Discovering ‘The World of Anna Sui’

Entrance to the Fashion and Textile Museum.

May 2017 will stand out in designer Anna Sui’s memory as a month full of successes and landmarks. As well as receiving an honorary degree from Parsons School of Design, the designer and her influential career became the subject of London’s Fashion and Textile Museum’s latest exhibition. Entitled ‘The World of Anna Sui,’ the show takes visitors on a journey through the Chinese-American designer’s inspirations, obsessions and most iconic moments, which formed her style and established her as one of the key figures of 90s American look, alongside names such as Marc Jacobs and Isaac Mizrahi.

A view of the entrance to the exhibition space.

The title of the exhibition could not be more accurate – as soon as one steps into the first gallery, Sui’s vision becomes unmistakable and overwhelming. Her voice beams out of the speakers as she describes how she came to be interested in fashion, proclaims her love for Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy, and explains how her own style developed in her teenage years, despite strange looks from her peers. As the visitors listen to Sui’s narrative, archive videos of The Beatles, celebrity culture, markets at Portobello and Carnaby, and scenes of boho youths frolicking in the park bring into forefront the environments and mentalities within which Sui grew up, capturing her imagination, and eventually manifesting themselves in her designs. With the understanding of her background, Anna Sui’s exhilarating universe is ready to be explored.

A photograph of Anna Sui’s first boutique at 113 Greene Street in Soho, New York, which opened in 1992.

The main gallery space almost teleports the visitor into one of Sui’s boutiques, a photograph of which is featured in the corridor between the different rooms. Entering through a grand, black lacquered door, groups of mannequins clad in Sui’s extraordinary garments, arranged according to their clique (nomads, punks, mods, surfers, rockstars and schoolgirls all make an appearance), lure the spectator deeper into the space, in an almost hypnotic state. The colours, patterns, textiles and surfaces are otherworldly, creating a kaleidoscope of all the characters one can become in Sui’s fashions. With vitrines in which shoes, make-up, sunglasses, hats and other Sui paraphernalia are showcased, the gallery space is almost a treasure chest in which anyone and everyone can find something to lust over. Completing and complementing the exhibits are purple walls, red platforms and Sui’s signature pattern with which the space is decorated. The curator Dennis Nothdruft and exhibitions designer Beth Ojari transformed the relatively small space of the Fashion and Textile Museum, with great success, into an enchanting and intriguing environment.

A view of the ‘Fairytale’ section.

Installation of the ‘Punk’ garments.

The ‘Rockstar and Hippie’ group with Sui’s signature patterned wallpaper.

‘The World of Anna Sui’ is unlike any other recent fashion exhibitions. While the space is limited and a lot is packed in, it is never to the detriment of the clothes on show. There is something reminiscent of Diana Vreeland’s multi-sensory exhibitions at The Met’s Costume Institute in the London show. Unsurprisingly, the designer loved Vreeland’s stories for Vogue and The Met. Consequently, Sui’s perfume is pumped into the rooms of the Fashion and Textile Museum, corresponding to the message the garments are relaying. As such, ‘Sui Dreams,’ a perfume described as “inspired by independent women who follow their hearts and exceed their own expectations” provides the scent for the first gallery, that of Sui’s influences and childhood dreams. The main space, where the iconic Anna Sui garments are on show, fills one’s nose with ‘Fairy Dance,’ offering “an escape into a mystical garden where fantasy lives. A happy, whimsical place filled with sunlight and the enchantment of the fairy world.” Not much can be more appropriate for Sui’s story-filled collections. Elsewhere, Nirvana cries out from the speakers, while visitors can study Sui’s design process through the installed mood boards, or find out about the figures she collaborates with on her shows, such as make-up artist Pat McGrath, milliner James Caviello and photographer Steven Meisel. The exhibition is all encompassing, rich, informative, joyful and optimistic. An absolute must-see this summer! And don’t forget to visit the gift shop – you can take a bit of Anna Sui away with you in the form of her fabulous make-up, a scarf, or Tim Blanks’ new coffee-table book on the designer published in conjunction with the exhibition, also titled The World of Anna Sui. And one last tip – leave yourself a lot of time to peruse the exhibition, you will not want to leave!

A cabinet filled with an array of sunglasses and other accessorues from Sui’s shows through the years.

An example of Sui’s research board for a collection – here, Hawaii is on her mind.

‘The World of Anna Sui’ runs at the Fashion and Textile Museum until October 1, 2017.

Jewellery, Adornment and the Pursuit of Brilliance

Early 18th century diamond and gold necklace, Portuguese

Emerald and diamond girl dole brooch, c1830 and later

To Georg Simmel, adornment is a contradiction – on the one hand, it displays the wearer’s value, aesthetic taste, membership of a particular group, on the other, it is visible to the viewer, giving pleasure to her, as well as to the owner.  In his 1908 essay ‘On Adornment’, Simmel elaborates on this theme, outlining a spectrum, with tattoos at one end, since they are closest to the skin, and dress in between, moulded  by the wearer’s figure and marked by age, and finally, jewellery placed on the body, but separate from it.  Jewellery thus has special status, its uniqueness resides in its economic value, authenticity and style, but it always seems new, and supplementary to the wearer’s individuality.  While choice of fine jewels surely reflects personal taste, it is interesting to consider the ways gems interact with the wearer and add to her social value.

A case of sparking diamond and emerald jewels

I was reminded of Simmel’s essay when I visited Bonhams’ view day for an auction of fine jewellery last month.  Guided through the delicious rows of glittering rings, bracelets, necklaces, brooches … by Emily Barber, Director of the Jewellery Department, I was continually struck by Simmel’s comments about the pleasure given to both wearer and viewer by these gems – a fleeting relationship created by the bright light reflected by a diamond brooch as you glance across a room, or the deep red glow of a spinel cut to display its clarity as the wearer moves her hands.  In so many interactions, jewellery catches the eye and draws our focus.

A spinel and diamond ring, c1915

Simmel describes how ‘the radiations of adornment, the sensuous attention it provokes, supply the personality with such an enlargement or intensification of its sphere: the personality, is more when it is adorned.’  As such, wearing fine jewellery is ‘a synthesis of the individual’s having and being,’ it implies wealth, but also personal qualities – of taste, discernment, perhaps even beauty and style matching the gems.  At the heart of this is jewellery’s ‘brilliance’:

‘By virtue of this brilliance, its wearer appears at the centre of a circle of radiation in which every close-by person, every seeing eye, is caught.  As the flash of the precious stone seems to be directed at the other – it carries the social meaning of jewels, the being-for-the-other, which returns to the subject as the enlargement of … [her] own sphere of significance.’

