(advertisement)
(advertisement)

Davi Moreira looks like any other young Rio de Janeiro beach lover as he heads down to the Ipanema surf each week -- at least until he dons his blue mermaid's tail.

Other bathers look on in astonishment as Moreira, 22, performs his weekly ritual. However, as part of a trend in Brazil and as far away as Holland and Canada, he is far from alone.

"It's a lifestyle, a way of expressing my love and respect for the sea and this encounter between two worlds. When I'm in the water I feel like another person," he said while resting on rocks with his tail glittering in the sun.

Like many who feel the need to dress up as mermaids and swim with the up and down motion of the broad tail, Moreira was inspired from childhood by Disney's popular animated movie "The Little Mermaid." His obsession to be a second Ariel, the main character in the movie, extends to dry land.

His bedroom is full of references to the movie: Ariel-themed bedcover, "Little Mermaid" cups, Ariel shirts, Ariel dolls, every Ariel movie or series, Ariel pictures... Moreira, who also has a "Little Mermaid" tattoo, has adopted the persona of "Davi Sereio," or "Davi Mermaid" in Portuguese, and has recorded a gay spoof version of the Disney film on YouTube.

But he says not everyone accepts his passion. Some insult him, while others suggest he get psychological help. Two youngsters from a nearby favela who'd come down to well-heeled Ipanema shook their heads at Moreira's antics on the beach. "That's not right, it's mad," one said.

Moreira says his mermaid obsession is an answer to a "cruel" world. "People laugh at me because I am different, but I laugh back because they are all the same," he said. "I'm not trying to escape reality. I know perfectly well how to deal with adult life. But this makes me happy and I'm not causing anyone any harm."

Telenovela mermaid

Brazil already has its traditional sea goddess called Iemanja. However, the popular telenovela "A Forca de Querer" is swimming in another direction with a character played by Brazilian actress Isis Valverde who seduces two men -- and the audience -- with her free spirit and love of taking a dip in a big orange mermaid tail.

Behind Valverde's on-screen swimming skills is Mirella Ferraz, who describes herself as Brazil's "first professional mermaid." She trained the actress for four months so that she could convincingly use the mermaid costume.

Ferraz, 34, says she had to overcome years of mockery and bullying but now she says she's "happy that it's fashionable, although I think many people do it for the looks, without knowing the myth of the sirens or our environmental activism."

Ferraz estimates there are about 1,000 mermaid aficionados in Brazil and that the numbers are rising. Online sales of her mermaid tails reach some 90 a month now, up from just 10 or so when she started in 2012.

A post shared by Mirella Ferraz (@mirellasereia) on

Back then, it was mostly for girls wanting to be Ariels. Today, many buyers are men. "For many it might be a fad, but not for me," Moreira says, admitting that his only weakness as a Brazilian mermaid is an inability to sing. (AFP)

French fashion house Chanel has triggered an uproar by selling a luxury monogrammed boomerang with a price tag of nearly 1,500 USD, with critics saying the accessory is an insult to Australian Aborigines.

Chanel is accused of turning the hunting weapon, an important part of Aboriginal heritage, into a status symbol by offering a black wood and resin boomerang for sale in its spring-summer collection.

"When I think about Aboriginal culture, I think @chanel," Aboriginal activist Nayuka Gorrie tweeted sarcastically. "Have decided to save for the next three years so I can connect with my culture via @CHANEL."

He told the Guardian Australia that the item was "so wrong it is almost absurd"."Having a luxury brand swoop in, appropriate, sell our technologies and profit from our cultures for an absurd amount of money is ridiculous and hurtful," he said, pointing out that indigenous people were the most disadvantaged in Australia and had to fight to preserve their traditions.

The furore kicked off when American make-up artist Jeffree Star posted photos online of the boomerang on Tuesday, sparking ridicule.

"@JeffreeStar, rather than paying $2000AUD for a Chanel Boomerang you should look into investing in one made by an Aboriginal Australian," tweeted user LSP.

Another said on Twitter: "@CHANEL your 'boomerang' is tacky and a gross appropriation of indigenous culture for your own profit." Chanel released a statement saying it was "extremely committed to respecting all cultures, and regrets that some may have felt offended".

Boomerangs have played an important role in Aboriginal culture for thousands of years as objects of work and leisure. They have also become popular mass-produced souvenirs. (AFP)

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

Over the years Rei Kawakubo has addressed many of life’s big questions in her work––art, marriage, death, spirituality––and some little ones too. Here are her thoughts with images from the Met’s exhibition of her work.

