Star Dressing-Fur, With Feeling

Yves Saint Laurent & Anjelica Huston by David Bailey, for Vogue UK, October 1973

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V.I.P.’s (Very Important Portraits) by Roxanne Lowit

Roxanne Lowit is one of the pioneers of behind-the-scenes fashion photography as we know it today. “For the first 10 to 15 years I was the only one shooting backstage at all the shows. I had no credentials to begin with but quickly realised that that was my métier, that’s what I found most fascinating.”

The revelation came when she was gifted an Instamatic camera while still attending the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York studying Textile Design. At the time Lowit was a keen painter, but with this new tool discovered a more efficient way of capturing the spirit of her subjects. “I wanted to paint the people I admired but nobody had the time, so I thought I’d take a photograph of them and work from the photograph,” she says. “However, once I took the photograph I realised that I didn’t need to capture the whole soul in a painting. So I traded in my paintbrushes for a camera.”

Her background in textile design became her backstage pass when she was invited by the designers who worked from her patterns to photograph the completed garments before their shows. Eventually word got out that Lowit’s images were something worth publishing, and in 1978 she was contacted by Annie Flanders from the SoHo News. “She heard that I was going to Paris so she said ‘if you get a real camera I’ll use your pictures when you get back’. I learnt how to put film in a real camera on the plane on the way over. Next thing I was on the top of the Eiffel Tower shooting with Yves Saint Laurent and Andy Warhol. It was all downhill from there because how could it get any better?”

But things did get better, much better. After that first trip to Paris doors flung open for Lowit and her career as a backstage fashion photographer gained swift momentum. As industry insiders came to know and love her, the invitations to the parties flooded in, which was where much of the magic happened in front of Lowit’s lens. The 80s were heady times for fashion and she was always there, stationed in the fray, ready to catch the fanfare, frivolities and outright excess as it happened. “It was phenomenal,” she recalls. “We had the Supermodels and all those designers who loved the Supermodels. There were great parties – Elton John was always there and all sorts of celebrities started coming to the shows and parties.”

These days Lowit finds the more homogenised collections produced by contemporary designers as a result of an increasingly commercialised fashion industry much less inspiring, but revels in rising to the challenge all the same. “I usually play a game with myself, how good can I make this look?” she laughs. “But really it’s just about taking a great picture and finding a great moment. It’s always exciting to think, where am I going to go and what am I going to shoot next?”For the fashion designers themselves, as Lowit recalls, it was a time of tremendous creative freedom, where their unique artistic vision was nurtured by the industry and experimentation was encouraged. The shows, it seems, were less about selling clothes and more about the artistry, theatre and spectacle of it all. “It was so much more creative back then. You didn’t need a name at the end of the runway to know who it was you were watching,” she tells me. “When you saw long red nails with vampish clothes and great big hair you knew it was Thierry Mugler. When you saw flower dresses and a girl on a horse you knew you were at Kenzo. Stripes and knits, you were at Sonia Rykiel.”

Lowit gets a kick out of shooting just about anyone who gets a kick out of being shot. “All the pictures I’ve taken are important to me. They’re all like my children. It’s always the next image I look forward to. But looking back I think my favourites are the ones where the people just enjoyed having their picture taken – they were just having a good time. That’s really when I can capture something great.”

 
 

Roxanne Lowit, Andy Warhol, Jacqueline and Julian Schnabel, Kenny Scharf, Jean Michel Basquiat

 
 

Andy Warhol

 
 

Yves Saint Laurent

 
 

Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld

 
 

Helena Christensen, Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour

 
 

Diana Vreeland

 
 

Ralph Lauren and Diana Vreeland

 
 

Salvador Dalí, Janet Daly and the recipient of a kiss

 
 

Helmut Newton

 
 

Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Helmut Newton

 
 

Peter Lindbergh, Arthur Elgort and Patrick Demarchelier

 
 

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino

 
 

Patrick Kelly, Iman, Grace Jones and Naomi Campbell

 
 

Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista

 
 

>Manolo Blahnik and Anna Piaggi

 
 

Lauren Hutton and a chauffeur

 
 

Elton John in concert wearing the Donald Duck costume, Central Park, New York

 
 

Shalom Harlow

 
 

Amanda Lepore

 
 

Halston

 
 

John Galliano

 
 

Annabelle Neilson Rothschild and John Galliano

 
 

Backstage from Dior Show, Paris

 
 

Kate Moss and John Galliano

 
 

Kate Moss

 
 

Ellen Von Unwerth and Mario Testino

 
 

Herb Ritts, Christy Turlington and Steven Meisel

Venus in Furs

“Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather
Whiplash girl child in the dark
Comes in bells, your servant, don’t forsake him
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart

Downy sins of streetlight fancies
Chase the costumes she shall wear
Ermine furs adorn the imperious
Severin, Severin awaits you there

I am tired, I am weary
I could sleep for a thousand years
A thousand dreams that would awake me
Different colors made of tears

Kiss the boot of shiny, shiny leather
Shiny leather in the dark
Tongue of thongs, the belt that does await you
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart

Severin, Severin, speak so slightly
Severin, down on your bended knee
Taste the whip, in love not given lightly
Taste the whip, now plead for me

I am tired, I am weary
I could sleep for a thousand years
A thousand dreams that would awake me
Different colors made of tears

Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather
Whiplash girl child in the dark
Severin, your servant comes in bells, please don’t forsake him
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart”

Lou Reed

Venus in Furs

The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

 
 

Fanny Pistor (in furs, with whip) and Sacher-Masoch

 
 

On 9 December 1869, Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch and his mistress Baroness Fanny Pistor signed a contract making him her slave for a period of six months, with the stipulation that the Baroness wear furs as often as possible, especially when she was in a cruel mood. Sacher-Masoch took the alias of “Gregor”, a stereotypical male servant’s name, and assumed a disguise as the servant of the Baroness. The two traveled by train to Italy. As in Venus in Furs, he traveled in the third-class compartment, while she had a seat in first-class, arriving in Venice (Florence, in the novel), where they were not known, and would not arouse suspicion.

 
 

The Titian painting Venus with a Mirror (1555), from which Severin gets the idea of “Venus in furs”

 
 

Sacher-Masoch is the great-great-uncle to the British singer and actress Marianne Faithfull on the side of her mother, the Viennese Baroness Eva Erisso

 
 

The novel Venus in Furs was to be part of an epic series that Sacher-Masoch envisioned called Legacy of CainVenus in Furs was also part of Love, the first volume of the series. It was published in 1870

 
 

The framing story concerns a man who dreams of speaking to Venus about love while she wears furs. The unnamed narrator tells his dreams to a friend, Severin, who tells him how to break him of his fascination with cruel women by reading a manuscript, Memoirs of a Suprasensual Man.

This manuscript tells of a man, Severin von Kusiemski, who is so infatuated with a woman, Wanda von Dunajew, that he asks to be her slave, and encourages her to treat him in progressively more degrading ways. At first Wanda does not understand or accede to the request, but after humouring Severin a bit she finds the advantages of the method to be interesting and enthusiastically embraces the idea, although at the same time she disdains Severin for allowing her to do so.

Severin describes his feelings during these experiences as suprasensuality. Severin and Wanda travel to Florence. Along the way, Severin takes the generic Russian servant’s name of “Gregor” and the role of Wanda’s servant. In Florence, Wanda treats him brutally as a servant, and recruits a trio of African women to dominate him.

The relationship arrives at a crisis when Wanda herself meets a man to whom she would like to submit, a Byronic hero known as Alexis Papadopolis. At the end of the book, Severin, humiliated by Wanda’s new lover, loses the desire to submit. He says of Wanda:

That woman, as nature has created her, and man at present is educating her, is man’s enemy. She can only be his slave or his despot, but never his companion. This she can become only when she has the same rights as he and is his equal in education and work.

