Maison&Objet 2015: From Crafting to Making

“Birthday cakes meet birthday plates” is the unusual claim that Maison&Objet has chosen to celebrate its twenty years of activity. The anniversary represents the culmination of an acknowledgment: not only the Parisian kermesse is the major symbol of French Touch in the domestic fields of design and decoration, but it has also gained the status of a not-to-be-missed rendez vous for the international design community (we are indeed speaking about the most hardened competitor of the Salone del Mobile, aren’t we?).

Two indicators measure its state of health. First, in 2015 the tradeshow expands its foreign presence and inaugurates the first edition of its American brand-extension, Maison&Objet Americas, which follows the opening of the Maison&Objet Asia branch in Singapore last year. Secondly, previews stop to be a monopoly of the Milan Design Week, and get more and more numerous at Parc Villepeint: De La Espada inaugurates the personal brands of Autoban and Luca Nichetto, La Chance presents the new pieces of the Art Decò star Jacques Emiles Ruhlman, Matali Crasset unveils her concrete furniture collection, Multifacet by Concrete LCDA, Ligne Roset re-edits 1953 Daybed by Pierre Paulin, while Jean Louis Iratzoki launches bio plastic chair Chair Kuskoa Bi, just to mention the most accomplished results.

Beside this host of proposals, a stimulating contribution is offered by the exhibition that the fair forecasting department, Maison&Objet Observatory, has organized to enlighten the emerging trends that are having a wider impact on design culture. The show’s title – “Make”, further declined in three sections “Nature Made”, “Human Made” and “Techno Made” – seems at first sight a delayed proposal if compared to the multiple initiatives that have already introduced the wider public to fab culture (“Open Design Arcipelago” in Palazzo Clerici still remains unequalled). Nevertheless, this approach à la français is an effective attempt to trace a red line between the world of Makers and that of Crafters. Often confused with one another, these two domains have different roots – notably engineering and handcraftsmanship -, but show an increasing continuity as they all conceive design as the open outcome of a conceptual and material process rather than the search of a finished, given product. The works of Erik Klarenbeek, Lex Pott, Sebastian Cox, Seraina Lareina clearly disclose a common tension toward aesthetic uncertainty and, thus far, seem to burst with the most vital and inspiring energy spotted at the fair.

Giulia Zappa 

The Talented: Ximon Lee

Ximon Lee is this year’s winner of the prestigious H&M Design Award which granted him a unique runway show during Stockholm Fashion Week where he displayed his AW 2015 collection. For Lee, a recent graduate of Parsons New School for Design in New York, this must be a dream come true. The link between this recently announced collaboration with the Swedish brand and Lee’s academic background is particularly interesting, as the collection for H&M partly draws upon his graduation collection at Parsons: they shares the same ambitious desire to make a statement through design. However, the references it displays are actually much broader and rich. A Polish documentary from 2005, “The Children of Leningradsky”, is translated into garments through a process of recollection and reconstruction from the designer’s own childhood. The memory of his earlier life – the grey architecture typical of the Soviet cities and colorless winters pictured in the documentary – form both a romance and a fascination, while oversized pieces and complex layers portrayed in the movie, left clear traces on his design aesthetics.

Nevertheless, it would be reductive to define Lee’s collection only in terms of oversized shapes, as it is far more experimental – especially considering the commercially demanding client. Lee’s work consciously abolishes the dynamics of H&M’s widespread and often flattening fashion machine, by introducing peaces that are unlikely and challenging, full of refreshing architectural references and over-shaped, boxy silhouettes with sweet messages softening some pieces. Lee himself says the whole collection is very personal and lays him close to heart, and such an emotional involvement stands out and makes his work authentic. Seen within a fashion week that has been much about showing clothes and less about telling stories and ideas, it is hopeful to see there is still hope for an alternative view of fashion.

