“Presenze”, Transitional Objects on Show

One hundred objects crowd a black platform put diagonally in the middle of a room. Their heterogeneous nature is striking: form, function, scale, materials, geographical origin; they seem to have nothing in common. Some of them are famous design icons, others are cheap, mass-market products, while more than a few are old and anonymous. Others are weird: they are rare and incomprehensible, but they are far from being precious.

Among them we find a teddy bear. We read what its owner, the anonymous Giampiero T., has written about it: “Who knows if Donald Winnicott ever had a transitional object? It is said that he had a piece of blanket, a rag or perhaps a teddy bear like me. Who knows if this object was for him the connection with his mother and if it helped him to gently separate from his mother figure”. And thus we find a key to understand the very essence of “Presenze. Biografie inedite” [“Presences. Inedited Biographies”], the exhibition on show at Allestimenti Portanuova in Milan – just next to the construction site of the new Fondazione Prada – which gathers a selection of artefacts chosen by Milanese design protagonists, in order to showcase the favourite thing they keep at home.

Despite their identity, in fact, all the objects belong to the category of transitional objects. They reveal the emotional identity of their owner, and establish a vehicle, a sentimental transfer, with the rest of the world. At the same time, they transform themselves into a symbol, and promise to offer unconditional comfort when we are in troubles, or simply feel blue. A short text explains the history of each of these relationships, confirming once again how storytelling has become a powerful means to engage with the public. And it’s exactly this flowing narration, this form of collective stream of consciousness we may say, that suggests how design is more than ever “a state of mind”.

Giulia Zappa 

The Fusion of Fashion and Architecture

The phenomenon of the fashion show has come a long way since it first was introduced as a tool for buyers to see the clothes on living mannequins. The shows then were low-key and intimate, the public a small crowd sitting close to the runway, far removed from the giant and global shows we see today. With the evolution of media and ever faster rhythms of our society, the importance of fashion shows has grown dramatically. The runway shows are no longer just tools for showing the latest collections, but have instead become a platform for designers to build broader concepts completing the theme of their collections, experiment with ideas as well as establish their brand through visual representation of a specific kind of lifestyle‪,‬ rather than relying just on plain clothes‪.‬

Kenzo and Prada are two examples of brands who used that tool with the aim of merge fashion, architecture and design‪,‬ in a union of creative disciplines and contemporary ways of life. Fashion has for a long period of time been seeking legitimacy through different art collaborations, with the purpose of being categorised as an art form and taken more seriously. However, fashion has also taken inspiration from architecture, a world of references which has grown more important especially since the set designs become a crucial part of the show. Prada has for example teamed up with highly established architect Rem Koolhas to create its set design, which had a clear architectural approach. Kenzo‪’‬s latest collection had its set design built around an architectural and design perspective and kicked off their show with six holographic pillars that moved forward forming a wall, and then rotated again to create a divider in the center of the catwalk.

But are there any deeper reasons for this monumental, architectural approach than just a search for legitimacy and growing spectacularisation of the fashion world? If big brands continue proposing such masterpieces, fusions of creative disciplines that famish after the spotlight is turned off, does that say more about how fashion world is changing? Are clothes in themselves not enough? And what about smaller brands that cannot by any means produce such scenographic effects? Can fashion ever return to itself and be just that, an art form of thoughtful expression through the apparently most transient means, clothes? Only future will tell.

Hanna Cronsjö 

Daily Tips: A Piece of Temporary Architecture to Look Forward to

One of the most iconic landmarks in London during Summer is a temporary, fleeting piece of architecture: the Serpentine Galleries Pavilion has been delighting its visitors for the past fifteen years with constructions designed by some of the world’s most notable architects. Yet, for the past couple of years, the museum has decided to invite practitioners that do not easily fall within the ‘starchitect’ category. Therefore, this year’s commission was assigned to Spanish architects SelgasCano and this will be, according to the Serpentine’s rules, their first ever construction built in the UK. As the designs of the pavilion are unveiled, we know we can look forward to spending the warm months within an amorphous, double-skinned, polygonal structure consisting of panels of a translucent, multi-coloured fabric membrane woven through and wrapped in webbing. Visitors will be able to enter and exit the Pavilion at a number of different points, passing through a ‘secret corridor’ between the outer and inner layer of the structure and into the Pavilion’s brilliant, stained glass-effect interior. It looks like a very bright and appealing summer, indeed, even under cloudy London weather.

