24/07/2014

What Has Beene Done: Revising Geoffrey Beene

In today’s fashion, the cult of personality is of utmost importance. We are used to relating the name of a brand to that of a precise designer, always waiting for the next shift, the next reshuffling of fashion teams. To some extent, we have actually become spectators more than involved consumers, looking at fashion as a stage on which designers move, carefully playing their designater roles. In this context, the peculiar story of Geoffrey Beene has the shape of a paradox. Beene was among the first to openly advocate for individual identities of designers to be recognized, beyond the limits and restrictions imposed by the industry. Nowadays only a few, even among fashion students and industry professionals, are fully aware of the work of a man who dared to put his name – rather than that of a company – on the labels of his creations, sold in an eponymous boutique on the Seventh Avenue in New York. It happened in 1963, in a decade fraught with change and innovation: a golden age of individuality, personalities and character destined to stand out and make a difference.

Geoffrey Beene was, of course, one of these incredible personalities. His work must be noted for its capability of fusing together thoughts and reflections on different spheres of the fashion system, defending the autonomy and supremacy of creativity and originality. It could be that his short-lived experience as a medicine student, promptly abandoned to pursue a career in fashion, sparked an interest in the female body. Strongly interested in its curves and lines, Beene shared the same analytical vision of anatomy with his contemporary Charles James. His designs took into consideration the needs and desires of women who, after becoming Beene’s customers, were totally devoted to his vision: sometimes irreverent, other times extremely elegant, Beene brought pret-a-porter on the same level of couture for both structure and significance. “Design is a revelation to me. It’s like taking something that is not alive and giving it form, shape, substance, and life,” he used to say. Beene’s revelation was supported by hard work on unusual fabrics, always looking for new ways to break into a consolidated language with measured grafts, precisely thought to fit into a pre-existent discourse. He was the first to bring jersey and other ‘poor’ materials to the ballroom, minimising seams and cuts to “let the fabric move and flow”. This was just one of many ways for stating, again and again, that the value of a design is not just in the preciousness of materials and fabrics, but in the ability and wit of who is capable of taming its intrinsic characteristics, subduing it to his will.

A trailblazer, Beene was sure of his abilities and completely into each of his designs, which he followed from conception to production and retail. Beene tried to protect his work in every way, pointing out that what was to be protected was first of all the identity of the person behind (and inside) the clothes. The dignity of his designs was considered a value to be shared with the consumer who felt part of a wider project, as if initiated to a new philosophy. His admirers are numerous, and his legacy counts, among the others, the names of Issey Miyake and, above all, Alber Elbaz who worked in tight contact with Beene for many years. “He taught me everything”, Elbaz points out, showing that Geoffrey Beene was a protector and could still be a teacher whose lessons should be taken out of the shade of history to serve as precious tools for reading the contemporary.

Marta Franceschini 
24/07/2014

The Talented: Maiko Takeda

Originally from Tokyo, Japanese designer Maiko Takeda recently completed an MA in Millinery at the Royal College of Art in London and is currently working for Issey Miyake on the brand’s line of accessories. Before joining the RCA, Takeda has studied Jewellery Design at Central Saint Martins and has worked both with Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy. Her bold and original pieces have been frequently shown in fashion magazines and other pop cultural contexts, where they are appreciated for their sculptural qualities and intricate design.

Maiko Takeda’s design aesthetic is far from traditional and the creation of her latest collection started with a question: “how would it feel to wear a cloud?” The aim was therefore to create three dimensional objects which pushed the boundaries of the wearer’s surrounding space, taking inspiration from Robert Wilson’s 1976 production of Philip Glass’ opera “Einstein on the Beach”. Many of her pieces focuses on the area from the neck up which, seen from a historical point of view, is usually adorned with objects displaying symbols of wealth and luxury. Huge jewelry pieces were symbols of power – showing that the wearer was not afraid of taking physical space or being noticed and looked at. The view on this kind of attention-drawing jewelry has, however, changed from being a symbol of money and wealth to a pop cultural phenomenon. Takeda’s jewelery is the prime example of this shift of focus and re-appropriation of cultural meaning. Maiko Takeda has made a modern version of the old status symbols, where the most significant effect of wearing them is still left intact – they undeniably draw attention.