Gold, diamond and fire opal ‘cinnamon stick’ brooch/pendent by Andrew Grima, 1970

So, as you look at these photographs of the jewels I saw at a Bonhams, consider Simmel’s words and the ways that, once purchased, they might infer what the wearer has, but also who she is.  As Simmel notes, ‘Adornment, thus, appears as the means by which … social power or dignity is transformed into visible, personal elegance,’ – a magical process brought about by the jeweller’s skill at cutting and setting each gem.

With thanks to Emily Barber, all images by permission of Bonhams.

Sapphire, ruby, emerald and diamond brooch, Van Cleef & Arpels, c1970

Sources:

Fine Jewellery, 27 April 2017 (London: Bonhams, 2017)

Georg Simmel, ‘On Adornment,’ (1908), in Daniel Purdy, Ed., The Rise of Fashion: A Reader (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004), pp.79-84

Dissertation Discussion: Barbora

My three bibles for the past few months: D.V. by Diana Vreeland, Allure by Diana Vreeland and Memos: The Vogue Years edited by Alexander Vreeland

What is your title?

“Fake It!” Examining the myths and realities in the life and work of Diana Vreeland.

What prompted you to choose this subject?

Ever since I’ve watched The Eye Has To Travel for the first time, I was fascinated by Diana Vreeland and the way she shaped the industry almost singlehandedly. Her stories, too, are quite something: Vreeland, her sister and nanny were the last people to see the Mona Lisa before it was stolen in 1911; Charles Lindbergh flew over her garden on his first trans-Atlantic flight; she almost took down the British monarchy when Wallis Simpson came to her lingerie store to order some special garments for her first weekend away with the Duke of Windsor, Prince Edward; and she attended Hitler’s birthday party in the early ’30s, sending a postcard to her son afterwards with the note “Watch this man.” Apparently so, anyway. I wanted to find out more about what prompted her to create such an extreme background for herself, the reason behind all the myth and fantasy which surrounded her, the obsession with “faking it” and everything else about her, really. Actually, I think I fancied the role of a detective for a few months, attempting to untangle what really went on in her head and her life.

‘Vogue’ December 1, 1965 Cover | Wilhelmina Cooper by Irving Penn | Diamond cage deisgned by Harry Winston (‘Memos: The Vogue Years’)

‘Vogue’ July 1, 1969 | Veruschka by Irving Penn (‘Memos: The Vogue Years’)

Most interesting research find thus far?

I was lucky enough to go to New York to visit the Diana Vreeland Papers Archive at the New York Public Library. Flicking through the original pages of her teenage diary, handling her passport and birth certificate (the date of her birth is no longer a mystery!) and finding out what she was up to on a day-to-day basis through the Smythson leather diaries she kept between 1950 and 1985 was quite amazing. There are some peculiar entries where Vreeland notes when she is due to start her pills – once green, then yellow, then pink. Very intriguing. Sadly, I only had two days in New York and so could only go through four boxes out of the sixty-something the library has. Might have to go on another trip soon! I think about a month should do it, mainly because Vreeland’s handwriting makes it quite a challenge to decode what she was actually trying to write down. Oh, and one more thing: the Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue online archives are very dangerous if you don’t have much time – they suck you in!

‘Vogue’ April 15, 1969 | Bert Stern (‘Memos: The Vogue Years’)

Favourite place to work?

I got into a very bad habit of working from my bed. So most of the time I can be found there, surrounded by mounds of paper, pastel-coloured highlighters and books. If I manage to persuade myself to face the outside world, I head to Starbucks (but only one that has comfortable armchairs or sofas!), and have a huge mug of soy matcha latte. I fear to look at my bank statement and find out how much I spent at Starbucks in the past couple of months. And there’s still time to go… Strangely, I find libraries quite distracting, but in Starbucks I get the work done.

Starbucks should probably have its mention in my acknowledgements as the place which provided constant fuel for all the writing.

What my bed looks like most of the time now. Also, pastel-coloured highlighters are a must, as is colour-coding!

Talking to Lucy Moore of Claire de Rouen

On London’s Charing Cross Road, an inconspicuous little black door at number 125 transports you into a world of the best art, photography and fashion books. Tucked away on the first floor of the building, the charming space of Claire de Rouen, a bookshop with an impeccably curated selection, instantly becomes everyone’s favourite place in the city. I visited the shop on one sunny afternoon to chat to its amazing director, Lucy Kumara Moore about the space, inspirations, culture and what the future holds for CdR.

Barbora Kozusnikova: Tell me about how the Claire de Rouen bookshop came about and how you started working here.

Lucy Moore: The shop was opened in 2005, by Claire de Rouen – a deeply-knowledgeable, beautiful and slightly mysterious woman born in Alexandria, Egypt, to Italian parents. She moved to London in her twenties to study art. She worked at the ICA bookshop, then at the Photographer’s Gallery and quickly established a reputation for being able to source books before anyone else, and for being so attuned to her clients taste that she knew how to put together the most incredible collections of books for them. After the Photographer’s Gallery, Claire got a job heading up the photo and fashion department at Zwemmer’s bookshop, which doesn’t exist anymore, but used to be just down the road from where my bookshop is now, on Charing Cross Road. She was friends with everyone – Bruce Weber would come and say hi when he was in town and David Bailey gave her a print of one of his portraits of Catherine Deneuve.

Soho used to be much more creatively-exciting… Central Saint Martins used to be on this street, and there were many more art and photo galleries and artist studios that have since closed or moved. The Astoria was an incredible music venue that was demolished to make way for Crossrail. Things have changed so much! Claire was a figurehead in that high-spirited world. Around 2005, Zwemmer’s was bought by another book dealer called Shipley – and Claire didn’t like the way things changed. At the suggestion of Bob Carlos Clarke (known for his sexy high gloss pictures that feel so of the 90s when you look at them now), Claire set up her own shop (and Bruce had connected her with the landlord of the beautiful little space that was to be its home). The opening of Claire de Rouen Books as it was known then (I’ve since dropped the ‘books’ part) was a party for Bruce Weber’s Blood, Sweat and Tears, on Bonfire Night – think of all the fireworks!

