Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Sélavy, photo by Man Ray

Marcel Duchamp and the Anti-Influence of Dada

With so much Dada and Surrealism — or the general sense that things aren't what they seem — percolating through fashion at the moment (Schiaparelli, Toilet Paper for MSGM, Maison Martin Margiela, Kenzo, Carven), it's worth noting that Marcel Duchamp, one of Dada's daddies, was born on this day in 1887. (A proponent of chance and randomness, he would have embraced the tenuous coincidence.) He died 81 years later, in 1968, leaving a robust legacy of anti-aesthetic, anti-establishment, anti-bourgeois sentiment. If Dada was a rejection of everything that came before, one could argue that everything that came after owes its existence to Marcel Duchamp.

By definition, Dada resists definition of the visual sort, relying on concept over optics. In this way, Miuccia Prada, too, could be considered a Dadaist, with her collections that challenge accepted notions of beauty and non-beauty. Rather, Dada has always acted as a kind of dark matter, completely invisible and immeasurable, yet known to exist and known to give form to everything else. Ever-contrary, Duchamp himself disregarded his own creations. Almost immediately after unveiling what was arguably his most radical work, Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 (1912), at the Armory Show in New York, he rejected painting altogether. Another controversial work, a found porcelain urinal that he titled Fountain (1917), was itself a repudiation of accepted forms of art, as well as the notion of the singular artist. He became synonymous with these Readymades, as they were called, even after he'd moved on. He once said, "I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own tastes."

What he moved on to isn't entirely clear, but glimpses remain. In the 1920s, he adopted the female alter ego Rrose Sélavy — a word play that, in French, sounds like "Eros, c'est la vie" ("Eros, such is life"). Dressed in women's finery, Duchamp consorted with Man Ray, who took several series of photographs — and doesn't Rrose look smashing? That alone is enough legacy to keep J.W. Anderson and other gender benders inspired for seasons to come.

Intermittently throughout his life, Duchamp became obsessed with chess, mainly for its deceptive simplicity. He eventually became a chess master, with the title to prove it, and wrote voluminously on the subject. The last year of his life, 1968, he entered into a match with the avant-garde composer John Cage, in which music was created by photoelectric cells underneath the board, triggered randomly by the movement of pieces.

For all of these reasons and many more, let's champion the unpredictable influence — perhaps anti-influence — of Dada on fashion today. Until, like Duchamp, we're bored of it.

Jul 28, 2014 22:16:00
A Dozen Roses, Robert Melee

The Mother of All Meltdowns

Last chance to see Robert Melee's elderly mother — drunk, naked, and caked in make-up — in A Dozen Roses at Higher Pictures gallery. The twelve photographs in the small exhibit showcase the artist's mother, Rose, in staged shoots made between 1993 and 2004 and shown in various multimedia installations since then. Her greatest hits, if you will.

It's unknown whether or not the real Rose is the witchy wretch she appears to be in these images, in the grips of a meltdown, stumbling around sans skirt or pants, and wearing enough hastily applied cosmetics to put a drag queen to shame. As she's only on gallery walls, the point is rather moot. However, Melee — who's often compared to John Waters or Andy Warhol — routinely recruits Rose to appear at his raucous openings. Here's how the art critic Jerry Saltz described one such opening in 2002 for The Village Voice:

On the night of Melee's opening, his show was guarded by a gorgon, and the gorgon was Mom. You had to get by her to see the rest of the exhibition, which wasn't so easy. With thick rings painted around each eye, her face caked in pancake makeup, and hair out to here, Mumsy was a cross between Divine, a Kabuki demon and a witchy Liz Taylor. Mrs. Melee sat on a folding chair in a large raised glass box, wearing only fishnet pantyhose and a feather boa. She peered over the crowd, smoked, drank beer, and, startlingly, exposed her breasts or stood up to show that she wore no panties under her panty hose. She was all the freaks Diane Arbus ever photographed as seen by Francis Bacon. It was amazing, it was sick, and to top it all off, the artist says you can rent Mom for $6,000 an hour and "do anything you want to her."

A Dozen Roses, through August 1, 2014, Higher Pictures, 980 Madison Avenue, NYC

Jul 28, 2014 15:20:00

AnOther and the Design Museum Give Fashion Logos Their Due

“'I just thought I’d clean it up, make it strong and powerful — a kind of contemporary minimalism,' said Phoebe Philo when she joined the French design house in 2008. The same approach was applied to the logo." So starts a thoughtful piece on about the provenance of fashion's favorite logos — which, along with Céline, surely everyone can agree includes YSL, Yohji Yamamoto, Lacoste, and Comme des Garçons Play.