On Gender:

“Spiritually, there are no more differences between men and women. What is important is being human.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Female Designers:

“The sexual overkill and exposed bodies in fashion are the result of men designing for women. I think that more interesting results arise when women design for themselves.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Feminism:

“I am not a feminist. I was never interested in any movement as such. I just decided to build a company around creation, and with creation as my sword, I could fight the battles I wanted to fight.”

On Punk:

“I like the punk spirit. I’ve always liked the spirit in the sense that it’s against the run of the mill, the normal way of doing things. Every collection is that. Punk is against flattery, and that’s what I like about punk.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Beauty:

“Fashion design is not about revealing or accentuating the shape of a woman’s body; its purpose is to allow a person to be what they are.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Black:

“I design in three shades of black… Color distracts from form.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Being Over Black:

“Red is black.”

On Geometry:

“To me the circle is the purest form of design in existence.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Form”

“All my effort is orientated towards giving form to clothes that have never been seen before.”

On Math:

“One plus one could amount to three or even four.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On her State of Mind:

“I am an adult delinquent, to the end.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Landfills:

“Instead of [people] buying three pieces of clothing in a month or a year, why not buy one they can afford and enjoy it. Rather than creating a lot of clothes, I wish people would value creativity so that the world will not be filled up with rubbish clothes.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Outsiders:

“The monsters I thought about are those that don’t fit in––those who think differently from the majority, the people of exception, outsiders. I wish that society would place more importance and value on these kind of monsters.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Spirituality:

“Perhaps because Comme des Garçons stands for a totality of thinking, a commitment to a whole, a faith in the strength of the individual and his potential, people can find a spiritual dimension.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Gold:

“Gold is the color of the Catholic Church… it is also the color of Dubai, of marble-floored shopping malls, and also of teapots.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Flowers:”

“Flowers are happy and positive. Flowers, when blooming, are in their peak of energy and strength.”

On Blood:

What flows through everyone is blood… [Blood] is the state of being alive.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Tailoring:

“I have always liked traditional English menswear.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On The Inner Child:

“…since I cannot be a child, I began to think, how can I make the kind of clothes children would make? How can I make childish clothes?”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Marriage:

“By breaking the rules of wedding dresses, by going behind the idea, there was born the information that marriage is not necessarily happy.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

On Balance:

“I’m more comfortable with off balance––the unbalanced and asymmetrical. But what I do is try to create a balance in the whole, because I’m aiming at presenting the total image, not a haphazard or random world.”

In Pictures: Themes of Kawakubo’s Art of the In-between

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

All photos by Jackie Mallon for FashionUnited. Words compiled from the exhibition’s companion book.

Kawakubo's Tribe: Don't Comme for me unless I send for you

EXHIBITION REVIEW It wasn’t a regular Saturday morning at the Met Museum. Conflict erupted on the third floor, the antagonism cutting through the air in stark contrast with the sprigs of cherry blossom scenting the foyer. No one came to blows but the tension was palpable. Residual shade may still be thrown within this text.

Whose side are you on?

The Comme des Garçons exhibition may be entitled “Art of the In-Between,” but Rei Kawakubo does not reach across the aisle. So there we stood, divided.The fashion diehards on one side, awed into silence, feet planted in chunky shoes, wrapped in chains, flounces, and plastic, with blunt-cut hair; on the other The New York Times-toting, jeans-and-sneakers clad regular with brunch plans, whose voice travels all the way to The Dakota. Two tribes go to war, the first religiously devoted to Kawakubo’s uncompromising, absolute nonconformity to notions of gender, beauty, even design itself; the other, viewing exhibits displayed on mannequins and therefore expecting apparel. It can’t end well.

I sidestep a group of girls on the trail of “Rihanna’s dress.” The singer famously “won the Met Ball” according to Instagram when she showed up dressed in Comme des Garçons just a few nights before. One of the group misidentifies a veiled exhibit as “the one Katy Perry wore” when we of the tribe know Perry wore Maison Margiela, not Comme des Garçons. Novices.

Ducking fire from little monsters

Celebrity references form part of contemporary dialogue around fashion and particularly the Met Ball, so inevitably one visitor declared, like a clairvoyant experiencing tremors, “Ohhh I’m getting serious Gaga vibes.” While Lady Gaga has indeed worn a few of Kawakubo’s creations in recent years, it’s jarring for a longterm devotee to hear the Japanese revolutionary’s forty years of energetic disruption reduced to…Joanne.