 
 

 
 

The book inspired Venus in Fur, a 2010 play set in the modern day by David Ives, which had its Off-Broadway premiere at the Classic Stage Company in New York City starring Nina Arianda and Wes Bentley. In February 2012, a new Broadway production of this play premiered at the Lyceum Theatre starring Nina Arianda and Hugh Dancy. In late 2012, Roman Polanski directed a film adaptation of the play starring Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric.

 
 

Still from Belle de Jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967)

 
 

The name of Catherine Deneuve’s character, Séverine, is a femininization of the name of the male protagonist of Baron von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, Severin. As the literary origin of the term masochism, Sacher-Masoch, along with his 1870 novel, no doubt presented an irresistible reference point for Joseph Kessel, the author of the 1928 novel Belle de Jour, on which the film is based.

 

YSL’s Pop Art Dresses

“Pop art” dresses by Yves Saint Laurent from his Autumn/Winter Collection 1966/67, photos by Jean-Claude Sauer

 
 

On July 1966, Yves Saint Laurent showed ensembles inspired by artists Niki de Saint Phalle, Tom Wesselmann and Andy Warhol, including tailored trouser suits and Pop Art wool dresses with red lips and colored hearts.

Warhol Printed by Versace

Linda Evangelista models a pop-art inspired evening dress and accessories

 
 

This pieces, printed with the iconic faces of Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, is a testament to Gianni Versace‘s fascination with the ironic and sometimes morbid depictions of Andy Warhol inasmuch as it is an exclusive signifier of Versace’s self-proclaimed personality as the celebrity couturier.

 
 

A heavily beaded jumpsuit that draws attention to the embossed representation of Marilyn Monroe’s lips.

 
 

Versace Spring-Summer 1991 collection

Gianni Versace and The Tin Machine

David Bowie during the Tin Machine tour, wearing outfits designed by Gianni Versace, circa 1990-91

 
 

Tin Machine were an English-American hard rock band formed in 1988, famous for being fronted by English singer-songwriter David Bowie. The band consisted of David Bowie on lead vocals and guitar, Reeves Gabrels on guitar, Tony Sales on bass, and Hunt Sales on drums. Eric Schermerhorn was an unofficial fifth member of the band. The group recorded two studio albums before dissolving in 1992, when Bowie returned to his solo career.

Cracked Actor Meditating Upon a Skull

David Bowie snarling and holding a skull with a rose between its teeth

 
 

Photo by Michael Tweed

 
 

David Bowie sings in concert during his Serious Moonlight Tour in 1983. The skull is a reference to the “Alas, poor Yorick” scene of Hamlet. Photo by Neal Preston

 
 

Cracked Actor is a song written by David Bowie, originally released on the album Aladdin Sane in April 1973.

One of the album’s hard rockers, the song is about an aging Hollywood star in an encounter with a prostitute, the chorus including various allusions to sex and drugs:

“Crack, baby, crack, show me you’re real
Smack, baby, smack, is that all that you feel
Suck, baby, suck, give me your head
Before you start professing that you’re knocking me dead…”

Rolling Stone suggested that Bowie’s goal was “to strip the subject of his validity, as he has done with the rocker, as a step towards a re-definition of these roles and his own inhabiting of them”. However NME writers Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray considered that the song “reveals little else except that Bowie’s capabilities with a mouth-harp are decidedly limited”.

Cracked Actor became a centerpiece of Bowie’s 1974 North American tour when he would perform the song wearing sunglasses and holding a skull (à la Hamlet), which he would then proceed to French kiss.

 
 

 
 

The track also gave its name to Alan Yentob‘s documentary of the tour. In 1983 Bowie revived the song and the sunglasses-and-skull routine for his Serious Moonlight Tour. The documentary depicts Bowie on tour in Los Angeles, using a mixture of documentary sequences filmed in limousines and hotels, and concert footage. Most of the concert footage was taken from a show at the Los Angeles Universal Amphitheatre on 2 September 1974. There were also excerpts from D.A. Pennebaker‘s concert film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which had been shot at London’s Hammersmith Odeon on 3 July 1973, as well as a few other performances from the tour. Cracked Actor is notable for being a source for footage of Bowie’s ambitious Diamond Dogs Tour. The title of the documentary was originally to be The Collector, after a comment that Bowie had made to interviewer Russell Harty the previous year, whereby he described himself as “a collector of accents”.