I met Claire through my boyfriend at the time, Ned Wilson, in 2009. I was just finishing art school then and loved coming to the shop for signings and launches. We always talked about me working with her but there wasn’t really a job available – she worked there every day except Saturday and had someone to do weekends already. In late 2010 I moved to Australia. I remember going in to the shop to tell Claire and she handed me a book called Bondi Style! After a few months of living in Sydney, we had a very sad phone call to say that Claire had been diagnosed with cancer. She was hoping I could go back to London to help her at the bookshop now that she was less able to work every day. But I didn’t make it back in time, tragically. After she died in 2012, it seemed as if the shop might close and so I decided to move back to London and buy it with some friends.

BK: Why do you think people are still publishing quite a lot of books and the shop continues to be so successful in the digital age?

LM: Well, publishing is much easier and much cheaper. I think if you’re a photographer or a fashion journalist or a stylist, if you publish something then it demonstrates a level of involvement with what you’re doing that goes way beyond putting images online. People understand the different qualities of printed matter and digital space – and select the best platform for saying what they want to say. The two are just different platforms for the exploration of ideas. It’s not one or the other.

People love looking at actual books! It’s so important to me that Claire de Rouen is public not appointment-only. It’s open 5 days a week and is there to welcome you into its paper arms when you have half an hour to kill before you go and meet your Tinder date or if you suddenly decide to do some research into the House of Beauty and Culture.

It’s also a place of idea exchange – lots of my clients make their own books – which I sell – as well as buying them from me, so it’s a two-way space in that sense. It’s part of the constellation of London’s culture. That’s what this shop is about.

BK: How do you select the books that you stock here? Is it really personal or driven by what customers are asking for?

LM: It’s both, because my customers mostly share my taste, so sometimes I buy things that they have suggested. But I never stock anything just because I know it will sell well. There is no Terry Richardson in the house! I have two buying rules that are totally antithetical to each other…! I like very serious, committed explorations of ideas through photography or writing or design – publications which contribute to a discourse. But I also love books that are just fun and pop and beautiful and sexy – I think pleasure and beauty are quite important in our dark political times.

BK: Are there any books that you’d like to see published that haven’t been yet?

LM: So many. I’m setting up a publishing house this year to start filling all the gaps. It will be called Claire de Rouen too, and will trace the history of the interplay between art, fashion and commerce from the ‘70s to now. News to follow!

BK: People can find fashion books next to art books on the shelves at Claire de Rouen. How do you think art and fashion relate?

LM: Unfortunately, because the art market grew so much in the early 2000s, many (although by no means all) of the commercial galleries adjusted themselves to cater for the super rich, with the consequence that they aren’t very welcoming spaces for a broad spectrum of people, necessarily. In contrast, the visual output of the fashion world is distributed in a very democratic way. A billboard on a street is going to be seen by everyone. And digital space doesn’t discriminate according to wealth or class – digital ‘societies’ are totally different to geographically-based ones. Ideas from high fashion filter into the high street, making fashion a very powerful medium to explore ideas relating to beauty, gender, identity, narrative, fantasy etc., because what you see in a Celine show you’ll see in Topshop in a slightly different form, very often before the Celine is even out. That’s very powerful. I find that really interesting. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, necessarily. It’s bad for Celine, but it’s very interesting that these ideas are expressed very quickly in a very mainstream way. And that doesn’t happen in art right now – not in London anyway.

BK: Do you collect anything? Or are the books your collection?

LM: Yes, in many ways, yes, totally – I stock Claire de Rouen like it’s my own library. But I also collect a few things, like Werk magazine, POP and Arena Homme+ – magazines are super important right now. Every time I do a signing, I ask the photographer or artist to sign a copy for me. I also collect books on Mark Steinmetz and Marc Camille Chaimowicz – all the Marks! Only joking. I love the Yohji catalogues from the 80s that Nick Knight, Peter Saville and Marc Ascoli did. I also really love functional printed matter, like annual reports and diaries.

Apart from books, I collect the little crystal Disney Swarovski sculptures, which are my total guilty pleasure. And shoes.

BK: Do you want to stay really small, and only here, in Charing Cross?

LM: No, the bookshop will move this year. I would like more space to show more artworks and prints and selected clothing and accessories. In theory, I would like more than one space, but I don’t know how I’d make it work because, really, the bookshop is about my presence there and my taste. So maybe if I had other bookshops, I would invite people who I really respect to set up their own, new, Claire de Rouen worlds, in the same way I do here.

BK: You stock books that inspire people and also the people that made the books were inspired by something. What inspires you?

LM: I am always beguiled by Araki’s approach to life – his voracious curiosity and obsession with sensual pleasure. Marc Camille Chaimowicz (who is a friend) has a carefully defined and beautiful approach to living. Wolfgang Tillmans’ work has a very lucid relationship to society that I find inspiring. There is also a constellation of women in my life who I adore working with – Lou Stoppard, Rei Nadal, Daisy Hoppen, Alice Neale, Lily Cole. I’m very interested in strong, successful, creative women!

Easter Break 2017 – Fashion Exhibitions in Europe

Want/need a break from your dissertation writing, busy city life or 9 to 5 job? With the Easter holiday around the corner (plus Brexit being trending topic again), I thought I would share some of my personal favourite fashion-related temporary exhibitions that are on in museums all over Europe during the (UK) Easter holidays.

I can’t think of a better excuse to travel and tour wonderful cities, eat delicious food, immerse yourself into the richness of other European cultures and whilst doing so, explore some of the most interesting fashion exhibitions of this year outside the UK.

 

MUSEE DES ARTS DÉCORATIFS (Paris), from 1 December 2016 to 23 April 2017.

“Tenue Correcte Exigée: Quand Le Vêtement Fait Scandale” revisits the scandals that have marked the great turning points in fashion history from the 14th century to today. Featuring outfits, portraits and objects, it explores the liberties taken with dress codes and how they breached moral values. The robe volante, women in trousers, men in skirts, female tuxedo, miniskirt… (with examples as Marlene Dietrich in a tuxedo, Elsa Schiaparelli’s jumpsuit and Yves Saint Laurent’s female tuxedo, among others).

http://www.lesartsdecoratifs.fr/en/exhibitions/current-events-1322/musee-des-arts-decoratifs/tenue-correcte-exigee-quand-le-vetement-fait-scandale/

Dior by John Galliano, Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2000, inspired by Paris homeless population. From “Tenue Correcte Exigée : Quand Le Vêtement Fait Scandale” at Les Artes decoratifs © Guy Marineau

PALAIS GALLERIA (Paris), from April 27th to August 13th 2017.

