‘Vogue’ and ‘Vanity Fair’ spreads show the irrepressible magic and impact of CHANEL’s heritage, worn here by Cara Delevigne and Lily-Rose Depp.
We have to ask how do they do it? How does Chanel continue to create links with the mistress of allure and couture? How does it capture the dissolute deceptions of the little singing milliner who was their founder? It’s partly Coco’s ability to constantly reinvent herself so that the archive is rich and multi faceted. But it’s also because Chanel knew how to pose, to be en vogue, to socialise through the media, and to become society’s first working woman celebrity.
IN 1997 I read about a park in Paris donated by the Citroen foundation. Luckily I had a son and two grandsons who were exactly the ages to see such wonders. So we booked, sailed the channel and crossed the summer fields of la belle France by train.
Parc Citreon is pres le Tour Eiffel so we did both spectacular sites on our first day, only stopping for food and wine at the best restaurants we could find.
Paris is also the home to La Villette designed by Bernard Tschumi, a French architect of Swiss origin, who built it from 1984 to 1987 in partnership with Colin Fournier, on the site of the huge Parisian abattoirs (slaughterhouses) and the national wholesale meat market, as part of an urban redevelopment project. The slaughterhouses, built in 1867 on the instructions of Napoléon III, had been cleared away and relocated in 1974. Tschumi won a major design competition in 1982–83 for the park, and he sought the opinions of the deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Derrida in the preparation of his design proposal.
Since the creation of the park, museums, concert halls, and theatres have been designed by several noted contemporary architects, including Christian de Portzamparc, Adrien Fainsilber, Philippe Chaix, Jean-Paul Morel, Gérard Chamayou,on to Mr. Tschumi. In the middle of the week we travelled on the Metro out to the sites of the former abbattoirs. Although it was all a bit scholarly its novelty enchanted us and later inspired my part in instigating Eureka! in Halifax, UK.
As Jo, Adam and Matt were encouraged to take in Geography, History, Geometry I thought our weekend treat, Parc Asterix, with its giant Obelix, golden goddesses and bronzed living statues would be relaxed and low key enough to take the pressure off! It was, and yet far enough away from the theme parks of Hollywood to feel like art. There were actual horses, actors, underwater swimmers and as a treat from the gods – Delice de Zeus – ice cream created to make Neapolitans seem dull!Jo, Adam and Matt now have projects of their own designed to amuse and entertain, and although I’m not employed by the Paris Tourist Board I’m open to offers!
I’m not a cougar but Christopher Breward’s latest book celebrating the glorious and everyday charms of ‘The Suit,’ makes me see how a predatory woman might feel!
On many of the pages I fall in love again and again!
Breward sets the suit in its commanding history as an important marker inspiring new ways of looking at the power-hungry, the lover, the elegant, through their lives at home, in trade, on travel and in the movies.
The suit has survived hardly modified over generations, worn by men and women, ‘politicians, estate agents, bankers, rabbis, courtroom defendants, wedding grooms’.
The author’s own wedding outfit, now in the V&A, was worn for a civil partnership ceremony with James Brook on 18 August 2006. Christopher’s from Kilgour on Saville Row with Jasper Conran shirt, while James’ tailored wool-blend pinstripe by Timothy Everest, for Marks and Spencer are included in the museum’s collections, reflecting the suit’s enduring appeal.
Taking his lead from Adolf Loos, the Modernist ‘suitophile’ who compared the garment to a classical temple, Breward considers its form, function and style across the decades. Thinking ‘the smart flashiness of the soldier’s get-up takes us only so far in understanding the evolution of the modern suit,’ he encourages us to consider the dinginess of English cities when ‘darkness inevitably rubbed off on the man’s suit and its status in everyday life.’
Romping through the centuries he notes how working men’s solid woollen jackets and trousers stood for stronger values than a nineteenth century clerk’s off-the-peg garb, although it it did represent technological advances.
Turning to advice given for successful dressing, he shows how pundits had often suggested conservative, appropriate, two pieces to make a statement, as novel alternative modes of dress were appearing. In the midst of the flowery Hippies in the 70s and Punk-Goths in the 80s, the monochrome model survived in the service of industry and commerce.