 
 

The documentary can be seen in The Genealogy of Style’s Facebook page

Bowie Meets Shakespeare

Hunky Dory (Marc Evans, 2013) movie poster

Hunky Dory, an indie drama featuring Minnie Driver, has music from David Bowie set within the context of a high school performance of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

 
 

The Marc Evans directed film is set in South Wales in 1976 and centers on Driver’s character, a teacher who updates the Bard’s text by setting it next to 70s and 60s music from Bowie (“The Man Who Sold the World,” “Life on Mars”) ELO (Strange Magic), Rush (Passage to Bangkok), the M.V.P.s(Turning My Heartbeat Up) and The Turtles (Elenore).

 
 

Pretty Things

“Wake up you sleepy head
Put on some clothes, shake up your bed…”

David Bowie

Oh! You Pretty Things

 
 

Terry Pastor’s airbrushed painting after a photograph taken by Brian Ward. Hunky Dory is hailed as being the second most iconic cover ever produced. The Beatles Abbey Road being the first

 

 
 

Oh You Pretty Thing, George Underwood, 1973. This was painted as a gift for David Bowie but became lost for nearly 37 years until George discovered.

Perfectly Satisfactory

Hunky Dory gave me a fabulous groundswell. I guess it provided me, for the first time in my life, with an actual audience – I mean, people actually coming up to me and saying, ‘Good album, good songs.’ That hadn’t happened to me before. It was like, ‘Ah, I’m getting it, I’m finding my feet. I’m starting to communicate what I want to do. Now: what is it I want to do?’ There was always a double whammy there.”

David Bowie

 
 

Hunky Dory is the fourth album by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released by RCA Records in 1971. It was his first release through RCA, which would be his label for the next decade. Hunky Dory has been described by Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine as having “a kaleidoscopic array of pop styles, tied together only by Bowie’s sense of vision: a sweeping, cinematic mélange of high and low art, ambiguous sexuality, kitsch, and class.” The slang hunky dory (of uncertain origin), would mean perfectly satisfactory, about as well as one could wish or expect; fine

 
 

The style of the album cover was influenced by a Marlene Dietrich photo book that Bowie brought with him to the photo session, which was taken by Brian Ward. Terry Pastor achieved the silk-screen printing appearance in the manner of Andy Warhol, using an airbrush. However,  the album’s sleeve would bear the credit “Produced by Ken Scott (assisted by the actor)”. The “actor” was Bowie himself, whose “pet conceit”, in the words of NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray, was “to think of himself as an actor”. George Underwood was also involved in the creative process of the album cover design.

 
 

The opening track, Changes, focused on the compulsive nature of artistic reinvention (“Strange fascination, fascinating me/Changes are taking the pace I’m going through”) and distancing oneself from the rock mainstream (“Look out, you rock ‘n’ rollers”). However, the composer also took time to pay tribute to his influences with the tracks Song for Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground inspired Queen Bitch.

Following the hard rock of Bowie’s previous album The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory saw the partial return of the fey pop singer of Space Oddity, with light fare such as Kooks (dedicated to his young son, known to the world as Zowie Bowie but legally named Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones) and the cover “Fill Your Heart” sitting alongside heavier material like the occult-tinged Quicksand and the semi-autobiographical The Bewlay Brothers. Between the two extremes was Oh! You Pretty Things, whose pop tune hid lyrics, inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche, predicting the imminent replacement of modern man by “the Homo Superior”, and which has been cited as a direct precursor to Starman from Bowie’s next album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Fifteen Songs for Drella

 
 

