Last year, a Brussels-based fashion multitasker named Aymeric Watine was wondering how he could soup up his store for the holiday season. Then he remembered the Sapins de Noël des Créateurs, an event created 19 years ago by French TV legend Marie Christiane Marek (her US equivalent would be Elsa Klensch). The concept was to have fashion designers use their imagination and recreate Christmas trees, which were then auctioned off for charity. With Marek's blessing, Watine took the idea to the Belgian capital. The first edition attracted 14 designers and 60,000 euros.
This year, 38 designers are on board, including high-profile names like Raf Simons, Stella McCartney, and Diane Von Furstenberg. To be auctioned December 1 for BIG, a breast-cancer awareness group, the creations range from the predictably phallic (such as Natan's spare wood structure) to the pious (Kryst's beautifully pixelated Madonna and child, made of tiny plastic tubes). Among the more unexpected are Jean-Paul Lespagnard's scarf — showing a popular Christmas meal of sushi, waffles, and a roast — draped over a man's head, as well as Wouters and Hendrix's downright campy tree admiring itself in a mirror. Simons' much-anticipated contribution is an large plush sofa in the shape of a tree — baby not included.
Wouters & Hendrix
It's not often that the 18th-century Queen of France and one of the greatest voluptuaries the world has ever known is invoked to describe a contemporary accessory. Nonetheless, Marie Antoinette and her exacting standards are cited by photographer and poet Christopher-Calvin Pollard when detailing his elaborate new shoe for his Iconoduly line, co-founded with the French-American artist Virginie Hauss. So lofty is its concept (and, at $15,000, its price tag) that it transcends footwear altogether. Indeed it's part of the duo's mission to revive, using centuries-old artisanal techniques, what they see as the lost art of adornment.
Let's break it down. Limited to 51, each pair of the Thyrsus shoe (named after a pinecone wand that, in Greek mythology, is associated with prosperity and hedonism) is handmade from beginning to end. The heel itself is carved by a master sculptor from solid cocobolo wood and finished with 24-karat gold leaf; the pinecone scales in the back are individually cut and stitched from fine ostrich-leg leather; the insole is wrapped in Lelievre embroidery; and the outsole is fire-branded with the edition number. Which is to say, nary a synthetic molecule goes into the production.
Incredibly, there is already a wait list, says Pollard. But unlike Birkins, buying into Iconoduly requires rules of ownership. "I am very picky about who I let purchase a pair. All women must first complete a Proust Questionnaire and then the selection process begins." Even when clients are allowed in, there is a shroud of secrecy that must be met at all times — it's a rule.
Pollard says he plans to make exactly one style of shoe per year, and he has the next 20 years already designed and sketched. Even the perks are planned out. For 2015, the Thyrsus will come with a skirt and earrings and, for 2016, the as-yet-unveiled object of adornment will ship with a 22-karat gold headpiece and a bench. Not just any bench, surely, but the most exquisite divan ever made.
Superheroes and supervillains, and several strong personalities in between, are reimagined by photographer Sacha Goldberger as Flemish Baroque portraits from the 1600s, complete with handmade costumes, props, and nobly introspective gazes. The photos demonstrate the use of centuries-old painting techniques to convey nobility while at the same time evoking a sense of fragility within us all.
Characters from Marvel and DC comic books, as well as Disney, Star Wars and other 20th-century classics, are represented. But Goldberger was hardly alone in the massive effort. An entire crew chipped in, from costume designers to casting directors. Which may explain why so many portraits resemble the actors who most memorably brought them to life on a screen, from Adam West’s Batman and Christopher Reeve's Superman to Hugh Jackman's Wolverine and Lou Ferrigno’s Incredible Hulk.
The last model departed the runway and the theme from Schindler’s List filled the room — melancholic and menacing. A small hologram of Kate Moss, rendered through an ancient technique known as Pepper’s Ghost, gathered in an organza-like cloud inside a glass pyramid. An apparition, she remained suspended and fluttering in midair for mere moments. The audience gasped and the press called The Widows of Culloden (fall 2006) one of Alexander McQueen’s most emotionally charged, autobiographical collections to date. Not since 1995’s Highland Rape had he revisited his family's native Scotland with such artistic urgency. And Moss — along with Isabella Blow, who'd commit suicide the next year by ingesting weed killer — was carved into popular memory as one of his most salient muses.
Muses are, in fact, borne out of memory, if one subscribes to ancient Greek mythology. They say that Zeus fathered nine Muses with Mnemosyne, who was memory personified. Today our muses operate in stealth, their voices filling writers’ heads with curling prose, artists’ minds with sensational and swimming colors, and, for fashion designers, finer focus on who their customer is (or could be). Particularly for men who dress women, the muse is an illusory ideal, obscured in fanciful abstraction and roaming the endless corridors of time. “Maria Lani, a formidable lady, had the charm to seduce fifty of the most incredible artists in the 1920s in Paris into portraying her. And she stole all the canvases, fled to Hollywood and no one ever saw her again,” John Galliano said of his muse for his spring 2011 collection. “And when I read that story, I just thought, ‘She’s a Galliano girl.’”
