Shopping with the Shocking Schiap

ELSA SCHIAPARELLI went from riches to rags and back again. Her signature Pink colour and perfume, ‘Shocking,’ were inspired by begonias, viewed from a pram in the grounds of her parents stunning Italian pallazzi. She spent a substantial living allowance; socialising in Europe and New York, so had to find ways to support herself and her daughter. And it just couldn’t be by designing a jumper and becoming a Surrealist.

Again and again Schiaparelli blazed new trails: she was the first conceptual designer, the first to do thematic collections, the first to produce fashion shows as spectacle and entertainment rather than glamorous business appointments. She was the first couturier to use man-made fabrics and to replace buttons with zippers, and the first designer of any kind to issue press releases. But more than anything else, she was the first to understand the power of marketing.

In 1933 Schiaparelli opened her own London salon and began featuring British woollen fabrics in her collections; tweeds and hand-knits, loving Scotland with its tartans, bonnets and tams.  This sourcing of British textiles was a practice taken up by clever creative descendants Jean Muir and Vivienne Westwood.  Her career prospered through her alliance with the British film and theatre industry and between 1933 and 1939 she designed costumes for 30 films and plays. 

By 1935 the business woman in Schiaparelli was flourishing.  She and her talented, American, public relations supremo, Hortense Macdonald, took a stand at the first French trade fair in Moscow. As sole representatives of French couture, they lined their booth with press-clippings printed on silk, with the floor covered in exclusive, Colcombet’s black ‘tree-bark,’ crepe with a fan-shaped display of international Fashion magazines.  Writing for a student pack, which accompanied the 2003/4 Philadelphia exhibition, curator Dilys Blum captures the excitement of the Art Deco era:

“Since 1935, Schiaparelli had been presenting thematic collections at her salon, theatrically staged with dramatic lighting, backdrops and music.  A fashion editor who regularly attended these events recalls that the front rows were filled with royalty, politicians, artists, film stars who pushed towards the models ‘as if it were rush hour’

Does the end justify the means? How yesterday’s influencers cut it!

MORE shocking, to me, than anything made known about the Fashion profession in The Devil Wears Prada, was the revelation of a surprisingly unethical approach taken by Piaggi, the Italian trendsetter, uncovered in the V&A exhibition, Fashion-ology, sponsored by Topshop in 2006.

She had happily written press releases for Missoni, while working as a journalist for Italian Vogue in the 1980s; an activity the well-regulated Public Relations profession in Britain and America would have regarded as rather unethical, at the time.

However, with Machiavelli’s dictum, ‘the ends justify the means’ as part of the Italian psyche, and Piaggi’s flair for creation, her double life, simultaneously, as both publicist and critic will not have damaged her reputation nor astonished her flocks of fans.

Piaggi.Blow

Piaggi and the English aristocrat Isabella Blow, who died in June 2007, were the champions of hatter Philip Treacy and designer Vivienne Westwood, and Blow was an actual assistant to Anna Wintour at US Vogue. When she died Isabella Blow’s extraordinary life story appeared everywhere, in the Fashion and style press and on radio and television.

She had moved to New York in 1979 to study Ancient Chinese Art at Columbia University and a year later abandoned her studies, to move to West Texas working in Fashion with Guy Laroche. In 1981, her big break came when Bryan and Lucy Ferry introduced her to the director of US Vogue, Anna Wintour.  She was hired first as Wintour’s assistant and then to organise fashion shoots under the discerning eye of André Leon Talley, then US Vogue‘s Editor At Large, and was soon befriending the likes of Warhol and Basquiat.   In 1986, Blow returned to London to become assistant to Michael Roberts, then fashion director both of Tatler and The Sunday Times and later as Style Editor at Tatler.

In a feature length piece in New York magazine, in 2007, Issie Blow’s meeting with Anna Wintour is described:

 On Wintour’s desk, there was a biography of Vita Sackville-West. “I’ve read that three times, and it always makes me cry,” she told Wintour. “Issie,” Wintour responded with her signature sangfroid, “there’s nothing to cry about”. But they were a match. “I loved coming to the office,” Wintour says, “because I never knew what to expect. One day she’d be a maharaja, the next day a punk, and then she’d turn up as a corporate secretary in a proper little suit and gloves.”

My descriptions of these two wonderful influencers, told to Anton Storey, resulted in these remarkably sensitive and charming illustrations.

 

WAY TO WEAR THE HAT! Diary of Midge Maisel, aged 26 and a half!

NOMINATED for three Golden Globes in the “musical or comedy” categories: Rachel Brosnahan for Best Performance by an Actress, Alex Borstein for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, and Best Television Series,  how come ‘Vanity Fair’ thinks the second series of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, “has little story to tell this time around?

Sonia Saraiya, VF’s television critic must surely know it’s all about the hats!

Saraiya is worried that the importance of Susie Myerson’s gender identity is not addressed! Also bothered by the plotting! If it’s set in Upper East Side, Manhattan, at first, she asks, how has it the chutzpah to take us to Paris and the Catskills, in the second series?

As an aspiring woman comic in the 1950s Midge Maisel (Brosnahan, raised in Leeds) needs a booking agent like Myerson  (Borstein). Susie is the gruff booker of the Gaslight Club in Greenwich Village where Midge’s career begins.  Borstein, the voice of Lois Griffin in Family Guy, is a joy from the second she appears on screen.

As long as they keep it coming, the team behind both series can do anything they like in my book!

With all the features of a Mark Kermode validated Rom-Com, The Amazing Mrs Maisel is made by a team of geniuses embracing the explosive freedom given by cinema technology and other inspired colleagues.

