EST. 2009

January 15, 2015

That Cultivation












ON THE NORTHEASTERN SIDE of Kew's Royal Botanical Gardens is a cluster of glass roofs sprouting from the ground. Unlike most houses, in which a roof sits atop a structure of at least one storey, the Princess of Wales conservatory looks more like it had burrowed itself into the earth, leaving only the roof above ground. Inside, the building is in fact tall, or deep, with terraced floors containing an array of fauna from both wet and dry climates. The sunken scheme, while unique in appearance, was not intended for mere aesthetic appeal but for energy efficiency. Sloping glass brings in more sunlight than do upright glass walls.

Designed by Gordon Wilson, the Princess of Wales Conservatory was built in commemoration of Princess Augusta, and was opened in 1987 by Princess Diana. Replacing a previous cluster of 26 smaller buildings, the conservatory contains ten different environments, arranged to provide each zone the ideal temperature, humidity, ventilation and lighting. Sensors on the walls prompt a central computer to adjust heat, release mist, open vents and carry out other functions to further regulate climate conditions.

Naturally, a spectacle at the conservatory is the flora it contains. There are desert plants, savannah plants, species from rainforests and swamps, as well as carnivorous plants and giant lilies large enough to hold a baby without sinking. I found fascination in dangling roots, curling ferns and protruding stems of black amidst the green. Mangroves, with their raised thicket of roots, are always delightfully exotic.

Although lacking in the aesthetic elaboration of traditional 19th century glasshouses, I find the showcase magnificent, juxtaposing prolific greenery with angular glass and steel. Designed by Wilson to "provide optimum conditions for preservation but also show the plants in the most interesting way," the Princess of Wales Conservatory may have just cultivated in me, a new interest in greenery.

May it bloom and grow.

Princess of Wales Conservatory, Kew Royal Botanical Gardens, London. www.kew.org Photos by Lady San Pedro and Jaime Sese.

January 8, 2015

That Baby Bowie




BEFORE ZIGGY STARDUST, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, "Lauren Bacall", the Man who Fell to Earth, the Goblin King, Pierrot, the Elephant Man and Mr. Iman, among other roles and incarnations, David Bowie was a seemingly average boy from Bromley, with big dreams and frequent frustrations. Prior to superstardom, young David had been part of five unsuccessful bands, and took on small gigs as an actor and commercial model. He renamed himself David Bowie in 1965, and perseveringly released four albums by 1971. But it was not until the following year that he would reach otherworldly stardom, with an otherworldly alter ego still unrivalled to this day.

Ziggy Stardust was gorgeous, glamorous, outrageous and androgynous, with flaming red hair that crowned some very elaborate ensembles. "Ziggy turned Bowie to stardust." dubs Jarvis Cocker in BBC Four's documentary David Bowie and the Story of Ziggy Stardust. "He was game-changing." remembers Elton John. Ziggy's persona gained Bowie the fame he had aspired to, and earned him a cult following that biographer David Buckley describes as "unique—its influence lasted longer and has been more creative than perhaps almost any other force within pop fandom."

When pre-superstar Bowie first launched Ziggy, "it almost was as though he just sort of appeared from a different planet." describes GQ editor Dylan Jones in the BBC Four documentary. But most remarkable about Bowie, Ziggy and their stardom was that they were not created overnight. Years of trying, erring and cultivating in fact went into what resulted as the perfect product, praised by fans and other artists alike. "You didn't realize that he was trying to be successful for 10 years." adds Jones.

It feels unsexy associating a legend like Bowie with cultivation and perseverance. He is an alien rock star after all, who fell to earth in a glittering space suit. But you know that friend of yours who's been trying really hard and still can't seem to make it? Have a little faith. They may just one day undergo some ch-ch-changes and emerge with earth-shattering stardust.

Photos of David Bowie between 1963 and 1966. Images from gettyimages.com

December 22, 2014

That Reincarnation








IMAGINING A NEW EPISODE FROM THE LIFE OF COCO CHANEL, Reincarnation is a musical short accompanying the house's Paris-Salzburg Métiers d'Art show. Starring Pharrel Williams and Cara Delevigne as Austro-Hungarian royalty reincarnated into hotel staff, the seven-minute film touches on the origins of the iconic Chanel jacket, which took inspiration in those worn by lift boys at the Schloss Mittersill. Geraldine Chaplin also appears in the film as Coco Chanel, alongside a most fashionable cast.

The film's soundtrack CC the World was written and composed by Pharrell, who playfully nods to Chanel's double-C logo, as well as Empress Elisabeth "Sisi" of Austria. With background hints of Lakmé's famous Flower Duet, the track features a duet between Pharell and Cara Delevigne who renders forgivable vocals. Say what you will, the song actually sticks.

Chanel's Métiers d'Art was born in December of 2002, and held yearly since. Producing ready-to-wear collections by various artisans in fashion, footwear and costume jewelry, the show celebrates traditional craftsmanship outside the traditional fashion schedule. Following dreamy destinations such as Moscow, Monte Carlo, Shanghai, Byzance and Bombay, Salzburg sets the scene for 2014's spectacle.

Old world opulence meets pop-culture cool. What a glorious lens with which to "CC the World".

Reincarnation film by Karl Lagerfeld, www.youtube.com
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