When nepotism and old school ties were superseded by strategic and technological brilliance, as open routes to lucrative City jobs, the suit became more valuable than ever as a leveller in the market place. Men’s retailers know that the price of a suit is geared to match exactly a week’s wage. So from the 80s on, from the high street to Savile Row, customers would be spending between £2,000 and £10,000 to be kitted out.
When the global crash came in 2008, it had been heralded by informal dress into the worlds of banking and high finance in the 90s and 2000s; seeming to reflect immorality and the rise of greed. Disgraced workers were seen leaving their offices uniformly wearing pastel sportswear on television news channels!
City slickers and bar bound lawyers insist the suit is a sign of distinction and power in the professions despite calls to dress down or man-up for our digital age. Breward, now a tweeds and jeans-wearing academic, hopes the suit will persist for hundreds more years; for as long as the civilised values it represents are around.
Separating Vivien Leigh from Scarlett O’Hara is almost impossible.
When she took on the role of the Pulitzer prize winning American Civil War heroine in ‘Gone with the Wind,‘ in 1937, she became the most viewed, the most famous actress of the 20th century.
In 1999 I was teaching in 6th forms in Yorkshire, and studying with Antony Easthope in Manchester.
Even so, one day, I caught Judy Finnegan and Richard Madeley on ‘This Morning.’ They were reviewing either the whole of the last century, or maybe it was just Cinema!
A viewer phoned in from around Cornwall. She said Scarlett O’Hara was ‘powerful’ first and then ‘beautiful,’secondly. So I had a Feminist role model to write about for a study on Film!
More surprising than this was the so called ‘confession’ from Richard. He said he had carried a photograph of Leigh/Scarlett in his pocket ever since seeing ‘Gone with the Wind’ 20 years earlier!
‘Scarlett O’Hara and the post-bellum New Look’ became a chapter in ‘Fashion, Media, Promotion.’ I learned that the ‘post-war’ Latin tag usually referred to the American Civil War. So people like my daughter, Sally, and my partner, Simon, thought I was better informed than in reality! I chose it to go with the post WW2, Christian Dior, 1947 full-skirted sensation!
The V&A held a celebration of the ‘Golden Age of Couture’ in 2007. There I discovered the tiny waist fetish and the massive audiences following Scarlett were part of the revival of Paris after WW2. I also found actual connections between Vivien Leigh and Christian Dior.
Now I’m IT! On Wednesday 13th November at 1pm, in the Hochhauser Auditorium, Sackler Centre, I’m giving a lunchtime talk! Here’s the listing from the V&A site!
Vivien Leigh – role model or victim figure?
‘LUNCHTIME LECTURE: David Selznick’s, ‘I’ll never recover from that first look,’ gives us a clue to Vivien Leigh’s stage-management of her initial meeting with important producer of ‘Gone with the Wind’, the 20th century’s most watched movie.
Her co-stars thought her ‘blind ambition’ cost her too much, and laid the plot for further exploitation of her enigmatic beauty.
A hundred years since her birth, Jayne Sheridan tells her story of brilliance and despair.
Tim Berners-Lee chose to name his universal computer platform, the ‘world wide web,‘ and opened up, more than just, the mathematically most enormous communications system. He involved us with feminine notions of weaving and webs!
We can no longer survive without connections, passing references, most importantly, irony. We need to know other things – the back story.
So to really enjoy the Audrey Hepburn Galaxy chocolate ad we have to be devoted fans of ‘Roman Holiday,’ (1953) ‘Sabrina’ (1954) and ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). We should see the ‘Galaxy’ recreations as homage to William Wilder, Blake Edwards and their production teams.
Scenes with Vespa scooters, open air produce markets, immediately evoke Greg Peck’s life in ‘Roman Holiday’; the chauffeur and the open top car, the lives of the Larabee brothers in ‘Sabrina,’ the music, ‘Moon River’ – ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’
The ‘Framework’ crew worked tirelessly to recreate the actress’s smile, with a team of four hand-animating, carefully, posed expressions in every shot. Yet as CG VFX Supervisor, Simon French, explains: “It is amazing how unique and how recognisable a person’s smile is. When you see it in this detail, it really needs to look perfect.”
