the college competition?

Mlle‘s annual big College issue (August) would be very much directed to that reader, September more geared toward a “working’- career – readership.

Mlle always leaned more toward lively … location photography, than more formal in-studio shots. Moving, rather than “still”.

The college issue was photographed totally on “real” college students, not professional models! Associate Fashion Editors and photographers traveled to campuses all over the US to do this – with a wardrobe of appropriate fashions. The PR department of each school would sometimes pre-select  who they deemed suitable or leave it up to hordes of  volunteers who’d assemble for try-outs and fittings in conference rooms on campus. The toughest job: the gentlest rejections… that would not bruise egos !!!!!!

The college competition – which was NOT based on anything but accomplishment  – be it in writing, illustrating, or fashion – spawned many extraordinary talents, who went on to major careers.

As attending college became more and more the norm, no longer an elitist group, and definitive target audience, Mlle‘s emphasis had to broaden as well. A move strongly demanded by CNP management.

What was your favourite aspect of working on fashion magazines?

My favorite aspect of working on a fashion magazine???  Making it more inclusive, by diligently balancing content between fashion-beauty, how-to features, and intellectually stimulating articles. Feeding the brain!

The rest is history. I went from Assistant to Associate to Fashion Editor and in 1970 to Editor in Chief, when Betsey Blackwell retired. Til 1980 when Publisher Si Newhouse terminated  (fired !) me. Reason : I had firmly kept Mlle‘s intellectual stance … and not made it into a sexier ( [like] Cosmo ?) publication.

A year later, I was on TV with my own version of a fashion/beauty/relevant articles half-hour weekly program called YOU! Magazine. Originally airing on USA CABLE, and eventually LIFETIME, it was on-air til ’86, when Lifetime launched its daily ATTITUDES and I joined as fashion producer and on-air fashion pro until the early 90s. We moved from NY to LA in ’94 to be near our daughter and eventual granddaughters (3) …. and I again worked on fashion TV.

Interview edited and condensed.

 

A Conversation with: Photographer and Editor David Bennett

I recently met up with the photographer David Bennett since we are planning to collaborate on the next edition of PpR Journal [http://www.ppreditions.com]. It’s going to be a really exciting edition – as creator and editor of PpR, are you allowed to tell us a bit more about the upcoming edition, or is it top secret prior to publication?

What I can say is that I am very excited with the content of the second issue. I am working with a 16 year old boy in Russia who makes photographs and avant-garde music as homework. He also loves fashion.

PpR stands for People Pages Research since it acts as a catalyst for my own research interests. For a long time I have been very interested in collaboration, curation, and collecting and how they can operate together. I am also a photographer and have worked in editorial. I had considered going back into education to study further but did not find the school/programme that interested me. Instead, I founded PpR as a way to satisfy those interests so that they can be appreciated by others.

In the 1990s I was an avid reader of Purple Magazine, Self Service and INDEX Magazine and found the content intellectually stimulating. Titles that I find pleasurable and functional today are Vestoj and F de C Reader. However, I am equally interested in other printed ephemera i.e. look books and vernacular pieces.

PpR is distributed very personally, which is a luxury but a lot of work. It is stocked in very good stores in London, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, LA and Tokyo. Instagram (@pprjournal) plays a very important role in the distribution process and has opened many opportunities. One of our very first stockists to carry PpR was IDEA Books at Dover Street Market London [http://www.idea-books.com]. The fashion designer Yoshikazu Yamagata (writtenafterwards and written by) contributed to the launch issue and had an installation of his written by AW 15 collection in the basement of the Dover Street store around the same time as the launch of the magazine, so it made real sense.

PpR is interested in fashion and culture within a broader context over a consumerist and trend perspective. The content is built around the taste and sensibility of its creators and this is mirrored by its Instagram feeds. In the early 2000s I was introduced to students living in London who were studying fashion design and illustration at Central Saint Martins. Later, these friends moved back to their respective countries to develop their careers. Together with musicians Kumisolo and Joakim they contributed to the launch issue of PpR, which loosely explored the emotive responses we have to clothes.