Songs for Drella is a concept album by Lou Reed and John Cale, both formerly of the Velvet Underground, and is dedicated to the memory of Andy Warhol, their mentor, who had died unexpectedly in 1987. Drella was a nickname for Warhol coined by Warhol Superstar Ondine, a contraction of Dracula and Cinderella, used by Warhol’s crowd. The song cycle focuses on Warhol’s interpersonal relations and experiences, with songs falling roughly into three categories: Warhol’s first-person perspective (which makes up the vast majority of the album), third-person narratives chronicling events and affairs, and first-person commentaries on Warhol by Reed and Cale themselves. The songs on the album are, to some extent, in chronological order.

Lou Reed and John Cale spoke to one another for the first time in years at Warhol’s memorial service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on April 1, 1987. The painter Julian Schnabel suggested they write a memorial piece for Andy. On January 7 and 8, 1989, Cale and Reed performed an almost completed Songs for Drella at The Church of St. Anne’s in Brooklyn. Still, as Cale was wrapping up Words for the Dying, and Reed had finished and was touring with his New York album, the project took another year to complete. The first full version (notably with the inclusion of A Dream in one performance) was played on November 29–30, and December 2–3 at the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. On December 4–5, 1989, a live performance—without an audience—was filmed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, directed by Ed Lachman, and released on VHS and laser disc formats. Over the following two months, Reed and Cale proceeded to record the material for the album, which was released in 1990 by Sire Records.

The album was the pair’s first full collaborative record since 1968’s White Light/White Heat, and by the end of recording Cale vowed never to work with Reed again due to personal differences, hence plans to support the album with a tour were shelved. Nevertheless, Songs for Drella would prove to be the prelude to a Velvet Underground reunion: after playing a Drella selection on June 15, 1990, at a Warhol/Velvet Underground exhibition at the Cartier Foundation in Jouy-en-Josas, Reed and Cale were joined onstage by Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker for a rendition of the Velvet Underground song Heroin, which eventually led to the first and last Velvet Underground reunion, which took place in 1993 (after which Cale and Reed, again, vowed never to work with one another again).

Looks Like a Scream

“Like to take a cement fix
Be a standing cinema
Dress my friends up
just for show
See them as they really are
Put a peephole in my brain
Two New Pence to have a go
I’d like to be a gallery
Put you all inside my show

Andy Warhol looks a scream
Hang him on my wall
Andy Warhol, Silver Screen
Can’t tell them apart at all

Andy walking, Andy tired
Andy take a little snooze
Tie him up when he’s fast asleep
Send him on a pleasant cruise
When he wakes up on the sea
Be sure to think of me and you
He’ll think about paint
and he’ll think about glue
What a jolly boring thing to do”

 
 

David Bowie as Andy Warhol. Promotional picture for Basquiat (Julian Schnabel, 1996)

 
 

Andy Warhol is a song written by David Bowie in 1971 for the album Hunky Dory. This is an acoustic song about one of Bowie’s greatest inspirations, the American pop artist Andy Warhol. The song starts with some studio chat where Bowie explains to producer Ken Scott, who has just been heard to mispronounce Warhol’s name when introducing the take, the right way to say it. Scott solemnly reintroduces the take with the correct pronunciation. There follows several seconds of silence before Bowie asks if the tape is rolling. Upon realizing they are indeed recording, Bowie bursts into laughter and begins playing. The song is memorable for its distinctive, flamenco-sounding opening riff on the acoustic guitar that continues through the song.

Bowie later played the song to Andy Warhol, who reportedly disliked it as he thought the lyrics made fun of his physical appearance. When the song had finished playing, Warhol and Bowie reportedly just stared at each other for a while until Warhol said “I like your shoes” and the pair then had a conversation about shoes.

 
 

David Bowie and Dana Gillespie. Photo: Brian Ward

 
 

Originally the song was written for Dana Gillespie in 1971, but her version of the song was not released until 1973 on her album Weren’t Born a Man. This version features Mick Ronson on guitar.