The Comme des Garçons universe requires full immersion, no dabbling. But in return for your commitment, it offers the same joy and mind-expanding optimism experienced by lovers of modern art. Seeing the decades of evolution on display is like following Picasso’s journey from early sketches through his blue period to the various depictions of Marie Thérèse and Dora Maar, but this was not even a retrospective. And while painters or sculptors are permitted to be abstract and grandiose, visionaries working in clothing don’t seem to be offered that freedom. Kawakubo snatched it anyway, years ago, and holds onto it tightly. She doesn’t call herself a fashion designer, having no formal training in it; it’s only the rest of the world that labels her that way:

“I have never thought about fashion…I have almost no interest in it. What I’ve only ever been interested in is clothes that one has never seen before, that are completely new, and how and in what way they can be expressed. Is that called fashion? I don’t know the answer.”

Kawakubo's Tribe: Don't Comme for me unless I send for you

A Bumpy ride

An older gentleman pulls away from the wall he is leaning against, muttering, “ I dunno, none of it does much for me…” His wife who had been staring at a display described as Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body, in particular a blue and white gingham nylon dress with bulbous swellings stuffed with goose down padding on the side, delivers her verdict, “Not an area I want to accentuate,” and trots after him. Why aren’t you reading the pamphlet? I want to call after them. She’s rethinking the hourglass

One of my favorite displays is entitled Child/Adult and many observers seem genuinely enthralled by the exuberantly patterned pieces on display. A crayola-colored floral dress with frills and tentacles can’t fail to put one in good humor and two ladies next to me are clearly under the influence of it. But then I realize they are in fact imagining their granddaughters in it. Age appropriateness is a convention that can be challenged, I want to interject, but decide to maintain my monk-like silence.

I enjoy hearing a woman explaining to her male companion, “It’s the same as if you look at a piece of Claes Oldenburg art, you know, his fabric sculptures…” “Or John Chamberlain?” he asks, hopefully. “Exactly, or John Chamberlain. “ They continue on, smiling. I’m smiling too.

Day of holey worship

I overhear the word “Homeless,” used to describe the “holey” sweaters of the early 80s famously captured in black and white by photographer Peter Lindbergh, and refrain from saying that fashion students at the time would have made themselves homeless just to get their hands on one.

“But there’s nowhere for your arms to go!” exclaims a voice. I spin around. Your arms might be trapped but your mind is free, did you ever think of that? “Who wears black to get married?” I spin back. Actually, everyone did before Queen Victoria decided to shift to white.

Kawakubo's Tribe: Don't Comme for me unless I send for you

The display entitled Birth/Marriage/Death elicits plenty of interest. One lady jokes, “Well that about sums it up!” and her entourage laughs overly-loudly. It seems to be in relief that they have found something they can connect with.

Then: “Imagine a widow walking into her husbands’ funeral like that.” Would he have that much to say on the matter? I think. “That’s some real Miss Havisham crap right there.” Now you’re getting into the thinking of it. “I like the rose. But I don’t like the outfit.” No, you’ve lost it again: you’re using the word “outfit.” Leave that kind of low-down talk at the door on your way in.

Fade to grey

The most egregious remarks of the morning come from two out-of-towners guffawing loudly. “Aren’t you glad you didn’t fly in just for this!” says one, to which her friend replies, “Honestly, there’s nothing redeeming about any of this.”

Oh no she didn’t. Bouncer! Can we show this pair of troublemakers the exit?

But I’m fighting a losing battle. This is the art of the in-between, and that grey area is the very source of the conflict. Just because clothing is placed in a major museum setting doesn’t mean people will leave behind all the preconceptions they associate with everyday attire. Instead they will arrive (cross over?) armed with their knowledge of red carpet codes, utilitarian demands, sexiness quotients and apply them to Kawakubo’s avant-garde system of dress despite what the brochure explains of her intentions. Everyone owns clothing; it’s more democratic than other mediums of creative expression. So everyone feels qualified to opine.

Therefore I’ll leave the final word to Ms Kawakubo herself: “Personally I don’t care about function at all… When I hear ‘where could you wear that?’ or ‘it’s not very wearable’ or ‘who would wear that?’ to me it’s just a sign that someone missed the point.”

