On Trend: Paper Flowers

Chanel has been influencing designers and fashionistas alike since ‘Coco’ first stepped into the Parisian Haute Couture spotlight. The maison has introduced the masses to such ideas as ballerina flats, the little black dress, and innovative floral design. That’s right, floraldesign.

The notorious Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel’s head designer, introduced paper flowers as the focus for his Spring/Summer 2009 Haute Couture Show in Autumn 2008. The all-white theme was a symbol of a new beginning for the fashion house. The paper flowers that lined the walls and winding staircase portrayed the blank sheet with which Lagerfeld was starting to design for the future of Chanel.

As with many of Chanel’s triumphs, paper flowers began to appear as a trend in other creative arenas – interior decorating, weddings, and DIY Pinterest boards. At Ornamento, floral designer Orna Maymon balances her creativity between classic and current styles. In staying on trend, paper flowers have started to blossom in her event designs and around her shop at the Fairmont hotel.

Most recently, she exhibited paper as the medium of choice at the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show, held last month at Fort Mason Center.  There, Maymon constructed life-like white phaelonopsis orchid flowers out of cardstock paper and attached them to the stems, which were planted as if they had grown from the earth. In a less lifelike, and more decorative, instance she created a large mixed flower construction for the centerpiece of a wedding in San Francisco. Even for smaller decorations, Maymon is able to make a few cuts and folds here and there to adapt Lagerfeld’s paper masterpiece to the domestic level, of ones bedroom or tabletop.

Paper can continually change shape and improve with the right artist.  Whether accenting a larger living floral creation, or standing on its own, the construction of paper flowers provides a fresh perspective on a timeless design concept.

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What Would Cinderella Wear? Costuming Lily James and Cate Blanchett in Kenneth Branagh’s Forthcoming Film

Lily James (with Richard Madden as the prince) on set.

Photo: Courtesy of Disney Studios

Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell reinvents the glass-slipper splendor of Cinderella.

There’s a mysterious alchemy at work in the best costume design for film, a secret marriage uniting clothing, character, and a director’s vision. Who would Judy Garland’s Dorothy be without her blue gingham pinafore (Innocence!) and red sequined slippers (Temptation!), or Jean Harlow without her liquid satin gowns? (Both women’s looks were created by Adrian, the wardrobe king of Hollywood’s Golden Age.) Audrey Hepburn’s ethereal lightness was magnified a hundredfold by Hubert de Givenchy’s chiffon confections, while ice princess Catherine Deneuve discovered a deep vein of perversity within her thanks to Yves Saint Laurent’s costumes for Belle de Jour. 

“The bad guy is always the most fun to dress,” admits three-time Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell. “And the good, kind person is always the most challenging.” Disney’s live-action Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Branagh and due out in March, gave her plenty of room to stretch in both directions. Lily James (Lady Rose of Downton Abbey) stars as the ultimate little girl’s fantasy figure, while an elaborately skirted Cate Blanchett channels Joan Crawford as Cinderella’s evil stepmother.

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The evil stepsisters and stepmother are meant to be “a bit too much,” says Powell.

Photo: Courtesy of Disney Studios

For Blanchett, whom Powell has dressed in three films (including Todd Haynes’sCarol, also to be released next year), the designer’s costumes play a key role in preparations. “To be in dialogue with Sandy instantly makes an actor’s internal work become more active and purposeful,” she says. “She invites grace, chutzpah, and irreverence, and one’s performance must rise to the occasion.”Though the fairy tale is timeless, Powell was aiming for the look of “a nineteenth-century period film made in the 1940s or ’50s,” she says. Cinderella’s stepsisters sport the yellow and pink of 1950s sorority sisters. “They are meant to be totally ridiculous on the outside—a bit too much and overdone—and ugly on the inside,” Powell says. Dressing Cinderella herself, meanwhile, required a subtle rethinking of the tale’s traditional iconography. “I didn’t want her in rags, as she is often portrayed in the storybooks,” Powell explained. “What I gave her instead is a dress that starts out pretty and ends up looking faded, tired, and worn out.”

The film marks something of a departure for Powell, who earned her chops designing for the likes of fellow Brits Derek Jarman (Caravaggio) and Sally Potter (Orlando) and whose costumes combine her deep knowledge of historical dress with the wild inventiveness of an outsider artist. She grew up surrounded by the vibrant colors of the large West Indian communities in Brixton, the South London neighborhood where she still lives. Textiles she finds in fabric shops there make their way into her work, alongside expensive Italian silks.

