Joan Didion — 79-year-old essayist, therapeutic novelist, explorer of emotional depths — will be the subject of a documentary by her nephew, the actor Griffin Dunne, and co-directed by documentarian Susanne Rostock. Surprisingly, it'll be the first documentary about the literary icon; more surprisingly, considering Didion could hardly be better regarded or connected, they're crowdsourcing the project on Kickstarter (see video below). The campaign, which went live two days ago, shattered its goal of $80,000 in about a day.
The documentary, We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order to Live (named after her groundbreaking collection of essays), will trace Didion's stellar arc from bookish schoolgirl, introverted UC Berkeley student, and lowly Vogue copywriter to celebrated Hollywood screenwriter (A Star Is Born, True Confessions) and venerated author. An intensely private person, she'll read passages from a selection of her writing — Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Where I Was From, The Year of Magical Thinking — interspersed with interviews with Barbra Streisand, Patti Smith, Harrison Ford, Graydon Carter, Anna Wintour, and others who've known her or found inspiration in her words.
At the age of 82, Oscar de la Renta has passed away. The celebrated doyen of American high fashion had been battling cancer for nine years.
The news comes just days after the announcement that Peter Copping would become the house's new creative director, the first position of its kind at the company. Less than a month ago, Amal Alamuddin was married to George Clooney in a wedding dress designed by de la Renta.
Born in the Dominican Republic in 1932, de la Renta left home after high school to study painting in Spain. There he developed a love of fashion design and began apprenticing with the couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga. Shortly thereafter, de la Renta took a job with Lanvin in Paris. In the 1990s, long after establishing himself in New York, he designed couture for the French house of Balmain.
De la Renta is particularly esteemed for dressing luminaries and VIPs for red-carpet and formal events. He launched his eponymous label in the mid-1960s and shot to fame when Jacqueline Kennedy wore his designs as First Lady. Throughout many White House administrations, his work continued to grace First Ladies, including Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama.
He had an especially cordial relationship with Clinton, with whom he shared the stage at the 2013 CFDA Fashion Awards. “She might not like me to say this," he told the audience, "but I think she’s going to be our next president." The room erupted in applause.
It looks like Peter Lindbergh's show at Gagosian Paris is being expanded into a larger retrospective to launch in 2015. Plus, the French-Canadian curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot — who created the Gaultier retrospective (now in Melbourne) from scratch — has been tapped to produce it. Which suggests it won't be a straightforward, chronologically based retrospective, but a more immersive and perhaps fanciful affair. If Jean Paul Gaultier could be transformed into a speaking animatronic mannequin, just think what can be done with the 80s and 90s supermodels — Linda Kate Moss, Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz — Lindbergh is famed for immortalizing.
The Apple Watch may have fanfare, but Pebble watches now have watchface apps made of pure energy, making them "more like ghosts than real things." So says the company that designed them, TTMM, winners of several awards for these new watchface apps, which, owing to their simplistic, black-and-white, retro aesthetic, makes some of them all but impossible to read — more like playing Space Invaders than telling time. But who needs time when you have ghosts?
A long-awaited and very weighty monograph on Ann Demeulemeester (Rizzoli, $100) is being released in November. When we met in Antwerp in April, the influential Belgian designer had just sent off the final draft to the publisher, and she spoke of it as if it were the perfect closure to her body of work in fashion, an exclamation point on the last sentence of her career, a tome in itself.
The cloth-bound book is, obviously, black and comes in a matching slipcase, with Demeulemeester’s signature two thin and long black tassels serving as ribbon markers. Her husband, Patrick Robyn, is responsible for much of the early photography, while her son, Victor, helped her design and compile the volume. It’s not a regular, large-format coffee table affair, but its thickness is a physical reminder of how rich Demeulemeester’s career in fashion has been. As a matter of fact, if not for the thin paper stock, the 2000-page tome might prove unwieldy.
The only text in the book is an introduction by Patti Smith, who has been a close friend of Demeulemeester’s for years. Poetic, as usual, it begins with Demeulemeester discovering Smith’s Horses album. She was passing by a record shop when she was struck by the image of a young Smith in a plain white shirt. Years later, Demeulemeester summoned the courage to send Smith a package with three of her own white shirts. WIth that, their friendship was born.
In a few strokes, Smith's introduction paints the raison d'être of Demeulemeester’s work. It was not a preoccupation with fashion that drew Demeulemeester to it, but a deep-rooted interest in clothing as an expression of character. She ends on a fitting note: “The girl of Flanders has walked her own path, in her own black boots.”