I am interested in chance and spontaneity and excited by the opportunities that exist in the unknown. With the exception of the Kumisolo story that was produced in Paris, the rest of the material in the launch issue was conceived externally and online without meetings or art-direction, and with the confidence placed in each contributor to create content on the loose thread of an idea. It was only once all the material was received that PpR could begin to be created.

As an independent I am able to exert control over editorial content, publication dates and format. It is rather like an album. It should come out when it is ready. I enjoy the freedom and flexibility to also decide on a format that is dependent on content. There is no advertising at present in the traditional sense of what we recognize as advertising, i.e. the back cover. However, in the launch issue Yoshikazu Yamagata provided an archive image from writtenafterwards AW 2013 collection, photographed by Nobuyoshi Araki. It plays with the idea of conventional advertising space. I am interested in using the back cover to communicate ideas without necessarily advertising a current/future product. It acts as a means for a creative to present information.

You also have a huge personal collection of magazines and print media. How did this begin, how it has developed over the years, and where do you see it headed in the future?

I started indulging in books when I worked at Zwemmer with Claire de Rouen (later at Claire de Rouen Books) as a buyer in 2000. Working with Claire I created windows in collaboration with Ann-Sofie Back, Yoshikazu Yamagata, Raf Simons, Issey Miyake and Eley Kishimoto so very early on I was exploring the possibilities of fashion communication in the institution of the bookstore, where the book became of secondary importance but attracted clients to the store to look at the printed matter within. We were the first to bring Sofia Coppola’s book SC into the country from Japan and also the one to get exclusive copies of Mark Borthwick’s xerox version of Social Documentaries: Amid This Pist from NYC. It was also here that I met people like Olu Michael Odukoya (Kilimanjaro and Modern Matter), John Spinks and Aleksandra Olenska, who all shared an appreciation of print media.

I soon grew tired and frustrated of knowing what was coming out 6-9 months in advance and became more interested in the excitement of finding out-of-print titles for the store, although it was not really recognized or appreciated at that time so instead I started buying stock for myself. It has always been a pleasure finding things and this relates to my interest in research. It was also a time I started buying lots of magazines as they were pocket money compared to books, and much more regular. I became more interested in magazines over books when I realized most consumers discarded them after their monthly shelf life, believing magazines deserved a longer life, as with books. I would sometimes buy magazines just for the advertising content and other times for the editorial. Magazines define a period, a time and space in popular culture and are more immediate than books. I like this immediacy. I am also fascinated by the amount of content within a single title for its relatively low cost.

I was starting to buy so much stock but always had trouble when moving apartments as magazines and books are so heavy and accumulate so much space, which I don’t have. So it is a growing problem. I cannot get rid of anything. However, once in a period of frustration I disposed of a pile of magazines including a precious issue of W Magazine Office Politics issue shot by Juergen Teller. I regret this moment as I went to Paris to buy that already rare issue and it ended up in a black refuge bag on the Hackney Road. Collecting can cause unnecessary anxieties but it is addictive and so exciting when you find great old stock.

My stock is housed in several places, as I have no space to keep it all together. I do not know exactly how much I have. A couple of thousand, I expect. There is no inventory. However, I know exactly what I have and what content exists in each issue. This helped me when I worked freelance as a researcher for TV commercials where knowledge and speed is power. I had a dream to one day digitize all the content of my collection and to offer a service of some kind but this was too mammoth a task to comprehend let alone realize. I don’t have the time or patience to do this.

Recently I have been thinking about other ways to share the collection but that is all I can say at this moment. I would like to bring curation and research into this, as with PpR.

As dress historians we are fascinated by images, but also by the tactile responses that we have with images, particularly as they function in daily life as material objects. Is it a similar concern with images as objects that prompted you to begin collecting these magazines?

I like the idea that you can smell a period of our history in popular culture through the peel and sniff of perfume/cologne samples housed in back issues of magazines. In an old Arena magazine one can smell the original CK One, the first commercial scent for him & her. Another reason I may have bought a magazine could have been for its advertising content alone (Miu Miu, Jigsaw Menswear, Helmut Lang, and Hugo Boss c.1990s).