Point made. Signing off, flouncing my Comme…

Kawakubo's Tribe: Don't Comme for me unless I send for you

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Photos taken by Jackie Mallon for FashionUnited; header photo The Met Facebook page.

Rei Kawakubo gives us the art of in between

The first Monday in May marks the Superbowl of fashion: The Met Gala. Put on by Vogue's long reigning editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, a couple hundred celebrities and fashion industry insiders gather at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Manhattan's Upper East Side. This year's event was chaired by Wintour, Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, and Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen.

The subject in question was Comme Des Garçons' designer Rei Kawakubo.

Kawakubo is the first living designer to be honored at the Met since Yves Saint Laurent in 1983. While her brand has become world famous, she is known for rarely giving interviews, and being very elusive to the public eye.

She has developed a huge following from those who love the Play Comme Des Garçons line to those who have been collecting her runway collection pieces for years, she never sought out for commercial success. After the conclusion of one of her runway shows she once remarked she wanted to scrap the whole thing because she felt she didn't do anything.

FashionUnited at the Met exhibit @metmuseum #fashion #fashionunited #met #exhibit

A post shared by FashionUnited (@fashionunitedhq) on

And yet, a woman who never set out to sell clothes managed to capture the eye of The Met and Wintour, along with the entire fashion industry since 1973, enough to give her the distinction of being one of the lucky designers that costume institute curator Andrew Bolton put on display.

The celebrities came out in droves, with surprisingly only so many wearing Comme des Garçons, with red carpet queen Rihanna shutting down the show as usual in an avant garde floral Comme Des Garçons number.

The genius behind Rei Kawakubo

What magic did Kawakubo bring that made the exhibit so marvelous? For starters, let's remember that Kawakubo is credited with inventing black. Yes, that might sound crazy but Kawakubo originally started off using no color in her collections, but, rather, opted for black as a color palette. During her 1973 runway show, attendees said you could actually see all the variations of the color black in her clothes.

Her personal fandom for the color black was on display with a selection of very gothic and witchy looks.

Then came the era of Thierry Mugler, when bright colors dominated the runway, and Kawakubo, to keep in line with the times, did a collection where the dominant color palette was red. When asked why she said, "Red is the new black."

#metkawakubo STARTS MAY 4. @alexandraagoston @roversi @juliendys courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A post shared by Comme des Garcons OFFICIAL (@commedesgarcons) on

For Kawakubo, it was never about trying to selling clothes, rather she sees fashion as art. She recently did an entire collection that featured no fabric, only industrial materials.

For this exhibit, it was important that it was not treated as retrospective of her collections over the past 40 years, but rather an homage to the art of in between. Kawakubo plays with the abstract, somewhere in between the realm of fashion and art, that leaves you with more questions after one of her runway shows than before it.

To your more fashionable museum goer, you would look at it and ask: is this anti-fashion?

Kawakubo, unlike many of her contemporaries, has no formal design training. She studied art and literature at university, and worked as a stylist before she set out to create the now famed Comme Des Garçons brand. Her anti-fashion approach appears to be rooted in the fact that she never aimed to be your traditional fashion industry insider. She was always that woman who was outside of the box.

This is reflected in her work and in the exhibit through pieces that gave no attention to the body and were all about protrusions and giving no concern to the human form.

Rei Kawakubo gives us the art of in between

Comme Des Garçons has gone through many phases throughout its history, from doing all black, to going red, and in 2012 where they chose to do all white.

Perhaps Kawakubo's genius also lies in her ability to be ever changing. She never gets stuck in her ways, as can be seen in her work. Although, there are things that are unique to her design aesthetic, such as the protrusions, playing with portions and lack of concern for wearability or functionality. However, every Comme Des Garçons collection is always uniquely different, all with the goal of Kawakubo trying to do or say something, and if she doesn't think she has, she wants the collection scrapped, though she has never gone that far to actually go through with never selling anything.

Through sheer talent and the industry's undying fascination with her, Kawakubo has become one of the most celebrated designers worldwide. Some argue whether she is an artist or a fashion designer, but either way, she is a creator, and create she has. From May 4 until September 4 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, her creations shall be on display for the world to critique, ogle and enjoy.

Photo: via Emeair PR and FashionUnited

Condé Nast to publish Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop magazine

Condé Nast may be restructuring its publishing arm, but is counting its latest print venture with Goop will sell magazines.