Hanna Cronsjö 

Daily Tips: Buy Some Books at LA Art Book Fair

Printed Matter, the historical institution based in New York dedicated to preserving and promoting the production of artists’ book, has moved to the West Coast for the third year in a row for LA Art Book Fair. Starting this evening with a special musical performances by No Age and Prince Rama, and running until the 1st of February at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, LA Art Book Fair is a unique event for artists’ books, art catalogs, monographs, periodicals, and zines presented by over 250 international presses, booksellers, antiquarians, artists, and independent publishers. If you are lucky enough to be in LA this weekend, don’t miss the chance to catch up with the latest gems in contemporary art publishing.

The Blogazine 

Walter Van Beirendonck: the Politics of Fashion

Recently, one of the founding members of the Antwerp Six responded to the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, by letting a see-through tank top with the words “Stop Terrorising Our World” open his AW 2015 fashion show. The powerful words a ready-made, a reused artwork from the slogan of Walter Van Beirendonck’s 2006 AW collection. The designer himself explained his stand to the French newspaper Le Point by simply stating that “when you see what is happening in the world, you must react.”

Throughout his career Van Beirendonck has combined his textile designs with artwork and elaborate graphics. His style aesthetic is not limited to textiles and he excels in expanding his abilities and communicative skills by any means. This includes showcasing inspiration from different cultures and historic events. There is always a message to be found in Walter van Beirendonck’s collections, be it clear or hidden. In his collection for AW 2014 it was written in bright red “Stop Racism” graphics. At his AW 2010 fashion show, all his models wore big earmuffs and some carried guns. He was then quoted to say that he felt the world was a scary place, and these accessories exemplified his view on the current state of society. The notion of his designs seems to steam from a need to express thoughts, feelings, and annoyances. They all fuel Van Beirendoncks creative process, and instead of using pen and paper he uses needle and thread.

Fashion can be viewed as a means to communicate; it is a way to portray more than just a shallow surface. The fashion world’s combination of a global and intermedia platform harvests an important echo for designers to open up their minds, an approach Walter Van Beirendonck seems to have taken to heart. Fashion may be considered a frivolity by many and using it as a media for these messages may be somewhat ironic. However, fashion is also one of the world’s most lucrative businesses and has a great capital in the markets, which makes it a loud voice to use when in need to speak up your mind.

Victoria Edman 

An Androgynous Change of Course in Italian Fashion

The fact that menswear has been borrowing both pieces and influences from the female wardrobe is not a new tendency, but it has, up until now, been read more as a subcultural than a widespread development. The latest brand to join Saint Laurent and J.W. Anderson in this female-take-on-menswear, androgynous trend is, perhaps a bit surprisingly, the classy Italian label Gucci. The recent Fall/Winter 2015 collection shown in Milan, was the first runway under the new Creative DirectorAlessandro Michele – who took over Gucci after Frida Giannini’s sudden departure. The questions following the move were, and remain, many: Might this collection be the beginning of a new Gucci era? Can we officially say that the “feminisation” has become mainstream in menswear?

If we were to try to understand such a phenomenon, above the simplistic search for ‘novelty’, we should take into account that brands and their collections have developed greatly in the past few years and are now pushing the limits more often than they used to, with the androgynous approach as only one example of that process. However, it is questionable how much this trend will effect how the majority of men are dressing. Will we be seeing the full Gucci look, which felt very 70s and Jagger-like, with tie blouses and silky materials, on the streets? Probably not. It might lead to some female details in next year’s collections, but will not take over men’s wardrobe in the same way classic menswear pieces have entered the female one. One exception to this might be the Asian market, which is a bit more risk-taking when it comes to challenging male stereotypes. This might also be a very practical explanation of why we saw that many silky blouses on the Gucci runway. But above all formal influences and brand strategy, what is most remarkable about Gucci’s new Creative Director is his apparent speed and easy at work. If this is what Alessandro Michele can pull off in ten days, which was supposedly all the time he got to set up the show, just think of what he will do with more time on his hands.