The fascinating thing about magazines that I find very interesting is the idea of how much work goes into the single issue – creatively, intellectually and monetary. Yet, in general terms it has a very short life before it is discarded and the next issue comes out. There is also something quite fetishistic in collecting and in going out on the hunt to find new (or old) items for your archive, knowing that one-day I might again find that copy of W Magazine Office Politics.

What relevance do you think your collection has in our contemporary age, when so many of the images we view are circulated online?

Recently I purchased a bound collection of HANATSUBAKI magazines from 1982. Although they are published in Japanese language the content is extremely universal simply because it is so good. It may be an essay, an editorial on beauty procedures, or a review of the world’s fashion collections. The covers were so fresh and free, full of colour and applying great typography. Because these editions are so rare the content probably hasn’t been posted on Instagram. However, had they been they would not communicate this universality as well as the original can. As Walter Benjamin wrote about the ‘aura’ of the original and how the experience is lost in the reproduction of the original, this is very true in this case. Although I have posted some content onto the PpR Instagram account, it just doesn’t crossover, while most other posts do.

What’s your favourite item from your collection, and why?

It is difficult to name a favorite item, however I am very fond of issues of The Architectural Review (AR) from the 1950s-70s. They featured great covers, beautiful photography, modern layouts, and very interesting essays and editorials on architecture and urban/city planning. There are two items that are very significant to me 1) Jigsaw Menswear look-book (c.1997) by Juergen Teller 2) RAF SIMONS Look-books housed in the original packaging sent to me from Robbie Snelders. The packaging itself defines a place in fashion history.

You are also programme leader on photography at Barking and Dagenham College, and a practising photographer. How does your own photographic practice impact upon your teaching, and vice versa?

I never really planned to work in education and to run a degree programme but I consider myself in a privileged position to work with students who have chosen to give 3 years of their life to learn from my team. The programme is a quiet gem in photographic education where my team has included the best creative people including Olu Michael Odukoya, Mark Lebon, and Jonathan Hallam. Our recent addition to the team is the Estonian artist Maria Kapajeva. I try not to separate the different things I do but instead unite them. My own practice as a photographer and producer of PpR naturally enters my educational role and that alone is another privilege to offer.

RAF SIMONS. Collection of Look-books, posters and invitations. In original packaging sent RAF SIMONS Office Antwerp with delivery note signed by Robbie Snelders.

Jigsaw Menswear Look-book. Photographed by Juergen Teller. (C. 1997).

Jigsaw Menswear Look-book. Photographed by Juergen Teller. (C. 1997).

Alexander Rodchenko and the Russian Avant-garde (Russian edition), 1992.

Alexander Rodchenko and the Russian Avant-garde (Russian edition), 1992.

Mark Borthwick. Xerox (4 volumes) 1978 / Synthetic Voices / Margiela 2000-1 / Social Documentaries Amid this Piste. New York. Self Published. (C. 2002). All 4 volumes signed.

Mark Borthwick. Xerox (4 volumes) 1978 / Synthetic Voices / Margiela 2000-1 / Social Documentaries Amid this Piste. New York. Self Published. (C. 2002). All 4 volumes signed.

Chikashi Suzuki. Driving with Rinko (THE International No.6). Radical Silence Production, 2008.

Chikashi Suzuki. Driving with Rinko (THE International No.6). Radical Silence Production, 2008.

Undercover Jun Takahashi ete 2005: but beautiful II “homage to Jan Svankmajer”. Look-book, 2005.

Undercover Jun Takahashi ete 2005: but beautiful II “homage to Jan Svankmajer”. Look-book, 2005.

Thomas Demand and Peter Saville. Art, Fashion and Work for Hire. Thomas Demand, Peter Saville, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Christina Bechtler in Conversation. 2008.

Thomas Demand and Peter Saville. Art, Fashion and Work for Hire. Thomas Demand, Peter Saville, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Christina Bechtler in Conversation. 2008.

Gareth McConnell, Sex Drugs and Magick (Book One). Unique. Edition of 23 + 5 AP. Signed and editioned.

