Orchids and Etymology of Desire

‘The overwhelming sensuality of the natural world, whose life force is one of pure desire”

Marc Quinn

 

Etymology of Desire, Marc Quinn, 2010. Quinn began his first series of orchids in 2008

 

Alexander McQueen by Sarah Burton, Spring/Summer 2015 collection

 

Etymology Of Desire and Prehistory Of Desire (2010) were the centerpiece of the Alexander McQueen women’s ready-to-wear Spring/Summer 2015 show in Paris Fashion Week. Cast from real flowers and parading, the orchids meditate on the human obsession of ideal beauty, achieved through the manipulation, modification and control of nature.

They were gargantuan, even dwarfing the typically attenuated McQueen models, hiked up on platform boots with a curving calligraphic heel. And they got the point across concisely – exotic, oriental, feminine. All pointers Sarah Burton wanted you to pick up in the clothes.

Maybe Burton was juxtaposing her fashion with art to assert the difference between the two. McQueen is one label that’s often lumped into that “art” category, and her last collection provoked criticism from some quarters for a degree of preciousness that pushed it beyond the realm of ready-to-wear.

 

The Diary of a Dress: Alexander McQueen Shares the Saga of How One of His Inspirations – A Peter Arnold’s Orchid Photograph – Evolved from Simple Sketch to Production Nightmare to a Stunning Gown Fit for Supermodel Naomi Campbell. Writer: Lisa Armstrong, Harper’s Bazaar, 2004

 

Kate Moss wearing an orchid printed Cheongsan by unidentified brand. Vogue USA, January 1997

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The Botany of Desired Garments

“Honeybees favor the radial symmetry of daisies and clover and sunflowers, while bumblebees prefer the bilateral symmetry of orchids, peas, and foxgloves”

Michael Pollan
The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World

 
 

Alexander McQueen Spring Summer 2013 by Sarah Burton
“It was bringing back the silhouette of the house and embracing the female form – the hip and bust. But there was a lightness to it. It still felt erotic but not overt,” explained Burton backstage after the show, joking that “most women are worker bees” – which made then for the perfect collection match.

 
 

The making of

 
 

Sneaker Puma by Alexander McQueen Joust III Mid Sunflower. Fall/Winter 2013

In Music I Trust

James Joseph Marshall

 
 

“I love all the musicians – they’re like family. Looking back I realize I was there at the beginning of something special, I’m like a historian. There’s an honesty about this work that I’m proud of. It feels good to think, my God, I really captured something amazing.”

 

Jim Marshall (1936-2010) was born in Chicago and moved to San Francisco with his family when he was only two years old. There in the City by the Bay he remained during his lifetime. A Brownie camera was one of his first toys. Later he bought a Leica when he was in high school. After coming back from the serving in the Air Force, Marshall met John Coltrane. One day, while he was photographing backstage at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco in 1960, Coltrane asked him for directions to Berkeley. “He asked me for directions to a club,” Marshall said later. “I told him I’d pick him up and take him there if he’d let me take his picture.” This way the visual linkage between Marshall and the best jazz and rock performers was strengthened.

 
 

John Coltrane

 
 

Thelonious Monk & Allen Gingsberg

 
 

Ray Charles

 
 

Miles Davis

 
 

63 marshall

Miles Davies & Steve McQueen

 
 

The Beatles

 
 

The Rolling Stones

 
 

Jimi Hendrix

 
 

Janis Joplin

 
 

Grace Slick

 
 

Jefferson Airplane

 
 

Jim Morrison

 
 

Led Zeppelin

 
 

Alice Cooper

 
 

The Who

 
 

Bob Dylan

 
 

Johnny Cash & June Carter

 
 

John Lennon

Tilda Swinton’s Surreal Fashion Fantasy

Tim Walker and actress Tilda Swinton created a series of phantasmagorias inspired by artists Salvador Dalí, Giorgio de Chirico, Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington, and other muses and collaborators of English eccentric, poet, and surrealist collector Edward James.

