Vetements: Changing the Fashion World, One Look at a Time

It is no news that Vetements, the French brand that was founded two years ago, has since become one of France’s most talked about labels. The brand’s story starts with an aim of shifting focus from PR and brand building, that nowadays are a huge part of every fashion brand, back to the key element of fashion – the clothes. With an extended group of eight members behind the brand, the creative team was for a long time anonymous, probably because of the same reason for which they chose to name the brand Vetements. They simply want to focus on pieces they create and nothing else, and have, therefore, been portrayed as modern fashion rebels. When the names of the design team finally became public, and it became known that all of them had backgrounds at Parisian fashion houses, the Georgian chief designer Demna Gvasalia reveled their goal of questioning the fashion industry and the way the system works.

However, since Gvasalia has since been appinted as the new artistic director of Balenciaga, this poses questions both about the integrity of the brand’s designers as well as about the future of Vetemants. Even though Gvasalia has reinsured us that his involvement in the brand is a lifetime commitment, his novel job hopefully also means that Gvasalia and his team will bring something new to the fashion table – and not only in terms of design aesthetics. Vetements’ work has been distinguished for oversize, conceptual and cool lines, similarities they share with Gvasalia’s former employer Martin Margiela. Vetements, however, breaths street wear, in the finest materials and with exquisite executions, of course.

Hanna Cronsjö 

Enzo Mari: Discarding the superfluous to get back to the essence

Gesamtkunstwerk is a German word, the utopian concept of a total work of art. The first time I encountered it was in Zurich, at the Kunstmuseum, where Harald Szeeman had organized an exhibition around this goal. There was a wide range of artworks from every year in the century, contrasting currents, different materials, mutually exclusive viewpoints, irreconcilable approaches, unexpected results, startling formalisms. A hodgepodge on the one hand, all-encompassing on the other. Exhibitions get forgotten, films go up in smoke, novels fade in memory, essays slip away. But in the end (close to the end) one realizes that all these layers, these heaps of information, pile up somewhere in our brains or souls and come to shape our view of the world, which also has some long compound name in German.

Over the course of his long life, Enzo Mari has accumulated experiments, drawings, designs, objects both found and made, artworks and multiples, printed manifestos and conceptual manifestos, handcrafted items and industrial products, obsessions and metaphors. All allegories of a method that seems to be the scaffolding of the total work of art to which he aspires. It is hard to define his approach; Mari is an artist, a designer, a graphic designer, an architect, a theorist, an idealist, a philosopher, but what is immediately clear is that he is a human who has always been impelled to invest and channel his entire life—and even those of the other humans who know and are close to him—into a single project. Mari has performed simple actions, like slightly bending an iron beam; extremely complex ones, like imagining a diagonal slice through the Palazzo dell’Arengario in Milan; and an idea that may be even more utopian and crazy: that of transforming the world by influencing the condition of his fellow humans. Everything he has managed to achieve or even just conceive, using a complex method that would be incomprehensible and inapplicable for anyone else, has been organized, classified and diligently preserved in his endless, paroxysmal and perhaps paranoid archive. An archive I visited for the first time a few months ago, at 10 Piazzale Baracca, a space that was Enzo Mari’s home and then became his studio, an all-encompassing Wunderkammer of gathered, accumulated, catalogued and stored memories, where he has worked for over fifty years; a place where objects wait, with dusty impatience, to be put into action, brought back to light; an archive that is a Renaissance workshop, a place imbued with visions, dangers, curses, treasures for those who can to see them, little shifts in meaning carried out by this moody maestro, both gentle and austere.

A man of another era? No, a man of his own era, a man outside of any era, never afraid to reshape the basic ideas underneath it all, switching them around and coming up each time with a new group aesthetic, though he gives you to understand that he doesn’t believe in groups. Eras change, storms subside, and these ideological approaches from the “roaring years” now seem sweet and still utopian, ridiculous and yet tragic. But the works, objects and texts of his poetic vision remain as proof of a complex mental construct, which is not satisfied with details, but aspires to create a total work of art.

The Blogazine – Images and words courtesy of Massimo Minini 

Couture-to-wear: Koché

Couture for everyday life? Before the industrialisation and the beginning of mass production, hand made pieces, seamstresses and couture dresses were as common as buying a shirt at H&M is today. It all changed when the new techniques made it possible to produce pieces that were both in the latest styles and cheeper than the ones made by hand. Nowadays, couture is often portrayed as the exclusive part of the fashion industry, close related to fine gowns and celebrities. That is a perception the brand Koché wants to change. Couture doesn’t just have to be about glitz and glam, quite the contrary – Christelle Kocher, the designer and founder of Koché, believes it to be perfectly suited for the everyday life as well. She wants to create couture-to-wear. Modern, easy and casual pieces to wear however and whenever you like. Her design aesthetic embodies easy elegance and it simply just feels cool, an underrated look among couture creators. No matter if it is pink suits or embroideries, here pieces achieve the balance between refined craftsmanship and contemporary wearability.