Gareth McConnell, Sex Drugs and Magick (Book One). Unique. Edition of 23 + 5 AP. Signed and editioned.

Magazines (Detail).

Magazines (Detail).

Alumni Interview: Lisa Osborne, MA 2015

You did your BA and your MA at the Courtauld, what led you to stay and what made you pursue dress history?

The Courtauld is a very unique place, and I enjoyed the atmosphere immensely when I studied for my BA. I also did one of the history of dress options on my BA – Re-presenting the Past: Uses of History in Dress, Fashion and Art – and I loved it. I always had loved fashion anyway so I thought maybe history of dress was the way forward. I then applied and got on the course!

What was your favorite part of the Documenting Fashion MA?

The Trip to New York was one of the many highlights of the course, but just being able to talk about fashion and to really get in depth about the subject with people who have similar interests and views was also really fascinating. It was great to have proper conversations and to hear other people’s interests, areas of research, and different approaches. I miss it already and it’s been less than a year since I left – it was a really fantastic time and I’m so glad that I did it. It was also great to be able to speak to Rebecca, who is such an expert in the field, on a weekly basis.

MA Group 2015 in New York

MA Group 2015 in New York

How did your research interests develop over the course of your MA and did they inform your dissertation?

I had always loved the work of Issey Miyake, in particular his Pleats Please line, but when I saw the Mario Fortuny pleated dress in the archives at FIT in New York, I got very emotional and realized all of these connections between his work and Miyake’s. I felt like I had found my calling in life! In my dissertation titled, Pleats and folds: modernity, technology and atemporality in the designs of Mariano Fortuny and Issey Miyake, I looked at the themes of modernity and technology and the use of pleating in the work of Miyake and Fortuny. Even though they are both from different contexts and time periods they both used technology in unique ways and were interested in these utopian, modern ideas that allowed women to not be restricted by corsets. They used pleats to create clothes that moved with the body in an entirely modern way but simultaneously referenced antiquity, whilst other designers used pleating purely as a stylistic technique. I wore pleats almost every day whilst researching and writing my dissertation as a ‘method’ way of getting inspiration. I still wear pleats almost everyday!

Irving Penn, Issey Miyake 1995

Issey Miyake 1995 Copyright: Irving Penn

Alfred Stieglitz, Mrs. Selma Schubart wearing a Fortuny dress

Mrs. Selma Schubart wearing a Fortuny dress, Copyright: Alfred Stieglitz

Do you have any advice for choosing dissertation topics for any of us MA’s who are struggling to find our calling?

I would try to find something you’re really interested or passionate about and then find a different or more interesting way to approach it if its been looked at previously. Bounce ideas off of your classmates, you never know what someone has come across – they may know something very niche that could help with your research or even set you off in an entirely different direction. I would also look for inspiration everywhere you possibly can! Go to exhibitions, flick through books, follow people from the field on Instagram and you might find something you want to research. My virtual exhibition topic came from Instagram. Keep reading and keep your eyes open to absolutely everything!

How have your academic studies shaped your professional activities?

My studies, and the course specifically, really made me realize that fashion was where I wanted to be. I really wanted a more varied role. I interned in the Theatre and Performance department at the V&A after University, which I really enjoyed, and now I’m working at Nick Knight’s Show Studio and Live Archives, a private fashion archive that acts as a reference for designers and institutions. It’s very dynamic, as is Show Studio, which is Nick Knight’s contemporary fashion website that uses technology to push the boundaries of how fashion in presented. It’s nice to have two very different positions, but still fashion, always.

What does your work at the Live Archives entail?

The founder of the archive, Hoana Poland, started out in vintage shops and through her work she came across amazing pieces that were so unique that she couldn’t sell them on. She decided to create an archive that was constantly evolving and could be put to use, serving as inspiration for contemporary collections. The collection consists of “directional” fashion, so its mostly pieces from the 60s -70s onwards, but specialises in Japanese designers such as Comme de Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake. The collection is shaping the future of fashion. The archive also does exhibitions –small, intimate ones that are trying to do something different to the big blockbuster shows. Their first exhibition was called ‘Yohji Yamamoto: SHOWSPACE’, where the collection was shown on live models and visitors could try on the pieces, which would be unheard of at a normal museum! The shows illustrate the more personal side of the fashion industry. It is really interesting work and I absolutely love it. I’m looking forward to some great projects that we have coming up.