 
 

Cover of W magazine. Modern Beauty issue. May 2013

 
 

Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci dress; Cornelia James gloves

 
 

Vera Wang Collection dress; Vicki Beamon lips and fingertips; Cornelia James gloves

 
 

Acne Studios gown

 
 

Maison Martin Margiela dress and gloves

 
 

 Rick Owens jacket and dress

 
 

 Ann Demeulemeester dress; Cornelia James gloves

 
 

Balmain jacket; Max Mara jacket; Swinton’s own Olivier Saillard gloves

 
 

Rochas dress; National Theatre Costume Hire underskirt; Cornelia James gloves; Céline pumps

 
 

Angels the Costumiers cape; Gucci gown; Vicki Beamon mask; Cornelia James gloves

 
 

Azzedine Alaïa top, skirt, and shoes; Emilio Cavallini bodysuit; Alexander McQueen headpiece

 
 

 Louis Vuitton dress and shoes; Cornelia James gloves; Emilio Cavallini tights

 
 

 Haider Ackermann shirt and trousers

 
 

Mary Katrantzou dress; Cornelia James gloves

 
 

Giorgio Armani blouse, skirt, and pants; Haider Ackermann dress; Ann Demeulemeester top; Cornelia James gloves; Prada gaiters and socks

 
 

Francesco Scognamiglio dress

Ruth Ansel And a Man on a Women’s World

“I chose Bazaar because I liked it much better than Vogue– graphically, it was more sophisticated. I called cold and asked to talk to an editor. It turned out there was an opening in the art department, and Marvin Israel, the director, took a big chance on me. He wanted somebody that didn’t have to unlearn graphic design clichés. Bea Feitler, his protégé and star pupil from Parsons, had been hired a month earlier. My first few months were a disaster.”

“In 1962 Marvin was fired, and Bea and I became the art directors. We were pioneers in a way– not only were we young women but we were working as graphic design partners. Then in 1971, a new editor came in to make Bazaar more newsy and we were both fired– almost simultaneously.”

Ruth Ansel

 
 

When Ruth Ansel put Steve McQueen, photographed by Richard Avedon (also the guest editor), on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1965, it was the first time a male appeared on the cover of a women’s fashion magazine.

 
 

At first look there are obvious reasons to love this February, 1965 cover of Harper’s Bazaar magazine: Steve McQueen of course, and the amazing photography of the legendary Richard Avedon. But there is another visionary manifested here, not often spoken of, especially back when this was on the newsstand: Ruth Ansel, a female pioneer in the world of graphic design.

An interesting footnote: 22 year old Ali MacGraw (pre-McQueen days) worked under Diana Vreeland at Harper’s Bazaar until she was finally convinced by a bevy of photographers to get out from behind the camera and strike a pose. And the rest is history, as they say…

“Point to an iconic magazine cover of the last 40 years, and chances are it was designed by Ruth Ansel. Since 1961, when she talked her way into the art department at Harper’s Bazaar, Ansel has defined the look of some of America’s visually influential publications. In the 1960s, her work for Bazaar captured a transitional moment in fashion and society. In the 1970s, she became the first female art director of The New York Times Magazine and in the 1980s she created the look of Vanity Fair.”

Carol Kino

 
 

Model Jean Shrimpton & actor Steve McQueen

Kaleidoscopic Entomology

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the skull scarf, Alexander McQueen presented an exclusive collaboration with Damien Hirst. The patterns have been adapted from Hirst’s Entomology series, a body of work that he began in 2009. The large scale paintings were composed from the intricate placement of butterflies, spiders and various insect species in the formation of kaleidoscopic, geometric shapes. The scarves appropriate the motifs in the organizational layout of McQueen signature skull image, another unmistakable emblem of his brand. The partnership seamlessly plays on the shared aesthetic vision of the artist and designer, in which symmetry and strong references to natural history and the environment are significant parts of their creative vision. Butterflies, bugs, spiders and other insects have been worked into each scarf design to form kaleidoscopic geometric shapes, laid out to create the signature McQueen skull motif. The collection offered 30 unique designs.

 
 

Jacob’s Ladder Skull 

 
 

Judecca

 
 

Judecca Circular 

 
 

Judecca Circular

 
 

The Shock of  the New

 
 

Persephone Butterfly

 
 

The Forgiveness Skull Butterfly Grid 

 
 

Butterfly Skull

 
 

Butterfly Circular 

 
 

God Fearing Circular

 
 

God Fearing Circular 

 
 

Full God Fearing Circular

 
 

Heaven Butterfly Grid

 
 

Green Mix Bug Skull

 
 

Cacus

 
 

Capaneus

 
 

Do You Know What I like About You Butterfly

 
 

Panegyric Skull 

 
 

Typhon Skull

 
 

Butterfly Kaleidoscope 

 
 

Psalm 113 Circular

 
 

Minos

 
 

Perfect Moment Skull

 
 

Blue Circular

 
 

Tityus Skull

 
 

Tityus Big Skull

 
 

Full Tityus Big Skull 

 
 

Magisterium Skull

Feathery Butterflies

“The characterizing McQueen trademarks were very much still there – the exaggerated silhouettes, the bold prints, the drama – but Burton presented them in a much freer way, with a lightness and femininity that contrasted with the dark and complex collections of the past – and it all felt so right. The McQueen woman has not changed, she has evolved.”