Hanna Cronsjö 
23/07/2014

The Power of the Fashion Muse

The story of relationships between artists and their muses is an old and well-know one. Creatives from all over the world have always been inspired and guided by other human beings: by their needs, their styles, their attitude or, simply, by the alchemy that sparked from their mutual relationship. Debra N. Mancoff, Adjunct Professor at the School of Art Institute of Chicago, investigated this parallel world of complex and fascinating ‘creative couples’ in a recently published book titled “Fashion Muse”.

The tome’s narrative is guided by photographs and drawings, which animate the lives of fashion muses throughout history: starting from ancient Greek goddesses to Charles Frederick Work – the very first couturier from 1800s – who created clothes inspired by his wife, up to Elsa Shiaparelli, inspired by an entire art movement, the Surrealism. Fashion designers’ muses can often change with the evolution of their style or, simply, life. Like Yves Saint Laurent, who praised different, yet equally bold, female characters, from Lou Lou De La Falaise to Betty Catroux. Madame Coco Chanel and Diane Von Furstenberg, on the other hand, have always been the inspiration for themselves meaning they didn’t really have another source of influence other than their own persona. “Fashion Muse”, published by Prestel, is a volume that aims to investigate the reality behind the flimsy idea of ‘inspiration’ – the life, the cultural and historical background, the origins of women, men and sometimes movements, who animated the creativity of fashion.

Francesca Crippa 
23/07/2014

Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album

A rebel, outcast, innovator and explorer, Dennis Hopper was the icon of last century’s troubled youth, fascinated by his restless wanderings and unnerving psychedelic exploration captured in 1969 masterpiece Easy Rider. “With its portrait of counterculture heroes raising their middle fingers to the uptight middle-class hypocrisies, Easy Rider became the cinematic symbol of the 1960s, a celluloid anthem to freedom, macho bravado and anti-establishment rebellion.”, Ann Hornaday wrote in Hopper’s eulogy in the Washington Post in 2010. More interested in “the reality of things going on around me than the fantasies of the world I work in,” Hopper captured America’s dynamic social and cultural life of the 60s in more than 18,000 photographs moving between humour and pathos, the playful and the intimate, the glamorous and the everyday. A body of 400 photographs – initially selected by Hopper for an exhibition at Fort Worth Art Center in Texas in 1970 – is now staged at London’s Royal Academy in an exhibition titled “Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album” running through October 19th 2014.

Rujana Rebernjak – Images courtesy of the Royal Academy 
22/07/2014

Pierre Charpin for Appartement N°50

Designed immediately after the end of Second World War and built between 1947 and 1952, Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse in Marseille is an imposing building: 137 meters long, 24 meters wide and 56 meters high, with 18 stories set on massive piloti that can house up to 3000 people. Structured as a rigid architectural grid based on a single, carefully proportioned, apartment unit, Cité Radieuse represents the synthesis of Le Corbusier’s thought, a monument to the Modern Movement and a concrete utopian dream. Unlike many similar large housing units, Cité Radieuse remains popular with its residents, mainly upper middle-class professionals and intellectuals. One of its residents is Jean-Marc Drut. Since 2008, Mr. Drut has asked Jasper Morrison, Erwan and Ronan Boroullec, Konstantin Grcic and now Pierre Charpin to furnish the interior of his n°50 apartment.

Bearing witness to a particularly visionary moment in design history, apartment N°50 sets a challenging background for any object placed within its walls and it is particularly difficult not to draw comparisons between the original Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé-designed furniture and its contemporary counterparts. At the same time, it is also difficult to view apartment N°50 as a regular residence, rather than a house-shaped monument. Aware of the building’s significance, Charpin said “For me, it was clear that I didn’t want to propose just an exhibition of my own objects in a famous apartment. I wanted to do some kind of arrangement with my own objects in a way that respected the lives of the owners. The challenge was to be present but not invasive.” Differently from his predecessor Konstantin Grcic, whose choice of punk-zine prints transformed the apartment in a sterile gallery, Charpin opted for a more subtle and homely touch. By mixing limited edition objects, such as his Série Écran vases with industrially produced furniture (Desa table lights, Via shelf, Chaise Empilabile chair, Stump side table), Charpin created a visually rich project – colorful, slightly lived-in and far more authentic – silently acknowledging the apartment’s past – though bold use of colour reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s facade and rich drawings –, and its present everyday use.

