Vests for Late Autumn

The term vest derives from the Latin word “vestis”, which, originally, referred to a completely different type of clothing from a sleeveless coat, wool V neck sweater or even the traditional garment men wear under their suits, designated today with the term. And yet, the vest, has a long standing tradition as a typical menswear cloth, first popularized by King Charles II of England. Today, the vest remains one of the most popular items on the autumn runways, designed as much for women as for men.

On Milan’s catwalks we saw it in various versions: the ones by Missoni were fluffy and long, short and padded, rendered in a warm and autumnal palette for an interesting twist. Definitely less romantic and more urban, were the ones designed by Reed Krakoff. From small to bigger silhouettes, the approach remains the same: easy yet refined. Etro, instead, has decided to play with shearling for a short, but completely decorated result. For a second version, Etro chose wool, rendered in a retro mountain pattern and styled with cool long skirts. Prada took a similar path, with an extra large version of a mannish vest, proposed in different variations for Miu Miu Resort 2015 and even for Prada SS 2015.

Francesca Crippa 

Style Suggestions: Singing in the Rain

The long season of rain and cold is ahead of us, yet you don’t have to fear the gloomy weather if you learn to pick the right accessories. An elegant trench coat and a pair of cool rain boots should be matched with a classy hat and a colorful umbrella for a perfect rainy-day rhapsody.

Trench coat: Maison Martin Margiela, Hat: Super Duper, Bag: Givenchy, Boots: Miu Miu, Umbrella: Borsalino

Styling by Vanessa Cocchiaro 


Cecily Brown | The Rule Of Paint As Flesh

Cecily Brown (b. 1969, London) holds a place of honour among contemporary artists who work with painting, contributing to its continuous rebirth and experimentation. Praised in different cultural environments and able to get great market quotations – tough job for woman, even today –, Brown is an extremely expressive painter whose work is characterised by an intense chromatic language, mid-way between abstraction and figuration. Dialoguing with the history of painting, the English artist creates tangled compositions where distinctly identifiable and loosely outlined human figures sink and emerge from a chaotic, physical background. The distorted naked bodies with their fleeting nature and the overall structures reveal the influence of several artistic experiences, from Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon to Willem de Kooning, El Greco or the Impressionists, giving life to a piercing, gestural and layered painting. Brown’s wild, animal-like dimension is both suffering and joyful, there is no space for romanticism, while sexuality and eroticism prevail in most of her works. Sex and death are connected in acts of orgiastic pleasure, carnivals where rude and sharp emotions seem to carry on and enhance the “De Kooningesque” rule of paint as flesh.

For those keen on deepening their knowledge of Cecily Brown’s work, GAM – Civic gallery of modern and contemporary arts in Turin has arranged a significant retrospective devoted to the artist. Curated by Danilo Eccher, the exhibition follows the previous show organised at Macro in 2003. The exhibition counts about 50 works realized with different techniques such as large-scale canvases, ink and pencil on paper, gouaches, watercolours and 7 monotypes that encompass Brown’s complex research, giving the viewer the unique opportunity to admire pieces coming directly from the artist’s studio, besides the ones belonging to European and American private collections.
The exhibition will run through February 1st 2015 at GAM in Turin.

Monica Lombardi 

Banknotes and Passports, Norway Leads the Way in Institutional Branding

It’s comforting to know that these days, design is not necessarily relegated to the private domain of single consumers, ubiquitous designers and corporations, but it can be usefully employed to shape our experience of the world to the benefit of the public sector. Institutions, in fact, are primary players when it comes to ordering commissions or promoting a contest in the design field. In a few cases, however, their role is really irreplaceable, especially when they remain the only legitimate player who can use design as a means to inclusively represent a community in an accurate, engaging, and hopefully progressive way: beyond the status quo and through unpredicted and future-oriented solutions.

Norwegian institutions have recently proved capable of fulfilling these duties with courage and originality. Two months ago, in fact, Norway’s Central Bank announced the winners of a competition for the realization of new banknotes for the Scandinavian country. The graphics elaborated by architecture and design studio Snøhetta has been spotted by all magazines and design blogs worldwide: their geometrical patterns, inspired by the sense of boundary between land and sea and expressed through a pixelated, abstract texture, represent a clean change from the past. They archive, in fact, the celebratory language usually chosen by nations to represent themselves – the rhetoric of “a nation of saints, poets and sailors”, the worlds that Mussolini engraved in the Square Coliseum he built in the EUR district – by choosing to omit illustration and depiction.

Just a few days ago, then, Norway’s National Police Directorate has selected the best proposal of the contest it had launched in February to renovate the image of Norwegian passports and ID cards. The first price was won by Neue Studio from Oslo, which has chosen abstract signs to represent what, according to their words, is a key element all Norwegian people are engaged with in the same way: the bond with nature and with national landscapes. However, their project didn’t hesitate to go for a true coup de théâtre: under UV light, the landscapes within the pages turn into a positive representation of themselves, and thanks to photosensitive ink, they are transformed into a night-time view that evokes the magical charm of a nativity scene background. Thus, an unexpected narrative dimension is included: the passage between day and night, the true genius loci of all Nordic countries.

