Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fashion & Film

This topic became a course, see the blog for Fashion & Film here

When it comes to the art of costume design there is one contemporary name - Milena Canonero. She is responsible for the looks of A Clockwork Orange (1971), Barry Lyndon (1975), The Shining (1980), Chariots of Fire (1981), The Cotton Club (1984), Out of Africa (1985) and most recently, Marie Antoinette (2006), for which she won her 3rd Academy Award. She also did the costume design for the television series Miami Vice. She emphasizes color palette and working closely with set designer. See an analysis of costume in A Clockwork Orange here.

Qui êtes vous, Polly Maggoo? (1966) by William Klein is a vintage classic with unique costume design. The French film centers on a model, followed around Paris by a film crew. The opening scene features a show by designer André Courrèges.

Boom! (1968) was an entirely unique project shot on the island of Sardinia. Adapted from a Tenessee Williams play, it features a memoir writing, aging actress, played by Elizabeth Taylor. The look was a combination of "timeless" Italian modernism with Japanese Kabuki. The remarkable costumes that resulted are the star of the film. "Tiziani of Rome” is credited as the designer. Tiziani however was essentially an American owned label that was “ghost designed” by Karl Lagerfeld.

See more at Fashion & Film

Fashion & Music

Chanel by Karl Lagerfeld in 1991

Music is an art form with a stage presence that has connected it to costumes and fashion. Rock, punk, glam and country western are all recognized styles. Hip Hop is a subculture of both music and style. In Great Aspirations: Hip Hop and Fashion Dress for Excess and Success,” Emil Wilbeki begins by explaining that Hip Hop was first resistant to fashion and then slowly became consumed with status. Rap stars began to align with American Dream of excess. The clothing style varied from track suits to prep.

Run DMC, late 80's

Isaac Mizrahi saw his elevator operator with a gold chain and repeated the look in the late 1980’s, supporting “homeboy chic.” Karl Lagerfeld used padlocks, similar to Treach by Naughty Nature. Russell Simmons, Sean Combs and Master P started clothing lines. Simmons coined the phrase “ghetto fabulous” mixing the sexuality of the styles of Versace, Fendi and Dolce & Gabbana to create Phat Farm. Combs partnered with Zac Posen. Norma Kamali below styled Chaka Khan’s “I Feel for You,” video with stretch jersey.


Marc Jacobs for Perry Ellis 1992 in Vogue

Malcolm Barnard, in his essay, “Fashion, Art, Performance, Masquerade,” explains that fashion is associated with concepts of identity, beauty, performance, spectacle and masquerade: “Identity may now be thought of as an ongoing performance which is immediately undermined as the appearance of authentic identity and with all the theatrical and spectacular connotations that accompany the idea.” He describes David Bowie as “Ziggy Stardust” as “mixing fashion, art, performance and spectacle.”

New Zealand musicians Flight of the Conchords included a segment of Bowie in his "outer space years," above. The Conchords work with a French costume designer Rahel Afiley and have created a video called "Fashion is Danger." Images below from V Magazine 50 "Greatest Hits."
Fashion, Fa-fa-fa-faashion
Lo-lo-lo-lo-look look look
I'm the edge, I'm the chic, I'm the taste,
I'm larger than life with just a hint of lace
I'm the vanguard, I'm the air, I'm the vogue
I'm the shi-shi, ooh oui-i, I'm the man a la mode

P-p-p-p-p-president Reagan
Thatcher Th-Th-Thatcher

Posing, Posing at the bar
Posing, Posing sitting down
Posing, Posing in the distance
Posing, Posing with my arm
Posing, Posing with my leg
Posing, Posing like a swan
Posing, Posing for a portrait
Posing a threat

You think you know fashion
Well, fashion's a stranger
You think fashion's your friend
My friend, fashion is danger

Moscow, Berlin, Paris, London
Tokyo, Wellington, Rome, Geneva
New York City
New-New-New-New York City

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Cristobal Balenciaga, single seam wedding gown, 1967

At the age of 12, Balenciaga began as a seamstress for the Spanish aristocracy. During the in the 1930s with the Spanish civil war, he moved to Paris and influenced the fashion world. The single seam dress above was one of his last pieces before closing his house in 1968. He died in 1972.

