Archive for Dries Van Noten

Scents and sensibilities (FT Weekend)

Posted in Architecture, interiors and design with tags , , , , on June 27, 2013 by markcoflaherty

“You know, I can’t actually remember what it smells like, but I just LOVE that bottle.” It is the opening Saturday of the No.5 Culture Chanel exhibition at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, and two young women – looking trés bon chic bon genre – are wandering through rows of perfect, transparent Lucite cases housing a vast archive of Chanel No.5 related art and ephemera. Like Dior’s New Look and the revolution of pret a porter, the modernist salvo of Chanel No.5 – which launched in 1921 – changed the world of fashion forever. The design of any new fragrance would become significantly more important than the product inside.

Chanel No.5 by Andy Warhol

Chanel No.5 by Andy Warhol

“N°5 is not a fragrance, but a cultural artifact,” says Jean Louis-Froment, the curator of the Palais de Tokyo show. “It has a unique aura. It is a manifesto.” Fragrances come and go, but the best become icons. Few achieve the landmark status that Chanel No.5, with its own Warhol silkscreen, has. Still, every year, designers spend fortunes and weeks on designs for new bottles. Each has to sum up the brand, and trigger an emotional response as strong as anything they put on the catwalk. They are miniature mass-produced sculptures. This spring, Yohji Yamamoto and Dries van Noten – two of fashions most renowned intellectuals – launched new product.

Yamamoto’s fragrances – both ‘homme’ and ‘femme’ – are essentially a re-release of a range that vanished due to licensing issues in 2005, but with a new bottle design in addition to the original test-tubes which Yamamoto selected because it was “the simplest bottle on earth.” For many, the idea of esoteric Yamamoto doing anything as commercial as a fragrance seemed outlandish. He would, of course, do it his way. A new version has been designed by Vonsung, with an architectural curve reminiscent of Richard Serra, but in glass rather than metal. “The box is origami-inspired,” says Yulia Livne of Yohji Yamamoto Parfums. The bottle itself might be seen to echo the wrap of a kimono, something repeatedly evident in Yamamoto’s own designs.

Several designers have working relationships with big name architects and artists to create their product. Zaha Hadid created a typically amorphous bottle for Donna Karan Woman last year. “Her vision is uniquely graceful and strong,” says Karan. “There’s always a sense of lyricism and fluidity to her shape.”

Dries van Noten’s fragrance is in collaboration with parfumier Frédéric Malle, renowned for the minimalism of his presentation. It comes in the simplest of circular bottles, in an orange fabric-texture box. “It’s a modern aesthetic,” says Malle. “We avoided unnecessary details, very much like Dries’ fashion. It’s crisp and clean, not old fashioned or fussy.”

A stark, modernist approach to bottle design continues to be popular. It’s something that stems from Chanel’s original intention for No.5. At a time when fragrance was presented in the most ornate, rarefied crystal vessels, she commissioned a simple, stark, modernist flacon, and subsequently added a stopper based on the layout of the Place Vendome. “What Coco Chanel wanted was an invisible bottle,” says historian Tilar J. Mazzeo, in her book The Secret of Chanel No. 5.

There are still some dubious visual puns around in the world of bottle design. One might consider the gold bullion container of ‘1 Million’ from Paco Rabanne, or ‘Konvict’, which comes in two chained-together bottles in the shape of handcuffs, as witty and ironic. Or one might not. One of the sole successful and stylish examples of the visual pun is the Bond No.9 range. Each fragrance is based on a different New York neighbourhood, with a visual motif to match. “We use silk screening and engraving and metallization techniques with the theme of the New York subway token,” says founder Laurice Rahmé.

Sometimes, the sweeping iconoclastic visual statement is still the biggest success. Last year Lady Gaga became the latest in a long line of celebrities to put their name to a mid-market fragrance. ‘Fame’ comes in a bottle that looks like something Thierry Mugler sketched late at night and thought better of in the morning; regardless, it sold six million bottles in its launch week. It still has a long way to go to rival Mugler’s own ‘Angel’, which continues to be one of the five best selling fragrances in the world, 21 years after it first appeared. The crystal futurist star-shape of the bottle – produced by Normandy glassmaker Brosse, who were also responsible for early Chanel No.5 – is one of Mugler’s greatest visual achievements. A Mugler-esque sci-fi looking silver stand is now available to buy which displays the fragrance as an artwork.

Parfumier and fragrance historian Roja Dove has his own line of fiercely high-end perfumes which come in bottles adorned with gold and Swarovski crystals. They are some of the most highly priced and successful in the world. He believes that maximalist French glass designer René Lalique has been at least as influential as Gabrielle Chanel in terms of the look of fragrances. “He was the first person to create what we would call today an holistic conceptual package,” says Dove. “Bottle, label and box reflected the intellectual idea of the scent it contained. ‘Nilang’ has two gilded, fantasy lotus blossoms suspended above the bottle as if floating on invisible water. It has inspired many commercial creations since.”

