Hussein Chalayan, fall 11, courtesy of Hussein Chalayan

Man of Mystery Hussein Chalayan Opens Up—Just a Little

For close to 20 years, Hussein Chalayan has been one of fashion's most enigmatic designers, defined as much by his high-concept designs as the questions they raise. "Is it a table or a skirt?" "A hat or an oversized crustacean?" "Did Lady Gaga really knock off that bubble dress?" Cross-referencing fashion with notions of sculpture, architecture and science, Chalayan's aim has been to keep people guessing.

Three new projects go a long way in explaining the man of mystery: a solo exhibit at the preeminent Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris; a fragrance collaboration with Comme des Garçons; and the publication of a massive monograph, a painstaking process that Chalayan says took almost three years. Of course, answers have a way of inviting more questions—and we have some...

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Aug 13, 2011 16:49:00
Helmut Lang, Make It Hard

Helmut Lang Shredded His Fashion Archives for Art's Sake

After Helmut Lang retired from fashion in 2005, following Prada Group's acquisition of his namesake label, he left behind an enviable career characterized by hard-edged minimalism, aggressive experimentation, high-tech fabrics and (still) legions of imitators. But what he gained is just as enviable: a quieter, slower-paced artist's life in a leafy, rolling part of Long Island. Far removed from the treacherous canyons of Seventh Avenue, this is where the Austrian-American has been carving out, sometimes literally, a contemplative and more meaningful existence.

But as Lang would be the first to tell you, country living is hardly a retreat—and he has a new gallery show to prove it. Just as he himself has undergone a chrysalis, his latest solo exhibit consists of large-scale sculptures transformed from the charred remains of his fashion archives (you were expecting a sale?) into what could be mistaken for white-bark birch trees. That is, if it weren't for the tufts of purple fabric and shiny bits of plastic poking out here and there.

Make It Hard, as the show is called in a less-than-obscured double entendre, opens this weekend at Fireplace Project in East Hampton. Here, Lang explains how it came to be...

Lee Carter: It's been fascinating to watch your evolution from fashion designer to fine artist. Still, the molding and sculpting of material seems to be your main objective. How would you describe your relationship with material?
Helmut Lang: Material has always been important to me. Most of the time it is actually a starting point. I get inspired by the way I'm supposed to use it or inspired by the exact opposite.

What was the guiding concept for this exhibit of new sculpture at the Fireplace Project? And what sparked the idea in the first place?
Showing my work at the Fireplace Project was proposed to me by Neville Wakefield. I had, shortly before our conversation, started to work on the early stages of this sculpture series, and with time and exploration of material, it lead to a large volume of columnar forms, part of which will be displayed in this exhibition.

What methods did you use to destroy the reported 6000 garments from your fashion archives?
The pieces were put through a big shredder truck under my supervision.

Was there a particular part of the archives you most wanted to destroy, and why?
In 2009 and 2010, I donated a large volume of my body of work in fashion to the most important fashion, design and contemporary art collections worldwide. After a fire in the building where our studio in New York is located, which could have destroyed the rest of the archive, and after going for months through the pieces to see in which condition they are, I slowly became intrigued by the idea of destroying it myself and using it as raw material for my art. I shredded all the pieces without remorse or preference. It was about erasing the difference of what they once stood for.

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Jul 21, 2011 19:49:00
Tom Ford

Tom Ford Wants to Be Hit On More Often

Here, designer-director-hunk Tom Ford opens up on a range of surprising topics, from feeling like a loner to drinking too much post-Gucci to not existing sexually. Really!...

Mr. Ford, have you had a midlife crisis?
Yes. Leaving Gucci was devastating for me. Devastating because I had really put everything into that for fifteen years and all of a sudden I had no identity. “Who am I? What am I doing? I have no forum to speak to anyone anymore or to convey my thoughts or ideas.” Maybe I drank a little too much – living in London that’s a very easy thing to do. The emphasis in my life maybe switched to things that were not the important things. So yeah, I had a bit of a midlife crisis. I wish there was a better term for that. It comes to everybody, maybe in your thirties, maybe in your forties, maybe in your sixties or seventies, who knows. You get to the moment where you feel the clock is ticking and you are wondering if you are really getting the most out of your life.

