It took the triumph of the Savage Beauty exhibit at the Met (New York) and the V&A (London) for UK jewelry artist Shaun Leane to open up about Alexander McQueen, whom those in his inner circle knew as Lee. Here's what he had to say about his longtime collaborator and friend...
"I met Lee in 1992, just before his graduation from Central Saint Martins, through a mutual friend. We were all hanging out. The funny thing was that I was a classically trained goldsmith and they were fashion students. Our worlds were so far apart. Lee asked me, 'So you're a jeweler?' And that was it. He didn't want to know anything else."
For someone who started designing under his own name when few in the business envisioned that fashion could come from Antwerp, let alone pronounce Belgian brands, the success and rave reviews that Dries Van Noten is currently enjoying have been a long time coming. Today he is one of the Europe's few remaining independent designers, an accomplishment that makes his label somewhat of an anomaly. Nevertheless, Van Noten, as the designer himself coyly intimates, has started thinking about his future. Could it be that another of the enduring bastions of fashion sovereignty is about to end up in the hands of a conglomerate?
You once said, "The good thing about fashion is that you always go ahead, the next, the next, the next — you don’t have time to look back." Why is it good not to look back?
It is good to look back, but I don’t want to be nostalgic. I don’t see the point of dressing up in clothes from the past; there’s a reason why fashion changes with the times.
A tour of the new Sonia Delaunay exhibition at the Tate Modern in London not only proves how important an artist she was at the beginning of modernism in Paris, painting alongside the likes of Picasso and Matisse a little over a century ago. It also demonstrates how all-encompassing her work was, including clothes and interior design, fabric prints, needlework and collage, as well as a kind of self-promotion that, today, seems remarkably prescient. Juliet Bingham, curator of international art at the Tate, explains how Delaunay not only helped found modern art, but also transcended it.Read More
Einstein once remarked that there’s no inspiration in an empty room, which is probably why the fifth floor of Antwerp’s Royal Academy smells of burnt leather. A student is adding loafer details to his Adidas Superstar sneakers, while in the back of the museum-like white cube chamber, students are gazing at a Stockman tailor dummy.
You could say that there’s a certain creative flow going on here, but to really understand the underlying structure of this elite school for aspiring fashion designers there’s one man you need to speak to: the head of the fashion course, Walter van Beirendonck. In the heart of the Belgian fashion capital, we covered a range of topics, from The Antwerp Six to finding his students' voice.Read More
It's mere days before his fall 2015 collection — with a companion exhibition — at MOCA’s PDC gallery and Bernhard Willhelm is busy...cooking. Which isn't to suggest the Lycra-loving gym bunny, neo-New Age health nut, bottle-blond and recent Los Angeles transplant has turned into a ditz, real housewife-style. Quite the contrary, the (mostly) men's designer is very street-wise and world-savvy, having been born and raised in Germany, schooled in Antwerp, based in Paris — and now communing with Hollywood's nature.
Willhelm says the collection and the site-specific work are a meditation on the future of commerce, his response to the uniformity of fashion as we know it. That he's juggling vegetables as we speak by phone simply means everything is under control — the mannequins, the videos, the ephemera, and of course the clothing, leaving us ample time to discuss dolls, cruising, and a certain male-only accessory.
President, Only the Brave Group (parent company of Maison Martin Margiela, Marni, Viktor & Rolf, Diesel)
Founder, Only the Brave Foundation
What did you do immediately before this questionnaire?
I went to Maison Margiela's Christmas party.
What will you do immediately after this questionnaire?
I will have a photo session.
What is your idea of bliss?
What is your idea of misery?
The arrogance of ignorant people.
What is the strangest article of clothing in your closet?
One-off prototypes of never commercialized jackets of the brands in our group.
What is your proudest moment?
When I feel the energy of the people i work with.
What is your greatest regret?
I can't think of one.
What would be the first sentence of your biography?
I lived a very intense life in every aspect.
What catchphrase do you use the most?
What three items could you not live without?
Mobile phone, iPad, nail-cutters.
One hour was the allotted time I had to interview Oscar de la Renta some years ago for V magazine. The house was expanding and he hoped to reach a younger audience. Although I entered his bustling Seventh Avenue studio without preconceptions, I did assume he'd be the very essence of charm. Who didn't know of this gift of his? And indeed he was, to the point where I stopped asking questions because asking them would mean interrupting him. In this way I was lulled out of deliberative journalist mode and into gurgling fan mode. When we reached the one-hour mark, he didn't want to stop and neither did I. So we didn't.