The Blogazine 

YSL’s Liberation Collection, or the Current Value of Revival

The relationship fashion has with its past is quite complex. There are, indeed, many ways of using the past: it can either be a prison to flee away from or a temple to plunder for atmospheres, shapes, vibes. We are taught that, when past is the declared source of inspiration, we are talking about a ‘revival’. The dynamics of revival seem plain: revival means taking a period and rethinking it, reconsidering it with a different awareness, that of the present, and actually remaking its objects with the memory of the mould. Revival has to do with the strength of references, and a good dose of nostalgia. Right? Wrong. It is history of fashion that nostalgia has small to nothing to do with fashion’s fascination with the past. The first ‘revival’ collection was actually thought for people who ‘did not have memories’, and was developed by one of the designers whose name is related with avant-garde: Yves Saint Laurent.

In 1971, Yves Saint Laurent presented his ‘Liberation’ collection, also called ‘Forties’, for the evident reprise of themes and variations of the war years. The collection was defined ‘hideous’ by the press, because it was a ‘sad reminder’ of a period of restriction. France felt betrayed by the elected heir of the grand couturiers. Saint Laurent himself compared the clash he provoked with the ‘scandal’ of Manet’s ‘Olympia’, finding himself both ‘sad’ and ‘delighted’ by the results of what he considered a rebellion to the static nature of Haute Couture. ‘L’important, c’est que les filles jeunes qui, elles, n’ont jamais connu cette mode, aient envie de la porter,’ he declared.

Maybe pushed both by the ‘revival craze’ fashion is experiencing in these days and the general lack of novelty in fashion, the Fondation Yves Saint Laurent Pierre Bergé and curator Olivier Saillard decided to put on stage the infamous ‘Liberation’ collection. The set, designed by Nathalie Crinière brings us inside the laboratory of the ‘enlightened’ couturier, with clothes, sketches, fabric choices and the whole line up of the eighty-pieces collection, printed human-scale on the walls, and then moves through the many pages of newspapers which strongly criticised the collection. The exhibition comes in a moment when scandal is no longer a scandalous word. It seems difficult to pinpoint a notable peak in the flat electrocardiogram of contemporary fashion, in which revival is widely used – if not abused – but with a slightly different meaning. For Saint Laurent, revival meant provocation, a ‘historical exercise’, useful to convey a brand-new message. Nowadays we seem to be as far as possible from this idea. Revival in fashion is didactic, not to say paternalistic, and dictated more by trend and market analysis than moved cultural reasons.

There surely have been other who treated the past in the way paved by YSL in 1971; Tom Ford is at the head of the legacy. The way Tom Ford reprised the Seventies in his years at Gucci – as he does today in his eponymous collection – choosing to push on its strongest and most striding feature, sex, electing it as the leading force not only of his designs, but of all the communication shaped around them. He chose a subject, a vibe, and used the forms in which this vibe came to propose it to his contemporary audience. YSL’s collection – and the exhibition that celebrates it – shows that the real feature of revival is its relevance in relation to what happens in the present. George Orwell said that ‘those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past control the future’. Hence, to really hold – and mould – the past, we first must live and understand the present. The forward nature of fashion excludes it can be based just on nostalgia; nothing new can be done, but the ways to re-cross the past and redesign what has already been done are infinite.

Marta Franceschini – Images courtesy of Fondation Yves Saint Laurent Pierre Bergé 

Aubrey Beardsley – the Man, the Myth, the Legacy

The British illustrator Aubrey Beardsley inspired and elevated the dandy look by his own persona. Beardsley was a unique man who lived the life of a rock star before such a concept even existed.