If you have everything in life it is easier to lose yourself, it seems.
And if you do have everything it is also easier to understand that those are not the important things. Unfortunately a lot of people don’t get to that point. They spend their lives striving and still don’t learn those lessons. Other people figure it out at age twenty and they’re completely balanced and together and understand how to keep things in check from an early age.

How would you describe your current state of mind?
I feel that I don’t need anything for a good life. I grew up in New Mexico and the older I get I have less need for contemporary culture and big cities and all the stuff we are bombarded with. I am happier at my ranch in the middle of nowhere watching a bug carry leaves across the grass, listening to silence, riding my horse, and being in open space. So I have some sort of security that if I lost everything in my life, I would be very happy with the simple things because they are the ones that are important.

So the glamour you stand for doesn’t interest you?
After just being in New Mexico for two months, I realized that I could really work from anywhere. I am really a loner after all; I am really not a social person. Because of my job people think I am out every night, but I really hate all that. I am somebody who likes to be alone and see some close friends. I am a shy and introspective person.

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Jul 21, 2011 16:15:00
Lady Gaga

Nick Knight Thinks Lady Gaga Has Been a Tornado in Fashion

"Every time she walks from her hotel to the limousine, it's a catwalk," says Showstudio's Nick Knight, who directed the Born This Way video. Hear more of his glowing remarks in this marathon 13-minute video interview created by Blackberry...

Jul 14, 2011 18:35:00
Arianne Phillips, photo Mike Monzingo

One Sentence or Less

Arianne Phillips, Costume Designer, Fashion Editor, Stylist

What did you do immediately before this questionnaire?
Had a conference call.

What will you do immediately following this questionnaire?
Go swimming. It's hot in L.A.

What is your idea of bliss?
A day with no plans, with people I love, in a beautiful remote place, with mountains to hike, beaches to swim and a great kitchen to cook in.

What is the strangest article of clothing in your closet?
An Amish apron and a fencing breast-plate.

What is your proudest moment?
Being nominated for an Oscar [Walk the Line] and bringing my parents to the ceremony.

What would be the first sentence of your biography?
Arianne Phillips, a legend in her own mind.

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Jul 05, 2011 00:00:00
Pierre Thoretton, photo Patrick McMullan

If It Weren't for Catherine Deneuve, the YSL Documentary L'Amour Fou Wouldn't Have Happened

L'Amour Fou (Crazy Love), the extraordinary documentary about the love affair—sometimes crazy!—between Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, opens in limited release nationwide on May 13, starting with New York's The Paris Theatre. Brutally honest and ruthlessly melancholy, the film doesn't just tug at the heartstrings; it yanks them out and ties them in a bow. So beautifully told is their story that it's hard to imagine it almost didn't happen. It took a personal recommendation by Catherine Deneuve and a giant leap of faith by Bergé for it to see the light of day, as the film's director Pierre Thoretton explains (via translator)...

Is this the first time their love story has been documented on film?
You're the first to ask me this. Absolutely. There have been films made on Yves Saint Laurent fashion, but never on their love story. Luckily, at the time I didn't know anything about fashion. The only thing I'd had were disastrous love stories. (Laughs.) Not really.

When you started, your goal was to only document the auction of their belongings following Saint Laurent's death.
Yes, I started off making a film on Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé's homes and their [art] collection, but it was turning out very boring.

At what point did you decide you wanted to make it a more personal story?
When I started talking to the art dealers that sold them the work, the objects. They talked to me about how the transactions went down, rather than the objects themselves, and the relationship between Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. Yves Saint Laurent would see something he liked, so he would call Pierre Bergé—this was before cellphones—and ask him to please come down. In 15 minutes he was there and they'd be looking at the object together. These dealers would tell me about their relationship and their love story. So I said to myself, it's a love story first and foremost. I called Pierre Bergé and I asked him if I could do it on that instead. He thought about it and gave me an answer ten days later. He said yes.

