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Posts Tagged ‘fashion designers’

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Fashion sketches by Virginia Johnson published in Descant.

I paint all of my designs by hand. I use watercolor on paper. This is my most cherished part of the creative process. I welcome accidents in my sketches. In the manufacturing process, I try as much as possible to maintain a hand-crafted feel. I welcome print flaws in the fabric because this allows the presence of the human hand to show through.

Virginia Johnson – artist and designer.

This quote is from an essay Ms. Johnson wrote for the fashion issue of Descant, volume 38, number 3, fall 2007.

I agree with Ms. Johnson’s idea of slight imperfections in anything handmade. I’m reminded of something Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York (is she still a duchess?) said when she was asked if she was nervous about modeling for an upcoming fashion show: “No,” she responded with a grin. “I think perfection is overrated.”

A perfectionist myself, that really struck me and I’ve remembered it ever since. It can be very liberating when working on any creative project to let go and see where the craft leads. (I admit my quest for perfection still plagues me when it comes to some of my writing projects.)

If we worry less about the outcome and just enjoy the process, that’s where we find art.

 

 

 

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Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons spring/summer 1997

What’s so inspiring about Rei is that for her the body has no bounds, and fashion itself has no limits. That to me is what her legacy is — the body and the dress body in fashion is limitless … When you think about what’s been achieved in the last 40 years and the types of things we take for granted now — the unfinished, asymmetry, black as a fashionable color were pioneered by Rei. But beyond the formal aspects of that, she has always rebuffed the status quo … I feel if Rei didn’t exist we would have to invent her to explain the last 40 years because her impact in fashion is that big.

– Andrew Bolton, curator of the current Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC exhibit, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between. 
This quote is from an interview with Mr. Bolton for Women’s Wear Daily.
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Paired with ballerina flats. Look at the tight shoulders. Kind of like she’s wrapped up.

I was just reading about Rei Kawakubo in a book about avant-garde fashion (Fashion Game Changers: Reinventing the 20th Century Silhouette, Bloomsbury). She says there is no meaning to her designs and yet people seem compelled to find something behind (between?) the unexpected bumps, pads, layers and outrageous silhouettes.

I find her fascinatingly inaccessible. I don’t know what to make of her designs except that they are:

1. Completely noncommercial.

2. They look like they’re challenging to wear.

3. They remind me of Leigh Bowery, the British club kid of the 1980s who also came up with some wild unflattering silhouettes.
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Leigh Bowery original design, 1980s.

There is one very big difference between the two – Mr. Bowery played in a dark and freaky arena, by making everything larger than life. Not to mention his makeup and masks. Ms. Kawakubo stays within the non-freak zone by using (sometimes) feminine prints and colors and showing her clothing on lovely mainstream models. She certainly bumps up against freak (pun intended!) but with a light, quiet hand.

I would say that perhaps Ms. Kawakubo uses the body as a canvas, so to speak, for her sculptures. And in doing so she has, as Mr. Bolton points out, impacted fashion.
Fashion model Anna Cleveland, an attendee of the recent Met Gala calls Ms. Kawakubo’s designs, “Walking art.”
Click here for more information on Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between on now at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Fashions by Mainbocher.

While visiting Chicago last month I took the opportunity to view the exhibition Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier at the Chicago History Museum.

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A young Mainbocher.

Main Rousseau Bocher (1890-1976) was Chicago born and raised but as a young man he set off for adventure, first to New York City and later to Paris. He sported many hats before becoming a couturier, including an opera singer and a fashion illustrator for Harper’s Bazaar.

Quite spontaneously in 1929 he opened his first fashion house in Paris calling it Mainbocher – pronounced mon-bo-shay. For that touch of French chic he blended his first and last names. Known for his embellished ball gowns and smart suits, he soon became the go-to designer for socialites and celebrities of the time. American Wallis Simpson donned a Mainbocher piece for her wedding to Edward VIII in 1937.

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Butterfly evening dress in silk crepe, 1945.

In 1940, the early days of WWII,  Mainbocher decided to close his Paris house and reopen in NYC. There he established himself as the first American couturier, attracting the attentions of the elite chic. Additionally he designed for Broadway plays and was commissioned by the American military to design uniforms for the women’s voluntary services.

And all this is just a brief overview! Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier follows the designer’s diverse career in detail and features 30 garments from the museum’s permanent collection as well as illustrations, photos, and audio interviews with some of his clients back in the day.

Located in a smallish gallery, this exhibit is just the right size allowing for a second and third walk around and a good gander at some of the fashions on display.

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Uniform for women’s voluntary services, WWII.

Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier is on now through August 2017 at the Chicago History Museum. Any fashion enthusiast in the area should check it out!

 

 

 

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The fashion industry has always been a reflection of what America is all about … inclusion and diversity. It will continue to stand by these standards. I am personally horrified to see what is going on.

– Diane von Furstenberg, Belgium-American fashion designer.

This quote is from an article in The Business of Fashion by Imran Amed.

For Mr. Amed’s article many fashion industry professionals were asked to comment on Trump’s recent executive order to halt the current refugee program and (temporarily) ban travelers from seven Muslim countries from entering the United States. Ms. von Furstenberg and Steven Kolb, chief executive of CFDA were the only ones willing to make a comment. Others declined to say one word.