“Dalida, Une Garde-Robe De La Ville À La Scène” pays homage to Dalida with an exhibition of her wardrobe, recently donated to the museum. Dressed by the greatest designers both on and off-stage, in haute couture or in prêt-à-porter, Dalida has remained an immensely popular star in France. Her wardrobe always followed the movements of fashion, but it also reflected her artistic development.

And

From March 8th to July 16th 2017

“Balenciaga, L’oeuvre Au Noir”. Spanish Season – A Palais Galliera Extra-Mural Exhibition pays homage to the couturier with an extra-mural exhibition at the Musée Bourdelle. The exhibition resonates with the black tones of an alchemist of haute couture: variations of black repeated in over a hundred of pieces from the Galliera collections and the archives of Maison Balenciaga. This exhibition opens the Palais Galliera’s Spanish season, which will continue with Costumes espagnols entre ombre et lumière (‘Spanish costumes from dark to bright’) at the Maison Victor Hugo (21 June – 24 September 2017) and will finish with Mariano Fortuny at the Palais Galliera (4 October 2017 – 7 January 2018).

http://www.palaisgalliera.paris.fr/en/exhibitions/

Dalida, Paris, Bobino, October 1958. © Boris Lipnitzki / Roger-Viollet ; Jean Dessès, dresss, Dalida, 1958. © Julien Vidal / Roger-Viollet. From “Dalida, Une Garde-Robe De La Ville À La Scène” at Paris Galliera.

MODEMUSEUM HASSELT (Hasselt, Belgium), from 4th March to 3rd September 2017.

“Across Japan” features the fascinating innovations introduced by the Japanese avant-garde designers and their younger peers in combination with newer Western interpretations of the ‘Japanese’ aesthetics. At the same time, the show seeks to illustrate that this concern with Japan in the West is nothing new and has a long tradition going back to the seventeenth century, which is explored through a set of themes and a selection of silhouettes supplemented with visuals aiming at pinpointing the peculiar nature of it. The exhibition is part of the Yokoso Festival – 25 Years Japanese Garden in Hasselt.

http://www.modemuseumhasselt.be/#/tentoonstelling/across-japan/en/id/175

 MoMu (Antwerp, Belgium), from 31st March to 27th August 2017.

“Margiela, the Hermes Years” will display Belgian stylist Martin Margiela’s Hermès collections from 1997 to 2003 for the first time. As well as this, the tribute exhibition also explores the relationship during these years between these collections and his own label, Maison Martin Margiela. Groundbreaking deconstruction and timeless luxury – the two worlds of designer Martin Margiela – are the starting point of this exhibition.

http://www.momu.be/en/tentoonstelling/margiela-de-hermes-jaren.html

An image from “Margiela: The Hermès Years” at © MoMu

STAALICHE KUNSTSAMMULUNGEN (Dresden, Germany, State Art Museum), 3 March to 5 June 2017.

“Women Cross Media. Photography, Porcelain and Prints from China and Japan” is a presentation in the context of the exhibition Dresden • Europe • World and is dedicated to the cross-media issue of how femininity was portrayed in images in East Asian art of the early 18th to the late 19th century – in a dialogue between objects from the Porcelain Collection, the Photography Collection of the Museum of Ethnology and from the Kupferstich-Kabinett.

http://www.skd.museum/en/special-exhibitions/women-cross-media/index.html

“Kyoto Girls” (Drei Kurtisanen), Kyoto, from the album “Japan III”, 1880–1900, Museum für Völkerkunde. From “Women Cross Media”at Dresden State Art Museum, © SKD

KUNSTGEWEBERMUSEUM (Berlin, Germany), Until March 2017 (only for early birds, but I had to include it, looks fantastic!).

“Uli Richter Revisited – Fashion Visionary, Teacher, Inspiration” coincides with Uli Richter’s 90th birthday, and features some of the highlights of the Berlin fashion designer’s work. As one of the youngest major designers working in Berlin in the early 1950s, he played an important role in forging a ‘made in Berlin’ style. Over the more than 40 years in which he worked as a fashion designer, he succeeded in reinvigorating and consolidating Berlin’s reputation as an international centre of fashion. Clothing, design sketches, and photographs, provide the viewer with a glimpse into Berlin’s young fashion scene in the 1980s and 1990s.

http://www.smb.museum/en/exhibitions/detail/uli-richter-revisited-modedenker-lehrer-inspiration.html

Heinrich von der Becke, Uli Richter with Mannequins Gisela Ebel and Gitta Schilling during the presentation of his first solo collection, 1959 © Bildarchiv Heinrich von der Becke, Sportmuseum Berlin. From “Uli Richter Revisited” at Kunstgewerbemuseum.

WIEN MUSEUM KARLSPLATZ (Viena, Austria), from 24th November 2016 to 26th February 2017

“Robert Haas. Framing Two Worlds.” Robert Haas (1898-1997) is among the great Austrian-American photographers of the twentieth century. He began his artistic career in Vienna as a graphic designer before studying photography. In the 1930s, Haas created stirring works of social reportage and sensitive depictions of everyday life, along with portraits and object studies of subjects in the city. On the way to his exhile to New York, Haas documented the American way of life beyond the big cities as well as public figures. The exhibition presents his virtually unknown oeuvre to the public for the first time: at once an artistic discovery of the first order and a richly detailed panorama of the times.

http://www.wienmuseum.at/en/exhibitions/detail/robert-haas-framing-two-worlds.html

Marlene Dietrich at the Salzburg Festival, 1936-1937 © Wien Museum/Sammlung Robert Haas. From “Robert Haas. Framing Two Worlds” at Wien Museum Karlsplatz.

LIVRUSTKAMMAREN (Stockholm, Sweden), from 15th September to 19th March 2017.

