The Romanian Blouse

Queen Marie of Romania

 
 

The main piece of the Romanian national dress is the blouse, the term being only attributed to the blouse worn by women. It is actually a Romanian traditional blouse worn on festive days, which is made of white cloth, cotton, flax or raw silk tissue, adorned with beads and embroideries on the sleeves and the neckline. The technique of adorning this blouse was handed down from mother to daughter, a fact that preserved the tradition and taste from one generation to another. The patterns are stylized, geometrical or inspired from nature.

In the course of time, the finesse of the materials that were used, the chromatic harmony, but also the cut of the pieces of the Romanian national dress, which were woven, cut and embroidered by hand, were appreciated by Romania’s Queens Elisabeta and Marie, but also by the women aristocrats of the time, who were proud to wear the Romanian national dress at various times.

 
 

The first Blouse Roumaine prototype is considered to be created starting the 6th century B.C in Cucuteni culture. The ancient piece was called “ie”. The name derived from Latin “tunicae linae” which means thin tunic.

 
 

The sewing process of a blouse roumaine. The tradition of manufacturing the blouse is still kept among very rare artisans who are living on forgotten lands of ancient romanian villages.

 
 

Revolutionary Romania (portrait of Maria Rosetti), Constantin Daniel Rosenthal, 1848

 
 

On the other hand, the Romanian blouse caught the artists’ eye and was immortalized by French painter Henri Matisse in several paintings, one of them, La Blouse roumaine (1940), being exhibited at the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris. A Romanian painter, Constantin Daniel Rosenthal, immortalized Maria Rosetti (the sister of artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti as well as William Michael Rossetti and Christina Georgina Rossetti) in Revolutionary Romania as wearing this kind of blouse and a head kerchief. The Romanian blouse also appears in the paintings made by Camil Ressu, Ion Theodorescu-Sion, Francisc Sirato, Nicolae Tonitza, Dumitru Ghiata, etc.

 
 

Yves Saint Laurent, 1981 Collection

 
 

Yves Saint Laurent, Spring/Summer 1997-1998

 
 

Stefano Pilati for Yves Saint Laurent

 
 

Jean-Paul Gaultier

 
 

Oscar De la Renta

 
 

Matthew Williamson

 
 

Adele wearing a Tom Ford blouse (spring summer 2011 collection)

 
 

Carolina Herrera Resort 2013 Collection

 
 

The Romanian blouse was equally the source of inspiration for the creation of some fashion designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, who in 1981 had an entire collection titled ‘La Blouse roumaine,’ followed by Jean Paul Gaultier, Kenzo or Tom Ford, who interpreted again the traditional blouse he found in the region of Sibiu (central Romania), with black embroidery specific to that area, which appeared in the American issue of Vogue magazine in March 2012, worn by singer Adele. Then there were Oscar de la Renta, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, Anna Sui or Philippe Guilet. Some of the Romanian fashion designers that took their inspiration from the Romanian national dress are Adrian Oianu, Dorin Negrau, Corina Vladescu and Ingrid Vlasov.

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Matisse-Inspired Fashion


Long evening dresses inspired by Henri Matisse-inspired evening gowns by Yves Saint Laurent, Autumn/Winter 1980-1981 collection. Black velvet and moire faille, multicolored satin applique leaves

 
 

Yves Saint Laurent Couture Spring/Summer 1992 (Une Renaissance, based on Henri Matisse’s colors in Morocco)

 
 

Lady Gaga wearing a vintage Yves Saint Laurent blouse (Autumn/Winter 1980-1981 collection)

 
 

Vintage 1980’s Valentino Sheer Silk Georgette Jacket with Hood

 
 

Vivienne Westwood Nostalgia of Mud (Buffalo Girls) collection printed cotton jersey toga dress, Autumn/Winter, 1982-1983. World’s End labelled, the pink gown cut shorter at the front and with long train-like panel printed in dark brown with Matisse inspired motifs

 
 

Vera Wang Spring/Summer 2006 (inspired by the way Henri Matisse’s models dressed)

 
 

Etro Spring/Summer 2006

 
 

Carolina Herrera Spring-Summer 2010 Bridal collection. Wedding dress inspired by Matisse’s paper cut outs

 
 

Roland Mouret Spring/Summer 2012 (inspired in part by the women close to Henri Matisse)

 
 

Basso & Brooke Autumn/Winter 2012-2013

 
 

Kenzo by Antonio Marras

 
 

