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Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category

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Custom made hanbok at Korean Costume, Gwangjang Market.

The day after Donald Trump was elected in 2016, I pulled a hanbok out of my closet. I felt compelled to wear this traditional Korean garment, with its stiff collar, short top, and floor-length, empire-waist skirt, as my small statement of resistance. To some, such a gesture might read conservative, feminine, or modest but to me it was defiantly different. After all, with every sexist or xenophobic barb Trump lobbed, I became more determined to flaunt my womanhood and Korean identity. 

Crystal Hana Kim – Korean-American author.

I am currently in Seoul, South Korean on a textiles tour. Last week we went to  Gwangjang Market, which is a large building of vendors many of whom sell fine quality fabric and construct hanbok.

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Ramie fabric.

We were lucky enough to meet with one of the hanbok vendors, Jung Jae Won from Korean Costume, who kindly spoke to us about the process of having a hanbok made.

Hanbok was worn daily in Korea up until around 1900. Today it is worn usually for weddings, holidays, and other special formal occasions, although, some Korean designers are updating the silhouette to better suit the taste of modern fashionistas.

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Traditional hanbok for women includes a distinctive full skirt called chima, short jacket called jeogori and layers of undergarments. The fabric used is silk or ramie, a stiff fiber known to hold its shape and resist wrinkling. Petticoats are worn for fullness.

IMG_20181010_190715209There are many selections to make from the color of the fabric, to any applied decoration to hair accessories. Color is used to communicate social and economic status. For example bright colors are for unmarried woman and blue trim on the cuffs of a woman’s jacket indicates she has a son. (No special color for a daughter.) A widow might have an extra decoration on her jacket, like embroidered flowers.

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Renting hanbok for a day and roaming around the city is a current trend among the young set. There are rental stores at the various palaces and other tourist areas. These hanbok are more ostentatious with embellishments such as stamped gold edges or embroidery. Instead of the traditional petticoat a hoop skirt is worn for a more exaggerated fullness.

Stay tuned for more Korean fashion stores.

 

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Pandora’s Box, 1951. By Rene Magritte.

The presence of the rose next to the stroller signifies that wherever man’s destiny leads him, he is always protected by an element of beauty. 

Rene Magritte (1898-1967), Belgium artist.

I’m drawn to this painting for so many reasons: the hat, the cobblestone road, the hazy feel to the environment, the European scene. But most of all the rose as companion and I like Magritte’s thought that beauty is omnipresent. Something to remember in our current mixed-up, dark world.

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One summer day several years ago I spotted on the Mills College campus (where I worked at the time) a Muslim woman dressed in a long narrow skirt and tunic top both in a lightweight fabric and in a lovely shade of mauve. Her hijab was pale purple, which blended so nicely with the mauve. She was wearing a pair of high heel sandals in tan and carried a tan satchel handbag. She looked chic and I wanted to talk to her and take her photo for the blog but she was a visiting professor and I didn’t want to intrude.

That woman is still vivid in my mind because it was then that I realized that 1. I hadn’t given Muslim dress much thought and 2. Muslim dress can be chic.

Of course it can!

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Design by Nzinga Knight, the first contestant on Project Runway to wear a hijab.

I have been thinking about this form of dress ever since and so I was excited to attend the press preview for Contemporary Muslim Fashions, the current fashion exhibit on now at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

“… modest fashion, or clothes that allow the wearer to remain relatively concealed but also appear stylish, has become one of the most pervasive international fashion stories in the past five years,” say exhibit curators, Jill D’Alessandro and Laura Camerlengo. When young Muslim women took to the Internet and blogging after not seeing themselves reflected in mass media, mass media took notice. As modest dress designers began to reach for a broader global appeal, the fashion industry took notice.

Reina Lewis, Professor of Cultural Studies at London College of Fashion and consultant to this exhibit says that the Muslim market for modest fashions is estimated at 44 billion US dollars this year and is expected to grow. “The style parade of cool Muslim women, often recognizable by their wearing a head-cover of some sort, is becoming a significant style story,” she explains. “If you are a trend forecaster, it is not hard to spot this vibrant cohort.”

They’re on it – H&M, Uniqlo, and Nike among others have recently produced items for modest dress.

 

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Designs by  Itang Yunasz using Indonesian ikat fabric. These remind me very much of Yves Saint Laurent.

 

With 80 ensembles representing 53 designers from the Middle East, Indonesia, Malaysia, Europe, Canada, and the United States, Contemporary Muslim Fashions is the first extensive museum exploration of Muslim modest dress and the influence it’s having on fashion around the world. Featured are day wear, sportswear, formal, and Haute Couture. Additionally there are photographs and videos to help contextualize the fashions on display.

Several of the included designers traveled to San Francisco to join the opening celebrations. I spoke with Indonesian designer Itang Yunasz, who was pleased to be part of this notable exhibit. Yunasz began his fashion career 37 years ago designing exclusive luxury clothing for women.  In 2000 he chose to include modest dress in his collections to offer luxury and style for Muslim women who wish to dress modestly. He soon became known as the “Modest Wear Trendsetter.” Yunasz’s signature look is combining luxury with references to his native country.  “I’m always designing with a touch of Indonesia,” he explained. Included in the exhibit are pieces made of handwoven ikat fabric, an Indonesian technique in which the fabric pattern is formed by weaving individual dyed yarns. For drape and flow in his silhouettes he also used silk, printed or digitized from ikat fabric. (Pictured above.)

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Another designer from Indonesia, Khanaan Luqman Shamlan uses batik fabric, which is a wax-resist dye technique.  Shamlan’s family owned a batik fabric factory and with that background she is determined to “see batik go global.”