Upon hearing of the couturier's death yesterday, losing his battle with cancer, it occurred to me he might have learned of his diagnosis around the time we met. Yet even in the face of this terrible news, if in fact he knew, he conveyed the easy warmth, the natural grace, the casual geniality that made him one the most popular public figures in his adopted home of New York City and a true gentleman's gentleman. "There is, perhaps, no one more adored in American fashion than Oscar de la Renta," I so began the story. "Not only are his confectionary creations coveted by everyone from gamines to grannies, drag queens to First Ladies, socialites to Hollywood heavies, but a single disparaging word about the Latin legend won’t be found."
Here are other salient bits from the interview, plus additional quotes from the transcript that bear new relevance...
Wearing a light suit and a disarming smile, he waxes nostalgic about his early days in the mid-60s apprenticing for the Spanish couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga, delights in extolling high-profile clients ranging from beauty heiress Aerin Lauder to Sarah Jessica Parker (who became a fan after she played one on TV), and is perfectly comfortable detailing a business strategy to roll out new freestanding stores.
Oscar de la Renta is not one to waste time chasing some elusive hip factor or pushing a cult of personality. That would be vain. Instead, the quintessential traditionalist maintains, as he always has, that he’s interested in only one thing: “designing for women.”
“I travel quite a lot around the country. A journalist might know it's my first time in Cincinnati. I've been there 15 minutes and the first question they'll ask is what do I think of the woman of Cincinnati? I say that nowadays thinking of a woman by region is putting a woman down. Never has there been a woman as much in control of her destiny as a woman of today. What’s important to her is a projection of her own sense of individuality. I used to design day clothes, afternoon clothes, cocktail clothes, evening clothes. That's how I was trained, but I’ve had to ‘detrain’ — can you use that word? — my mind. I am not old-fashioned at all.”
"The customer I started dressing back in 1965 is very different from women of today. Today's woman has very different needs. Her first preoccupation of the day is not to get dressed in a pretty suit and have lunch with friends. My job is to understand who she is, and then try to keep that clientele, which I think is what made our business successful. Every day there is a new client."
At Balmain in Paris, de la Renta delivered a string of well-received collections until 2002, when he became disheartened by that highest of fashion disciplines and opted instead to concentrate on his own line back in the States, which, while not languishing, had become estranged. In a rare critical moment, he says, “I hated [designing for Balmain]. I personally think that a lot of houses today only use couture as a vehicle for selling handbags and all the other stuff, but I think ultimately it undermines what couture means.”
"When I was working in Paris and doing the collections for Pierre Balmain, at the end I quit because of practical reasons. I felt it was really important to my business. I was in Paris for Balmain just two and a half months a year, but I thought it was two and a half months I should have dedicated to my own business."Read More
Shortly before the runway show at ITS fashion festival in Trieste, Italy, we sat down with Carla Sozzani, the force behind the celebrated 10 Corso Como concept store in Milan. She told us about young Italian talents (they do exist), her brief stint at Elle in the 1980s, and one harrowing day in Africa some 40 years ago...
What's your involvement in ITS?
This is the second time I've been a jury member. My daughter, Sarah, who's been an editor at Italian Vogue for seven years, encouraged me to do it. I also have a lot of respect for Barbara Franchin, the event's founder. There is no other contest in the world that encapsulates not only fashion, but also photography, accessories, and jewelry. Besides, it's very international, and the jury is first-rate.
What do you think about the current state of Italian fashion, which some people find lacking in fresh talent?
There actually are fresh designers, but they prefer working for other brands around the world, instead of launching their own houses. It's about job security. That's a very Italian thing. In the UK, people want to have their own brands. Maybe the schools here don't motivate the students enough. But that doesn't mean there are not interesting people right now, like Andrea Incontri, Stella Jean, Fausto Puglisi, and Marco de Vicenzo. And our fashion council now offers assistance to young designers, because having money is not enough. You need to know how to use it. They help them with management and distribution, for instance. Don't forget that a few decades ago, we didn't have the Asian or Russian markets. Now fashion is a bigger industry.
What about your legendary store, 10 Corso Como? Concept stores have now mushroomed around the world. How do you stay organized?
I am not organized (laughs). I'm not obsessed with the ins-and-outs. I am passionate about the things I show. My store is about sharing those things with visitors. That's a way for me to communicate. It's like a living magazine.
Speaking of magazines, your past includes a stint at Elle, where you edited three issues in 1987.
Yes, I heard that people are collecting them. Elle actually fired me, then they told me to say I resigned. But I refused to do so. I said you're firing me for a very clear reason, which was that I wasn't commercial enough. I mentioned the fact that Diana Vreeland was also fired and they asked me, "Who is she?"