Aubrey Beardsley was often sick as child, but found refuge in literature of all sorts, mainly medical anthologies and their drawings. He early became fascinated with grotesque imagery which would later be incorporated in his own work. As an adult, his classy wardrobe was toned down in true dandy spirit, as he dressed with awareness, though without being ostentatious. It was the beginning of marking the group you belonged to, or wanted to belong, through style. In 1893 the illustrator created an alliance with author Oscar Wilde, illustrating the author’s debated play Salome. The following year, Beardsley found an individual fame with the publication of The Yellow Book. Serving as art editor to the publication, he brought his illustrations to a larger public: the journal was an overnight sensation. Beardsley’s interest in drawing macabre images didn’t, however, leave him out of the fashion world. He had a lot of knowledge of the fashion of his time and found the female attire to be ludicrous. The women in his illustrations always wore far more comfortable dresses. One of his most famous works is that of the peacock skirt, all in black and white, of course.

Aubrey Beardsley was, for most of his short life, the “party central”, but by his mid-twenties he could fall asleep in a sentence. At the age of 25 he died of tuberculosis. His editor had promised to burn most of Beardsley’s work after his death, upon the artist’s own request. However, realizing their importance of his endeavor, the editor broke his promise. During the second half of the 1960s, the Victoria & Albert Museum showcased his illustrations, perfect for the trends of that era. His erotic influences were liked by many musical artists, such as the Beatles, inspiring their album cover of Revolver. Aubrey Beardsley is a testament to the power style can have to make a mark on the world, be it through a pen or through the threads one wears.

Victoria Edman 

How Designers Design: Nick Waplington Captures McQueen

With Alexander McQueen’s exhibition “Savage Beauty” now on show at the V&A Museum in London, there is a growing necessity to uncover the late designer’s creative process. Who could better capture the frenzy of a genius at work, than a relentless photographer following every move and recording even the tiniest, perhaps insignificant details for posterity? This was precisely the spirit with which the photographer Nick Waplington approached Alexander McQueen, taking a rich and revealing series of photographs while her was working on what would be his last collection, The Horn of Plenty, in 2009.

Waplington was given unprecedented access to McQueen’s studio, and captured an intense and theatrical working process, from sketching to production to the Paris catwalk show. McQueen conceived The Horn of Plenty collection as an iconoclastic retrospective of his career in fashion, reusing silhouettes and fabrics from his earlier collections, and creating a catwalk set out of broken mirrors and discarded elements from the sets of his past shows. This radical theme provided inspiration for Waplington, best known for his photographic work centred on issues of class, identity and conflict. Their artistic collaboration reveals a raw and unpolished side of the fashion world, juxtaposing candid images of McQueen’s working process with rigorously produced photographs of landfill sites and recycling plants, to create a powerful commentary on destruction and creative renewal.

The photobook that resulted from this collaboration is unlike anything of its kind. The book Waplington and McQueen worked on together, as well as a large maquette of the book, which they shared as they edited the work, is now on display together with a selection of around 100 large and small scale photographs at Tate Britain in London, within the exhibition “Nick Waplington/Alexander McQueen: Working Process”, running through May 17th 2015.

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of Nick Waplington and Tate Britain 

Daily Tips: Mina Stone’s Cooking for Artists

Mina Stone has been cooking delicious lunches at Urs Fischer’s studio for the past five years and producing private gallery dinners in New York since 2006. Cooking for Artists, a recently published book of her amazing food, presents more than seventy of Stone’s family-style recipes inspired by her Greek heritage and her love of simple, fresh, seasonal food. With beautiful color photography, the book is designed by Urs Fischer and includes drawings by Hope Atherton, Darren Bader, Matthew Barney, Alex Eagleton, Urs Fischer, Cassandra MacLeod, Elizabeth Peyton, Rob Pruitt, Peter Regli, Josh Smith, Spencer Sweeney, and Philippos Theodorides — all members of the community of artists that delights in Stone’s cooking.