Giulia Zappa 

Ann-Sofie Back: Everything Must Go

Ann-Sofie Back, internationally recognised for her unconventional pieces, is the first Swedish fashion designer to be awarded the Torsten and Wanja Söderberg Prize, that includes a hefty monetary prize and, more importantly, an exhibition at the Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg. Ann-Sofie Back grew up in a suburb of Stockholm, which – together with her parents’ bad taste in fashion – effected her unique take on craft. It made her see fashion from a perspective of someone who feels ashamed or insecure, therefore uses clothes to become someone else in order to fit or feel a part of a group. This feeling has influenced much of her work, expressed and interpreted in various collections through themes such as plastic surgery and fear.

Back studied fashion at the Beckman’s College of Design before taking an MA in Fashion Design at London’s Central Saint Martins in 1998. After graduating, she worked as a designer for Acne (she won the Elle Designer of the Year prize during this period) and held styling jobs for fashion magazines like Self Service and Purple Magazinee. Three years after graduation, she founded her eponymous label (which is currently on hold), followed by a secondary label, named Back, created in 2005. Besides designing for her own brand, Ann-Sofie Back is also the head of design at Cheap Monday. During her almost 15-year-long, successful career, Ann-Sofie Back has never been afraid to stand out and lead her own way. Her design aesthetic is far from the clean style Swedish designers often are related to; Back’s approach has been described as uncommercial and conceptual. Her whole image is built on unconventional ideas which question both the fashion world and the rest of society. She designs clothes for women who dress for themselves or to appeal to other women, rather than men. In fact, unsurprisingly, among her fans she can count bold women like Lady Gaga, Kate Moss, Rihanna and HRH Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden.

Back’s exhibition at the Röhsska Museum is created with the same conceptual base as her collections.The theme is “one pound shops” with sale-signs and specially-produced products such as T-shirts, toilet paper and lighters put on display in connection to her previous collections, together with key pieces from past lines. The exhibition “Back. Everything Must Go” intends to create Back’s dream shop, the one she will never probably never be able to have, resulting in a witty combination of unconventional design and the most mundane version of mass consumption.

Hanna Cronsjö 

Modern Wunderkammer: Noritaka Tatehana at SHOWStudio

What is a wunderkammer? Historically, it is the place of accumulation: a space for people to keep interesting, loved, strange objects with no clear use or meaning. Fashion world’s fascination with the theme of wunderkammer has always been tangible, as a way to keep trace of objects as well as references, instants, obsessions. SHOWstudio’s SHOWcabinet, the gallery located in Belgravia’s iconic Pantechnicon Building on Motcomb Street, has what it takes to be a modern wunderkammer: a physical place where art and fashion meet on a ever changing basis,where all its shifts are documented – and implemented with related contents – on its online platform.

The first artist to show here was Daphne Guinnes, and this month the place hosts the works of the designer she is most tied to, Noritaka Tatehana. Defining him is not easy, but maybe the best title we could use is ‘master of heels’ – even if ‘heels’ in the western idea are, for him, a completely transfigured element. His practice, standing between craftsmanship and art, allows him to create pieces inspired by Japanese tradition, inflating his works with modernity, thanks to the use of avant-garde techniques derived precisely form the mastery of traditional crafts.

For Tatehana, appearance is everything: drawing inspiration from Japanese courtesans – the Oiran – every piece is a complex ensemble of precious materials, unexpected forms and incredible details. Looking at his works is a new way to experience Japanese art and to get a glimpse into traditions and culture, without necessarily understanding them: enjoying his works is, first of all, agreeing to pure aesthetic contemplation. Together with Tatehana’s works, SHOWCabinet showcases the photorealist portraits of artist Taisuke Mohri, whose poetic merges motifs both from the East and West; illusion, mirrors, cracked surfaces which blur the line between reality and imagination.

Even the very moment of creation is documented in this modern wunderkammer. Prior to the exhibition, Tatehana created a pair of shoes right in front of the camera. As Nick Knight stated: ‘We actually want to show the process of creating art, so we show people how the artist works and we allow people into that moment.’ Thanks to technology and video, and to collaboration with hybrid personalities like Tatehana, whose work cannot be assimilated to just one discipline, SHOWstudio has given new life to the Wunderkammer, proposing a new democratisation of not only art, but of the creative process itself.

Marta Franceschini 

Pierre Cardin: The Future is Now

Last week one of the great creators of 1960s fashion spirit – Pierre Cardin – opened the doors of his Past-Present-Future museum in the posh Marais neighborhood of Paris, showing the last 50 years of his avant-garde career, known for an out-of-the-ordinary futuristic touch, geometric shapes and outer-space millinery.