As for the Dress—the magical raiment that arrives courtesy of Cinderella’s scatterbrained fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) on the eve of the royal ball—it’s a cerulean gown with a voluminous skirt composed of more than a dozen layers of gossamer-fine silk in different shades of pale blue, turquoise, and lavender. “When I first put it on, I felt both empowered and scared,” James recalls. “How could I live up to this? Then I realized I could use that fear to show me how Cinderella would feel at that moment.”

Cinderella’s signature slipper, meanwhile, is made of crystal, designed in collaboration with Swarovski, and based upon a shoe from the 1890s that Powell found in a museum in Northampton. That shoe had a five-inch heel and no platform. “So besides the fact that Cinderella’s slipper is crystal, the shape of the last makes it impossible to walk in,” Powell says. “I was amazed that I was allowed to do it—that nobody wondered how they were going to reproduce it for children. But then,” she muses, “I guess the glass slipper is the ultimate fetish shoe, isn’t it?”

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty – About the Exhibition

“London’s where I was brought up. It’s where my heart is and where I get my inspiration.”

– Alexander McQueen, January 2000

The first and largest retrospective of the late designer’s work to be presented in Europe, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty showcases McQueen’s visionary body of work. Spanning his 1992 MA graduate collection to his unfinished A/W 2010 collection, McQueen’s designs are presented with the dramatic staging and sense of spectacle synonymous with his runway shows.

The original version of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in 2011 was organised by the Costume Institute and became one of the museum’s top 10 most visited exhibitions.


Portrait of Alexander McQueen, 1997 photographed by Marc Hom. © Marc Hom/Trunk Archive

Portrait of Alexander McQueen, 1997 photographed by Marc Hom. © Marc Hom/Trunk Archive

London

London was the epicentre of McQueen’s world. The son of a taxi-driver, he grew up in the city’s East End and left school at 15 to become a tailor’s apprentice on Savile Row in Mayfair. In 1990 he joined the prestigious MA Fashion course at Central Saint Martins. Already a highly proficient and inventive tailor, here he learned how to be a fashion designer, drawing inspiration from London’s history, its world-class museums and emerging ‘Brit art’ scene.

Working with a small, closely-knit team, he produced a series of low budget, enthralling and provocative shows set in gritty, industrial locations across the capital. He recalled, ‘There was so much repression in London fashion. It had to be livened up.’


Jacket, Alexander McQueen, It's a Jungle out there, Autumn/Winter 1997-8. Image: firstVIEW

Jacket, Alexander McQueen, It’s a Jungle out there, Autumn/Winter 1997-8. Image: firstVIEW

A Romantic Mind

‘You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition.’
– Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen consistently promoted freedom of thought and expression and championed the authority of the imagination. In this, he was an exemplar of the Romantic individual, the hero-artist who staunchly followed the dictates of his inspiration.

McQueen expressed this originality most fundamentally through his methods of cutting and construction. These were both innovatory and revolutionary. He was such an assured designer that his forms and silhouettes were established from his earliest collections, and remained relatively consistent throughout his career.


Duck feather dress, The Horn of Plenty, Autumn/Winter 2009-10. Model: Magdalena Frackowiak. Image: firstVIEW

Duck feather dress, The Horn of Plenty, Autumn/Winter 2009-10. Model: Magdalena Frackowiak. Image: firstVIEW

A Gothic Mind

‘People find my things sometimes aggressive. But I don’t see it as aggressive. I see it as romantic, dealing with a dark side of personality.’
– Alexander McQueen

One of the defining features of Alexander McQueen’s collections was their historicism. While McQueen’s historical references were far- reaching, he was particularly inspired by the nineteenth century, drawing especially on the Victorian Gothic. ‘There’s something kind of Edgar Allan Poe,’ he once observed, ‘kind of deep and kind of melancholic about my collections.’

Like the Victorian Gothic, which combines elements of horror and romance, McQueen’s collections often reflected paradoxical relationships such as life and death, lightness and darkness, melancholy and beauty.


Coiled corset. The Overlook, Autumn/Winter 1999. Shaun Leane for Alexander McQueen. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Coiled corset. The Overlook, Autumn/Winter 1999. Shaun Leane for Alexander McQueen. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Romantic Primitivism

Throughout his career, Alexander McQueen frequently returned to the theme of primitivism, which drew upon the fantasy of the noble savage living in harmony with the natural world. Eshu (Autumn/Winter 2000) was inspired by one of the most well-known deities of Yoruba mythology. It’s a Jungle Out There (Autumn/Winter 1997–98) was based on the theme of the Thomson’s Gazelle.