Launching this September, Condé Nast will publish a quarterly magazine version of Goop, in close ties with its online publication, which was founded in 2008 by actress Gwyneth Paltrow. In addition to the printed version, the project will include digital content distributed on goop.com, on some sites of the Condé Nast headers and their social networks.

A spokesperson for Goop told WWD that most of the contents of each issue will be produced by Goop's editors while visuals and images will be managed by the American publishing house. The launch of the new editorial project follows the closing of Self magazine last year and the reorganization of Teen Vogue and other headline magazines at Condé Nast.

Goop, in its near decade of existence, has managed to garner credibility in the wellness sector focusing mainly on health, fitness and food, alongside fashion, beauty, design and travel. Recently, the online business partnered with Net-a-porter to sell Goop branded beauty products.

“I’ve long known Gwyneth to have wonderful taste and vision — but with Goop she has built something remarkable, a thoroughly modern take on how we live today,” Anna Wintour, Condé Nast artistic director and editor in chief of Vogue, said in a statement. “Goop and Condé Nast are natural partners and I’m excited she’s bringing her point of view to the company.”

Photo credit: Goop.com

Gudrun Sjödén celebrates four decades with exhibition

Swedish fashion designer Gudrun Sjödén is celebrating 40 years of her colourful design with an exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London.

The small exhibit showcases Gudrun Sjödén, one of Sweden’s most successful designers, love of colour, her creative design approach, as well as the label championing sustainability.

Gudrun Sjödén celebrates four decades with exhibition

Running until May 7, the exhibition displays a small selection of her colourful designs illustrating her four decades in the business, alongside the artistic process of creating the prints, which the designer does by hand by using watercolours and sketches. There is also a look at the catalogues from the brand’s archive, which started off as hand-written lookbooks to promote the collections, as well as videos showing behind-the-scene footage from fashion shoots and shows.

Gudrun Sjödén celebrates four decades with exhibition

The exhibition explores how the designer’s clothing has developed over the years and offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the workings of a fashion business that has grown from a small, single-storey store to one of Sweden’s largest fashion exporters.

The idea of the exhibition is to highlight Gudrun Sjödén’s ability to reach a segment sometimes disregarded by the fashion industry, women who dare to stand out from the crowd, which is clearly highlighted in the designer’s style, where her colourful mix of layers is always co-ordinated with a brightly coloured glasses and accessories.

Gudrun Sjödén celebrates four decades with exhibition

So what drives a fashion designer at the top for four decades? “The thrill of the creative process,” said Sjödén, chief designer and chief executive of the brand. “It is constantly ongoing in my mind.”

Gudrun Sjödén celebrates four decades with exhibition

Fashion and Texile Museum celebrates 40 years of Gudrun Sjödén

Gudrun Sjödén is also widely recognised as a pioneer of sustainable fashion and the display highlights how environmental thinking is at the core of every collection. The label’s designs promote the use of natural materials, often with strong Nordic influences, and a conscious effort to offer the consumer more sustainable and ‘green’ materials.

Gudrun Sjödén celebrates four decades with exhibition

Monica Ekervik-Hedman, the brand’s head of communications, said: “With nature as the inspiration, natural, sustainable fibres is not commercial, it is part of the brand’s DNA.

Gudrun Sjödén celebrates four decades with exhibition

“We don’t tell it so much, but 93 percent of the current spring/summer 2017 is made from sustainable sources. We know this as we work closely with our suppliers who we’ve been working with for many years.”

Gudrun Sjödén celebrates four decades with exhibition

Ekervik-Hedman added: “Gudrun also promotes green values such as buying things that you can have for a long time. It also helps that we are not working with different trends, so our pieces can be mixed and matched with previous collections.”

Gudrun Sjödén celebrates four decades with exhibition

Founded in 1976, Gudrun Sjödén opened its first store in Stockholm, but it wasn’t until its mail-order sales started to take off in 1978 that it became a force within fashion, recording turnover of just under 200,000 pounds that year. This was followed up by expansion into Germany and the US in the 80s, before launching mail order and e-commerce in Norway and the UK in the 90s. Today, the Swedish brand has customers in 52 countries and stores in seven markets including the UK, which opened five years ago on Monmouth Street near Covent Garden. The brand has an annual turnover of around 67 million pounds.

Gudrun Sjödén: Four Decades of Colour and Design runs at the Fashion and Textile Museum until May 7.