Rick Owens, on the other hand, rejects the idea of a muse entirely. “The entire vision was created for Michèle (Lamy, his wife), the volume of everything is created for her,” he told Style.com's Tim Blanks. “[But] muse sounds so gay, like projecting something onto an icon instead of a wonderful, attractive, fuckable woman. I’m not dressing a doll.”
In her new book, Champagne Supernovas (Amazon, iTunes), Maureen Callahan writes that Kate Moss “wanted to be more than a face, a model, a hologram.” In little over 200 pages, Callahan unfolds the remarkable stories of three movers and shakers (and survivors) of the 1990s: Moss, Alexander McQueen, and Marc Jacobs. Their lives were real and raw. They did lots of drugs, had lots of sex (not with each other, though Callahan doesn't bother disguising fashion’s incestuous undertones), and helped create some of the most incredible imagery of our age. But Callahan’s most interesting critique concerns the value and legitimacy of a muse, both as a concept and a creation. Before McQueen, it was Moss and Corinne Day; and, before Isabella Blow’s relationship with Alexander McQueen turned into a game of spite and strategy, they seemed set to rule the world.Read More
By themselves, the miniature nature scenes painstakingly realized by Australian artist Kendal Murray aren't particularly compelling or provocative — other than an obsessive attention to detail that went into them. But when arranged on found objects, such as old purses and compacts, they take on a hyper-real poignancy, a smaller and more private private Idaho. These dioramas, with their rhyming yet nonsensical titles, appear to have sprung out of the object itself, like little big bangs, for a repurposed raison d'être.
Declare Scare Swear
Discreet Sweet Deceit
Sometimes the sentimental sappiness of the holidays proves too much to resist and you have no choice but to embrace it in all its mawkish absurdity. For those moments, why not don Viktor & Rolf's limited-edition Christmas sweater, from the Dutch label's Monsieur line? In the time-honored tradition of gaudy seasonal knits, the colorful wool sweater depicts the designers' coddled dachshund, Little Swan, with reindeer antlers. Yes, a dog with antlers, because Christmas. Be thankful it doesn't come with jangly tree ornaments.
€480, exclusively at Viktor & Rolf, 370 rue Saint-Honoré, Paris
The short video feels a little like being trapped in a snow globe, which is probably the point...
It doesn't get much more opulent than Christian Dior gowns, past and present, photographed in atmospheric locations by Patrick Demarchelier. The second in a two-book series, Dior New Couture (Rizzoli, $115) visually translates the Dior story, from Monsieur's first creations 47 years ago through Raf Simons' latest designs. Demarchelier's chosen settings range from deserted suburbs of Paris to the Palace of Versailles, while Cathy Horyn provides the introduction.
In February of this year, we reported Giorgio Armani's blistering tirade about Anna Wintour when she skipped his Milan show to get to the Paris collections early. (She's all about punctuality.) "She said she was sending her people," he derided. "But if you go to see your dentist and he puts you in the hands of his assistant, what’s your reaction?" And that was one of the nicer parts of his polemic. Clearly, turning 80 hasn't mellowed the maestro one bit.
For his next outing, in September, Armani moved the show up in the calendar. Wintour attended, graciously, thus no one resorted to ranting or name-calling. It seemed all was right in the world. But now, for fashion week in March, he's returning to the last day, in another attempt to help smaller labels whose shows might otherwise be skipped by a majority of editors, following Wintour's earlier example. (To be fair, it isn't known yet if she'll attend or not.)
What's Armani's obsession with that last day? Not only is it to help fledgling designers, but it's also part of a larger effort to revive Milan Fashion Week, which has suffered from a serious lack of new blood. Holding on to that last day also lends credibility to the week's larger governing body, Camera della Moda. “When we decided to show on the last day, other big brands were involved," Armani said at that fiery press conference in February. "But currently this is an empty day. Is this protecting Italian fashion? Where is the Camera? I rejoined it, but I can always exit again. I can just put in a phone call.”
German photographer Julia Christe’s freestyle series catches dogs playfully jumping in the air, fur flying and ears flapping. Appearing to float in space, the pooches are safely dropped a short distance from above for a soft landing. Their expressions are priceless, a mix of glee and befuddlement, from a pint-sized pomeranian eager to show off his acrobatic skills to a komondor whose levitating fur cords reveal a nonplussed face. But the most unamused award goes to one very bored-looked cat...