The rest of the book consists of images, over 1000 of them. They occupy the center of each page, surrounded by plenty of white space. The first part is a treasure trove of early photography, virtually impossible to come by in the pre-Internet era. From these you can glean how early some signature elements of Demeulemeester’s aesthetic appeared: the predominantly black and white palette, the use of feathers, Edwardian cuts, and those famous tassels. The influence of menswear, too, becomes apparent, even though Demeulemeester did not present a men’s capsule until 1996.
The images continue on to the runway shows, starting in 1992 in Paris. There are no breaks of any kind to separate one collection from the next (you can refer to the index in the back) — a reminder that Demeulemeester sees her work as one continuous, undivided series of chapters.
Eugene Rabkin is the editor-in-chief of StyleZeitgeist
It turns out that the upcoming London run of Alexander McQueen's 'Savage Beauty' exhibit will be significantly different from its New York incarnation. With the benefit of showing in the designer's hometown, where many items that were too delicate to ship to New York are readily available, and where many of his early collaborators reside, the new presentation at the Victoria & Albert museum could potentially outperform the Costume Institute's record-setting edition.
As envisioned by Claire Wilcox, senior curator of fashion at the V&A, the London show will feature more than 30 previously undisplayed garments that couldn't make the journey to New York, including a white feathered dress from fall 2009 (The Horn of Plenty) and a red feather dress from fall 2008 (The Girl Who Lived in the Tree). Also new is a room dedicated to McQueen's rough-and-tumble beginnings, spotlighting his pre-Givenchy inspirations and motivations, as well as the spectacular hologram of a ghostly Kate Moss in a white organza gown that closed his fall 2006 runway, replacing the miniature version shown in New York.
Alexander McQueen fall 2009 & fall 2008
Additionally, the popular Cabinet of Curiosities section will be filled out with more pieces from McQueen collaborators, such as milliner Philip Treacy and jeweler Shaun Leane. Meanwhile, McQueen's trusted production company Gainsbury & Whiting has been recruited to lend the showcase a look and feel very similar to his dramatic runway extravaganzas.
Before his death by suicide, McQueen attempted to make preparations, positioning his protege Sarah Burton to take over for him at the house. But he surely could not have foreseen the creation of Savage Beauty or its enormous popularity. He did reveal to friends before his passing that one of his wishes was to establish an Alexander McQueen School of Design. Here's hoping that's in the pipeline, perhaps a wing of Central Saint Martins, where, true to form, he nicked fabric for his very first fashion shows?
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, March 14 - July 19, 2015
“I'd buy everything / Clean out Vivienne Westwood / In my Galliano gown,” Gwen Stefani sang, as her arms held on anxiously to a swinging anchor. I was eleven years old when she released Rich Girl, a catchy, gloriously choreographed video with lyrics written in the counterfactual conditional. Stefani, of course, had just embarked on what would become a hugely successful solo career. The subtext of those lyrics flew straight over my head, her culturally appropriative art direction becoming clear only in hindsight.
This was my introduction to John Galliano, and by extension, Dior. I spent the next few years researching and trying to make sense of this couturier, whose tinged, stately accent and manicured moustache became a trademark. Galliano, to me, was the most magnificent, charismatic man in the world. Shameless about it, too. His flamboyant flair wasn’t limited to the theater of his runways; theater built itself around him. Promise was mistaken for prestige and mixed with alcohol, sleeping pills, and stress, which Galliano claims contributed to his downward spiral so memorably and offensively acted out with anti-Semitic vitriol — not just offensive, but cause for criminal conviction in France. Galliano’s departure from Dior has been well documented. No summary, and certainly no apologies, will be offered here. But since then, he's undergone drug and alcohol rehabilitation; extended formal apologies to, and received welcome from, the Anti-Defamation League; and partaken in a brief residency at Oscar de la Renta’s studio.
Dior fall 2004, Maison Martin Margiela fall 2007
Now Galliano is headed to Maison Martin Margiela, a label that, quite the contrary to the disgraced designer, has held up a strict code of anonymity as a lucrative form of cultural cool. The color white was used to enforce uniformity, to erase individuality and authorship. It was the lack of hierarchy that distinguished the house. When its collaboration with H&M launched, purists dropped their jaw. Yet, it wasn’t the first time the avant-garde had lifted the smokescreen. Comme des Garçons and Viktor & Rolf — majority-owned, along with MMM, by the Italian holding company Only The Brave (OTB) — had already partnered with H&M. The difference this time, though, was that Martin Margiela himself had no say, having departed from his namesake company in 2009. The founder would surely have detested the collection, the bastardization of his genius watered down and hyped up for profit. (All conjecture, of course — Margiela doesn’t do interviews.)