Images: taken by Danielle Wightman-Stone

French museum to host Christian Dior retrospective

Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris is to host a Christian Dior retrospective exhibition to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the French fashion house.

The six-month exhibition, entitled Christian Dior, Couturier du Rêve, will feature designs not only by Monsieur Dior but also his successors including Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons, right up to the current creative director of the fashion house Maria Grazia Chiuri.

French museum to host Christian Dior retrospective

Opening on July 5, as the haute couture shows take place, the exhibition will feature more than 300 haute couture dresses designed from 1947 to the present day to celebrate 70 years of the French couture house. In addition, the exhibit will also explore the life of Dior from his childhood in Granville to discovering the avant-garde of Parisian art and learning fashion design.

Alongside the couture dresses will be several hundred documents including fashion photographs, illustrations, sketches, reportage photographs, letters and manuscripts, and adverts, as well as paintings and sculptures, which will be used to emphasis Dior’s vision by exploring the links he “forged between sewing and all forms of art”. There is also a wide range of accessories such as bags, shoes, hats, jewellery, and perfumes.

French museum to host Christian Dior retrospective

Key highlights includes the spring/summer 1947 Dior collection, where he presented his debut collection featuring a profoundly different image of women, with nipped waist, flared skirts of tulle and soft shoulders, in complete contrast to the past masculine silhouette of the war years. Other key pieces includes the pink Opera bouffe haute couture dress from autumn/winter 1956, the embroidered sequinned evening dress from 1949, and the Duchess yellow printed satin evening dressed designed by Raf Simons in 2012.

Christian Dior, Couturier du Rêve retrospective to open in Paris in July

The exhibition will run in chronological order showing the founding spirit and the heritage of the Dior fashion house through the decades, with each gallery showcasing Dior’s successor’s creations and vision, such as the minimalist aesthetic of Raf Simons, the flamboyant Gianfranco Ferré, the fashion punk of John Galliano, and Maria Grazia Chiuri’s commitment to femininity.

French museum to host Christian Dior retrospective

Curators Florence Müller and Olivier Gabet have also put together a gallery offering a summary of the evolution of the fashion house since 1947, illustrated with dresses and excerpts from movies or videos of fashion shows.

The exhibition ends in the ballroom with a presentation of the most recognisable Christian Dior evening dresses, some of which have been worn by the likes of Princess Grace of Monaco to Lady Diana, and Charlize Theron to Jennifer Lawrence.

The retrospective is the first Parisian exhibition to be devoted to Dior since 1987, and its grand scale includes loans from the collections of the Museum of Decorative Arts and the French Union of Costume Arts, The Galliera Palace, the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the De Young Museum in San Francisco, the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, the Museum of London, Christian Dior of Granville, as well as art works from the Louvre Museum, the Orsay Museum and the Orangerie Museum, the Palace of Versailles, the Center Pompidou, the Museum of Decorative Arts and numerous private collections.

Christian Dior, Couturier du Rêve will run from July 5 - January 7, 2018, at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

Images: Musée des Arts Décoratifs website by Nicholas Alan Cope

Fashion By The Book: Classic Literature’s Greatest Muses

For anyone who might argue that fashion is trivial or frothy, its weight in literature cannot be underestimated. I have just attended the Franco-Irish Literary Festival where journalists from Vogue and Elle discussed with novelists and screenwriters the importance of clothing in storytelling. Clothes enhance characterization, place us in strangers’ shoes, allow us to inhabit alien landscapes. Speaking to its power Mark Twain said, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Let’s count down the top seven most influential moments when fiction and fashion have collided.

7. Giacomo Leopardi

In Giacomo Leopardi’s poem entitled A Dialogue Between Fashion and Death, he explores the transience of fashion and parallels it with our own mortality: “Fashion: Do you not recognize me? Death: You must know that I have bad sight, and am without spectacles.” Fashion: I am Fashion, your sister…Do you not remember we are both born of Decay? We both equally profit by the incessant change and destruction of things here below, although you do so in one way, and I in another.”

Fashion is portrayed as a species of grim reaper aiding and abetting our demise, and although written in 1824, the sentiment is eerily applicable to both today’s fast fashion environment in which catastrophes like the Rana Plaza occur, and to our luxury industry in which designers like Alexander McQueen, whose work is celebrated for its dark and beautiful dance with death, succumb to suicide at age 40.