Each region represented has varying styles and bring their own cultural differences to their designs. The Middle East might be more austere, Malaysia more colorful. There are examples of simple and ornate pieces, even tailored and whimsical. Not all ensembles include a headscarf as not all Muslim women wear one. Something I learned is that couture houses have for many years custom altered their designs for Muslim clients. On display are several couture gowns altered to fit the needs of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Al Missned, of Qatar.

 

Looking at the array of designs, it occurred to me that without the hijab some of these ensembles don’t read specifically Muslim and might appeal to any fashionable woman. For example Khanaan Luqman Shamlan’s designs pictured above are just beautiful gowns. Indeed, Professor Lewis commented that many of the designers included in this exhibit reported to her that 40 to 50 percent of their customers are not Muslims, but women of other faiths or women of no particular faith.

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Another example of a design that fits modest needs but is also avant garde and might appeal to a variety of  women. By Mashael Al Rajhi from Saudi Arabia. Merino wool, velvet.

There is much to learn from Contemporary Muslim Fashions about different cultures, different women, and how we can all meet at the intersection of fashion and style.

Contemporary Muslim Fashions is on now through January 6th, 2019. Click here for more information. 

 

 

 

 

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Desert Dream designed by Rasit Bagzibagli for Madanisa. Photo courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Muslim fashion and Muslim clothing is not a uniform … it’s more than that. What we see here are great women, open-minded, willful, strong women showing the world that they care about fashion and they have a great sense of style. 

Kerim Ture, CEO Modanisa.

Ture started Modanisa, a retail website dedicated to offering fashionable modest clothing, in 2011 after realizing that Muslim women wanted more choices in their clothing. By 2014 the website shipped to 50 countries, offered 300 brands, and represented 28 designers.  They processed approximately one million orders that year.

I think he was on to something.

Check back this week for my coverage of Contemporary Muslim Fashions, the current fashion exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

 

 

 

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01. The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season by Rene Magritte, 1943. The start of a new period for the artist.

A day spent surrounded by art is both refreshing and inspiring. So, on a recent weekday afternoon I happily made my way to SFMOMA to view the current exhibit Rene Magritte: The Fifth Season, on now through October 28, 2018.

Rene Magritte (1898-1967) was a Belgium Surrealist painter known for his use of everyday images such as pipes, umbrellas, and his famous bowler hats. Having enjoyed a successful career in the early part of the 20th century, as he reached middle-age Magritte shifted away from his style and explored other techniques and approaches to making art. Affected by WWII and German occupation of his homeland, in 1947 he commented, “I live in a very unpleasant world now. That’s why my painting is a battle, or rather a counteroffensive.”

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Night Sky with Bird, 1945.

Rene Magritte: The Fifth Season features more than 70 works from the artist’s late career, thought of as his “Fifth Season” 1943-1967. During this period he stayed with his fascination of images but he played with different brushstrokes, used gouache (watercolor) instead of oil paints, and he even used different mediums. (Due to a shortage of materials during the German Occupation, Magritte used bottles as canvas perhaps tapping back into Surrealism.)

The SFMOMA exhibit is timed, meaning that tickets are sold for particular time slots. I joined the 3pm group, which was a reasonable size that moved at a decent pace allowing for comfortable viewing. Not one of us posed in front of the art for endless selfies – how nice was that? Very! There are seven galleries each keeping with a theme of images or subject.

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A Sense of Reality, 1963.

One of my favorite galleries was Gravity and Flight, not so much because the works appealed to me, but because some of them, one in particular, made me uncomfortable. Part of the joy of viewing art is thinking and feeling. When I first spotted Le sens des realities (A Sense of Reality, 1963) I immediately thought, “Oh that looks like an old dried potato.” I knew of course it was a rock, suspended in air. As I took time with the large painting, I felt uneasy expecting, wanting that rock to fall! I studied the ugly grayish mass and the more I stared, noticing blue undertones, the less repugnant it became. This huge rock floating in the beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds is oh-so-Magritte – unexpected and incongruous. The best part is the crescent moon at a distance right above the rock.

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A section of Sheherazade, 1950.

Something else that caught my attention was the repetition of a little object that I spotted in three paintings. It reminded me of a yo-yo but it’s a bell. One of Magritte’s many icons that, like the apple, dove, clouds, he used time and time again, sometimes as the focus of a piece or often just another added object.

I spent about an hour and a half in the exhibit but the rest of the day thinking about it. Viewers can spend as much time as they like but once out of the galleries there is no re-entry.

Rene Magritte: The Fifth Season at SFMOMA is an excellent opportunity for some thought-provoking fun! Don’t miss it.

Click here for more information. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Son of Man by Rene Magritte, 1964.

The Bowler … poses no surprise. It is a headdress that is not original. The man with the bowler is just middle-class man in his anonymity. And I wear it. I am not eager to singularize myself. 

Rene Magritte (1898-1967) – Belgium Surrealist painter. Quote – 1966.

Bowler hats were a popular informal choice for European middle-class men starting in the mid-19th century. Magritte used the simple chapeau in his work at first in the 1920s. Then again in the latter part of his career. The bowler is the iconic image most associated with Magritte.

Oh how the world changes. Back in the day, a bowler represented the every man blending into obscurity. But today a fella sporting a bowler is very much a surprise, a standout, and anything but anonymous.

A man in a hat? How surreal!

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Photo: Vanity Fair, March 2018. 

I prefer quality to luxury. Luxury can become tacky when it’s too much. You have to have the perfect mix of good taste and charm. 

Diego Della Valle – president and CEO of the Tod’s Group, a leading Italian fashion brand.

The man behind the popular Tod’s driving moccasin is also the man behind the reconstruction of the Colosseum in Rome (he pledged $34 million).

To give generously to one’s community – that’s pure good taste!

 

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