EST. 2009

June 26, 2017

That Architect of Fashion


THERE WEREN'T MANY JOBS FOR YOUNG ARCHITECTS IN 1960S ITALY when Gianfranco Ferré got his degree. He designed accessories for a living; an unplanned step into the fashion industry where he would eventually start his own label, and also become artistic director at Christian Dior. It was deemed controversial at the time for a non-French designer to lead a Parisian house, but Ferré's impeccable craftsmanship and innovative approach to design made him a fitting choice for the luxury brand. His creations reflected a strong architectural influence, earning him such titles as “architect of fashion” and “Frank Lloyd Wright of fashion”.

Ferré became well known for designing an array of white women's shirts that strayed from traditional patterns. He took the iconic garment, reinvented its proportions, and produced pieces that required masterful techniques. In 2015, eight years after his passing, the white shirts received a tribute through an exhibition by Milan's Palazzo Reale, the Gianfranco Ferré Foundation, and the Prato Textile Museum. La Camicia Bianca Secondo Me, or "The White Shirt According to Me" gathered and displayed drawings, photographs, installations and advertising that represent and celebrate two decades of the designer's creativity.

Among the display items were photographs by Leonardo Salvini, whose x-ray simulations of Ferré's white shirts highlighted their technical perfection. Exposing every pleat and seam, the images present the shirts from an almost architectural, blueprint-like perspective, rendering them both structural and delicate at once.

Fittingly iconic photographs of an equally iconic subject matter, Salvini's images romance both Ferré's original field of study, as well as his fashion legacy. They inspire me personally for the triumph they represent, of turning an otherwise failed attempt at a career in architecture, into one of the most celebrated fashion perspectives of the late 20th century.

Photographs of Gianfranco Ferré shirts by Leonardo Salvini, mostra.fondazionegianfrancoferre.com

May 17, 2017

That Super Studio


THERE APPEARED TO BE AT LEAST A THOUSAND FIGURINES of human forms, machine-like parts, and hybrid man-machine creations. Scattered among them were mostly books and art supplies, some chairs and makeshift stools obscured by objects. There were shipping crates and a flat-file cabinet, again, covered in sculptures and clutter. The only uncrowded item was a propeller mounted against a bit of clear wall space.

Welcome to the late Eduardo Paolozzi's studio, or at least a re-creation of it, on display at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. While the display is designed to evoke the artist's London and Munich studios, most of its contents are in fact Paolozzi's works or personal possessions, which he gave to the gallery in 1994.

On one hand, the studio's hodgepodge reflects Paolozzi's penchant for collage. Though he is associated with sculpture, he worked in a wide range of media and movements, with his 1947 collage "I was a Rich Man's Plaything" considered the earliest representation of Pop Art. Beyond this work, and decades' worth of paper collages, Paolozzi's fondness for the technique carried onto his sculpture, often appearing to have cubic shapes added or removed, and onto his textile designs, which appeared collage-like as well.

On the other hand, the overflow of sculptures, with their multiple versions of multiple subjects, portray an industrious worker with a love for craft. It's great to be able to view an artist's body of work, but it's vitalizing to see evidence of their process and practice.

As a digital designer working off a Macbook and Adobe, I could only wish that my own multiple versions of a subject would produce anything other than digital clutter. But it seems I'll need to dedicate an actual, physical studio for that. Let you know when I do!

Paolozzi Studio, Modern Two, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. nationalgalleries.org Photos by Lady San Pedro and Jaime Sese.

April 18, 2017

That Graphic Tectonic


JOSEPH ALBERS WAS EXPLORING OPTICAL ILLUSIONS when he produced his Graphic Tectonic series. Referencing geological matter and movement, the monochromatic lithographs use geometry to give the perception of dimension to otherwise flat graphics.

Although Albers is more popularly known for the hundreds of colorful paintings comprising his Homage to the Square series, Graphic Tectonic reflects his distinct approach to composition. Creating "maximum effect from minimum means" the lithographs embody the phrase widely used to describe his principles in general.

Beyond his art, Albers was an educator recognized for laying the groundwork for some of the most influential art education programs of the 20th century. Between Germany and the United States, he held a string of teaching positions at such schools as the Bauhaus in 1923, the Black Mountain College in 1933, and at Yale until his retirement in 1958. Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg were among his notable students.

Noted for putting practice before theory, Albers advocated learning through conscious practice and required his pupils to become familiar with the physical nature of the world. Producing countless renowned artists, as well as students who became teachers themselves, Albers's legacy and influence on art is understated. Or shall we say: it was tectonic.

Shrine, Ascension and Interim from the series Graphic Tectonic by Josef Albers. Images from moma.org

March 10, 2017

That Eclectic Eltham Experience



THAT A HOME IS A REFLECTION OF ITS INHABITANTS could not be more true with Eltham Palace: the lavish, eclectic former residence of Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, Interwar London socialites and patrons of the arts. They were in their 40s when they married, and a decade later sought a home accessible to London that was large enough for their parties.

In 1933, the couple took a lease on the palace, historically one of only six royal residences that could accommodate the Tudor court's 800 people. Destroyed by Puritans in the 1600s, Eltham's great hall survived, with its restoration serving as a condition for the Courtaulds' permission to build. At 30.8 meters long by 10.9 meters wide, it is only second to Westminster Hall as the largest surviving pre-Tudor great hall without an aisle.