Today is the first of a seven-day celebration — #wordweek on Twitter — by AnOther that examines the origins of words, language and typography in fashion, in partnership with the Design Museum. Additionally, on Tuesday 29, the museum will hold a discussion with AnOther editor Laura Bradley; Gareth Hague, Prada typographer and co-founder of font studio Alias; and Caroline Murray, director of the British Academy of Graphology and AnOther’s graphologist.

Read More

Jul 27, 2014 13:36:00
Raf Simons for Adidas

Rubbernecking at Raf Simons

These all-orange, all-rubber high-tops by Raf Simons for Adidas, shown on his otherworldly fall 14 runway, are called Bunny Rising Star 2 Sneaker Boots — although we'll always fondly think of them as Marvin the Martian boots. The dark navy boots are also all rubber, but patent. Patent rubber! They're both available for pre-order ($1,222.44) at Sneakerboy with an expected delivery date mere weeks away. Other fall styles are available, too, as are previous seasons — on sale! So go on, splurge.

Jul 26, 2014 20:37:00
Still from Saint Laurent

Finally, a Trailer for the Unauthorized Yves Saint Laurent Biopic

Saint Laurent, the biopic we've been breathlessly posting about, has finally popped out a trailer. (This is separate from a concurrent film, Yves Saint Laurent, which seems to be a more anodyne look at his early years at Dior.) And judging from fleeting glimpses of Gaspard Ulliel as the young to middle-aged designer and Louis Garrel as his forbidden boytoy Jacques de Bascher, the final feature film, when it hits French theaters in September, is going to be full of all le smoking hot sex scenes you could ask for — nay, demand.

The trailer has been a long time coming, as the film already premiered at Cannes (competing for the Palme d'Or prize). And it isn't subtitled, but you don't need to know French to recognize on-screen sizzle, even if it is a little melodramatic. Willem Dafoe (as Andy Warhol) and Léa Seydoux (as Saint Laurent's muse, Loulou de la Falaise) will no doubt balance out the histrionics. Indeed, the fact that it isn't authorized — by the brand in its current state — suggests that a fair amount artistic license has been utilized. All the sexier!

Jul 25, 2014 21:19:00
Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford, 1902

Shallow Not Stupid

When Virginia Woolf was fed up with the Bloomsbury world and everyone in it, she wrote two suicide notes — only a weirdo (or a writer!) leaves two drafts — and jumped into the river wearing her husband's raincoat weighted down with bricks. The notes, scrawled in sinister, spidery handwriting, are on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision (July 10 - October 26, 2014).

Virginia had such a nice life. Why did she want to leave that room of her own for the damp riverbed and say goodbye to being sucked up to at parties by T. S. Eliot and Lady Ottoline Morrell, she of the famous 'bird's beak vagina.' The great thing about being a novelist is that you get to diss your ex's genitalia and call it fiction — but the lady is dead, let's not rake over old bags.

Woolf started as a blue-stocking but turned into a fashion junkie after her affair with Vita Sackville-West. Like Princess Diana after her, she was dressed by Vogue, whose editor sourced Matisse print dresses and mannish tailoring for her to wear with her big flat shoes.

To be fair, Mrs. Woolf had lost all her teeth by the time she ruined her hair jumping into the River Ouse. So many parties, so little sanity! She left the gossipy Bloomsbury world behind to be cruelly treated in death, being played by Nicole Kidman and a big prosthetic nose in The Hours. The exaggerated nose was supposed to make Kidman look intelligent, but instead it dominated the film, leaving the audience to wonder if Sam Taylor-Wood was her stand-in.

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Jul 23, 2014 16:39:00

Perfecting the Artfully Bored Man

Marc Jacobs has always done adolescence very well, and his Marc by Marc Jacobs men's spring 2015 collection was no exception. Co-designed by Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier, the show plunged a relaxed Polynesian vibe, with its "surf punk" aesthetic and recurring "angry tiki man" graphic. (Read our complete show review at

The collection video went a decidedly more languid direction, emphasizing an artfully bored look, the well-practiced kind so often on display at today's music festivals. You can practically hear what they think: Will the band ever start? Will the molly ever kick in? Will my celebrity girlfriend ever stop posing for any camera shoved in her face?...

Jul 22, 2014 17:42:00

GIFted: Raf Simons for Adidas Sneakers

Illustrator Lauren Rolwing puts pep in Raf Simons' step for Adidas with these colorful renditions of the spring 2015 men's collaboration...

Jul 22, 2014 11:47:00

Video Fix: Dior Homme's Notes Of a Day

Willy Vanderperre's latest video for Dior Homme, Notes of a Day, explores that louche place between Savile Row and the street, featuring Thibaud Charon, Louis Bauvir, Laurie Harding, and Jake Lucas...

Jul 11, 2014 22:34:00

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