“Renaissance fashion in paper. The Medici family outside the frame”. Impressive costumes, opulent creations, extravagant forms and strong colours. Lace, frills, trains, rosettes and flounces. A Renaissance collection – inspired by the most powerful Renaissance family, the Medicis. The collection has been entirely made of paper by the Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave. Now her most extravagant collection is being presented in the Royal Armoury in the Royal Palace, for the first time in both Sweden and Scandinavia.

http://livrustkammaren.se/en/exhibition/renaissance-fashion-paper

MUSEO SALVATORE FERRAGAMO (Florence, Italy), from 19th May 2016 to 17th May 2017.

“Across Art and Fashion”, analyses the forms of dialogue between these two worlds: reciprocal inspirations, overlaps and collaborations, from the experiences of the Pre-Raphaelites to those of Futurism, and from Surrealism to Radical Fashion. It focuses on the work of Salvatore Ferragamo, who was fascinated and inspired by the avant-garde art movements of the 20th century, on several ateliers of the Fifties and Sixties and the advent of the culture of celebrities. It then examines the experimentation of the Nineties and whether in the contemporary cultural industry we can still talk about two separate worlds or if we are dealing with fluid roles.

http://www.ferragamo.com/museo/en/usa/exhibitions/

View of the exhibition © Museo Salvatore Ferragamo

GUCCI MUSEUM (Florence, Italy), from February 2017.

“The Tom Ford Rooms” showcase women’s and men’s ready-to-wear in one room and accessories in another. The aim of the spaces is to remind people of the way in which Ford encouraged self-expression through developing a distinctive, sensual aesthetic for the House. The decoration of the rooms and the way in which the items on display are presented contribute to a mood of provocative sensuality that perfectly reflects the image that Ford created for Gucci while he was at the helm of the design team at the label.

http://www.guccimuseo.com/en/gucci-archive/tom-ford/

View of the ready-to-wear room © Tom Ford Rooms at Gucci Museum

CRISTOBAL BALENCIAGA MUSEOA (Biarritz, Spain), 6th October 2016 to 7th May 2017.

“Coal And Velvet. Views On Popular Costumes By Ortiz Echagüe And Balenciaga” explores the romantic vision and the aesthetic revision that Cristóbal Balenciaga, in his Haute Couture creations, and Ortiz Echagüe, in his photographic narrations of traditional Spain, make of popular costumes. It establishes a dialogue offering interpretations of a reality, that of popular costumes, which was already becoming extinct in the early 20th century and which both, through works of undeniable artistic quality, give validity and bestow on them a timeless quality.

And

“Cristóbal Balenciaga. Un Legado Atemporal”, 1st January 2016 to 7 May, 2017.

One of the most influential couturiers of the 20th century and a tireless perfectionist with an exceptional creative talent that inspired him to design models that were audacious in both their form and aesthetics, taking the world by storm and setting the indisputable trend season after season. His command of the craft earned him the respect of his colleagues and he reigned supreme in the international haute couture world until he retired in 1968.

http://www.cristobalbalenciagamuseoa.com/en/explore/exhibitions/cristobal-balenciaga-a-timeless-legacy.html

Cristóbal Balenciaga París, 1960, © Balenciaga Archives, Paris. From “Cristóbal Balenciaga. Un Legado Atemporal” at Balenciaga Museoa.

Chatting ‘Cause & Effect’ with Amnah Hafez

Since skeptics proclaimed that print is dead some years ago, the opposite seems to have happened. There are now more fashion magazines than ever – just walk into Wardour News; the choice is overwhelming. Yet something is missing in all those glossy pages, a void that Amnah Hafez and her incredible team at a new magazine Cause & Effect are about to fill. I wanted to know more about their exciting venture, and so I spoke to Amnah to find out what to look forward to. One thing I am already sure of: I cannot wait to get my hands on the first issue. Now everyone, form an orderly queue, please.

BK: What inspired you to start your own magazine? 

AH: I wanted to see a magazine out there that was inherently diverse and inclusive. I was frustrated at the lack of that in the magazines I was picking up. And by that I mean in terms of age, gender, race, body type, work experience etc. I wanted to celebrate those who I felt were ignored. The content I was seeing never represented me, my friends or a lot of the people I know and respect. It was born after years of discussion between Tom Rasmussen (Executive Editor) and I. We essentially were so upset at how the industry was basically based on exclusion.

BK: Why Cause & Effect?

AH: When the discussion began on how we wanted to layout the magazine, I thought about the number three a lot. A number I always felt was complete and whole (I am superstitious and believe good things and bad things happen in threes, and so this was my good thing in threes, I suppose). I started to research the number itself within the context of religion and mythology, and ended up reading about the rule of three in Wiccan religion. “It states that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it positive or negative, will be returned to that person three times.” Essentially Karma. Cause & Effect was born from that. We wanted to put out something good into the world. We wanted to carve out a little place for ourselves within the industry where we could showcase the works of people we admire and create content where the unappreciated could feel appreciated.

Taking a break. Photo by Amnah Hafez

BK: What is the concept/ethos of the magazine?

AH: This is exactly what we wrote down when we set out to begin the magazine, and what we would send to potential contributors:

Cause & Effect marries fashion and politics. We want to talk about a love of fashion that doesn’t require moral and intellectual compromise. We want to explore beauty beyond the realms of the unachievable, the non-diverse. We want to discuss mental health, race, body type, gender, sex, sexuality in a candid way, in a beautiful way, in an accessible way.”

BK: Is there a magazine that influenced how you put together C&E?

AH: Not really. William, my husband and our Art Director is a furniture designer who also creates digital artwork. He doesn’t have a background in graphic design per se, so the layouts are influenced by the pieces he was working with rather than existing designs he’d seen elsewhere.

BK: Why did you decide to create a print magazine rather than going digital? 

AH: Because I’m not well equipped to deal with that world just yet. Ha! I also wanted to create something that you could always go back to. Like any of the coffee table books that you would have. I wanted it to be tangible and beautiful. There is such a quickness to online content. It’s there, then it’s gone. I know you can save it, but how often do you go back to something you bookmarked? Or re-read an article you’ve saved? I don’t know, that’s my feeling about it. The books I own are always my source of inspiration.

Backdrop. Photo by Amnah Hafez

BK: What types of articles can your readers expect from issue one?

AH: Articles on mental health, fetishism, leaving religion, fat-shaming, being a drag queen in the Middle East.