Fashion By The Book: Classic Literature’s Greatest Muses

Image:Orlando First Edition, The Hogarth Press 1928 source: www.smith.edu/libraries, and Burberry September 2016

6. Virginia Woolf

“Clothes have more important offices than merely to keep us warm; they change our view of the world and the world’s view of us” wrote Virginia Woolf in Orlando, the 1928 story of a nobleman who passes through time, flits effortlessly between genders, dressed in furs and laces, never aging. The 1992 film version called upon fashion’s favorite androgyne, Tilda Swinton, to fill the title role and that dapper gent Quentin Crisp to play Queen Elizabeth I. Woolf’s novel was a contemporary success despite the unusual subject matter for a female writer but its appeal endures setting the stage for today’s gender non-conformism. From Bloomsbury to Burberry, Christopher Bailey referenced Orlando in his September 2016 womenswear show.

Fashion By The Book: Classic Literature’s Greatest Muses

Image: Source Wikimedia Library of Congress, Photographer, Napoleon Sarony, 1882

5. Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, the razor-witted dandy-aesthete, a perennial favorite of fashion designers, was the central influence in Alexander McQueen’s Fall 2017 menswear collection. Wilde’s words ”Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months” foreshadow today’s social media-hungry consumer who craves newness like never before. As editor of fashion magazine, The Woman's World, he predicted in 1887 that the dress of both sexes would be assimilated with women embracing masculine style. His wide-brimmed hats, long locks and sumptuous velvets drew as much attention as his novels and plays but it was his dalliances in the demimonde of male desire, unmentionable at the time, that landed him in Reading gaol. Still, he never forfeited style: ”If one is to behave badly, one should behave badly in a becoming dress.” Words to live by.

4. Margaret Mitchell

In Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel Gone With The Wind, Scarlett O’Hara’s lifestyle in the Confederate South is under threat by the imminent freedom of her plantation’s slaves. But our sympathies lie with this poor little rich girl when she is forced to plumb her meagre resources and conjure up a dress out of…curtains. How else will she snag her hero, and the money he brings with him? Who hasn’t backed away from their closet on a Saturday night staring glumly about and wished such inspiration were at hand? When she turns to her long-suffering servant and says, “Scoot up to the attic and get my box of dress patterns, Mammy…I’m going to have a new dress,” we might bristle at her sense of entitlement, but in these times of fast fashion landfills, we can’t fault her creative repurposing, also known as upcycling.

3. Bret Easton Ellis

This passage from Bret Easton Ellis’s bestseller, American Psycho, which revolves around a discussion of the band U2 between the narrator, your average spiffily dressed serial killer, and a date invites us to ponder the passionate relationship of the 1980’s yuppie with Italian fashion:

"The Edge is wearing Armani," she shouts, pointing at the bassist. "That's not Armani," I shout back. "It's Emporio." "No," she shouts. "Armani." "The grays are too muted and so are the taupes and navies. Definite winged lapels, subtle plaids, polka dots and stripes are Armani. Not Emporio." I shout, extremely irritated that she doesn't know this, can't differentiate, both my hands covering both ears. "There's a difference."

Well, she’s clearly for the chop. Imagine not comprehending the gap between Armani’s diffusion line and his prima linea.

Fashion By The Book: Classic Literature’s Greatest Muses

Image: Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Trailer screenshot

2. Truman Capote

Truman Capote’s 1958 novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s launched the beloved Holly Golightly on the fashion world. Although the industry might believe she was the product of the atelier of Hubert de Givenchy, the designer tasked with outfitting actress Audrey Hepburn for the movie version, his work was already more or less done as we can see by Capote’s lines:

“It was a warm evening, nearly summer, and she wore a slim cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker. For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks.” Golightly’s urbane, nocturnal allure has been a go-to reference for designers ever since and cemented our attachment to “the little back dress.”

Fashion By The Book: Classic Literature’s Greatest Muses

Image: Miss Havisham: Wikimedia By Harry Furniss from the library edition of Great Expectations, created 31 December 1909.