Rujana Rebernjak – Images courtesy of Philippe Savoir 
21/07/2014

Style Suggestions: Summer Whites

Nothing says summer like a white on white look and this season it is a trend that has gone from catwalk to the street. Whatever your trajectory, this is your blank canvas to run with.

T-shirt: Rag&Bone, Skirt: Christopher Kane, Sandals: Ancient Greek Sandals, Ring: Maison Martin Margiela

Styling by Vanessa Cocchiaro 

21/07/2014

Germany Divided — Baselitz And His Generation

Following the end of the Second World War, Germany undoubtedly developed into a hotbed of artistic talent. Mainly focussing on meaningful and monumental painting and sculpture, German artists reflected on thorny issues of social change raised throughout the then society. The cultural atmosphere of the period – or rather its Zeitgeist – politically and physically divided by the iron curtain is the starting point of the exhibition currently on view at the British Museum rightly entitled .

Georg Baselitz (b. 1938), Markus Lüpertz (b. 1941), Blinky Palermo (1943-1977), AR Penck (b. 1939), Sigmar Polke (1941-2010) and Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) would all move from East to West Germany both before and after the borders were sealed in 1961. This would mark them as key players of an art grown breathing the collective guilt experienced by German people, while living the contrast between Capitalism of “free” West and Communism of the Soviet bloc – a collective cultural spirit which this exhibition aims to retrace.

90 works produced during the 60s and 70s by six artists, who still remain leaders of contemporary art scene, are exhibited here as evidence of the reaction of an artistic generation to the heaviness of its recent past. Without a common stylistic fil rouge, but united by an authentic spirit of sharing and exchange, along with a taste for large scale and a pronounced expressive fervor, each artist developed his own personal language. Half-composed by works on paper and canvas, the peculiar research made by Baselitz, central figure of this show, focuses on a vibrant, provocative, somehow brutal figuration characterized by strong and stylistically extraordinary gestural acts. The artist, who challenged the powerlessness of a certain kind of abstraction by inverting his paintings upside down, is particularly able in objectifying an artwork. His upside down works allowed him to go beyond the subjects and maintain his artistic approach in a period when more cerebral forms of art like abstraction, minimalism and conceptualism were imposing their rules.

Paraphrasing the curator and art historian Sir Norman Rosenthal “every great artist since the Renaissance who has lived a long time – from Titian to Poussin, from Goya and Turner to Cézanne and then Picasso and Munch – has had to find ways to deal with the need for constant reinvention. After a career of almost 50 years, Baselitz still has the capacity to shock and behave unexpectedly, as he succeeds in being both out of his time and profoundly of it.” 34 of the works on display coming from Count Duerckheim’s prestigious collection, have been generously donated to the British Museum. The exhibition runs through August 31st 2014.

Monica Lombardi – Images courtesy of the British Museum 
18/07/2014

The Future of Swedish Fashion | Part Two

Currently on show at Sven-Harrys museum in Stockholm (running through August 31), “Swedish Fashion: 2000-2015” traces the explosion of Swedish fashion creativity at the turn of the century. Among the authors represented in the exhibition, chosen by a panel of esteemed fashion professionals, are three young designers undoubtedly representing the future of Swedish fashion: Anders Haal, Leonard Kocic and Giorgi Rostiashvili.

After graduating from Beckmans College of Design in 2009, Anders Haal worked for the Swedish fashion designer Ann-Sofie Back, before founding his own brand HAAL in 2013. The first collection, showcased in Paris, featured an elaborate mix of different techniques and influences. Anders Haal, proponent of the line of thought based on reworking simple ideas, keeps the shapes clean, focussing, instead, on unconventional materials and finishes. The young designer aims to develop clothes which make the wearer feel comfortable and free.

Twenty-one-year old Leonard Kocic, despite still being a student at Beckmans College of Design where he will graduate this summer, was already awarded the Bernadotte Art Awards. The young designer, who was born in Serbia and moved to Sweden in 2003, finds his inspiration in abstract thoughts and structures. For his graduation collection, he was influenced by his mother and her look, resulting in a dark, romantic and elegant collection, made of materials like organza and silk.

Giorgi Rostiashvili was born in Georgia and after moving around to different countries such as Russia, Greece and Cyprus settled in Sweden nearly a decade ago. His work is often influenced by thoughtful observation, related to the many moves during his upbringing. Giorgi Rostiashvili’s BA-collection from the Royal Danish Academy, is called SUBSTRATUM and is inspired by the Americanization of Japan and the interesting mix of the two very different cultures. Fused with experimentation on material combinations, attention to details and craftsmanship, Giorgi Rostiashvili’s originality brought him the prestigious Danish Designers’ Nest Show award, confirming his position among young Scandinavian talents.