The collection was a meditation on the dynamics of power, in particular the dialectical relationship between predator and prey. McQueen’s reflections on primitivism were frequently represented in paradoxical combinations, contrasting modern and primitive, civilized and uncivilized. Typically, McQueen’s narrative glorified the state of nature and tipped the moral balance in favour of the ‘natural man’ or ‘nature’s gentleman’, unfettered by the artificial constructs of civilization.


Bird’s Nest headdress with Swarovski gemstones, Widows of Culloden, Autumn/Winter 2006–07. Philip Treacy and Shaun Leane for Alexander McQueen. Model: Snejana Onopka, Image: Courtesy Swarovski Archive

Bird’s Nest headdress with Swarovski gemstones, Widows of Culloden, A/W 2006–07. Philip Treacy and Shaun Leane for Alexander McQueen. Model: Snejana Onopka, Image: Courtesy Swarovski Archive

Romantic Nationalism

Alexander McQueen’s collections were fashioned around elaborate narratives that were profoundly autobiographical, often reflecting upon his ancestral history, specifically his Scottish heritage. Indeed, when he was once asked what his Scottish roots meant to him, the designer responded, “Everything.” McQueen’s national pride is most evident in The Widows of Culloden (Autumn/Winter 2006) which was based on the final battle of the Jacobite Risings in 1745. A grand collection, it presented a catharsis to the anti-romanticism of his earlier, Highland Rape collection of 1995. McQueen’s message, however, remained defiantly political: ‘What the British did there was nothing short of genocide.’

Despite these heartfelt declarations of his Scottish national identity, McQueen also had a deep interest in the history of England. This was most apparent, perhaps, in The Girl Who Lived in the Tree  (Autumn/Winter 2008), inspired by an elm tree in the garden of McQueen’s country home in East Sussex. Influenced by the British Empire, it was one of McQueen’s most romantically nationalistic collections, albeit heavily tinged with irony and pastiche.


Butterfly headdress of hand-painted turkey feathers, Philip Treacy for Alexander McQueen, La Dame Bleue, Spring/Summer 2008. Model: Alana Zimmer © Anthea Simms

Butterfly headdress of hand-painted turkey feathers, Philip Treacy for Alexander McQueen, La Dame Bleue, Spring/Summer 2008. Model: Alana Zimmer © Anthea Simms

Cabinet of Curiosities

‘I find beauty in the grotesque, like most artists. I have to force people to look at things.’
– Alexander McQueen

The emotional intensity of McQueen’s catwalk presentations was frequently the consequence of the interplay between dialectical oppositions. The relationship between victim and aggressor was especially apparent, particularly in the accessories. He once remarked, ‘I like the accessory for its sadomasochistic aspect.’

The exhibition’s Cabinet of Curiosities, focuses on atavistic and fetishistic paraphernalia produced by McQueen in collaboration with a number of accessory designers, including the milliner Philip Treacy and the jeweler Shaun Leane. The Cabinet also includes show pieces, one-off creations made for the catwalk but not intended for production.


It’s Only a Game, Spring/Summer 2005. Image: firstVIEW

It’s Only a Game, Spring/Summer 2005. Image: firstVIEW

Romantic Exoticism

Alexander McQueen’s romantic sensibilities expanded his imaginary horizons not only temporally but also spatially. As it had been for artists and writers of the Romantic Movement, the lure of the exotic was a central theme in McQueen’s collections. His exoticism was wide-ranging. Africa, China, India and Turkey were all places that sparked his imagination. Japan was particularly significant, both thematically and stylistically. The kimono, especially, was a garment that the designer endlessly reconfigured in his collections.

But as with many of his themes, McQueen’s exoticism often expressed itself in contrasting opposites. This was the case with It’s Only a Game (Spring/Summer 2005), a show staged as a chess game inspired by a scene in the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001), which pitched the East (Japan) against the West (America).


Dress of dyed ostrich feathers and hand-painted microscopic slides, Voss, Spring/Summer 2001. Model: Erin O'Connor. Image: REX

Dress of dyed ostrich feathers and hand-painted microscopic slides, Voss, Spring/Summer 2001. Model: Erin O’Connor. Image: REX

Voss

‘It was about trying to trap something that wasn’t conventionally beautiful to show that beauty comes from within.’
– Alexander McQueen

VOSS (Spring/Summer 2001), also known as the ‘Asylum’ show, was staged inside a vast two-way mirrored box. The collection featured a number of exoticized garments, including a coat and a dress appliquéd with roundels in the shape of chrysanthemums.