1. Charles Dickens

The ultimate “marriage” of fashion and fiction brings us back to where we started: Fashion = Decay = Death. I refer to the grand dame of Victorian classics, the ne plus ultra of spooky spinsterhood; bitter, skeletal, and locked away in her room next to her rotting wedding cake, Charles Dickens’s Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. The passages describing her going up in flames represent possibly the most visually exciting imagery to penetrate many an impressionable young girl’s mind, certainly more powerful than any modern example of Hollywood special effects, but it’s the words used to describe Pip’s first encounter with her which have inspired designers for decades. It’s easy to see why:

“She was dressed in rich materials — satins, and lace, and silks — all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table. Dresses, less splendid than the dress she wore, and half-packed trunks were scattered about. She had not quite finished dressing, for she had but one shoe on — the other was on the table near her hand — her veil was half arranged, her watch and chain were not put on, and some lace for her bosom lay with those trinkets and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers, and a prayer-book, all confusedly heaped about the looking-glass.

It was not in the first moments that I saw all these things, though I saw more of them in the first moments than might be supposed. But, I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its luster, and was faded and yellow. I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes. I saw that the dress had been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman, and that the figure upon which it now hung loose, had shrunk to skin and bone.

Header image from Wikimedia of Oscar Wilde: Unknown photographer, Held at British Library, 1875-1905 and Alexander McQueen Menswear Fall 2017

By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

'House of Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth' Opens

London - Chatsworth, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, is set to officially open the doors of its largest fashion exhibition to date: 'House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth.'

Opening its doors to the public on Saturday, March 25, the exhibition is set to showcase the style of women emblematic of the life the castle over five centuries. As part of the fashion exhibition at Chatsworth, the castle's salons have been transformed into exposition halls featuring haute couture dresses, tiaras and headdresses as well as baptism, bridal gowns and coronation gowns from leading icons throughout the ages. In addition uniforms, outfits and costumes spanning from the 16th century to the 21st century will also be displayed.

'House of Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth' Opens

Chanel, Gucci and Balmain featured in the 'House of Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth'

The exhibition aims to explore the style and personalities of some of the famous women to have grace the Chatsworth House salons, such as Duchess Georgiana (innovator of fashion in the 18th century), Duchess Deborah (one of the famous Mitford sisters), Adele Astaire (sister and partner Fred's dance), Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy (sister of JFK) and former top-model Stella Tennant. Divided by theme, the exhibition ranges from Coronation Dress; The Devonshire House Ball, Bess of Hardwick and the Tudor influence, The Georgiana Effect, Ducal Style, Country Living, The Circle of Life, and Entertaining at Chatsworth.

'House of Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth' Opens

'House of Style' ends in a exhibition of the costumed balls gowns created for guestas visiting the Chatsworth house and includes magnificent couturier outfits from the likes of Chanel, Balmain, Vivienne Westwood, Dior , Tom Ford and Erdem. The exhibition, sponsored by Gucci, also includes two dresses personally designed by creative director Alessandro Michele for the Duchess of Devonshire and Lady Burlington. The dresses are said to have been inspired by the books of Maria Sybilla Merian of the Devonshire Collection. The Duchess's dress is set to be displayed in the State Closet, while the dress adorned with many Lady Burlington beads will be displayed in the State Music Lounge.

'House of Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth' Opens

The idea for the exhibition stems from when Lady Burlington went in search of a baptismal dress for her son James in the castle archives and discovered a huge amount of boxes filled with clothing. She hired Hamish Bowles, American Vogue's international editor-at-large to catalog the collection, who went on to become the curator for the exhibition after realizing the magnitude of the archives. Six years in the making, the fashion exhibition includes key items such as a golden brooch from Duchess Georgiana, crododile shoes from the 11th Duke of Devonshire and Tennat's wedding dress.

'House of Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth' Opens

"It is so exciting to see the designs become a reality for this complex and layered exhibition. House Style has developed over the last six years to encompass far more than we originally envisaged when we first started delving into the Chatsworth archive," said Lady Burlington in a statement. "In some cases, clothes that haven't seen each other since the 19th century are being reunited. I hope visitors will appreciate the scale and ambition of the exhibition, and enjoy exploring the stories that this clothing and memorabilia reveal about the Cavendish family.”

'House of Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth' Opens

"Amanda and I are very grateful to our daughter-in-law Laura Burlington and the team for having the vision and determination to bring this exhibition to life. The breadth and diversity of what is on display in House Style, combined with the manner in which it is shown, makes this our most ambitious exhibition to date," added The Duke of Devonshire. "As someone who does not claim to know a great deal about fashion, I would certainly recommend House Style to all-comers, as the clothes are really a jumping off point into different moments of 500 years of history.”

'House of Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth' Opens

The 'House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth' runs from 25 March to 22 October 2017.

'House of Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth' Opens

Photos: Courtesy of Gucci, copyright Chatsworth House