Live Archives, Yohji Yamamoto SHOWSPACE, 2015

Live Archives, Yohji Yamamoto SHOWSPACE, 2015

Contemporary Reliquaries and Utopian Fashions

Austria Installation, International Fashion Showcase, Somerset House, February 2016.

Austria Installation, International Fashion Showcase, Somerset House, February 2016.

Held just before London Fashion Week in February, the International Fashion Showcase (IFS) is a series of installations organised by the British Council and British Fashion Council that feature the work of emerging designers from different nations. This year’s setting was Somerset House, where each country’s exhibit responded to one theme, Fashion Utopias, in the context of Utopia 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility at Somerset House Trust, the Courtauld Institute of Art and King’s College. Through thematic exhibitions and connections to cultural institutions, the IFS showed how fashion could signify more than Fashion Week runway shows or commercial practices. It illuminated makers creative processes, broadened to connect to various interpretations of ‘utopia.’ This unexpected merger of commerce and curation worked to heighten viewers’ questioning the definition, and artistic and cultural significance of dress. Further, through the participation of Courtauld Dress History research students in a study day, the IFS sought to explore the historical and theoretic resonance of contemporary design.

Traces of history were what drew me to Isabel Helf’s wooden bag display (from her collection “Portable Compulsion”) in the Austria installation, as I walked through the exhibition before my talk at the study day. The bags recall medieval reliquaries, in that they house precious hidden contents and are precious containers themselves. Like the many reliquaries that were imitative of architectural spaces, such as a 13th-century reliquary shrine of St. Martial, the bags were conceived to relate to architectural space and furniture. Some affix neatly onto tabletops or, through their 90-degree-angle bases, rest atop flat, stepped surfaces. Helf designed these coordinated interactions to function in the cramped spaces of contemporary city life. In contrast to narrow spaces, I found that through their very miniaturization, they communicate the possibility of human potential. Likewise, Cynthia Hahn has noted that portable reliquaries promise to, in the words of Susan Stewart, “open […] to reveal a secret life […] a set of actions and hence a narrativity […] outside the given field of perception.” As I experienced at the IFS, the bags too elevate wearers beyond the mundanity of daily life through an intimate handling process.

Once opened, the possibility of narrative or creation is offered through the bags’ contents, built-in writing implements and other everyday objects, which are designed to fit perfectly in removable slots, all made from the same wood. Helf worked with a carpenter to learn the traditional joinery techniques such as dovetail and finger joints that hold the bags together. She explained to me that when two things fit together, whether in terms of the bags’ placement against architecture or their own construction, individuals experience satisfaction. For Helf, this feeling also results from the bags’ ability to “order” belongings in small spaces. Echoing the ideas of Frank Davis, they could be seen to work as sartorial solutions that counter the confusion and ambivalence of modernity. Thus, while harking back to distant moments, they reveal contemporary problems and offer a psychological and spatial utopia in their miniaturization and capacity for precision, multifunction and order.

Isabel Helf, Bags from "Portable Compulsion" collection, Austria Installation, International Fashion Showcase, Somerset House, February 2016.

(Above) Isabel Helf, Bags from "Portable Compulsion" collection, Austria Installation, International Fashion Showcase, Somerset House, February 2016.

fig 4

Isabel Helf, Bags from "Portable Compulsion" collection, Austria Installation, International Fashion Showcase, Somerset House, February 2016.

(All above) Isabel Helf, Bags from “Portable Compulsion” collection, Austria Installation, International Fashion Showcase, Somerset House, February 2016.

Sources:

Davis, F. (1992) Fashion, Culture, and Identity, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago.

Hahn, C. (2012) Issues in the Making and Meaning of Reliquaries, 400-circa 1204, University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University.

Stewart, S. (1984) On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection, Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University.