Typical of McQueen’s collections, VOSS offered a commentary on the politics of appearance, upending conventional ideals of beauty. For McQueen, the body was a site for contravention, where normalcy was questioned, and where the spectacle of marginality was embraced and celebrated.


Tulle and lace dress with veil and antlers, Widows of Culloden, Autumn/Winter 2006-07. Model: Raquel Zimmermann at Viva London. Image: firstVIEW

Tulle and lace dress with veil and antlers, Widows of Culloden, Autumn/Winter 2006-07. Model: Raquel Zimmermann at Viva London. Image: firstVIEW

Romantic Naturalism

‘I have always loved the mechanics of nature and to a greater or lesser extent my work is always informed by that.’
– Alexander McQueen

Nature was the greatest, or at least the most enduring, influence upon Alexander McQueen. Many artists of the Romantic Movement presented nature itself as a work of art. McQueen both shared and promoted this view in his collections, which often included fashions that took their forms and raw materials from the natural world.

McQueen frequently played upon the transformative powers of clothing. In The Widows of Culloden (Autumn/Winter 2006) a dress created entirely from pheasant feathers imbued the wearer with an avian beauty, while a razor clam shell encrusted dress from VOSS (Spring/Summer 2001) formed a brittle carapace. Sarabande (Spring/Summer 2007) incorporated both silk and real flowers, which withered as they fell onto the catwalk.


Jellyfish ensemble and Armadillo shoes, Plato's Atlantis, Spring/Summer 2010. Model: Polina Kasina © Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE

Jellyfish ensemble and Armadillo shoes, Plato’s Atlantis, Spring/Summer 2010. Model: Polina Kasina © Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE

Plato’s Atlantis

‘Plato’s Atlantis predicted a future in which the ice cap would melt, the waters would rise and life on earth would have to evolve in order to live beneath the sea once more or perish. Humanity would go back to the place from whence it came.’
– Alexander McQueen

Nature’s influence on McQueen’s work is most clearly reflected in Plato’s Atlantis (Spring/Summer 2010), the last fully realized collection the designer presented before his death in February 2010. Inspired by Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859), it presented a narrative that centred not on the evolution of humankind but on its devolution. McQueen utilized complex, digitally engineered prints inspired by sea creatures and introduced the towering ‘Armadillo’ boots.

With its mixture of technology, craft and showmanship, Plato’s Atlantis was considered to be McQueen’s greatest achievement. It offered a potent vision of the future of fashion.

The exhibition of Horst: Photographer of Style

Horst P. Horst (1906-99) created images that transcend fashion and time. He was a master of light, composition and atmospheric illusion, who conjured a world of sensual sophistication. In an extraordinary sixty-year career, his photographs graced the pages of Vogue and House and Garden under the one-word photographic byline ‘Horst’. He ranks alongside Irving Penn and Richard Avedon as one of the pre-eminent fashion and portrait photographers of the 20th century.

Patterns from Nature

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Patterns from Nature Photographic Collage, about 1945.

Horst’s second book, Patterns from Nature (1946), and the photographs from which it originated, are a surprising diversion from the high glamour of his fashion and celebrity photographs. These close-up, black and white images of plants, shells and minerals were taken in New York’s Botanical Gardens, in the forests of New England, in Mexico, and along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Fashion in Colour

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Dinner suit and headdress by Schiaparelli, 1947.

Horst’s colour photographs are rarely exhibited because few vintage prints exist. Colour capture took place on a transparency which could be reproduced on the magazine page without the need to create a photographic print. The size of the new prints displayed in this room of the exhibition echoes the large scale of a group of Horst images printed in 1938 at the Condé Nast press.

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The exhibition of wedding dresses from 1775 to 2014

This exhibition delineates the development of the fashionable white wedding dress and covered some famous fashion designers such as Charles Frederick Worth, Norman Hartnell, Charles James, John Galliano, Christian Lacroix, Vivienne Westwood and Vera Wang offering their great works over the last two centuries. . The V&A’s collections are the most romantic, glamorous and extravagant wedding dresses and also including some important new acquisitions as well as loans such us the purple dress worn by Dita Von Teese for her marriage to Marilyn Manson and the outfits worn by Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale on their wedding day. The exhibition highlights the histories of the dresses and revealing fascinating details about the lives of the wearers.

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Due to my research topic, the focus is wedding dresses of 1970s. With flowy embroidered wedding dresses and floral halos trending right now, the 1970s are back in a big way. Seventies-inspired wedding dresses are romantic, feminine, and organic. There are some original 1970s wedding pictures and also some modern takes on this stylish trend.

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