Building at Eltham took place from 1933 to 1936, led by architects John Seely and Paul Paget. They designed the house on a butterfly plan, with one wing linking to the great hall and the other comprising living areas. Highlights of the residence include the entrance hall with blackbean veneer walls, the art deco dining room with animals drawn from life at London Zoo, Virginia's gold and onyx bathroom featuring a statue of the goddess Psyche, and of course, the medieval great hall with its hammerbeam roof and minstrels' gallery.


Details from Virginia's bedroom, the dining room and entrance hall:



The variety of styles offer a strange yet sumptuous experience of Eltham, giving hints as to what the Courtaulds' home life might have been like. Modern and historic, pristine and playful, the space echoes its host and hostess' own personalities, said to have been a contrasting combination. Calm, quiet Stephen was scion of the Courtauld textile empire and a keen mountaineer. Impulsive Virginia was a marchioness divorcée with a snake tattoo.

And as if a palace and parties weren't opulent enough, the couple shared their luxuries with their Great Dane Caesar and pet lemur Mah-Jongg, who enjoyed his own heated jungle-fresco room. Historians say the house was perhaps the most advanced in England on its completion, featuring a plumbed-in vacuum cleaner, centrally powered electric clocks, speakers relaying radio or gramophone records to every room, and built-in cocktail bars.

Stephen and Virginia continued to entertain at Eltham through the Second World War, retreating to the basement during air raids. Weary of the bombing, they eventually moved out in 1944 to Scotland, and then to Southern Rhodesia.

The restored Eltham Palace today informs about design for luxury in the early half of the 20th century, but it also spells the bittersweet fact that there are luxuries even wealth cannot buy. Across the varying and eclectic ways in which we desire to live, there will always be common elements among the differences: peace and freedom to be oneself amidst people and things we love. What could be more luxurious than that?

Eltham Palace, Greenwich, London, english-heritage.org.uk Photos by Lady San Pedro and Jaime Sese.

February 22, 2017

That Limbo by the Loire











FOLLOWING SOME TYPOGRAPHICALLY ELEGANT OPENING CREDITS AGAINST THE LOIRE RIVER,  Jacques Demy's Lola begins with a young man at a cafe, idling about in spite of being late for work. He goes on to be fired from his job, and in what appears to be the same afternoon, goes to watch a film at the cinema.

Newly unemployed, Roland's listless self indulgence is contrasted with the busy life of Cécile, a cabaret dancer under the stage name of Lola. She is shown in the film ending a work day in the morning, picking up laundry on the way home, her young son waiting outside while she continues to entertain a client in her apartment.

Through a chance encounter, the film reveals that Roland and Cécile were childhood sweethearts. They go out to dinner, in which Roland discovers that he still feels affection for the enchanting Cécile. She, on the other hand, continues to pine for Michel: the father of her child who left for America, promising to return once he had made his fortune.

Peripheral characters populate Roland and Cécile's quaint and compact world. Among them are the easygoing American sailor Frankie, the prudish Madame Desnoyers, her liberated adolescent daughter Cécile Desnoyers, and the hysterical Jeanne, who also happens to be Michel's mother.

The characters cross paths at many points in the film, echoing each other's histories while drifting through the picturesque city. Nantes in the 1960s summertime, at least according to Jacques Demy, is an inescapable maze of perfect light and shadow, idleness, longing and first loves. Throw in some mid-century automobiles, renaissance-style architecture, sailors and cabaret dancers, and you're almost distracted from the state of limbo engulfing the discontented bunch.

The film didn't get me very invested in any of the characters' fates, but I was glad it granted its more willful characters some favorable resolutions. Even in such dreamy scenarios, it's hard to root for someone who luxuriates in their stagnancy. Lola at least shows you, in 90 stunning minutes, that faith, will and action have their rewards.

Lola, 1961. Directed by Jacques Demy.

January 11, 2017

That Little Luxury


AS SNEAKER CULTURE, MOBILE WORKING and other mobility-embracing trends secure their place in the mainstream, you'd expect form to follow function with the triumph of commuter-friendly fashion. But history shows that practical isn't always necessarily the most coveted. Many of us still readily make room in our lives for beautiful, albeit impractical, things.

Such is the case with what has been dubbed "the smallest it bag ever." Launched in 2015, Simon Miller's Bonsai bag measures a mere 12 x 12.5 x 17 centimeters, with a pair of hoops as handles measuring 6 centimeters across. For scale, the iPhone 6 at 13.8 centimeters is taller than this bag. The average female palm, at 6.8 centimeters, is wider than the bag's handles.

Still, it sold out on Barneys' pre-order even before stocks reached stores. “We wanted to create something cool and cute, and to help women streamline their lives by only allowing the essentials." Simon Miller founders Daniel Corrigan and Chelsea Hansford shared with the Telegraph. The cylindrical bag has no zips or fastenings for securing its contents, and only saw the addition of straps and a slightly larger version introduced in Fall 2016.

Priced accessibly for its category, what the Bonsai truly signals, in my opinion, is luxury. I imagine that this bag's owner has nothing to lug around; neither a laptop nor an umbrella, which a P.A. or chauffeur could fetch. She wouldn't travel by bus or bicycle, because even in the absence of theft, it seems unlikely that the Bonsai would hold its contents through a rigorous commute.

That's not to say I don't want one of my own. William Morris, a 19th-century designer and poet associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement, once said in a lecture: "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." Whether it's an item of cult status or a randomly-found pebble, driftwood or seashell from a shore, objects of beauty gain their value not from their function but from the way we regard them. And therein lies their luxury.

Simon Miller Bonsai bags, images from simonmillerusa.com
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