Letting us in on their secrets is Emmy nominated costume designer Donna Zakowska. She explains how she creates her magic: “In terms of the extras and other people, {I’m} trying to make it look as real as possible and then heightening Midge a bit.”

Explaining how she researched the looks: “Some of the colors from the ‘50s, a lot of the palette things—I looked at French Vogue from the period — are really very interesting color combinations. I worked a lot with combining, taking more heightened Vogue from the period and then bringing it down to a little bit more accessible level for the character.” Maisie hat

Midge, wearing a perfectly angled hat, persuades the parish priest to allow her friend’s wedding to take place away from a windowless punishment room! Who could resist that look?

Even without Amy Sherman-Palladino’s direction of the the peppy young housewife-turned-comedian Miriam “Midge” Maisel, I would still be madly in love with the show’s theatrical photography and rocket speed dialogue.

If this isn’t enough there’s mouth-watering, mid-century  neapolitan ice-cream, intricately detailed interiors; total turn on for film buffs, scopophiliacs, perfectionists and voyeurs everywhere!

marvelous-mrs-maisel

The Revlon counter at B.Altman’s department store in mid-20th century midtown Manhattan. 

Set designer Bill Groom is delighted to make magic for viewers, using every trick in the book through today’s technology.

“Amazon is new in the development of media, and they’re very open to ideas and solutions and new ways of doing things which makes what I do fun. This streaming world has exploded and has turned this into the second golden age of television, which I think is giving the creative people behind the scenes a lot of freedom, which in many ways makes the work more interesting.”

 

 

Still lives and long lost footage

The shoestring straps on the miniscule black dress and the high-heeled above-the-ankles boots in ‘Vanity Fair’s’ current Chanel ad make think of Deauville, ‘Boy’ Capel, Audrey Tatou, Ballet Russes and Stravinsky. How do they do it?

MYTHOLOGIES TODAY

So vulnerable - so not Chanel. So vulnerable – so not Chanel.

In Woody Allen’s ‘Stardust Memories’ there’s a scene with a besotted fan saying, to a successful movie director, that his after-shave gives her a Proustian-rush.  When she asks what it’s called he replies, Proustian Rush!

Maybe you had to be there, but it makes the point that a perfume has the power to stir significant memories and evoke emotions.

Once a scent is established and carries a label’s essence it’s important that the associations from the Fashion house are continued in promoting its myths and legends. The Wertheimers who still run the House of Chanel are usually brilliant at this*

However Coco Chanel’s life and works left a legacy, which continues as the most successful Fashion label in the world. Images from her original inspirations are traced in every new collection by Karl Lagerfeld and his super talented team.

Marilyn Monroe’s short…

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Vain hopes, vague waves – August is a wicked month

We love the glossies. They exist to distract us with their glamour.  It’s as if  Benetton’s, revolutionary 80s, advertising never happened for August 2012’s, UK editions, Vanity Fair and Vogue.

Subtle, conventional, uncontroversial, Louis Vuitton promotions feature liveried guard, luxury coach interior,  stern faced models in sculptural hats, vertiginous platforms, fine denier hosiery, polished leather gloves, and bejewelled, cupcake buttons, in Vogue.  The luggage company’s aspirational offering, for Vanity Fair, shows Muhammad Ali with boxing gloved, be-jeaned, glorious tiny grandson and unzipped LV holdall in luxuriant,  pooled garden.

Editorial in VF involves itself in matters of the moment.  Annie Leibovitz’s photos of Nobel Peace Prize winners create startling juxtapositions of Mikhail Gorbachev with the 14th Dalai Lama, Professors Jody Williams and Mohammad Yunus, Dr. Shirin Ebadi,  Lech Walesa, F.W. de Klerk with Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States.

Described as a ‘wayward teenager,’ the Yale alumna and the much missed, Marie Colvin, famously quoted as saying, ‘I never drink when I’m covering a war,’ is celebrated in  over 14 gripping pages, by Marie Brenner, as the world of Rachel Weisz’s scary fiction is contrasted with this real life drama of love and war.

In the revelatory economics of ‘Microsoft’s lost decade’ we discover that Google has ‘almost the same amount of cash on its books as Microsoft’ and that Steve Jobs blames Bill Gates for not putting enough emphasis on brilliant products, tending to ignore the humanities and liberal arts.  Well duh!

Latest trends in marketing are emerging through the rich West’s involvement with fabulous food provenance, sensed through the actual taste bit from the aesthetic list.  Stunning Art makes my mouth water and never more so than when devouring Fashion ads.   Gucci’s deep, dark oils across Vogue‘s double pages with spotlit glitter, glamour, glitz on belts, bags, rings and statement jewels are beguiling as Belgian chocolates.

Wondrous evocations of the Chanel legend drift across pages, one of pure white space. In a shade, dreamed from the sky at midnight, textured fine wool, with deeper contrast trim and sleeves appear on a porcelain and spun-ebony model. More genius styling from teams behind Bottega Veneta, Dolce & Gabbana, DKNY, Prada, Armani, Burberry Prosum make up selling-copy as divine post-modern theatre.

Although it hardly matters, with all this other scrumptiousness, editorial remains a delightful, image-rich feast, too.  In this August Vogue there’s nothing more serious than the sobering thought, from editrice, Alexandra Shulman, ‘everyone loves a good diktat!’  So let’s just say, ‘Keep taking the tablets.’

http://www.hud.ac.uk/staff/fashionintheageoftheimage.php