Sarah Burton

 
 

Alexander McQueen Spring-Summer 2011 Ready-to-Wear collection

 
 

Sarah Burton said before the show that she didn’t feel she was as dark as Alexander McQueen, and the dresses – featuring the same McQueen exaggerated, stiffened silhouettes – had a lightness of subject matter despite being as brilliantly and painstakingly constructed. Gold painted corn ears made up incredible regal dresses with trains of pheasant feathers, stunning butterfly print dresses had feathery butterflies clustering out of the necklines and silk ivy coated in black or gleaming gold grew around nude sheaths.

Michael Jackson’s I’ll Be There played Burton out to her standing ovation and us back out into the Parisian rain, many in tears – the extraordinary poignancy of the Alexander McQueen story once again breathtaking.

You’re so Desirable (Like a Butterfly on a Pin)

Phillip Treacy hat for Alexander McQueen AW 08 collection

 
 

You’re so desirable

You’re so desirable
I just can’t resist you
You’re so desirable
I have to give in
That tirm resolve I made
Has vanished away now
I’m happy to say now
You win

You’re so adorable
The moment I saw you
It’s just deplorable
The fool that I’ve been
And yet I’m glad
You’ve got my heart dear
Like a butterfly on a pin
You’re so desirable
I had to give in

Composed by Ray Noble

Recorded by Billie Holiday and Teddy Wilson in 1938

On a Sad Sunday

“On a sad Sunday with a hundred white flowers,
I was waiting for you, my dear, with a church prayer,
That dream-chasing Sunday morning,
The chariot of my sadness returned without you.

Ever since then, Sundays are always sad,
tears are my drink, and sorrow is my bread…
Sad Sunday.

Last Sunday, my dear, please come along,
There will even be priest, coffin, catafalque, hearse-cloth.
Even then flowers will be awaiting you, flowers and coffin.
Under blossoming (flowering in Hungarian) trees my journey shall be the last.

My eyes will be open, so that I can see you one more time,
Do not be afraid of my eyes as I am blessing you even in my death…
Last Sunday.”

Translation of László Jávor’s lyrics

 
 

Bjork performs Gloomy Sunday at at memorial service for Alexander McQueen. Björk emerged from behind the heavy swagged cathedral curtains, resplendent in a fragile, winged silver and grey McQueen stage costume, the like of which St Paul’s has surely never seen before, even in half a millennium. It gave her the appearance of a butterfly who had got halfway through emerging from a chrysalis and then changed her mind.

 
 

Gloomy Sunday, also known as the Hungarian Suicide Song, is a song composed by Hungarian pianist and composer Rezső Seress and published in 1933.The original lyrics were titled Vége a világnak (The world is ending) and were a set of lyrics about despair caused by war, and ending in a quiet prayer about the people’s sins. Poet László Jávor wrote his own lyrics to the song, titled Szomorú vasárnap (Sad Sunday), in which the protagonist wants to commit suicide following his lover’s death. The latter lyrics ended up becoming more popular while the former were essentially forgotten. The song was first recorded in Hungarian by Pál Kalmár in 1935.

The song was published as sheet music in late 1933, with lyrics by poet László Jávor, who was inspired by a recent break-up with his fiancée. According to most sources, Jávor rewrote the lyrics after the song’s first publication, although he is sometimes described as the original writer of its words. His lyrics contained no political sentiments, but rather were a lament for the death of a beloved and a pledge to meet with the lover again in the afterlife. This version of the song became the best known, and most later rewritings are based around the idea of lost love.

Gloomy Sunday was first recorded in English by Hal Kemp in 1936, with lyrics by Sam M. Lewis, and was recorded the same year by Paul Robeson, with lyrics by Desmond Carter. It became well-known throughout much of the English-speaking world after the release of a version by Billie Holiday in 1941. Lewis’s lyrics referred to suicide, and the record label described it as the Hungarian Suicide Song. There is a recurring urban legend which claims that many people committed suicide while listening to this song.

Gummy Bears Dress

 
 

On 2012, for the launch of TWELV Magazine, Hissa Igarashi and Sayuri Marakumi designed a breathtaking dress using only gummy bears. The dress, according to TWELV, was inspired by Alexander McQueen’s iconic The Parrot Dress influenced by his muse Isabella Blow. Igarashi and his fashion assistant Sayuri Marakumi recreated the McQueen Parrot dress with 50,000 gummy bears. The dress was first created from a dress form out of steel wire, covered with a sheet of vinyl. The 50,000 gummy bears were then hand-glued to the form in a chevron rainbow pattern, creating an edible-and memorable- version of the iconic dress.