Isn’t that rather odd considering the outrage expressed around the country and around the world? CEOs from Apple, Facebook, Starbucks, and Nike just to name a few, are all unafraid to take a public stand against Trump’s actions.

Why so quiet on the fashion front? I surmise that (assuming most designers actually disagree with Trump) they might be afraid to alienate Trump supporters, many of whom could be their customers. Let’s not forget that Kellyanne Conway was sporting Gucci at the inauguration. Brands such as Isaac Mizrahi and Lori Goldstein sell on QVC, a magnet for middle-of-the country shoppers. Also, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka is an influential member of the fashion biz.

It could be that designers and corporate brands are nervous about offending all the wrong people (customers and Trumps). If they say nothing, they’re safe.

But SAFE is not fashionable right now. SPEAKING UP is what’s trending.

 

 

 

 

 

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ann-demeulemeester-02-760x760Black is not sad. Bright colors are what depress me. They’re so empty. Black is poetic. How do you imagine a poet? In a bright yellow jacket? Probably not.

– Ann Demeulemeester, Belgium fashion designer.

Ms. Demeulemeester loves black and she’s also known for her Goth inspired designs. She goes for deconstruction with a touch of Victorian/Edwardian details. She, along with Jil Sander, came along in the 1990s and put European countries other than France into fashion focus.

 

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Ann Demeulemeester Spring 2013

As for her comment on black. Well, black is a wonderful option but I think color has its place. We can’t all sport black all the time; that might be slightly somber. But I do understand what Ms. Demeulemeester is saying in terms of depth. Black is rich and full and sometimes poignant. Color is fanciful and uplifting.  The world needs both.

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Ask anyone who had the pleasure of meeting American fashion designer Oscar de la Renta – the man was: a gentleman, a loyal friend, humble, generous, gracious, and … “full of wicked charm,” according to his close friend and former fashion Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley.

Certainly this kind of affection for Mr. de la Renta can be felt in the current exhibition Oscar de La Renta: A Retrospective at the de Young museum in San Francisco. During the press preview last week, Dede Wilsey, President of the Board of Trustees of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco shared that this exhibit was a true labor of love, “It was like having a baby for a really long time but it turned out to be a beautiful baby.”

Ms. Wilsey, who had been a good friend of Mr. de la Renta’s, explained that she approached him with the idea of a retrospective in 2014 at the annual Saks Fifth Avenue and the League to Save Lake Tahoe Fashion Show, something he had supported for years. He resisted at first saying “it’s ostentatious” but by the end of the day he agreed. “Two months later he was dead,” Ms. Wilsey said in an unusually shaky voice. He had lost his battle with cancer.

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One of Andre Leon Talley’s favorite pieces owned and often worn by Annette de la Renta. Black tulle, black silk taffeta applique. 2005

Guest curated by Mr. Talley, this exhibit is a simple representation of Mr. de la Renta’s long career designing elegant clothing for well-heeled ladies. He dressed First Ladies (Republicans and Democrats alike), socialites and celebrities. Nancy Reagan, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Dede Wilsey, Anna Wintour, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Hudson, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Taylor Swift were just some on the list of happy clients. “He lived the world he dressed,” Mr. Talley said, explaining his success.

Oscar de la Renta was born in 1932 to a prominent family in the Dominican Republic. In his youth he left for Spain to study art and ended up becoming a sketch artist for Balenciaga. From there he moved to Paris to design for Lanvin and then America to work for Elizabeth Arden. By the 1960s he was running his own design house and in 1969 he became an American citizen.

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Tailor Swift sporting de la Renta in 2014. Photo courtesy of FAMSF.

Included in this exhibition are pieces loaned from Fashion Institute of Technology, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Kent State University and private collectors, including his second wife, Annette. Among the standouts are Taylor Swift’s peach silk organza gown and Sarah Jessica Parker’s now iconic black and white Duchesse satin and velvet gown with de la Renta’s signature on the train … in red! There are just a few of his early designs on display from the 1960s and a smattering of day wear. Most of the exhibit is made up of evening dresses from the 1990s on. The collection of 130 pieces is arranged by what inspired the designer over the years, such as his beloved garden. (He was an avid gardener.)

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Evening ensemble coat & pants. Silk taffeta and silk embroidery. 2000.

Among my favorites were in the Eastern Influence gallery. A more casual yet still elegant collection, I liked the fabrics, rich colors, and retro feel to the designs.

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Evening dress. Black silk velvet with white silk embroidery. Photo courtesy of FAMSF.

Mr. de la Renta favored luxurious fabrics – silk and satin, brocade, velvet, and tulle. He embellished with feathers, beading or jewels and a touch of mink or fox fur can be found on coat collars, cuffs, and even on the bottom of a pair of evening pants. It is said of him that he lived to make women feel beautiful.

Walking through this exhibit, the focus is on the clothing. Aside from a couple of video loops – one is of the designer’s expansive garden in Kent and the other is footage of celebrities on various red carpets – there is little technology and few additions besides the occasional decorative piece or chair borrowed from the museum’s collection. But actually, no enhancement is needed and the lack of distraction is a welcome change. Muted lighting and quiet surroundings make for a peaceful, reflective experience.

Oscar de la Renta: A Retrospective is on now through May 30th, 2016, at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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