Nicolas Ghesquiere for Balenciaga, 2008

As a child, Ghesquiere made earrings from chandeliers and then at age 14, interned at agnes b. He later assisted Gaultier, then in 1997 at age 25, he began directing Balenciaga. In 2000, he was named avant-garde designer of the year at the VHI/Vogue Fashion Awards and in 2001, he was named Womenswear Designer of the Year by the CFDA. Read Suzy Menkas on Ghesquiere. See the more of hats above again in Spring 2012.

Balenciaga in London & LA

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rethinking Display

It is no longer enough to simply be a flagship, you have to be a flagship with added value, as Ann Demeulemester has demonstrated with an all green store designed by Minsuk Cho in South Korea, 2009.

Chanel and architect Peter Marino have created a new one of a kind, petite boutique just for the younger set in Los Angeles

Marcel Wanders designed the award winning mixed brand store Villa Moda in Bahrain

While new mega flagships are being envisioned, artists have long been responding to the retail space. Daniel Buren began in the 1960's using striped fabric from store awnings. He would paint the outer two stripes with white paint and present the work as paintings. He also used the fabric to cover a gallery door and then controversially down the center of the Guggenheim. Buren continues using awning fabric and questioning the methods of promotion and display.

Daniel Buren, Inside (Centre Pompidou), 1971

Daniel Buren, On the Waterfront, 2005

Artists Elmgreen and Dragset launched into recognition by building a Prada store simulation in the fashionable town of Marfa where Donald Judd's work is displayed. The artists recently occupied two pavilions of the Venice Biennale. They transformed the galleries into private homes filled with other artists' work and titled "The Collectors."

Considered to be an innovative fashion and art initiative, the Chanel Mobile Art project was commissioned by Chanel and designed by designer Karl Lagerfeld with the Iraqi architect ZahaHadid. It was called a contemporary art container and hosted art projects by Daniel Buren, LeeBul, Nobuyoshi Araki, Sophie Calle, Stephen Shore, Sylvie Fleury, Yoko Ono. The project was intended as a travlling Chanel embassy to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Moscow, Paris, London, New York (2006-2008). But after a $10 million dollar investment it stopped touring in NY, due to the downturn of the economy and lack of general support of frivolous ventures.

“Today, everyone can say that something is for financial reasons when they want. For me, artistic reasons are more important. I always thought the building was a sculpture. I prefer it empty.” -Lagerfeld

Art & Display

In the arts, display is the means of unveiling, as in a gallery or museum. The gesture of display evokes an admiration or art appreciation, since the very basis of art is “look and don’t touch.” Essential to contemporary art is a critique of the act of display, most evident first in minimalism then in installation art.

Elsworth Kelly by Todd Eberle in 2007, admiring his work in the gallery.

Donald Judd's influential text of 1965 is called Specific Objects.He was describing the transformation of the form and display of art. He is explaining that art is somehow neither painting nor sculpture. He explains that painting and sculpture have become “less neutral, less containers.” They are particular over-determined forms. He cites the work of color field painters such as Rothko or Newman who have already revealed that color on a rectangular canvas is an object and can have depth. He concludes by acknowledging the new materials arising in art such as plastic. The essay comes at an important time in art history which was the beginning of the installation that made artists more conscious of the controlled gallery space. Not only was the canvas or the pedestal not neutral, but neither was the gallery or museum. The forms of creation and display are within social systems.

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1967

Donald Untitled, 1968

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1970

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1973

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1993

The extreme minimalism of Judd is evident in retail design. Above Commes des Garcons on Faubourg St. Honore and below Dior Homme on Rodeo Drive.

Robert Smithson was a contemporary to Judd who was also interested in display. In this reading he discusses some ways for challenging the expectations of display. Uselessness, futility, blindness, stillness and forgetfulness all suggest a very temporal and limited interaction. For Smithson, art was a process and the means of display was natural and mutable. When Smithson did present particular forms in a gallery he did so from a scientific perspective. He was driven to explore natural sites as in Spiral Jetty of 1970.