With a background at brands such as Dries Van Noten, Sonia Rykiel, Bottega Veneta and Chloé, Christelle Kocher started her own label only last year and it has, not so surprisingly already turned out to be a success. She was for nominated for the LVMH design award for her unique and contemporary take on fashion in general and traditional couture in particular. It is an innovation right in time. The fashion industry is, as we have noted before, facing a future crossroad. Kosher is pointing out a direction and leading the way towards a future fashion scenario that already is starting to become reality. Old school is just one name we could call it, but it will soon become a reality, as traditional hand craft and a greater appreciation for the quality is a tendency we are going to see a lot more of in the near future. And why not see fashion as both an investment and a fun expression of your personality that lights up your everyday life? The limits are there only to be broken.

Hanna Cronsjö 

Italian Radical Disco at the ICA

A presentation exploring the relationship between architecture and nightlife in Italy during the 1960s and 1970s has opened at the ICA in London recently. The years in question saw a number of discotheques open across Italy, including several designed by architects of Radical Design, a movement active in the 60s and 70s populated by architects such as Gruppo 9999, Superstudio and UFO. Dissatisfied by the limitations and ineffectiveness of post-war modern design, these architects sought to use their profession as a tool for societal change and to challenge the idea of architects’ role in society. In a period of change and contestation in Italy more generally, these socially orientated, politicised architects saw discos as a new type of space for multidisciplinary experimentation and creative liberation. The display explores this little-known phenomenon through archival photographs, architectural drawings, film, music and articles from the international design press. Italy’s discos were known as Pipers, named after the first such venue, which opened in Rome in 1965. Designed by Manilo Cavalli, and Francesco and Giancarlo Capolei it featured reconfigurable furnishings, audio-visual technologies and a stage for Italian and British acts from Patty Pravo to Pink Floyd, who performed against a backdrop of works by artists including Piero Manzoni and Andy Warhol.

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of the ICA 

The Hunt for the Next Big Talent: Hannah Jinkins

Fashion is always looking forward – the discipline is about dreams and renewal, but nowadays it seems to happen faster and more often than ever before. New collections, new trends, new it-pieces, and last but not least the constant hunt for new talents. Everyone from fashion houses to low price chains wants to join the party by finding the next talents through competitions, mentoring, internships and guest collections. They are often spotted when they still are in fashion school and some are even offered jobs by the time they are graduating. We are of course talking about upcoming designers. Don’t take us wrong, it is great that the fashion industry supports new talents, helping them to establish their work. However, we believe it to be equally important for the young and upcoming designers to be able to grow and find their own aesthetic, without worrying about opinions, money and selling numbers. Just focusing on designing and creating. But that is in many cases just a dream too good to be true, and the second best thing could therefore be for them to grow within a company interested in their visions.

H&M has for a long period of time been supporting new talents and they are for example celebrating them through their H&M Design Awards. The winner of this year’s edition is the Royal College of Art graduate Hannah Jinkins. Her graduate collection is inspired by work wear, masculine and ordinary working uniforms transformed through advanced tailoring. The whole collection was born from a reinvented denim jacket and the result is sculptural, form fitted, raw denim pieces. Jinkins is awarded with 50 000 euro and the possibility to, together with H&M, produce and sell parts of her collection in the brand’s stores next Fall. It sounds like a great start of what we believe will be a long career.

Hanna Cronsjö 

Retracing Modernist Architecture in California

There is a special relationship between sunny California and modernism. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, the Golden State was a rich hub for innovation in design, with proponents like Charles and Ray Eames leading the way for establishing a truly American modernist aesthetics. Delving into the rich architectural heritage, the photographer Stephanie Kloss explores the material qualities of that period through an appealing series of photographs displayed above.

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of Stephanie Kloss 

Fashion is Not Dead – Just Changing

The industry of trend forecasting has developed rapidly and companies within the fields of fashion, design, lifestyle, food and beauty are working with it. Why? The answer may lie in the fact that our world has become more complex and hard to understand with so many different influences and trends co-existing at the same time. One person who has become one of the best at reading and analysing all of these tendencies and determining whether they will turn out to be a trend worth noticing or not, is Lidewij Edelkoort. Her trend forecasting company Trend Union has agents based all over the globe and she helps some of the biggest companies to adapt to future needs and demands. Last week, she held a seminar in Copenhagen which we had the possibility to attend. After listening to several other forecasters, we didn’t know what to expect. But sitting in the nice cinema in central Copenhagen watching beautiful pictures, music and text creating an interesting multimedia experience, we had to admit – there is a reason why Li Edelkoort and her team are portrayed as the best of the best in their industry.

She guided the seminar by explaining and developing ideas first presented on the big screen. A while ago she declared that: ”fashion is dead” a statement that became the talk of the town (which also proves her great impact on the industry). Edelkoort followed up on that idea during her presentation by saying that it is the fashion system with all its stresses, pressures and money that will change. Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz were used as two recent examples of the unhealthy environment that is the fashion industry today. Instead she believes craft and couture will be the next two big things where the status of production will be redefined. Only time will tell if this is where we are headed.