Pierre Cardin moved to Paris in 1945, where he started working at the Paquin fashion house founded by famous designer Jeanne Paquin. He would move to the fashion house of Elsa Schiaparelli within months. The subsequent year Cardin began to work for Christian Dior’s newly opened maison. As soon as 1950 Pierre Cardin established his own house and in 1953 he presented his first womenswear collection. The following year he introduced the “bubble dress”, which sparked an instant success. Looking for inspiration outside of Paris’ narrow fashion scene, Cardin started to draw from Eastern influences, becoming the first couturier to launch his products on the Japanese high fashion market in 1959. Since then, Pierre Cardin fashion house has become an empire, producing products as disparate as house furniture and bottle water.

The exhibition of the Past-Present-Future museum collects around 200 pieces tracing Cardin’s career through haute-couture designs, accessories and jewelry. The visual representation is stripped-down, yet at the same time overwhelming: decorated with nothing more than a date-label the contextual placement within fashion history or the designer’s own creative past is meant to be constructed by the viewer. A couple images of the designer himself adorn the walls, but Cardin hopes his designs will speak for themselves. The outfits include coats with square pleats, skirts threaded with hoops and even a black lace dress perfectly fitting for the red carpet of today. Looking at this vast collection on cannot but wonder how does Pierre Cardin’s prophetic mind really work.

Victoria Edman 

Ettore Moni: Case Sospese

“Case Sospese” is an architectural and anthropological exploration of the banks of river Po, undertaken by Parma-based photographer Ettore Moni. Attentive to landscape, but focused on housing, the project captures stilts, boats, barges, mobile homes and hanging houses that seem to come from a different world. These constructions are in-between nature that is perpetually on the move and the willingness of man to put down roots. Ettore Moni captures the essence of this suspended landscape, through images taken with a large format camera and left untouched. Moni portrays natural and urban landscapes in search of signs left by man; signs of human intervention that shift the perception of space that surrounds us.

Rujana Rebernjak – Images courtesy of Ettore Moni 

Winter in White

Wearing white clothing after Labor Day, the first Monday of September, has been a controversial subject for many years. Why? Because, back in the day, a part of fashion world used to have rules it had to deal with, a kind of a bon-ton scheme, where white was considered only related to summer and leisure time. And, for that reason only, one should have stopped wearing it in Autumn. Fortunately things have changed, therefore nowadays, along with matching blue and black or red and pink, white during fall and winter season has been legitimized, too. Last fashion shows have proven it for good: many designers have chosen the candid nuance for their warm and fuzzy winter catwalks.

We saw a comfy yet sophisticated approach at Barbara Bui’s show, where embroidery capes, along with turtleneck sweaters and sartorial trousers made the collection perfect for winter season. Ennio Capasa at Costume National offered a different point of view, with black shoes interrupting the white harmony and a fur vest adding an unexpected twist to the brand’s minimal look composed of a slouchy pair of pants and a blouse. Gareth Pugh, on the other hand, proposes a typically exaggerated show, with fairies from other planets hovering on the runway, all wrapped up in odd covers and dresses – some more bi-dimensional others extremely soft.

Whatever you’d rather chose as your favourite winter piece, white is for sure a trend you should not forget, both in the city and on the slopes.

Francesca Crippa 

Architects as Artists at the V&A Museum in London

From the Renaissance to the current day, architects have made drawings for study and pleasure, to represent their projects, document their travels and supplement their income. Architects as Artists, a new exhibition at the V&A Museum in London, examines the relationship between architecture and art. From work by Raphael to a project by contemporary Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld, the exhibition presents examples of the many ways in which architects use and create art.

Drawing on the collections of the V&A and RIBA, this display of about 50 works includes a pair of striking digital renderings for ‘A House for Essex’, a project between FAT Architecture and the artist Grayson Perry. These images sit alongside designs for an artist’s house by E.W. Godwin, a drawing by Raphael of the Pantheon in Rome, a lithograph by Cyril Power depicting the staircase of Russell Square tube station, a watercolour sketch by Hugh Casson, a drawing by Italian Futurist Virgilio Marchi and a volume of architecture fantasies by the Russian architect Iakov Chernikhov. Recent works including Tom Noonan’s depiction of the re-forestation of the Thames Estuary and drawings by William Burges, Augustus Pugin, Alfred Waterhouse and William Walcot are also featured in the show.

Architects as Artists considers how the ability to represent a building in two dimensions and communicate space has been fundamental to architects’ work since the Renaissance, when architecture first developed as an independent profession. It looks at the importance of experiencing historic architecture and how architects make drawings of buildings and landscapes to record their travel and improve their designs. The display also explores how architects create drawings for different audiences and how pictorial conventions are often adopted when communicating with a wider audience, showing how these ‘artistic’ images often bridge gaps in knowledge, ideas and perceptions.

Architects as Artists will run until March 15th 2015 at the V&A Museum in London.

Images from top to bottom: Image courtesy Ordinary Architecture Ltd; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collection; Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Rujana Rebernjak