Through That Which is Seen

Illustration by René Gruau, 1961

 

Patti Smith in a Dior gown. Photographs by Steven Sebring, circa 1995-6

 

This manuscript was reportedly found in 2009 among papers Roberto Bolaño left behind after his death.

 

The word “diorama” originated in 1823 as a type of picture-viewing device, from the French in 1822. The word literally means “through that which is seen”, from the Greek di- “through” + orama “that which is seen, a sight”. The diorama was invented by Louis Daguerre and Charles Marie Bouton, first exhibited in London September 29, 1823. The meaning “small-scale replica of a scene, etc.” is from 1902

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IMAGINE

From left: Anne (Russia) in dress and hat, Nina Ricci. Blouse, Miguel Adrover. Natasha (former Yugoslavia) in bodice, Imitation of Christ. Blouse, Prada. Petticoat, What Comes Around Goes Around. Jeans, Levi’s. Headscarf, Dolce & Gabbana. Socks, Gaultier Paris. Liliana (Mexico) in jacket, Dolce & Gabbana. Stripped jeans, Christian Dior. Hair pieces, M.S. Schmalberg. Kae (Japan) in  kimono Jean-Paul Gaultier. Dress, Salvatore Ferragamo. Aline (Japan and Brazil) in top and pants  Gaultier Paris. Audrey (France) in dress Yves Saint Laurent Haute Couture. Stella (UK) in jacket Dolce & Gabbana. Tank Michael Stars. kilt, Gold Label by Vivienne Westwood. Carmen (Estonia) in dress Miu Miu. Alek (Sudan) in pants Giorgio Armani. Jewelry, Craft Caravan. Karolina (Czech Republic) in dress, Marc Jacobs.

 
 

From left: Lya (Ethiopia) in dress, Christian Dior Haute Couture.  Anouck (Belgium) in jacket and skirt, Veronique Branquinho. Madelaine (Spain) in jacket and dress, Gaultier Paris. Sharon (Israel) in caftan, Missoni. Marcelle (Brazil) in bikini Tom Ford for Gucci. Headdress, Pau Brasil. Rohini (India) in skirt OMO Norma Kamali. Rings, Chanel Haute Couture. Bracelets, Erickson Beamon. Maggie (USA) in top OMO Norma Kamali. Miniskirt, Dolce & Gabbana. Mariacarla (Italy) in dress Dolce & Gabbana. Pin, J.M. Schmalberg. Mini (Sweden) in blouse, Dolce & Gabbana. Corset, OMO Norma Kamali. Skirt, Miguel Adrover. Boots, Prada.

 
 

Fashion editorial inspired by John Lennon‘s song. Photos by Patrick Demarchelier. Harper’s Bazaar, December 2001

The Ascension to The Throne

Yves Saint Laurent, the then-new head of Maison Dior, surrounded by house models wearing his designs. Photo: Loomis Dean, 1958

 
 

Yves Saint Laurent was introduced to designer Christian Dior by Michel De Brunoff, the editor of French Vogue.

To start with, he was given mundane tasks to complete but after winning first prize in the International Wool Secretariat contest for his cocktail dress design in 1954, Yves Saint Laurent landed the job of Haute Couture designer when Dior died in 1957 at the age of 52. At the tender age of 21, he launched a spring collection for the fashion house and gained critical acclaim for his dresses as the head of the House of Dior.

In 1960, he was conscripted into the French Army. His spell in the service was short-lived however, and he was transferred into a French mental hospital suffering from stress, where he underwent psychiatric treatment, including electroshock therapy, for a nervous breakdown. He served in the military for just 20 days.

In 1962, in the wake of his nervous breakdown, Saint Laurent was released from Dior and started his own label, YSL, financed by his companion, Pierre Bergé.

A Key Motif in Dior’s Fashions

Monsieur Christian Dior and his gardener, date unknown

 
 

The story began in 1906 in the hills above Granville in Normandy within the gardens on the property where the Dior family had recently settled. Around the villa, Christian Dior‘s mother built a lush garden from the ground up combining rare species of plants. It was young Christian who created and designed the rose garden. Throughout his life, the rose remained his favourite flower. It was key motif in his fashions (featured in prints, embroidery, brocades, etc.) and an essential note in his fragrances. Furthermore, the very name of his childhood home – les Rhumbs – is also a subtle reference to the rose: it defines the cardinal divisions of space, which in French is called ‘la rose des vents’, or windrose. Therefore, the rose, which was so vital to the life and work of the designer, has also become essential to Dior Jewellery collections such as Rose Dior Bagatelle.