Hanna Cronsjö 

Daily Tips: Julio Le Parc’s Kaleidoscopic Art

Argentinian-born artist Julio Le Parc (1928, lives in France) is known for creating artworks that dynamically animate and transform space through light. Featuring seminal installations and interactive works from the early 1960s to the present day, Le Parc’s playful and mesmerising exhibition at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London transforms the exhibition space and actively involves visitors. The exhibition highlights the different dimensions in Le Parc’s works, from his politicised drawings and interactive works to his iconic light installations. Experimentation with light as well as the physical involvement and visual stimulation of the spectator have been crucial throughout Le Parc’s career. The visitor’s participation is both passive and active, with the exhibition design reminiscent of an amusement arcade and its numerous booths.

The Blogazine 

Biki: Feminine Pragmatism in Fashion

There is something fascinating in the profession of the tailor. Tailors seem to have answers on how to mould human body and turn imperfections to harmony: they are a figure somewhere in between a scientist and a priest, dealing both with the mystic and the physic. Usually, a tailor is a male noun, implying a specific gender. In the ‘mainstream’ history of fashion, all the great tailors are men: Christian Dior, Cristobal Balenciaga, Jacques Fath just to name a few. But, when females work as tailors, all rules change. The profession becomes far more pragmatic, maybe because women deal with female body without idealising it, but actually looking at it for what it is, sometimes in ruthless and unscrupulous ways, and trying to make good dresses for other women to look proper – and, of course, at ease – in every occasion.

Elvira Leonardi Broyure, or Biki, as she was personally and professionally known, has always preferred to be considered a tailor, and not a designer. Growing up in a culturally ebullient environment – Giacomo Puccini was her grandmother’s husband, the one who gave her the nickname ‘Bicchi’ – she decided to get into fashion because of her ‘natural taste’ and the rather stubborn inclination to shape what was around her through her vision. She opened her first atelier in Milan in 1934, together with fellow aristocrat Gina Cicogna. Her designs were of French inspiration, but recognisable in the combination of bold colours and unusual fabrics. She has been, in fact, one of the forerunners of the use of artificial fabrics for both daywear and evening gowns. Right after the war, she even joined the Snia Viscosa, the Italian association for research in artificial textiles.

‘I just want to dress beautiful women’. Selective and adamant in all her choices, both in design and in the choice of her clients, what drove Biki’s practice was surely her strong personality – it was probably her who pushed Maria Callas to lose weight, telling her that it was the only way she could be dressed in her creations. After her first boutiques opened between Milan, Sankt Moritz and Portofino, she went on expanding her label and arrived to produce almost everything, from lingerie to suits, from gowns to accessories. She even designed carpets, linens and tiles for many other labels – all rigorously Italian.

Her designs undoubtedly belong to Italian Alta Moda; nevertheless, she paved the way to the development of prét-a-porter, collaborating with, for example, GFT Gruppo Finanziario Tessile, for whom she signed a line called ‘Cori-Biki’ in the late Sixties. Biki’s style was typically Italian, linked to a well defined world: that of the Milanese ‘vita’, gathered around the theatre La Scala and the posh Via Montenapoleone. Still, she managed to cross the boundaries of the country, thanks to the actresses and personalities who proudly wore Biki style, made of tailored suits in audacious combinations and, above all, accessories, like her infamous turbans.

Her role in history of fashion is surely that of a pioneer: actually, more as a businesswoman than a tailor. Her figure stands out as one of the first examples of emancipated women who showed, in unsuspected times, a capacity to run a huge business while being a creative and a woman. Biki was, indeed, a bright predecessor of the campaign for the ‘new emancipation’ brought on, some years later, by Donna Karan.

Marta Franceschini 

Paris Fashion Week: Prints

As Paris Fashion Week came to an end, we can say farewell to this season’s exciting menswear runways. Even though Couture captures all the attention now, we still want to linger on what we saw in the French capital by selecting five best prints that men will be wearing next season.

