An Impossible Match: Walter Van Beirendonck for IKEA

Having, for several seasons, created collections that are both thought provoking and provoking in many other ways, it was an unseen twist when Walter Van Beirendonck and the Swedish furniture retailer IKEA announced the news of a collaboration. The Belgian designer’s latest collection sparked quite a bit of controversy, with butt plugs as accessories as well by using his fashion to respond to the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris. The provocation, however over the top as it may be, has always been constructed in an interesting and intelligent way. So even though the designer has an apparent aesthetic interest in male genitals, the collaboration with IKEA is most definitely an exciting upcoming event.

The Swedish furniture giant is famous for its minimalistic Scandinavian touch – an aesthetic that embodies precisely the opposite of what Walter Van Beirendonck has come to represent. Is this to be interpreted as a statement collaboration, of IKEA willing to venture into unexplored paths and borrow the approach of famous fashion-design crossovers already exploited by other brands? Is it ready to renounce on its clean looks, in order to attract different types of consumers?

IKEA’s main designer Marcus Engman discusses the extent of the collaboration, which, apparently, will see the Antwerp Six designer employed in pattern and print design, perhaps shaping the premise for a perfect juxtaposed collection of the minimalistic Scandinavian product design and Van Beirendonck’s crazy antics. A video released by IKEA has Van Beirendonck talking about creating his textiles abound “Wondermooi”, a concept of his own fabrication but which roughly translated from Flemish means “very beautiful”. He elaborates on making up a story about characters that live in the clouds which ignited his creativity by moving from something fun into a more gloomy territory. The story would eventually evolve to different patterns each representing a character’s look, culminating in five different ranges of patterns and fabric.

Nevertheless, Walter Van Beirendonck’s work will not be confined only to flat surfaces, as all five prints will be transferred to a whole collection of interior design pieces, to be released in June 2016.

Victoria Edman 
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Martin Margiela: The Artist is Absent

In the midst of the brand-obsessed 1990s, the now famous yet incognito designer Martin Margiela emerged. The Artist is Absent is a new short documentary from the Yoox Group discussing the Belgian designer and his contribution to the world of fashion. Initially screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, the twelve minute documentary directed by Alison Chernick, profiles the distinguished designer elaborating on the complexity of his character.

The 1990s were a time in fashion when designers’ personalities were much part of the reason why a brand gained popularity. Martin Margiela refused to give into the limelight and in doing so became a figure that stood for rebellion against what can be viewed as the domestication of creativity. Using archive footage in combination with current interviews with his peers and collaborators, the documentary brings to light and elaborates on Martin Margiela’s decision to be anonymous. In today’s world of social media, it seems improbable to pull off again, for a brand’s image seems almost intertwined with its head designer’s persona, making a concept such as Maison Martin Margiela interesting to ponder. For Martin Margiela it was always about the clothes and nothing more.

The documentary showcases the early Margiela shows, children running up and down the catwalk while the audience is packed into a tight space. Models are wearing garments made from plastic, coat hangers and other unconventional materials. As is pointed out in the documentary, the 1990s ware the era of the supermodel. However, Margiela shunned this approach making his models often cover their faces, so that the focus would always remain on the garments being presented. The irony of the story is that by remaining anonymous Margiela instead became mythical and an icon, obtaining a power that is illuminated in The Artist is Absent. He wasn’t the first to deconstruct fashion. However, he was one of the first to push deconstruction to another level: to a point where he presented a way to turn almost nothing into something.

Victoria Edman – Images courtesy of Yoox Group 
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Jasper Morrison: Thingness

Jasper Morrison designs objects that we love to live with but whose qualities might go barely noticed: he believes that good design has less to do with making products noticeable than with making sure they are useful. For 35 years, thus, Morrison has designed objects that range from chairs, tables and sofas, to tableware, toasters, telephones or bus stops, working with some of the most interesting and renowned manufacturers, among which Sony, Samsung, Alessi, Flos, Magis, Muji and Vitra.

Jasper Morrison was born in London in 1959 and studied design first at Kingston University and later at the Royal College of Art. He opened his Office for Design in London in 1986. Morrison’s approach to design gained a public face with the publication of the Super Normal manifesto, a sort of a design philosophy outlined in collaboration with the Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa. In it, Morrison and Fukasawa refer to the normality that goes beyond the principles of standardisation, more akin to a form of universality, arrived at by understatement and a touch of humour, qualities that many can relate to. In fact, Jasper Morrison’s work – whether sofa, watch or drinking glass – is
characterized by lines that are simple yet rigorous. His concern is to serve function, to be true to the object itself.