 
 

 
 

To create the masterpiece, steel wire was twisted into the shape of the dress and covered with a sheet of vinyl. Then the 50,000 gummy bears were painstakingly glued on by hand in a colorful pattern reminiscent of a Chevron rainbow.

Taking three weeks to complete, the final dress was fitted exactly to major model Jessica Pitti‘s measurements. And weighing in at approximately 220 pounds, required the strength of three adults to move.

The shoot was held at Splashlight Studios and took 4 to 5 hours to complete.

The result? An incredible nod to a fashion genius that was literally good enough to eat!

 
 

The Parrot Dress. Alexander McQueen’s La Dame Bleu Spring-Summer 2008 collection

A Warrior Who Had to Fight with Love

“The title of the album, in fact,  indicates that music comes from a same direction: straight from my heart, because home is where the heart is”
Björk

 
 

Homogenic is the fourth studio album by Icelandic musician Björk

 
 

A relationship with fellow musician Clifford Price (better known as Goldie) caused controversy for the singer, an American fan, offended by her dalliance with a black man, taped himself creating an acid bomb and sent it to her house before shooting himself in front of the camera. While the bomb, thankfully, never reached Bjork, she became extremely depressed and fled to Spain where she recorded her next album. The result, entitled Homogenic, was released in September 1997 and featured emotional, dark songs possessing sounds that had never been explored. So off the beaten path was the record that it failed to enjoy the commercial success that her last two efforts had. But it was her most personal record to-date.

The album was Björk’s first attempt to bridge the world of electronic music with more organic elements (including orchestral score and unusual applications of the human voice), and she approached Alexander McQueen to try to capture the album’s icy, otherworldly cool vibe in a cover image.“When I went to Alexander McQueen, I explained to him the person who wrote these songs — someone who was put into an impossible situation, so impossible that she had to become a warrior,” Bjork told the Chicago Sun-Times in 1998.“A warrior who had to fight not with weapons, but with love.”

Though the cover appears to be a straight illustration, Bjork actually posed for the image, photographed by Nick Knight. “I had 10 kilos of hair on my head, and special contact lenses and a manicure that prevented me from eating with my fingers, and gaffer tape around my waist and high clogs so I couldn’t walk easily,” she said. “I wanted to put all the emotion of the album into that image.”

 
 

A previous McQueen/Knight collaboration for a photo shoot clearly provided the basis idea for the imagery achieved

 
 

Björk’s vocals on Homogenic range from primitive sounding screams to a traditional singing method used by Icelandic choir men, a combination of speaking and singing as illustrated in the song Unravel. Björk wanted Homogenic to have a conceptual focus on her native Iceland. In an interview for Oor, Björk explained that “in Iceland, everything revolves around nature, 24 hours a day. Earthquakes, snowstorms, rain, ice, volcanic eruptions, geysers… Very elementary and uncontrollable. But at the other hand, Iceland is incredibly modern; everything is hi-tech. The number of people owning a computer is as high as nowhere else in the world. That contradiction is also on Homogenic. The electronic beats are the rhythm, the heartbeat. The violins create the old-fashioned atmosphere, the colouring.”

Roses and Thorns

‘We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.’
Abraham Lincoln

“There are people who cry because they know roses have thorns; other people smile because they know thorn bushes have roses”
Joaquim Machado de Assis

 
 

The rose personally chosen by the late Alexander McQueen for his friend Isabella Blow before he passed away was launched at Hampton Court Palace Flower show. The flower, named Alexander’s Issie, was presented to Blow’s sister Julia Delves Broughton

The Ravishing Blooms Appear

“Men were created before women. … But that doesn’t prove their superiority – rather, it proves ours, for they were born out of the lifeless earth in order that we could be born out of living flesh. And what’s so important about this priority in creation, anyway? When we are building, we lay foundations on the ground first, things of no intrinsic merit or beauty, before subsequently raising up sumptuous buildings and ornate palaces. Lowly seeds are nourished in the earth, and then later the ravishing blooms appear; lovely roses blossom forth and scented narcissi.”

Moderata Fonte, pseudonym of Modesta Pozzo (1555-1592)
The Worth of Women: Wherein Is Clearly Revealed Their Nobility and Their Superiority to Men

 
 

Devon Aoki in Alexander McQueen for Visionaire 20, 1997. Photo by Nick Knight