No film fan would think they had captured the spirit, the nuances, associated with the actress, but as a paid-for promotional vehicle it’s certainly absorbing.
And so, the clever team at ‘Framework,’ creating the Audrey Hepburn, ‘Galaxy’ ad, couldn’t help catching some of the star’s charisma to entice us to their shiny firmament. Yes, and of course, there’s a ‘but’ coming! What happened was that Marketing won out over Cinema Art for this technological miracle.
Why did they include, ‘Why have cotton, when you can have silk?’ No connections, whatsoever, with Hollywood or Hepburn! Separating Mars chocolate from competitors bars was unnecessary, here. Surely just having us identify with the the pleasure, the sophistication, the fun attached to Hepburn’s most successful movies is enough.
When I meet Luca Dotti at the V&A, in a celebration of his mother’s work, next week, it will not be a good idea to discuss all this Media muddle with him. So I’m back with the poets saying, ‘had we but world enough and time…..
WITH crowned kings and queens and actresses wearing tiaras, no-one’s too sure about jewels as status symbols anymore. But as Sheldon’s girlfriend discovers her, diamond-studded, apology gift, the worlds of fantasy and reality collide. See video below.
There’s more than just a tiara linking Audrey Hepburn, outside Tiffany’s in that hit 1961 movie, and Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler in my favourite sit com, The Big Bang Theory. I can hardly write this blog for wanting to view the Youtube videos below. That’s not part of the connection, although it may be.
Audrey Hepburn frees modern woman to be more herself, than she has ever been before, as she steps out between New York skyscrapers from a yellow cab in the early hours of the day. Gazing into Tiffany’s window, ‘nothing really bad could happen to you there,’ holding her portable coffee, taking a bite from a do-nut, wearing tiara and pearls, we are convinced that anything is possible at any time.
When Amy is offended by Sheldon’s dismissal of her scientific journal article and he is persuaded, by Penny, to give her a gift, he chooses a tiara. For him this will be far more confusing than understanding String Theory! Yet without the Hepburn film moments, from the 1950s and 1960s, none of us would be able to get the ironies in the situation, either.
Before Hepburn in Roman Holiday, when Princess Ann realised she could lead a more ordinary life, even if for only one day, and in B@T’s when Holly Golightly throws off mid American domesticity for the glamour of New York, we did not know we could question status. From then on we could play with symbols, such as tiaras, to create our own individual personas through Fashion. We now, no longer, have to be either feminine or Feminist. We can be both!
TWO other men, easily as interesting as William the Conquerer, came from La Manche, Normandy.
One, the sensational Christian Dior whose New Look, (1947) promoted by the American journalist Carmel Snow, began a democratization of style which fascinates Vivienne Westwood to this day. The other, is Roland Barthes, the mid 20th C writer, transforming the way we think about popular products, like Hollywood, cars, margarine, wrestling, strippers and especially Fashion…
I knew Granville was Dior’s birthplace and that his home is a museum, but didn’t know that this summer, 2012, celebrates the many Dior connections with the movies. On show, inside the house, La Rhumbe, seen above left, in pink, are Dior creations from 1947 to now. From the Robert Altman film Pret a Porter, to Jude Law in Dior Homme, from Fahrenheit; Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman, Natasja Kinski, Ava Gardner, Zizi Jean-Maire to Rachel McAdams, in Woody Allen’s, Midnight in Paris, all are costumed by the House of Dior.
Dior did not go back to Granville, once he was forced, by the 1929 Wall Street crash, and subsequent worldwide depression, to seek his fortune in Paris. I did go back. How could we not re-visit the gardens, perfumed with a cornucopia of blossoms, overlooking a spectacular coast? Then to discover that high on another hill, over the town, there were stories of Collette’s relationship, with the master couturier, in a museum space devoted to collections of Richard Ancreon, another of CD’s amis. Malcolm McLaren really got it right when he said Dior knew everyone.
It would be fun to think that Dior and Barthes met one day in, say, a cafe on the Boulevard Saint-Michel, when they were both around to sample the joys, and talk of the pleasures, in that most especially aesthetic of cities.
Above right is the illustration Anton Storey created for FASHION MEDIA PROMOTION the new black magic to encapsulate the ideas he and I have about Barthes.