At the pinnacle of his profession, Jasper Morrison has put key moments of his career on display, crossing between furniture, kitchenware and home electronics, at Grand Hornu Centre d’Innovation et de Design, in Belgium. Titled “Thingness” the exhibition sets on stage – the exhibition design was created in collaboration with Michel Charlot – the work created from the 1980s to the present. The chronological outline of the exhibition follows reproductions of designs and drawings, archive documents, ephemera and photographs to illustrate the process that accompanies the creation of each project, celebrated, ultimately, in a new monograph of Morrison’s work that accompanies the show.

“Jasper Morrison. Thingness” will run until September 13th 2015 at Grand Hornu Centre d’Innovation et de Design.

The Blogazine 
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Oracle du Design: Design Prophecies at Gaîté Lyrique

How can design predict the future? How does it stand for a valuable indicator of our inner moods? Do we need prophecies also in design? And, above all, is design-telling a new promising boundary of the discipline? In our post-modernist and post-industrial world, where ideologies have lost their relevance and rationalism is no more on the forefront of design talks, designers (and consumers?) seem unconsciously attracted by the power that furniture holds to transform itself into symbols and generators of meaning. Oneiric, statuesque, sarcastic, design is the bearer of archaic, long-term archetypes that change their form according to styles but keep intact their ability to express sense and aura.

At least, this is the field that one of the most acclaimed worldwide trendsetters, Li Edelkoort, has decided to investigate with a new exhibition, “Oracle du Design”, a search for long-term visions and lifestyles embodied in contemporary furniture. Curated for Gaîté Lyrique in Paris, it showcases a selection of more than a hundred pieces from the Centre National des Arts Plastiques’s (CNAP) collection, which clearly manifest Edelkoort’s predilection for limited edition, Dutch design, spanning from the ’90 to ’10 (does anybody remember her private collection exhibited at Institut Néerlandaise in Paris in 2013?).

At a deeper insight, however, “Oracle du Design” remains a careful taxonomy attempt that looks at semantics as a lead to investigate and as a research to be kept updated. The objects on show, in fact, are gathered according to ten tags – Archaic, Simple, Nomad, Organic, Inflated, Naïf, Curious, Humble, Abstract, Mutant – each expressing a trend that can be presumed from materials, technology, form, concept and inspirations, attitude.

Ultimately, how does future look like in Edelkoort’s eyes? Not monolithic and alike for all, it’s sure. Everybody, in fact, has the chance to identify himself in at least one of the design visions on show, or to pick what he feels more comfortable with, going beyond the boundaries of each label. As we said, the time of great, collective narrations is over: welcome to the age of multiple singularities, where no trend emerges above the other, but stands with equal dignity and charm according to consumers’ profiles.

Giulia Zappa 
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Cultural Copying or Meaningful Influences?

In a time when different cultural traditions and approaches are influencing everything, from high fashion brands to newer and more unestablished labels, the lines between right and wrong when it comes to finding inspiration in other cultures, has faded. In the case of the new Paris-based brand Awale, that bases both its brand-value as well as its design aesthetic around the combination of African influences and modern approaches, the topic of cultural borrowing, once again, feels current. Awale markets its pieces as ”ethnic”, by proclaiming them to be a result of blending of cultural and textile traditions. The result are handmade pieces in limited editions, that leave us with questions about wether or not this really is an acceptable way of marketing such a product. Should ethnicity be exploited in order to sell material goods?

This is a topic without clear directives or guidelines, if there would have been any we wouldn’t feel the need of discussing it, but there aren’t and we are forced to. Fashion can and should, as any other art form, be able to be both provocative and express and interpret different cultures. What it shouldn’t do is to misuse that creative freedom, due to the fact that creativity comes with a responsibility which ,when treated right, can grow to a fantastic opportunity that opens doors to new cultures and lifestyles for people who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to explore them. When taking inspiration from something we aren’t familiar with or bringing it to a context that will understand it to an even lesser extent, we have the responsibility to find out more about it before translating it to the rest of the world through a simple piece of clothing. If that is done with respect and a genuine interest in the culture and traditions we are influenced by, it will turn out to be both a beautiful and a meaningful way of designing.