Robert Smithson, Mirror & Rocks, 1969
Robert Smithson, Mirror Discplacements, 1969

Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970

“Earth Artists” wanted to separate art from the system of manufactured capitalism, not only in the materials but also in the means of display and promotion. Their work was intangible and has only been integrated into the history of art through specific efforts by museums and institutions like Dia in New York.

Walter de Maria created the art work "Lightning Field," with a set of poles in New Mexico in 1977

Centre Pompidou held an exhibition of artist proposals for empty galleries in Feb-March 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fashion & Display

Display is an essential aspect to both fashion and art. For fashion, display is not considered the initial unveiling of design on a runway. Rather, display is understood as the planned presentation of design to a buyer, through a showroom, or to the consumer through a store window or sales floor. Display can be a creative extension of a designer’s values, vision, form and brand. It is an opportunity to advance the seasonal or brand image. Display is also a prime interest for retail and department stores that aim to create seasonal harmony among different labels. Because display advances fashion for consumption however, it is also a site of critique.

Jean Baudrillard wrote Fashion, or the Enchanting Spectacle of the Code, in 1993. He wrote about the system of fashion and its grand presentation and promotions. Baudrillard is also interested in the signs of fashion as free floating signs of “intense pleasure.” He writes, “fundamentally, fashion imposes upon us the rupture of an imaginary order…we are able to enjoy the dismantling or stripping of reason.” Fashion, he explains operates in the “sphere of commodities” and is itself a “sphere of fashion,” known as the fashion world.

Courreges, 1967

Fashion exists only in the framework of modernity, dominated by a myth of “progress and innovation,” specifically the “myth of change.” He describes fashion as “the core of modernity” infecting other realms with a need for change. Fashion is our spectacle and “spectacle is our fashion.” The grand promotion of fashion is an ongoing event of display.

The acceleration in production and turnover of style has resulted in an excessive market

In fashion, all signs are exchanged. The result is what Baudrillard calls a contamination, meaning that the original value is altered. He is equally critical of the system of fashion as an “aesthetic of manipulation,” and “passion for the artificial.” He continues by explaining that fashion “aims for a theatrical sociality.” He also suggests that advertising “wants a feast of consumption.” The result is excess, excess of clothes, excess of signs, excess of meaning.

Baudrillard quotes Vogue's defense of fashion: “‘Why haute couture?’ a few detractors may think. ‘Why champagne?’ Again: ‘Neither practice nor logic can justify the extravagant adventure of clothes"

Galliano Couture, German Vogue

Baudrillard concludes by emphasizing the relationship between fashion and sexuality and the connection to the body. He finishes: “We cannot escape fashion (since fashion itself makes the refusal of fashion into a fashion – blue jeans are an example of this.)”

Baudrillard was living and writing in Paris, home to the department store. Aristide Boucicaut founded the first department store, Le Bon Marche, in 1838. The other main Parisian shopping stores of Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, and Samaritaine all began business in the late 1800’s and continued to be expanded through the 1920’s establishing what we know as the main display spaces of fashion.

Les Grands Magasins from top, Bon Marché, Samaritaine and Galeries LaFayette

Louise Lague, “The Ultimate Marketplace: It’s Not Just Window Dressing,” 1989

This older article emphasizes the role of visual merchandizing as an art form. She focuses on Simon Doonan but also discusses Gene Moore of Tiffany fame, Candy Pratts Price, Bob Curie and others. Artists such as Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Tom Sachs have also worked on windows . Doonan is quoted for saying “Display and merchandising are a marriage.” Barneys gives half of its display budget to the windows. Barneys can have thematic windows, while designers need brand integrity with everyone window supporting the larger vision. See a site devoted to store windows here and my own photos of windows from Madison Avenue here.

Gene Moore, Windows for Tiffany's

Above Barneys, Summer 2009, lower image from June removed due to controversial content

The dense lux display of Bergdorff Goodman, above September 2009 and below Holiday 2008

Above Printemps, Holiday 2008 and 2009

Collaborative Window, Moschino, The Whitney Museum & Vogue, Fall 2009

Dior in New York, October 2009

See more windows from Madison Avenue here.

Read about Art & Display here.

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