BK: You have a very small team of five editors. How did you manage to put the magazine together when you all have other jobs as well? Was there a big dependence on other collaborators? 

AH: In a way, of course, there would be no magazine without their help. We have some amazing contributors in this magazine that we were so eager to work with, so we’re very lucky they agreed to work with us. But at the magazine itself, we just divided the work between each of us. Everyone in my team happens to work freelance, so we met when we could and split the jobs between us. Tom and Emily Carlton (who is our Managing Editor) concentrated on the written content as well as commissioning writers, while myself and Vince Larubina (Senior Fashion Editor) produced the shoots. I styled some of them and came up with some of the concepts for them, and we also handled all creative aspects of the magazine such as finding and commissioning artists. It’s an annual magazine so it was basically done in our spare time.

Hair and make-up. Photo by Amnah Hafez

BK: How did the decision to work with your husband and close friends come about? Was it something you always spoke about or did it happen quite organically?

AH: As I said, Tom and I talked about it for sometime and when we began, it was the two of us that really founded this magazine. We reached out to people we knew to carry other responsibilities in their spare time, because we couldn’t keep up with the workload. I think it’s natural that you’ll reach out to people you know because you trust them, know what their job situation is like, so you know when they’re available and how often, and most importantly, know that they’re good at their jobs. I reached out to Vince (who lives in New York) because he had just quit his job because he was unhappy (he’s got the best eye and the best taste, and his body of reference is just unbelievable), and I needed the help. So he came out to London and lived with me for some time and we worked on the magazine together. I couldn’t have done it without him.

BK: Do you have any tips for people who would like to start their own magazine? 

AH: Have something to say. Make it your truth. Always ask! You never know who will agree to contribute or help out. Remember that this isn’t a job where you’ll be making money (ha), so you’ve got to fucking love it.

Editorial sneak-peek. Photo by Amnah Hafez

BK: What are your hopes for the magazine in the future? 

AH: For someone to buy it and read it? Haha. I would love to continue to showcase and represent more people I admire, for those people to inspire others as they have inspired me. I have a vision for the brand itself, and for the magazine but it’s baby steps. I want to eventually create an online presence, e-commerce (t-shirts, posters etc.), eventually a charity, but some of it is not for quite some time yet. I want to make a few more issues before expanding – I just hope that with time, Cause & Effect can be my full-time job.

Getting camera-ready. Photo by Amnah Hafez

First issue of Cause & Effect will be out in March/April 2017. 

Performing the Kimono in the 19th Century

Gustave Leonard de Jonghe (Belgian, 1829 – 1893), (L’admiratrice du Japon), The Japanese Fan, c. 1865, oil on canvas, 44 ¼ x 34 1/16 in., Gift of the Francis & Miranda Childress Foundation, AG.1988.3.1. Cummer Museum. 

With the Americans’ forceful opening of Japanese markets in 1853, waves of ‘Japonisme’ washed over the West until well into the 20th century. One of Japan’s key exports during this period was the kimono, which was not produced in the West until around the fin de siècle. In an attempt to maintain and increase demand for the kimono, Japan did not export part of its own kimono stock, but rather created kimonos with what the Japanese considered to be a Western cut and textile patterns. Nonetheless, the exoticism of these garments became immensely popular in the West, whilst simultaneously the kimono was considered Oriental indecorum. Therefore, for most of the 19th century, wearing a kimono became a performance. Through the performance, an ‘othering’ took place that allowed a ‘respectable Western woman’ to wear a kimono without it being considered inappropriate.

Alfred Stevens (Belgian 1823-1906), La Parisienne japonaise, c. 1872, oil on canvas, 105 × 150 cm (41.3 × 59.1 in), AM 526/183. © Liège, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Boverie.

This performance was not only presented in 19th century Western paintings, but also perfectly expressed by a reader’s letter published by Good Housekeeping in May 1904. The publication, founded in 1885 by Clark W. Bryan, was as one of the first women’s magazines “conducted in the interests of the higher life of the household.” As such, rather than expressing the fashions and ideas of the wealthy, it focussed on general information for the influential new middle class. The reader’s letter describes a Japanese tea party that was hosted the year before and sets out an approach to giving your own:

“Write the invitations on a Japanese napkin, then tuck each one into a tiny Japanese lantern on which the guest’s name has been printed with India ink. […] The reception rooms may be adorned by lanterns, fans, parasols, screens, all of Japanesy style. Scatter cherry blossoms in great snowy masses to light up shadowy corners. […] The hostess may quite properly receive her guests – who of course are all ladies – in a graceful, gorgeous, silky kimono. Her hair should be dressed Japanese style, adorned with half a dozen tiny bright fans, and she should wear pointed, embroidered slippers.”

John Atkinson Grimshaw (British 1836-1893), Spring, c. 1875, oil on canvas. Private Collection.

As the reader’s description makes clear, rather than just dressing up in a kimono, the hostess needs to imitate Japanese style as thoroughly as possible, including in her hair and shoes. Her home, too, should be decorated with as many Japanese objects as possible and even the invitations should look decidedly Japanese. Through recreating this little Japanese scene, rather than just hosting a party, she is clad in a costume and her home becomes a kind of set design. In that way, the performance allows a Western woman enough distance from her normal self to wear an ‘oriental’ garment without it affecting her status. Many Western painters were interested in the theme or ‘Orientalism’ and painted women in kimonos surrounded by Japanese art objects and furniture.

Frans Verhas (Belgian 1827 – 1897), Le Kimono Japonais, painting on panel, 75 x 47.5 cm. (29.5 x 18.7 in.). Private Collection.

William Merritt Chase (American 1849-1916), A Comfortable Corner (At Her Ease; The Blue Kimona [sic}; The Blue Kimono), c. 1888, oil on canvas, 57 x 44 1/2 inches, Littlejohn Collection, 1961.5.21. Parrish Art Museum.

Alfred Wordsworth Thompson (American 1840-1896), (La Japonaise), The Japanese Lady, oil on canvas, 114.2 x 76.1 cm (44.96″ x 29.96″). Private collection.

Sources:

Good Housekeeping c. 1904. Discoveries by Our Observers and Experimenters. Good Housekeeping, 38(5), p. 527.

Metropolitan Museum of Art. [Online]. 2016. Dressing Gown. [Accessed 14 February 2017]. Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/155954.