Hanna Cronsjö 
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Fashion Editor as Catalyst: Alison Settle

Of the many professions linked to fashion, that of the fashion editor is one of the most desired and sought after. It is also one of the widest and most unattainable. No schools offer programs to teach the subject – if it were to be considered a ‘subject’ – and surely no abracadabra can make the magic of transforming a ‘normal’ human being into a good fashion editor. This has surely to do with history; the work of the editor of a fashion magazine has historically been performed by strong personalities, whose involvement in fashion permitted them to show how fashion is eradicated in social, cultural and political contexts. Alison Settle is one of these, almost legendary, figures.

Settle was born in in Kemp Town, Brighton, in 1891. After attending a secretarial college and a journalism course, she started working for various magazines, writing for the “Sunday Pictorial”, “Sunday Herald”, “Eve” and the “Daily Mirror”. In 1926 she became editor of the British edition of Vogue. Under her guidance, the magazine grew in popularity and was set to become one of the most appreciated magazine in Britain. Settle shaped her magazine as a sophisticated product of culture, considering writing as the real core of the magazine, inviting some of the greatest voices of those years to write for Vogue, as Colette, Edith Sitwell, Vita Sackville West. She involved the most brilliant illustrators, photographers and models – George Lepape, Eduard Benito, Edward Steichen, Lee Miller – supporting the writing with images and graphic expedients become iconic. Not only fashion was covered on the pages of ‘her’ Vogue, which was directed to a varied audience, spanning from the cultured ladies of the aristocracy – category to which she in person belonged to – to the working women of the middle class and upcoming feminists. Articles were wide in the subjects, from cooking and wine to art and politics.

Settle was primarily interested in the quality of British design, working incessantly as a channel between manufacturers and designer, easing the dialogue between production and creativity. She collaborated both with the Council for Art & Industry and the Council of Industrial Design, encouraging affordability and good design, dealing with fashion as a concrete matter, part of the everyday life. It is for this reason that she invented a feature, now copied in the most part of fashion magazines, called ‘Vogue’s Smart Fashions for Limited Incomes’, which proposed solutions of taste to women dealing with the restrictions of an upcoming war. After her involvement with Vogue, which ended in 1935, she became correspondent, among the others, for ‘The Observer’. Her sensibility and experience permitted her to describe society from a privileged point of view; her column, entitled ‘From a Woman’s Viewpoint’ gathered the voices of women, reporting their needs and ideas, and made her a sort of benchmark in the emancipation march. She was a founder member of the Women’s Press Club, and in 1961 she was the first woman awarded an OBE for services to fashion journalism.

In her late years, she also started working on a history of fashion, never finished, whose notes are now conserved in the Alison Settle Archive in Brighton, together with letters, photographs and records of her work between 1930s and 1970s. Looking at her life, it is not difficult to understand why the role of the editor is one of the most complex and multifaceted of the panorama of fashion, which goes way beyond the ‘limit’ of the subject as it is commonly considered. Her interest in fashion was just a starting point not only to individuate a style; it served her as a lens through which she could analyze society in an active way, proposing solutions and promoting innovation both in production and in critical thinking, making her a catalyst of progress in the wider sense.

Marta Franceschini – Images courtesy of Vogue Magazine 
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Style Suggestions: Colour Burst

Don’t shy away from colour, embrace it with vibrant pieces to enhance your wardrobe. You don’t have to do head to toe colour but mix it through with neutral pieces and have some fun with your looks.

Jacket: AMI, Sweater: Carven, Pants: Marni, Sneakers: Raf Simmons, Backpack: Valentino, Watch: Uniform Wares

Styling by Vanessa Cocchiaro 

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China Through the Looking Glass

“I’m not strange, weird, off, nor crazy, my reality is just different from yours.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass.

The quote helps to illustrate the thought behind a new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. An exhibition that examines orientalism note through the Western eyes. It acknowledges the notion that orientalism or the influences from Eastern culture are always integrated through a Western perspective. This is a key element in the “China Through the Looking Glass” exhibit. The old and the new are at center stage, with a not towards conscious processes cultural appropriation and how the essence of the inspiration was often lost in translation. From as early as the 16th century, Europe has had contact with China, a contact leading the West to become captivated by mysterious items from the East. It was a fascination that would inspire many fashion designers, among which, notably, Paul Poiret.