Hanna Cronsjö 

Fashion as digital materiality? Digital Disturbances at Fashion Space Gallery

The hunger fashion always feels for the new can only be fostered through a close relationship with the development of new ways to design, produce and even think about fashion. That’s why the link between fashion and technology has always been so tight. From ‘analogic’ to ‘digital’ technology, it seems to be the scientific basis on which fashion can build its fantasies, and develop its discourse. The digital is something so present in our lives that it is actually very difficult to understand its urgency and perceive its materiality. Its pervasiveness goes hand in hand with its invisibility, making it a theme difficult to catch; digital and material are, though, two languages that are incredibly interwoven in the fabric of contemporary life, and they are coming together in fashion, merging in the process and dialoguing in the outputs.

Digital Disturbances, an exhibition at Space Fashion Gallery in London, is a visual critical commentary on the digital takeover that happened in the fashion industry at least in the last two decades. The exhibition deals precisely with the interconnection of fashion and digital design. But digital technology does not only serve the production of fashion artefacts; it also contributes to the construction of its narrative. It presents recent works as well as new commissions, documenting the ways in which designers deal and engage with the digital both in the design process and in the conceptualisation of their work and aesthetic. The exhibition showcases video installations as well as actual garments. Even in the staging, the exhibition becomes a way to convey the discourse and the bond between fashion and digital practices, in the creation of actual objects, and in the construction of tales.

Digital Disturbances is a good way to start to understand how the digital is experienced – and consumed – within the multifaceted practice of fashion. It is curated by Leanne Wierzba, and serves as a sort of ‘stop and think’ spot, slowing the pace of innovation and, at the same time, requesting innovation to complicate its terms. The exhibition raises a lot of questions – about ethics, economics, authorship, value, perception. The most urgent, though, emerges by the very means of the ‘display’, used by the curator to try and answer these questions: what is the critical assessment of digital design, its definition and meaning in contemporary culture? The exhibition is a rapid response, the beginning of a critical analysis of contemporary culture in acto, which inevitably becomes history in the making.

Marta Franceschini 

Sophie Green: Gypsy Gold

Photographer Sophie Green’s fascination with the quirks and eccentricities of travellers was born after watching the series ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’. She explains: “I became captivated by the heritage and traditions behind their lives and felt compelled to go and discover their unique culture for myself. The shoots took me to regional horse fairs from Appleby in Cumbria, across to Ballianasloe in Ireland, all the way south to Wickham horse fair in Portsmouth. At the fairs, horses are traded, girls search for husbands and friends and family from far and wide reunite. I love the vibrancy and colours of the fairs and find them totally mesmerising – incredible faces, theatrical outfits, traditional carts, horses, cockerel fights, singing birds and fortune-tellers. Whilst shooting I often felt like I had gone back in time. The process was very organic and the series is a spontaneous, intuitive reaction to what I observed. I became obsessed with small details – the fashion, makeup, eyebrows, hairstyles, market fakes, leather, bits and whips. It’s a series of fun incidentals which create a visual story.”

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of Sophie Green 

Paulin, Paulin, Paulin – An Artful Design Dialogue

One of the main difficulties in displaying objects of design in an exhibition setting is how out of context they often feel. Taken out of their everyday setting, where they are given meaning through use, and placed in the silent environment of a white gallery objects are unable to tell stories about their purpose and role in the world. Aware of this unexpected muteness, curators of design try to offer contextual clues through descriptions, drawings, photographs, documents, yet objects can often resist theoretical talk in favour of a more tactile, multisensory dialogue. A recent exhibition at Galerie Perrotin attempts to diffuse such complexities by constructing a dialectical relationship between objects of design and works of art.

Titled “Paulin, Paulin, Paulin” the exhibition brings together the work of Pierre Paulin, one of the most significant French designers of the past century, with a series of artworks that share a vision and affinity, or production context and contextual reference with his work. Paulin’s most significant work was produced during the 1960s, in an era signed by technological innovation, creative imagination and liberation from social constraints. His work, marked by an organic, de-structured formal composition, exploited technological innovation in order to display non-conformity towards social rules, while participating in exponential expansion of consumer culture, just like works of pop-art included in the show.

Similarly, “Dune” and “Tapis-Siège” pieces, designed by Paulin in 1970 for Herman Miller, are brought to life through the work by John De Andrea, that shows a hyperrealist figure of a languorous naked woman, sitting on a “Dune,” highlighting its sensuality, as does another figure, lying in the middle of a “Tapis- Siège” which is made half of origami and half oriental carpets. Halfway between fiction and reality, the shows brings together the ironic seriousness of works like Elmgreen & Dragset’s Untitled (Home is the Place You Left) with Paulin’s objects designed for everyday, timeless use. But what is the point of this dialogue? If exhibitions of design put objects out of context, how can their mingling with art contribute to any better understanding of what design is? By placing Pierre Paulin’s innovative work alongside iconic artworks, the curator of the exhibition, Cloé Pitiot, tells us about the cultural and ideological context of their creation, points to possible interpretations of the domestic environment of their use, and shows what is their place in the world today.

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of Galerie Perrotin