Wood, J. P. 1949. Magazines in the United States. 2nd ed. New York: The Ronald Press Company.

All the Fun of the Fan

Fan painted by Ronot-Tutin, 1890-1900, France. Painted silk gauze and bobbin lace leaf, with mother of pearl sticks and guards. Lady Cory Bequest. V&A.

‘The fan is back’ declared the Financial Times this month. Meanwhile, British Vogue devoted two thirds of a page to the accessory in its February issue. Fashion writer Susie Lau admitted that it was the ‘one accessory that I’ve not had the opportunity to touch upon in all of Style Bubble’s ten year history’ in spite of the many modern day instances where one was required – namely fashion shows, on the underground, and wherever there is a lack of air conditioning in the summer months.

British Vogue, February 2017

What prompted such headlines? The highly symbolic accessory appeared on the Gucci catwalk for Spring/Summer 2017 – a flat, rigid Japanese éventail style. All three articles referenced a just-launched brand called Fern Fans established by London-based PR Daisy Hoppen and Danish textile designer Amanda Borberg, who have revised the traditional pleated concertina style in birchwood and textured cottons for the contemporary consumer.

Fan, 1820-30, France. Pierced Ivory. Given by Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt and Lady Wyatt. V&A.

The fan is an accessory with a rich and whimsical history, with pictorial history suggesting their use as far back as 3000BC. Their purpose is not just keeping oneself cool – fans have long had a ceremonial role, with the Greeks, Romans and Etruscans using them in this way. European folding fans came much later – introduced by merchant traders and religious orders from China and Japan – and regarded as status symbols, reserved for Royalty and nobility. They were often highly ornamental, using materials such as mother of pearl, ivory and tortoiseshell for their sticks and guards, decorated with precious metals and gems, and hand-painted; craftsmen dedicated to producing fans gradually formed guilds such as The Worshipful Company of Fan Makers (established during the reign of Charles II in London and incorporated by a royal charter in 1709).

Fan, 1750-60, France. Painted paper and mother of pearl. Given by Emily Beauclerk. V&A.

Fan, 1820-30, England or France. Horn sticks, gouache and metal. Given by Admiral Sir Robert and Lady Prendergast. V&A.

After the swift rise of the accessory in the late 16th and 17th century – often pictured in the hands of ladies in portraits from this time, including Elizabeth I (see the ‘Darnley Portrait’, c. 1575) – increased imports together with new methods developed by manufacturers to print fans meant that they became cheaper to purchase and available to a wider audience. The Fan Museum in Greenwich documents the fan’s continued history and craft and a significant number of examples on show in the Fashion and Textile rooms in the V&A. These include an 18th and several 19th century fans; the former is French, made of hand-painted paper featuring leisure scenes, the latter range from pierced ivory to horn, and painted flowers on silk gauze. There’s even a peacock-printed plastic and paper fan for sale in the shop.

Fan in the V&A shop

Beyond ornament and temperature-regulation, the fan developed an altogether more intriguing role in concealing and revealing the wearer’s emotions in delicate social situations. It holds the potential to do much more than hide a blush, illicit smile or veil boredom. Behold: a guide to speaking the language of one of fashion’s most enduring accessories.

To hold the fan with the right hand in front of the face: follow me
To move the fan with the left hand: they are watching us
To throw the fan: I hate you
To hold the fan closed: do you love me?
To move the fan with the right hand: I love another
To open and close the fan: you are cruel
To hold the fan open, covering the mouth: I am single
To fan slowly: I am married
To fan quickly: I am engaged
To hold the fan on the lips: kiss me
To open the fan slowly: wait for me
To open the fan with the left hand: come and talk to me
To strike it closed on the left hand: write to me

References

Farrell, Aimee, ‘The fan is back – and it’s cooler than ever’, Financial Times (1st February, 2017)

Fern Fans

Lau, Susanna, ‘The Fanfare of Fern’, Style Bubble (12th January, 2017)

Pithers, Ellie, ‘Do you speak fan?’, British Vogue (February, 2017), p. 57

The Fan Museum

The Worshipful Company of Fan Makers

5 Minutes with… Courtauld MA Student Aristea Rellou

‘Documenting Fashion’ not only aims to analyse fashion imagery, contexts and theoretical approaches. No, the course’s influence is much more far-reaching. It subtly trains the eye towards using a fashion gaze to view the world around us. The Courtauld itself, being a small institution with a specialised subject and student body, provides a fertile ground to practice it. So, in order to expand on my own perception of someone’s style I decided to ask Courtauld MA student Aristea Rellou about her clothes in order to get the inside scoop. Aristea’s fabulous way of dressing had always caught my eye through its slightly edgy, yet classic look. She kindly agreed to share her thoughts with me on what inspires her to dress the way she does.

Aristea is a student of the Print Culture and the Early Modern Arts of Italy, France and Spain MA special option. Before attending the Courtauld she studied Law at the University of Athens and Art History at the New School in New York. It was the latter where she felt her own style coming together and her interest in fashion growing. The student body there was fashionable and sported distinctive looks. Her inspiration was furthered by working in commercial art galleries, where a strong statement look oftentimes comes with the profession. Aristea is inspired by people with an innate sense of style, as they present themselves through their clothing. ‘Being very comfortable with the way you dress comes with knowing yourself too,’ she muses.

Aristea has noticed about her own approach that she chooses items which deconstruct the body. She grins: ‘It’s very Cubist, now that I think about it.’ Large shapes which do not necessarily conform to her body’s silhouette allow her to play around with juxtapositions. On the day I met her she wore a white, cropped top, tied at the front, high-waisted, wide dark trousers and a pale, blue/grey, long coat that reached to her lower calves. She topped everything off by choosing sturdy red shoes. Yet for all the deconstruction, a classic element to her clothes is also intrinsic to her look. When going shopping with her sister, they joke with each other: ‘Well, would Kate Middleton buy this?’ It is a smart move, as it also allows Aristea to be dressed appropriately all day long. Her daywear functions and shifts easily into evening wear.

Lastly, we talk about make-up. Winged eyeliner completes Aristea’s style. Even more so than clothing she thinks make-up reflects on where we currently are in our lives and how we feel. This discussion also brings me back full circle to ‘Documenting Fashion,’ where we have discussed Joanne B. Eicher and Mary Ellen Roach-Higgins’ definition of dress ‘… as an assemblage of body modifications and/or supplements displayed by a person in communicating with other human beings.’ Thank you for communicating with me, Aristea!