Hanna Cronsjö 
17/07/2014

The Red Dinosaur

Completed in 1973, the Gallaratese housing block established the name of Aldo Rossi (1931-1997). Situated in a north west suburb of Milan, the bulding is the fifth construction within a larger 440-unit complex designed by Carlo Aymonino, who invited Rossi to design Monte Amiata complex. It comprises five red buildings: twо eight-storie slabs, а long three-stories building, another three-stories slab, аnd аn interconnecting structure grouped around а central area wіth а yellow open-air theater аnd twо smaller triangular plazas. Іt іs sometimes referred tо аs the “Red Dinosaur” іn reference both tо the reddish color оf the buildings аnd the oddity оf theіr design.

According to Rossi, the form was a reference to the galleried ballatoio housing typical of 1920s Milan. The whole building is relentlessly basic and singular in its concept. The flats are arranged between parallel walls above the arcade on two or three floors with deck access. The complexity оf the skyline іs enriched by а number оf passages, decks, elevators, balconies, terraces аnd bridges connecting the buildings wіth each оther аnd providing а great variety оf pedestrian walking paths. Rossi had the idea that buildings should show the passage of time and these columns remind of the famous picture of the architect standing between the columns of the Parthenon on the Acropolis. He was interested in the form of the city and how its monuments gave it identity. For this reason, one of the distinctive element that elevates the bulding to a monument status, is the straight character of the recurrence of the septa: an almost neoclassical colonnade, with a lot of depth and shadow, as if it were an empty shell. Aldo Rossi based his work on formal logic reduction to basic elements of composition. His forms were always essential, coming from archetypical typologies, but overlaid with the imagination of the architect. He argued that buildings should be general in their form and non-specific about their function, because if they last their use will change over time.

Rossi opposes to the generic invention of the primary meaning of archetypal shapes, repetition and spatial value. The project ends here. Nothing more. Functionalism has been overthrown, just form remains. In the inside, a perspectival space, which, unlike the ground level, has no direct but only visual relationship with the surroundings. The inner space is characterized by a matrix field plan, based on the geometry of the facades. It produces a kind of hyper-relational field, capable of accomodating multiple configurations.Due to its significance and architectural correctness, Gallarate today is not just a bedroom community on the outskirts of Milan, but a space of relationships, of urbanity. While it is true that much cement was used, the extensive use of green surfaces, places of intrapersonal relationships and its impressive visual impact, make Gallarate a significant lesson in the history of architecture.

Giulio Ghirardi 
17/07/2014

The War of the Scrunchie

Inevitably, as time goes by, we repeatedly find ourselves talking about those throwback items you have sworn you would never wear again. This time around, the revival item of choice is the scrunchie: that cozy and, if read in a certain way, feminine accessory. Twenty years after its peak moment – how could we forget Madonna wearing an oversized scrunchie in Desperately Seeking Susan back in 1985 – some of the trendiest celebrities, partly supported by the fashion world itself, have brought the scrunchie back to a moment of glory. From Cara Delevingne to Suki Waterhouse, the trend is under our nose.

Taking this story step by step, we cannot but mention the origins of the scrunchie, created in Vancouver in 1984 by Jane Reid who named it “bunch bangle”. Nevertheless, the patent for the scrunchie is equally claimed by Roomy Revson, who called it “scunci”. At the time, the scrunchie was simply part of the cool uniform typical of the decade, usually paired with high waisted jeans, white socks, tennis shoes and oversized jumpers – the same we now buy at vintage stores and flea markets.

Equally loved and loathed, the scrunchie remains a tricky fashion accessory, meaning there’s no middle ground. From the hate camp, we can’t but remember Carry Bradshaw’s “Sex and The City” argument against the scrunchie: “Okay, but here’s the thing. Here’s my crucial point. No women who works at W Magazine and lives on Perry Street would be caught dead at a hip downtown restaurant wearing a scrunchie!” The fact is, even if Rag&Bone proudly ran the scrunchie on their last pre-fall lookbook, following the path of both traditional (Missoni) and fresh (Ashish) aesthetics, we are still asking ourselves which part we would side with.

Francesca Crippa