Printed leather trainers, also by Kenzo

 
 

Fendi Spy Bag

 
 

Jean-Claude Jitrois

 
 

Issey Miyake

 
 

Ostwald Helgason s/s 2013

 
 

 Liu Qingyang

 
 

Versace, Spring Summer 2012 Resort collection. Vacation dresses in a tropical print inspired by Matisse’s Bouquet

 
 

Tata Naka Autumn/Winter 2014-2015 Pre Collection

The Richard Avedon of Asia

Self-portrait

 
 

Russel Wong is a Singapore-born Hollywood celebrity photographer. He had his primary and secondary education at Anglo-Chinese School. His celebrity portraits have earned him celebrity status. He is heralded as “the Richard Avedon of Asia” –an association Wong doesn’t seem to mind.

Like Avedon, Wong creates stunning portraits that are minimal, dramatic, and brilliantly composed. However, his photographs lack the cool indifference and stiffness of Avedon’s work; instead, the imagery is warm, personal, engaging.

Where does that gift comes from? “It’s difficult to explain”, he begins. “When I shoot someone, I feel like I’m dancing. The idea I’m working with is equivalent to the melody I hear in my head… then I improvise what that song’s ups and downs. I often try something wild at the end.”

The legendary celebrity-photographer the late Richard Avedon [1923-2004] had once sharply noted ‘my portraits are more about me than about the people I photograph’. This observation from the towering figure who chiselled his reputation on photographing the celebrated and the powerful suggests that the portrait-image could reveal as much about the photographer as it does the sitter-subject – or more. Russel Wong [b. 1961-] who (as stated before) has been christened the Richard Avedon of Asia by the popular media, wields an inventory of celebrity portraits that would exhaust most name-droppers. Joining the tradition of celebrity photographers like Avedon, Annie Leibovitz [1949-] Helmut Newton [1920-2004] and Herb Ritts [1952-2002], Wong’s practice ruptures the slender line between celebrity photography and fine art. Whilst some critics banish this genre as a soft art form shaped by the pressures and demands of celebrity publicity machines, most agree that this species of photography remains one of the most potent and most difficult to commandeer. It is one thing to wrestle for access to celebrities and quite another feat to persuade strong self-willed celebrities who are well-acquainted with camera tactics to trust if not share, one’s vision.

Several pivotal shifts in Wong’s practice occurred after his enrollment in the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles in 1984 for a fine art degree (Photography). There he encountered tutors and mentors whose personal charisma and professional triumphs exerted great influence over his formative development. In his second year, Wong made a 4-month ‘immersion trip’ to Milan, Italy – ‘the Mecca, where all aspiring fashion photographers go to, and where all the big-name photographers pay their dues’ [Russel Wong, interview 2004]. Wong learnt the language, ate the food and hung out at the Italian fashion cafes, like The White Bear, where models and photographers congregated. Most importantly, his photographic style and approach changed radically, and these shifts were not lost on his mentors. Amongst these was Paul Jasmin [1935-], the renowned fashion designer and photographer who worked with Vogue and Interview. Jasmin introduced Wong to his agent who also represented Herb Ritts.

The agent subsequently became Wong’s first agent in his career – opening the doors to major magazine assignments. Another seminal figure was Antonio Lopez [1943-1987] the flamboyant Puerto Rican fashion illustrator noted for his portraits of Jerry Hall, Jessica Lange and Grace Jones. Lopez, a cult figure in the circles, had in the 1970s, run a Paris salon with Karl Lagerfeld for fashion celebrities. Lopez noted Wong’s work and connected Wong to the remarkable photographer Art Kane [1925-1995] who had photographed The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan among others.

“Antonio said, ‘Go to New York. I will help you!’ He invited me to his New York studio in Union Square and he called up a bunch of photographers. At the point when Antonio introduced me to Art Kane, I was ready to be an assistant, intern, anything. I didn’t really care, because I just wanted to see what it was like to do real photographic work in a New York loft.
I would have waited tables, carried the photographer’s lights, made coffee… you name it. But it turned out that I didn’t have to do any of that. I don’t know if this is good or bad but I didn’t have to assist any photographer on my way up. They liked my work, and it all began.”
[Russel Wong, interview 2004]

 
 

Antonio Lopez

 
 

David Lynch

 
 

Isabella Rossellini

 
 

Kenzo Takada

 
 

Helmut Newton

 
 

Oliver Stone

 
 

Joan Chen

 
 

John Galliano

 
 

Cindy Crawford

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