 

Sources:

Eicher, Joanne B. and Mary Ellen Roach-Higgins, ‘Definition and Classification of Dress,’ in Ruth Barnes and Joanne B. Eicher, Dress and Gender: Making and Meaning in Cultural Contexts (Oxford: Berg, 1993), pp. 8-28. (P.15)

 

 

Looking North

Open Eye Gallery withVirgil Abloh and Ben Kelly’s installation

For the past few years, London’s galleries have been hosts to some incredible fashion exhibitions, luring visitors from every corner of the world to pore over their sartorial treasures. With the dawn of a new year, however, a new city is emerging as the latest fashion destination. From January 6 until March 19 2017, Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery is showcasing North: Identity, Photography, Fashion, an exhibition curated by SHOWstudio’s editor Lou Stoppard and Adam Murray, a lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University. Prompted by the impact the North of England has had on fashion, music, design and art the world over, as well as the clichés associated with the area, the exhibition explores and challenges these dominant themes, asking the visitors to come to their own conclusions. The heritage of the North is unpicked through photography, historical films, interviews with its artists and designers, garments, fashion magazines and music, highlighting the impressively far-reaching influence of the region, one which is seldom acknowledged, ignored even, in the capital city oriented fashion world.

“Liverpool is tiny, but it has a lot of impact.” – Christopher Shannon, designer | A view of North: Identity, Photography, Fashion

With Stoppard and Murray not being full-time curators, the organisation of the space is free of restrictions and preconceptions of seasoned professionals, allowing for a fresh take on the potential of exhibitions. The rooms have a relaxed vibe, a coolness about them, which one can already sense getting off the train at one of Liverpool’s stations and walking through its streets to reach the gallery. It feels very authentic, honest and respectful in its representation of England’s North, a much welcome relief from the sometimes derogatory mentions the area gets in the media. Walking through the exhibition, admiring the prints by fashion’s favourites Jamie Hawkesworth, Alasdair McLellan and David Sims while being slightly amused by Alice Hawkins’ genius portraits of Northern teen girls or perusing the editorials in i-D, Arena Homme+, Vogue and The Face, all inspired by the visuals of the region and displayed in custom-made Sheffield steel vitrines (not a single detail escaped the curators), one starts to question the lack of credit given to cultural centres outside of London. Even musical legends such as Morrissey, The Stone Roses, New Order and Oasis, who have conquered the world with their sounds, (and who rightfully have their own pride of place within the exhibition) grew up and formed within the North’s energetic environments. No one can dispute that the talent which hails from and is inevitably profoundly influenced by the North of England enjoys great stature worldwide, yet their origins are often forgotten. Fortunately, North brings the talent home again.

“There’s tons of beautiful girls in Liverpool that aren’t WAGs with caked on make up.” – Thom Murphy, stylist | A view of North: Identity, Photography, Fashion

The magnitude and the wealth of visuals the North provides the world with becomes even more apparent upon entering the fashion gallery. Garments from the Belgian Raf Simons, German adidas and American/Milanese/Ghanaian Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh all clearly show signs of the North, emphasising its crucial and international role. On display are various versions of the adidas Samba and ZX trainers dedicated to Northern cities. Elsewhere, an Off-White knit pays tribute to the Gallagher brothers, while a Raf Simons Autumn/Winter 03 parka with a print of New Order’s ‘Power, Corruption and Lies’ album cover designed by Peter Saville hangs nearby. The parka can still be bought online, though it does fetch $20,000. Who said the North wasn’t fashionable? Add the giant steel columns created by Abloh and Ben Kelly, the designer of Manchester’s iconic Hacienda nightclub, interior of which was a starting point for this installation, which, complete with Abloh’s signature chevron, dominate the facade of Open Eye Gallery, and the North of England is firmly secured on fashion’s radar.

“The most Northern part of me is my sense of humour. That more than anything is the thing that has endured and what I use in my way of dealing with people. But I’m not a professional Northerner.” – Simon Foxton, stylist | Raf Simons parka from ‘Control’ Autumn/Winter 2003

“Some things I explore in my collections relate to my life in the North-East. There’s a sense of real life, because things aren’t so aspirational.” – Claire Barrow, designer | Mark Szaszy, Corrine Day – Diary (Extract) (2012)

There are many other gems scattered around the exhibition space. A small Panasonic TV from decades past screens an extract from Corrine Day’s diary, where the late photographer reminisces about her shoot for Dutch magazine in 2001 titled ‘A British Summer: Blackpool 2001’ featuring Kate Moss, George Clements and Rosemary Ferguson. A 1939 short film named ‘Spare Time’ documents the people of Sheffield, Manchester, Bolton and Pontypridd in the in-between times when they are not working in the towns’ famous industries. Watching the movie sat on a park bench, headphones on, you get sucked in, almost feeling as though you are in the film yourself, observing the goings on, being a part of the daily Northern life. Yet the biggest surprise is upstairs. The room is transformed into an old, seventies maisonette, complete with lace curtains, a floral print armchair, a bed with an embroidered throw, a giant wooden cross, shaggy carpet and old rotary dial telephones prompting the visitors to pick them up, revealing sound bites by Northern creatives such as Stephen Jones, Christopher Shannon, Claire Barrow and Gareth Pugh in which they look back at their upbringing and the importance of the North of England in their life and work. It is a charming corner to relax in, take a trip down memory lane, meet the locals and ponder on the importance the North of England has on the country’s image. Perhaps just this little refuge in a twenty-first century city is a reason enough to return for another visit. As Gary Aspden remarks in his interview upstairs, “all roads lead back to the North.” This exhibition is a testament to that. So do yourself a favour, brave the almost five hour long round trip from London and visit the Open Eye Gallery. Believe me, it is worth it!

“I still think that people from down South don’t understand people from up North. And it is this huge cultural, class and every-which-way divide.” – Stephen Jones, milliner | A view of North: Identity, Photography, Fashion)

“I feel still very much connected to where I grew up… it’s a huge part of who I am. And I think in that it’s the Northern work ethic, that’s also something that is quite important.” – Gareth Pugh, designer | A view of North: Identity, Photography, Fashion 

Sources:

‘North’ on SHOWstudio.com