Ever since, each designer at Masion Dior (Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano and Raf Simons) had followed the tradition of including roses in the collections for this iconic French brand, whether in prints, accesories or even on a showstopping stage.

 
 

Rose de France afternoon dress in taffeta with colored rose print, Spring-Summer 1956 Haute Couture collection, Ligne Flèche (Arrow Line)

 
 

Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Roses Mousseuses influenced the rose print

 
 

Carmen Dell’Orefice wearing Dior by Yves Saint Laurent. Photo: Richard Avedon, 1957

 
 

Madrileña Dress of floating pale gray faille, Dior by Marc Bohan. Alexandre of Paris coiffure. Photo by Richard Avedon for Harper’s Bazaar, December 1960

Two Names Taken as One

Carmen Dell’Orefice at Folies Bergère
 
 

Carmen Dell’Orefice at Folies Bergère, wearing a lace cocktail ensemble designed by Yves Saint Laurent for Christian Dior, photos by Richard Avedon for Harper’s Bazaar, 1957

 
 

Carmen is a unisex given name that represents two names taken as one. Its first (and original) root is Italian and Spanish, used as a diminutive nickname for Carmel and Carmelo (respectively), from Hebrew karmel, “God’s vineyard.” The second (and more recent) origin is from Latin carmen, which means “song,” “tune,” or “poem” and is also the root of the English word charm.

As a Spanish given name, it is usually part of the devotional compound names María del Carmen, Nuestra Señora del Carmen (Our Lady of Carmen) or Virgen del Carmen (in English Our Lady of Mount Carmel), stemming from the tradition of the vision of Mary the mother of Jesus on 16 July 1251 by Simon Stock, head of the Carmelite order.

 
 

To read extra info about people related to this name (specifically Carmen Marc Valvo), please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

True Love Comes by Fairy-Lot

Dakota Fanning as Sleeping Beauty, wearing a Dior gown. Photograph by Karl Lagerfeld, Vanity Fair, January 2007

 
 

Many a girl has waited long
For a husband brave or strong;
But I’m sure I never met
Any sort of woman yet
Who could wait a hundred years,
Free from fretting, free from fears.
Now, our story seems to show
That a century or so,
Late or early, matters not;
True love comes by fairy-lot.

 
 

Zac Efron as the Prince and Vanessa Hudgens as Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Annie Leibovitz, c. 2011

 
 

Some old folk will even say
It grows better by delay.
Yet this good advice, I fear,
Helps us neither there nor here.
Though philosophers may prate
How much wiser ’tis to wait,
Maids will be a-sighing still —
Young blood must when young blood will!

Charles Perrault

(Moral of Sleeping Beauty)

Tribute to Van Gogh on the Catwalk

Yves Saint Laurent, Tribute to Vincent Van Gogh, haute couture collection, Spring-Summer 1988

 
 

Detail of a jacket embroidered by François Lesage

 
 

Saint Laurent and Mr. Lesage recreated the irises and sunflowers of  Van Gogh’s paintings

 
 

Widely known for his use of watercolor, Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous artwork has been transformed into garments and adapted into fashion trends. Van Gogh’s paintings are not always clear and may even appear distorted in order to drag the 19th century art into current times. Although his work may not be directly printed on garments, designers tend to use his color palette in product design and production. Four of his famous creations included the Sunflowers still life series,Blossoming Almond Tree, Starry Night Over the Rhone, and Starry Night.

the sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy from Rodarte, sent out a collection that was one part Sleeping Beauty and another part Vincent Van Gogh. They explained that they fell for the greens and purples of the 1959 animated Disney classic, and asked themselves who else uses colors like that. They found their answer in the Dutch postimpressionist painter beloved by millions.

Those sunflowers appear woven into elaborate Lyons brocades of the type favored by the great mid-century couturiers such as Pierre Balmain and Christian Dior, although the Mulleavys seem to have washed and treated them to deflate some of that sumptuousness. Those optimistic, life-affirming blooms also appear in delicate silk-floss embroideries, scattered over fragile tulle ruffles.

There is more mid- and late-century couture influence in some of the gala shapes: swathed fichu necklines and bodices erupting into buoyant skirts, for instance, and even a Reine Margot bodice or two that seems plucked from the Christian Lacroix archive. But the fertile and poetic Mulleavy imagination grafts these touches onto modernistic effects. Mediterranean skies are lit by a full moon, and a brilliant Milky Way is evoked in gleaming metallic brocades, crystals nestling in the folds of knits, and clunky heeled sandals in reflective-mirror silver. Meanwhile, ruched glove leather, and exaggerated layered peplums and winged sleeves suggest the princess in an Alex Raymond‘s Flash Gordon story.

 
 

Rodarte, Spring-Summer 2012 Ready-to-Wear Collection

 
 

Textures from Rodarte SS 2012 collection

One-of-a-Kind Garment

China Machado, original photographs from cover shoot for Harper’s Bazaar. Photos by Bill King

 
 

Harper’s Bazaar cover, April 1971 issue

 
 

Tie-dyed suede shirt by Halston, 1971

 
 

The earliest surviving examples of Pre-Columbian tie-dye in Peru date from 500 to 810 AD. Their designs include small circles and lines, with bright colors including red, yellow, blue, and green.

Tie-dye is a modern term coined in the mid-1960s in the United States for a set of ancient resist-dyeing techniques, and for the products of these processes. The process of tie-dye typically consists of folding, twisting, pleating, or crumpling fabric or a garment and binding with string or rubber bands, followed by application of dye(s). The manipulations of the fabric prior to application of dye are called resists, as they partially or completely prevent the applied dye from coloring the fabric. More sophisticated tie-dyes involve additional steps, including an initial application of dye prior to the resist, multiple sequential dye and resist steps, and the use of other types of resists (stitching, stencils) and discharge.

Tie-dyeing was known in the US by 1909, when Professor Charles E. Pellow of Columbia University acquired some samples of tie-dyed muslin and subsequently gave a lecture and live demonstration of the technique.

Although shibori and batik techniques were used occasionally in Western fashion before the 1960s, modern psychedelic tie-dying did not become a fad until the late 1960s following the example set by rock stars such as Janis Joplin and John Sebastian (who did his own dyeing).

Tie-dying, particularly after the introduction of affordable Rit dyes, became popular as a cheap and accessible way to customize inexpensive T-shirts, singlets, dresses, jeans, army surplus clothing, and other garments into psychedelic creations. Some of the leading names in tie-dye at this time were Water Baby Dye Works (run by Ann Thomas and Maureen Mubeem), Bert Bliss, and Up Tied, the latter winning a Coty Award for “major creativity in fabrics” in 1970. Up Tied created tie-dyed velvets and silk chiffons which were used for exclusive one-of-a-kind garments by Halston, Donald Brooks, and Gayle Kirkpatrick, whilst another tie-dyer, Smooth Tooth Inc. dyed garments for Dior and Jonathan Logan.

Hopes and Glory

The Union Jack cap is paired with a leather and horsehair hat by Soren Bach. The black embroidered tulle and lace dress is from Dior Haute Couture by John Galliano

 
 

The vintage Russell Sage Union Jack jacket joins forces with a short tulle dress hand embroidered with guipure and silk taffeta from Elie Saab Couture

 
 

Looking patriotic in makeshift Union Jack trousers by Katie Eary, worn with a Jean-Paul Gaultier’s beaded Deco top

 
 

Images of Kate Moss by Mario Testino, Vogue,  October 2008

A Way of Moving

“L’élégance c’est une façon de se mouvoir. C’est aussi savoir s’adapter à toutes les circonstances de sa vie. Sans élégance de coeur, il n’y a pas d’élégance”

(“Elegance is a way of moving. It is also knowing how to adapt to all of life’s circumstances. Without elegance of the heart, there is no elegance”)

Yves Saint Laurent

 
 

Yves Saint Laurent, the day before the opening of his first collection for Dior, 1958. Photo: Inge Morath

 
 

Handwritten note by Yves Saint Laurent

 

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