You worked with many groundbreaking photographers then. Are you still in touch with them?
Yes, I'm very close with Bruce Weber, Paolo Roversi, Peter Lindbergh, Sarah Moon.
What are your next projects?
My new Corso Como store in Shanghai. I go there every six weeks.
You're a big traveler. Have you ever been to Africa?
Yes, I've been to several countries in Africa: Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Benin. I went to Benin in the seventies. It was called Dahomey then. I went with Anna Piaggi's husband to take pictures. We flew on the now-defunct Air Afrique company and stayed at a hotel where a lot of Russians also sojourned. I met the director of the hotel, who was from Switzerland. The following day, there was a revolution. The country name was changed to Benin and suddenly there was a new director at the hotel. But that day I also caught malaria. I went to the hospital, but people were fleeing. A young French doctor quickly injected me with medicine and fled. He saved my life.
You're also often in Paris with your friend Azzedine Alaia...
Yes, I'm in Paris almost every week. I met Azzedine in 1979, when I was an editor at Italian Vogue. I had to do an article about a stylist, and I had heard about this designer who made leather dresses with eyelets from the French Elle journalist Nicole Crassat. Azzedine and I have been friends ever since.
As co-curator of a new exhibit at The Andy Warhol Museum — Halston and Warhol: Silver and Suede — Lesley Frowick has impeccable insight; she's the designer's niece. "This exhibit sort of fell into my lap on a research meeting at The Warhol," she tells Hint. "I was looking for photographs to include in my book [on Halston], as Warhol's camera was ubiquitous at events and Halston's home."
Before long she found herself in a curatorial role, reassessing the professional relationship and the personal camaraderie between the designer and the pop artist, who, in his 1979 book, described Halston as the "first All-American fashion designer." For all intents and purposes, they were thick as thieves and their seductive spheres of influence overlapped considerably. To begin with, Halston collected Warhol, which he showcased in his Manhattan townhouse and his vacation home on Montauk, Long Island, which he also rented from the artist. Halston, meanwhile, was portrayed in several of Warhol’s pieces. And of course they were both leading lights of New York's heady nightlife. "They were both very driven and both visionaries," recalls Frowick. "They both came from solid, somewhat humble family beginnings, but were propelled by an inner drive to search for the stars."
When it opens on May 18, the exhibit will include 40 or so of Halston’s signature dresses and accessories, including his signature Ultrasuede shirtdress and, from his early days as a milliner, the instantly iconic pale-pink pillbox hat he designed for Jackie Kennedy that she wore to her husband's inauguration in 1961 and that features in a Warhol silkscreen. These are juxtaposed with paintings, photographs, and videos from the Warhol archives. Other highlights of the show are a 1972 floral dress by Halston based on Warhol’s 1964 Flower paintings and, as Frowick cites, Warhol's Martha Graham serigraphs, in addition to items from the Coty Award "happening," a performance in 1972 that brought Halstonettes and Superstars together for the first time.
Perhaps no designer is as synonymous with the jetset disco-glam of the 1970s than Halston (born Roy Halston Frowick). But while the gifted social butterfly palled around with the likes of Liza Minnelli, Bianca Jagger, and Lauren Hutton, among other fresh-faced Halstonettes, Frowick remembers a calmer, avuncular spirit underneath the "external bravado." "He was actually shy. We spent many weekends in Montauk together, exploring the property, fixing meals together, and dreaming by the seaside. He was so funny, the best uncle one could ask for. We also shared the same birthday, so we bonded over our stubborn Taurean nature."
The two friends and comrades died within three years of each other, Warhol in 1987 and Halston in 1990, from AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma. And while the Weinstein Company attempted to revive the label several years ago (Frowick, tellingly, has no comment on that), the lasting image of Halston remains, for many people, on Studio 54's glittering dance floor. Given that the two artists have been exhaustively studied and scrutinized since their passing, it's hard to imagine there being anything particularly eye-opening left to discover. Still, Frowick said she was surprised to find "Andy's extensive Halston shoe collection."
Wrapping up, she recounts, "I love my uncle so very much and have worked tirelessly out of my love for him on this show and my book [October 2014, Rizzoli]. He was such a loving, generous force in my life — this is the least I can do to honor his memory. When it came down to it he was really just a shy kid from the Midwest who had a vision for his time and who happened to have the key elements — good looks, charisma and impeccable taste — to make it all work."
Halston and Warhol: Silver and Suede, May 18 - August 24, 2014, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania