The Most-Sought-After Title of the Nineties

Linda Evangelista. Art Direction: Fabien Baron. Photo by Patrick Demarchelier. It was the first issue from Liz Tilberis at Harper’s Bazaar. September 1992

 
 

Sex and design, not that long ago, were total strangers—at least in magazines. You could have sex and fashion, as Helmut Newton had memorably proved in Vogue, and you could have fashion and design, as Alexey Brodovitch, Harper’s Bazaar’s legendary art director from 1934 to 1958, had shown. But Fabien Baron’s remarkable 1992 redesign of Bazaar, under editor Liz Tilberis, brought them together under one elegant, sensuous roof. Baron also introduced art-world and European photographers (Mario Testino, David Sims, Cindy Sherman, Craig McDean, Mario Sorrenti, Raymond Meier, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin) to the fashion world for the first time, permanently altering our perception of what a fashion photographer does.

Baron grew up in Paris, the son of a magazine art director. He came to New York at 23; his first magazine job was at GQ, in 1982, where Bruce Weber was making his name. By the late eighties, he was multitasking prodigiously, producing Barneys’ famous ads with Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, and Naomi Campbell, and working on Franca Sozzani’s Italian Vogue and Ingrid Sischy’s Interview, all at the same time. By 1992, when he landed at Bazaar, he was a ubiquitous design star.

And a new kind of star at that: a “creative director,” which in short order became the most-sought-after (and then clichéd) title of the nineties. “I was the first person to have that title,” he says. “I didn’t want to be just the art director!”

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Channeling Avedon’s Muse

Fei Fei Sun made history as the first Asian model to grace the cover of Vogue Italia (January 2013 issue) and fittingly the fashion team lead by photographer Steven Meisel used legendary model China Machado as inspiration for the editorial. China was the first non-Caucasian model to grace the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1958.

Leading model Fei Fei Sun enchants in retro-inspired looks, channeling Avedon’s muse. Fashion editor Lori Goldstein did choose a selection of sumptuous pieces from the likes of Valentino, Miu Miu, Gucci and Giorgio Armani for the Chinese beauty to wear. Guido created elegant coifs while makeup artist Pat McGrath was responsible for the brunette’s dramatic eyes.

Franca Sozzani told: “We put Fan Bingbing on the cover of L’Uomo Vogue and we dedicated an entire issue to China. In the past, we’ve done many shoots with Asian girls, with photographers like Peter Lindbergh or Steven Meisel or Craig McDean.” She called this cover by Meisel “extravagant, eccentric, and elegant … showing a new chic mood in fashion and how the Asian girls have a classy and special beauty.”

 
 

Religion as A Liberating Force

 
 

No designer draws on religious themes to quite such glorious effect as Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci. Thus, it made perfect sense that Tisci came on board to guest-edit Visionaire’s 60th issue, RELIGION. Housed inside a distressed wood case lined in black Plexiglas, a book of images revealed Tisci’s world and the inspiration behind his work. Naturally, the works were loaded with symbolism, like a photo of Tisci suckling at the teat of Marina Abramovic — an image the performance artist says echoed the relationship between art and fashion. “When Riccardo was asked who I wanted to collaborate with,” Abramovic recalls, “I said the only thing I want is to collaborate with you. That was my ultimatum. I said to him, This is the situation: do you admit that fashion is inspired by art? Well I am the art, you are the fashion, now suck my tits! He’s very shy, so it took him a while to come around. But he did. During the shoot, I wanted to be in a state of mind as if I were delivering the emotions of the artist whose work is being used as inspiration—luminous yet strong. Art is giving. Art is nourishing. Art is oxygen to society. I was thinking what the title would be, and I thought of The Contract.” For Tisci, it was an opportunity to meditate on his past and present. “Visionaire was a truly important moment of reflection for me,” he says. “This collection of work celebrates inner truths, inner dialogues, and moments which words cannot quantify.”

Riccardo Tisci explores “religion as liberating force, complete with its share of saints, sinners, and supermodels.” However vaguely Tisci sees his own faith, his Visionaire is Catholic with a capital C, featuring eye-popping imagery that turns a millennium of European art on its head. Housed in an unfolding wooden case that nods to the great tradition of the altarpiece, the issue doesn’t scrimp on saints, including Carine Roitfeld, appropriately venerated in a series of haunting portraits by Karl Lagerfeld. (“Religion is anything you believe in,” the Chanel designer offers.)

The rest of the issue is an exuberant visual tribute to religious tropes. The Madonna and Child are revisited by Mario Sorrenti, and while she’s not exactly Rubenesque, there’s a certain minimalist serenity about her that beguiles. Paolo Canevari and Francesco Carrozzini canonize Franca Sozzani, complete with a Giotto-like halo, while Tisci’s house model, Lea T, is reimagined by Giovanna Battaglia and Pierpaolo Ferrari as a beautiful veiled martyr in Renaissance-style couture. The Son then comes into his own as Danko and Ana Steiner and Jared Buckheister rework the crucifixion, mounting Jesus on—or is it at—a lectern. Some of the pictures are slightly less tranquil. The shoot by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott of Lara Stone bound in ropes beside a burning cross conjures both Saint Joan and Mississippi Burning. But perhaps the most indelible image is that of Tisci suckling at the breast of Marina Abramovic, a woman who knows a thing or two about suffering for belief.