This is precisely the current complaint. Certainly, there must be some referential nod to founding designers, but there comes a point where retrospection turns reactionary. Alexander McQueen famously despised Givenchy, or at least the aristocratic aestheticism that kept the house and its licenses buoyant. He later stated that his contract “was not conducive to creativity” — unsurprising for a brash Englishman at a company founded by French nobility. There was also controversy when Raf Simons (whose own creative epiphany struck when he attended his first Maison Martin Margiela show in 1989) joined Jil Sander. A men's designer, the Belgian had never formally designed women’s ready-to-wear. Poetry, punk, and pragmatism united beautifully.
John Galliano spring 2003, Maison Martin Margiela spring 2009
Maison Martin Margiela, bereft of its democratic spirit and conceptual frisson, simply wasn't what it used to be. Eric Wilson, fashion news director at InStyle and former fashion critic for the New York Times, describes being banned by the company for reporting on Martin Margiela’s departure. “As an example of just how seriously the company took its policy of anonymity, after reporting on Margiela’s departure, I found myself banned from its presentations," he wrote. "When I returned after a few seasons in the penalty box…the mood had shifted,” Wilson writes. “Before, there had been no seating assignments, so the lowliest assistant could be in the front row, and editors in chief gladly sat in the back to witness whatever Margiela’s team had dreamed up...Now editors sit in assigned seats.”
It’s a stubborn allegiance to the DNA of a house that makes much of what we see on the runways look familiar, at times tedious. Change is good, especially if it comes in the gliding form of Galliano, who fuses social history with nuances of sartorial heresy. His work is layered and jagged and introspective — creative origami realized. Nothing good, or at the very least interesting, comes together because it 'makes sense.' And really, if rationality were fashion's guiding metric, there'd be empty seats and empty ideas at the shows.
The DNA of a house is often only a relic of its early success, imagery immortalized in reference books — Dior’s New Look, Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking. In basic biology, though, DNA is the genetic encryption that allows organisms to be self-regulating and self-healing. Same goes in fashion. MMM needed new blood.
Read more from Hung Tran
In December, following previous extravaganzas in Mumbai, Edinburgh, and Dallas, Karl Lagerfeld and the Chanel team will descend on Salzburg, Austria, for the house's next Métiers d'Art collection. Specifically, the Schloss Leopoldskron, an 18th-century palace of the late Baroque style that sits in the shadow of the medieval Hohensalzburg Castle.
The yearly collection celebrates the artisanal craftsmanship of Chanel's ateliers — i.e. embroidery house Maison Lesage, feather-dressers Lemarié, costume jeweler Desrues. In the alpine city, there's certainly no shortage of history with which to flex the maison's savoir faire. Most notably, shortly after the palace's construction in 1736, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, where he lived until the age of 25, when he left for Vienna. He and Marie Antoinette reportedly met as children, when she was Archduchess of Austria, a mere decade before becoming Queen of France. If Lagerfeld were to play with an opulent Classical theme, it doesn't get much more opulent than that.
Salzburg is also synonymous with The Sound of Music and, while the palace does not feature in the musical, many scenes take place in its surroundings, including the lake the von Trapp children fall into when they're little boat capsizes. Paralleling the events of the film, the palace was seized by the Nazis during Germany's annexation of Austria in 1938. Upon his death three decades after the war, Coco Chanel's lover Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, an SS Officer, was cremated in Salzburg.
Back in September it was learned that Barneys New York would be partnering with the filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and his Oscar-winning wife, costume designer Catherine Martin, on its big holiday-themed collaboration. Baz Dazzled, as it's called, will see the store windows transformed into a "magical world filled with fantastical characters, woodland creatures, ice skaters, snow owls, and candy canes."
Now comes word that the collaboration will kick off on November 13 with a star-studded bash in the Central Park Zoo. It's unclear why the zoo was chosen as the venue, except it's where animals can be found and a skating rink is in the vicinity. But the idea for the fete itself was surely dreamed up on the strength of the duo's 2013 blockbuster The Great Gatsby, with its merry outdoor party scenes and Prada-designed costumes. (Luhrmann also created the short videos for the 2012 fashion exhibit at the Met's Costume Institute, Impossible Conversations between Miuccia Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli, played by actress Judy Davis.)
Barneys could really use a holiday hit, following its canceled event with Jay Z last year due to a racial-profiling scandal, as well as its controversial Disney edition of 2012, and its lackluster collaboration with Lady Gaga.