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May 13, 2011 00:00:00
Stephen Jones, photo Patrick McMullan

Stephen Jones Wouldn't Recommend the McQueen Show to Grandmothers or Children

Milliner extraordinaire Stephen Jones came to New York last week for the Met Gala, a guest of Vogue. While in town, he took the opportunity to inspect the gallery space at Bard Graduate Center, where his own fantastic exhibit will travel next, following the V&A in London, and where I sat down with him for some nuggets of hat wisdom...

On the exhibition, Savage Beauty...
It's sad beyond belief, but also magnificent and wonderful because you can see his clothes in-depth and up close. I mean, I know all about McQueen's work, but I didn't realize it was that good. A dress that I'd always thought was made out of long white sequins is actually made from razor-clam shells. It's much more couture than a lot of things called couture, frankly. Having worked for Dior for so long, I always think all clothes are like that. It's always a surprise when I see other people's clothes and they're not. Sure, a Gap T-shirt is a great thing, but at the same time it's amazing to see that McQueen was at the level he was—the detail, the integrity, the artistry.

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May 08, 2011 00:00:00
Andrew Bolton, photo Patrick McMullan

Andrew Bolton on the Met's Alexander McQueen Exhibit

As if you didn't know, we're in the midst of a major McQueen moment. Not only did Kate Middleton choose the label's creative director, Sarah Burton, to design her top-secret wedding dress, but it's now just days until Savage Beauty, a massive exhibit of the late designer's work at the Metropolitan Museum, is launched with the infamous Met Gala. (Daphne Guinness, too, will do her part to inaugurate the exhibit with a performance-art piece in the windows of Barneys.) We tracked down curator Andrew Bolton of the Met's Costume Institute, who first pushed McQueen as this year's theme, for a glimpse of what's to come...

“When I first came across Lee McQueen, he was still relatively unknown. Isabella Blow was at the Ritz in London, where he was showing his clothes in one of the rooms. I remember she was running up and down the halls, telling people to come and see his clothes. I think even then one knew his potential.”

“When [co-curator] Harold Koda and I first approached the museum's director, Thomas Campbell, with the idea of doing a tribute to Alexander McQueen, his response was immediately positive, as he was familiar with the artistry of McQueen. He was also familiar with McQueen through previous exhibitions staged by the Costume Institute.”

“Beyond the emotions of the moment, the museum felt compelled to stage a retrospective on McQueen while his body of work was still intact. Since none of the clothes were owned by the museum, we depended on the extensive collection of the McQueen archive in London. I was amazed at its breadth, which spans McQueen's prolific career.”

“[Show producers] Sam Gainsbury and Joseph Bennett worked with McQueen almost from the beginning, creating his spectacular runway shows that were more on the level of avant-garde installation or performance art. They channeled the dominant leitmotifs of McQueen's shows to produce a series of environments that are breathtaking in their beauty and transformative in their experience.“

"Stella McCartney’s career trajectory almost parallels that of McQueen, and her insights into the London fashion scene during the '90s, when McQueen was establishing his reputation, have been invaluable.”

“When he was asked once in an interview what his Scottish roots meant to him, he responded, 'Everything.'”

“McQueen saw fashion as a catalyst for generating a heightened sensitivity to feelings, and through his runway shows he validated powerful emotions and compelling sources of aesthetic pleasure.”

“As a designer, McQueen resolutely promoted freedom of expression and championed the authority of the imagination.”

Apr 30, 2011 00:00:00
Gareth Pugh

One Sentence or Less

Gareth Pugh, Designer

What did you do immediately before this questionnaire?
Had a cigarette.

What will you do immediately following this questionnaire?
Go to bed.

What is your idea of bliss?
Guilt-free time off, lying on a beach in Mexico with my boyfriend.

What is your idea of misery?
Tax bills.

What is the strangest article of clothing in your closet?
A suit—very odd indeed.

What is your proudest moment?
Perhaps not my proudest, but perhaps my moment of clarity. My parents and my brother meeting Kylie at my after-party. I was like my two worlds colliding.

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Apr 24, 2011 00:00:00

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