MAISON MARGIELA: After all the changes in the Maison’s direction, Margiela managed to keep things interesting and pretty good, especially in menswear. Pale, ruined and decadent at the right level, these prints make every mise look delicate.

DRIES VAN NOTEN: Sensual and flamboyant, men on the show wore their shirts rigorously open, with the colour palette being quite dark and intriguing.

LOUIS VUITTON: A mirrored pattern chosen by Louis Vuitton for next winter draws on a contrasting combination of dark and light tones, with drawings printed in black on camel and grey.

VALENTINO: The key word here is geometry: rigorous figures decorate sweaters and coats combining different tonalities, resulting in simple yet very effective garments.

ALEXANDER WANG: For his menswear line, the young designer went all-in with the camouflage. Delicate and based on same tones, this camouflage pattern defined a new modern and contemporary approach, so typical of the designer’s oeuvre.

Francesca Crippa 

Peter Doig | When Painting Transcends Time

The art world has wondered a lot about the power of painting to renew itself and remain up-to-date. This heated debate can be hardly be understood without looking at leading figures of this unlimited media. Peter Doig (b. 1959, United Kingdom) is definitely among the artists who will earn a place of honor in the Olympus of 21st century painting, not least due to his astounding quotations at international auctions.

Like Luc Tuymans or Elizabeth Peyton, among other artists of the generation, Doig avails himself of other media such as photography, using pictures, other paintings, books, or films in order to collect traces of memory, fragments of the past, subsequently used as starting points for new narrations. A first glance at Doig’s work captures the attention through intensity and beauty of its landscapes, whether urban or natural, exotic or ordinary, colourful or pale. These landscapes represent real places where Doig has lived (Canada, England, Trinidad) mingled with imaginary elements, which turn canvases into both descriptive and symbolic stories. The force of nature is very often balanced by human figure that plays a crucial role in the artist’s poetic: it could be an isolated subject, a lonely, soul-searching individual contemplating his reflection in the water or wandering in the snow; sometimes the figure stands out on the scene, at other times it blurs into the landscape. But the human figure is always a kind of a catalyst that drags the public into the artist’s work, as if they empathized with something weirdly familiar. The apparent harmony of colour structure hides a contradictory sense of melancholy and mystery, seeking an imaginative involvement that, if supported, can present a non-conventional journey for all the viewers.

Recognizing the suggestive genius of this brilliant artist, Fondation Beyeler presents an exhibition of his most important oil paintings and experimental works on paper, as well as a monumental new mural, which will run through March 22nd 2015 in Basel, Switzerland. Unmissable!

Monica Lombardi – Images courtesy of Fondation Beyeler 

Paris Fashion Week: Coats

Since Milano Moda Uomo has just passed the baton to Paris, the poshest of all fashion weeks, we are giving you a short and sweet slice of what will be the boldest trends for men for the upcoming Fall/Winter 2015 season. We start we the most obvious winter piece: the coat.

THE PVC COAT: The plastics inspiration infected more than one designer, even during Milano fashion week shows. In Paris, the best example was seen on Rick Owens’ runway. Obviously black, it presents a silhouette which is examplar: not too short and yet not too long.

THE VEST: We already talked about this trend a couple of months ago. As outwear, it should be worn long and matched with a heavy sweater. Raf Simons is the one who stood out with the vests he presented.

THE VERY LONG COAT: The long coat is going to take the place of the half-lenght one: majestic in its whole figure, it should be avoided by those not particularly high. The best example is the one designed by Walter Van Beirendonck: black and colored at the same time, it should be worn wide open.

THE CAPE: Christopher Lemaire is one of the most chic designers of the last generation. His inique and flawless style blends together with timelessly cool garments. For the next season the highlight is surely on the cape, which comes in military green.

THE ANIMALIER COAT: Mostly recognized as an aggressive print, so far only women have worn it on the catwalks. But for the next winter, it seems like it has finally entered the menswear world. Although we have seen different types of animalier garments on coats, it’s the one designed by Haider Ackermann that caught our eye.

Francesca Crippa