Every room of the exhibition is meant to make the impression of a movie scene. There are cinematic clips on display in each gallery allowing the viewers to learn about different Chinese influences such as the Mao suit as well as the silk trade and the collaboration of Chinese and American films with actress Anna May Wong in the center as a muse to designers such as Yves Saint Laurent.

High fashion is contrasted with Chinese costumes, porcelains, and other artefacts, including films, to expose Western reflection on Chinese images. Milliner Stephen Jones has created headwear for every mannequin, with hats and tiaras inspired from antique Chinese plates, teapots and vases. The exhibition as a whole features over 140 pieces of haute couture and avant-garde art in conjunction with Chinese art. This includes works by Armani, Cristobal Balenciaga, John Galliano, Roberto Cavalli and many more, provoking the visitor to take a closer look at our inspiration and grasp the concept of cultural differences.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “China: Through the Looking Glass” exhibition is currently on display and will run until August 16, 2015.

Victoria Edman 
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Fondazione Prada Opens its OMA-designed Platform in Milan

The new Milan venue of Fondazione Prada, conceived by architecture firm OMA—led by Rem Koolhaas — expands the repertoire of spatial typologies in which art can be exhibited and shared with the public. Articulated by an architectural configuration which combines preexisting buildings with three new structures, it is the result of the transformation of a former distillery dating back to the 1910’s. Located in Largo Isarco, in the South of Milan, the compound has a gross surface area of 19,000 m2/205,000 ft2, of which 11,000 m2/118,000 ft2 is dedicated as exhibition space. The entrance building will welcome visitors to two new facilities, developed through special collaborations: a kids’ area designed by a group of students from the École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Versailles, and a bar where director Wes Anderson has recreated the typical mood of old Milan cafés.

On the occasion of the opening of its new Milan venue, Fondazione Prada presented a wide range of activities. Robert Gober and Thomas Demand realized site-specific installations in dialogue with the industrial architecture and the new spaces in the compound. Roman Polanski explored the cinematographic inspirations behind his artistic vision, which will translate into a new documentary and a series of film screenings. Selections of artworks from the Prada Collection are presented in a series of thematic exhibitions. ‘Serial Classic’ — an exhibition curated by Salvatore Settis in collaboration with Anna Anguissola — completes the program. The project, whose display system has been conceived by OMA, focuses on classical sculpture and explores the ambivalent relationship between originality and imitation in Roman culture and its insistence on the circulation of multiples as an homage to Greek art.

At the same time, the Venetian headquarters of Fondazione Prada, which has launched 4 exhibitions in the venue until today, concurrently with a preservation and repair programme of the palazzo which is developing in several phases, presents the exhibition ‘Portable Classic’. The show explores the origins and functions of miniature reproductions of classical sculptures from the Renaissance to Neoclassicism, showcasing more than 90 artworks.

The Blogazine – Images courtesy of Fondazione Prada 
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Max.Tan an Example of Avant-Garde Asian Style

Asia has grown to become a fashion continent to count on, and not just for Western high fashion brands that open new stores and develop collections specially suited for the Asian market. The most interesting aspect of this progress is, instead, the development of Asian fashion, with its new creative and innovative designers gaining more publicity outside Asia as well.

Fashion is a hard-to-define phenomenon. It’s both affecting and the effect of our society and is evolving along side the rest of it at same time as it feels like a world of its own. There are various ideas and theories trying to describe the fashion phenomenon, some say it all started within the society of the West, others believe it has always existed all over the world. Fashion can often be seen from a democratic point of view, there it always balances between the aim of belonging and differentiating. Taking into account the background in the fashion history and theories about where and how it all started, it is therefore especially interesting that Asian fashion has taken a more central role within the West’s fashion scene.

The Singapore based brand, Max.Tan is an example of an Asian label that due to its interesting approach to fashion, has done a great success abroad. Their design aesthetic can be described as clean and crispy, with sharp cuts and playful shapes. Max.Tan aims to create an alternative and quiet fashion lifestyle, based on a mix of various influences such as masculine, feminine, oversize, undersized, deconstruction, reconstruction and transformation. They are all combined into a versatile, architectural and multi decisional, cultural approach, which is exemplified by everything from their pieces to their Singapore flagship store, where, besides finding their latest collations, one can also find the Swedish-based brand, ODEUR. This strengthens the thesis about fashion, as being at its absolute best when including various different perspectives and cultures. The only sad part is that it took us so long to finally start to take a real interest in all the great talent outside the West.

Hanna Cronsjö 
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