The Blogazine 

Style Suggestions: Denim

Denim will never go out of style, but this season on the runways it was reinvented in various cuts, treatments and forms. You can go classic or modern but what ever you decided denim will always be a safe bet for the wardrobe.

Jeans: Acne Studios, Shirt: Roy Roger’s, Jacket: Carven, Shoes: Pierre Hardy, Sunglasses: Saint Laurent, Backpack: A.P.C.

Styling by Vanessa Cocchiaro 


Nathalie Du Pasquier: Don’t Take These Drawings Seriously

It could be said that one of Nathalie Du Pasquier’s greatest virtues is patience. Though she is publicly mainly known as a founding member of Memphis, that short-lived yet hugely influential Italian radical design collective headed by Ettore Sottsass, Nathalie has never designed objects. For more than twenty years, she has gone to her studio every morning, tirelessly transforming our material reality into a series of works of art. Her particular form of expression has captured the essence of those small and apparently unimportant things into subtle visual poetry, capable of brining to life a world of ‘stuff’, vibrant, alive and much more significant than we are usually brought to believe.

Until recently, though, this myriad of compositions and worlds was kept silent, hidden in the drawings of Nathalie’s studio in Milan. Now, a new book published by PowerHouse Books, edited by Omar Sosa together with Nathalie Du Pasquier, collects drawings created between 1981, the year she became a member of Memphis, and 1987. “Don’t Take These Drawings Too Seriously.” is the first and definitive compilation of all the unpublished drawings from those years, organized by the smallest objects to the biggest and divided into chapters.

These drawings explore that peculiar relationship between what is real and what is not, between what we would like to believe in and what the reality is actually made of. As such, they are, perhaps, more real than the reality itself, also because now, thirty years after their initial creation, they can be seen as a document, a testament to that particular moment of unyielding creativity and uncompromising disruption with the past. Nathalie Du Pasquier is, indeed, patient. As is the essence of her work, steadily resisting the test of time.

Rujana Rebernjak 

Earth matters: When Natural and Creative Forces Meet

One of our time’s biggest and most important topics, our environment, is the theme of the current exhibition Earth Matters, When Natural & Creative Forces Meet at Artipelag in Stockholm. The two curators - Lidewij Edelkoort and Philip Fimmano – have put together pieces by over 40 different artists and designers from areas such as photography, fashion, design and art, with the purpose of drawing attention to the environmental problems caused by years of overconsumption and a selfish and irresponsible attitude towards the planet. Therefore, one of the exhibition’s key points is the fact that we can’t survive without our planet while the planet might be just fine without us. This plain and simple acknowledgment should leads us to another question, why aren’t we taking better care of it?

The German artist Jurgen Lehl, asked himself the same question. Lehl used to walk down the beach close to his home in Japan, but one day he suddenly found plastic particles mixed with grains of sand. For Earth Matters, he has created lamps made of bigger plastic objects which Lehl found on the beach after they had drifted to the shore Now they can be seen both as incredible art pieces and symbols of the dark side of years of overconsumption. Another designer who is showing her work in the exhibition is Vivienne Westwood, who has contributed with her famous manifesto which speaks out against climate change and the effects of capitalism and overconsumption.

This exhibition is relevant for everyone to see, because the topic is of the sort that everyone can not only relate to, but urgently get to grips with. In the same time, the exhibition does not only aim to repeat the old song about climate change, but it aims to show it in a visually powerful and impacting way, while, at the same, time offering exciting, creative and contemporary solutions through the means of art and design. By paying attention to new creative energy that is inspired by natural materials and sustainability, the exhibition succeeds to give the topic of sustainability a new dimension – the creative one. By interpreting the topic in many different creative shapes and forms, it becomes more real, and you are left with a feeling of both sadness and hope.

Hanna Cronsjö – Images courtesy of Artipelag