Bottle design can be a truly inspired, and scarce and pristine pieces – including ‘Shocking’ by Schiaparelli from 1937, with its Mae West body and bouquet of flowers around its neck – are highly collectible. Perfume bottles can be as much an expression of modernism as a piece of Bauhaus or Prouvé furniture, or they can have an embellished narrative. One of Roja Dove’s favourite pieces of design is the bottle that Salvador Dali created for Schiaparelli’s ‘Le Roi Soleil’ back in the 1940s. “It’s been rereleased recently,” he says, “executed in Baccarat crystal, in the shape of clouds and a huge sunshine, with doves in flight creating a face in the centre of the sun. It represents the end of the darkness of the Second World War.” It’s a precious as well as beautiful object: originals can reach $25,000 at auction.


Life through a lens (Financial Times Weekend)

Posted in Fashion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2012 by markcoflaherty

Take a walk around any major gallery this weekend and observe how in love with the digital image we all are. Forget what’s on the walls and count the people snapping exhibits with their iPhones. For some, it’s a way to own an aspect of the environment, for others it’s a distraction from the truth that they’d rather be having lunch. From holidays to food blogs, the digital image now serves as our brain’s external hard drive – a visual diary. For fashion designers working with photo prints it’s also a way to incorporate intimate experiences and personalise their work.

Zero + Maria Cornejo S/S 2012

Zero + Maria Cornejo’s spring collection is full of electric-bright, draped abstracts that began life as candid images shot in the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris. For an earlier collection, Maria Cornejo used her iPhone to capture details of the Bosphorus from the deck of a ferry. “Taking pictures has become my starting point,” she says. “I am always looking for patterns and colour – it’s how I look at the world and it lends a more personal narrative to the collection. We’ve started creating tags that go with each printed garment so that clients can read the story and feel connected to the clothes.”

For Cornejo, travel is vital for inspiration. Like Cornejo, Christopher De Vos and Peter Pilotto of the Peter Pilotto label shoot images while on a journey and then abstract the results until they are nearly unrecognisable. Still, an emotional connection to the source material remains. “We took many photos on a recent trip to Indonesia,” says Pilotto. “Some images went on the mood board and some began as a starting for a print. But we always rework everything.” Like those gallery and museum visitors with their iPhones, they are staking a very personal claim on an experience and a captured image.

Last summer, Bruno Basso of the London design duo Basso & Brooke drove across Siberia with two friends, a couple of smart phones and two cameras. The new spring collection that stemmed from it features a mix of images from Russia, manipulated with unlikely tropical colours. “I shot water, forests and skies,” says Basso, “The countryside was beautiful but very bleak; it’s hypnotic and never changes. I found myself fantasising about my childhood and luscious Brazilian flora for comfort, and I put the elements together.” Chris Brooke received the prints back in London and worked them into garments: “There was a clear and emotional feeling to them from Bruno’s unique experience of the journey.”

Basso & Brooke S/S 2012 © Fernanda Calfat

Many designers manipulate photographs out of all recognition, but some reproduce them faithfully and directly. Dries Van Noten discovered the work of James Reeve while judging at the Hyères Festival of International Fashion and Photography and reproduced some of his unpopulated nighttime landscapes on dresses this season. Reeve’s work is quiet and dark. Distant light sources punctuate his landscapes in a way that makes them work as abstract patterns, but on Van Noten’s garments they remain works of art in their own right. “I liked them for their urban and modern sentiment,” says Van Noten. “Although they are dark, I hope they lend the clothes an optimistic mood.” Fellow Belgian Ann Demeulemeester has used a monochrome photograph of a bird in flight as a T-shirt print this season.  It’s been blurred through Photoshop, but it’s still clearly figurative. “It’s an image that my husband shot,” she says. “I have adapted it to represent the memory of a bird; something that has faded away. I like the mystery and freedom of birds – you can’t own them.” Both Van Noten and Demeulemeester embrace photography as a fine art form in a traditional sense, with respect for the integrity of the original image. Demeulemeester’s first experiment with recontextualising imagery was via the painter Jim Dine. She put photo prints of his raven paintings onto dresses in over a decade ago. “I saw the original image and fell in love with it,” she says. “I got in touch with Dine and told him that I wanted to wear the image as a photograph, not just make a garment with it.”

Demeulemeester works predominantly in monochrome, which takes an image one step away from the obvious Kodak moment and two steps in the direction of wearability. Designers working with identifiable images, in colour, have to walk a more perilous tight rope; to wrong-foot would be to land in the realm of 1970s kitsch. “Mary Katrantzou and Erdem both use digital prints that are immediately recognisable,” says Samantha Lewis, one of the head buyers for the influential Italian store and online portal Luisa Via Roma. “But both have a feminine touch that doesn’t limit wearability. Erdem’s floral prints are soft, often with delicately embroidered overlayers.”

As with any graphic, a photo print lends a garment an often dramatic new level of style and meaning – from Maria Grachvogal and her pretty eveningwear florals to Mary Katrantzou and her edgy metal flowers. The democracy of the camera phone and the immense capacity of digital memory have now changed the kind of imagery that designers are experimenting with. It’s now less obvious, more intimate. “There’s a line in the film One Hour Photo about analog photography,” says Bruno Basso. “It’s about how most people don’t take snapshots of the little things – the used Band-Aid and the guy at the gas station, the wasp on the Jell-O, and how these are the things that make up the true picture of our lives. But now, with digital, they do.”

The menswear that fell to earth (Financial Times Weekend)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2011 by markcoflaherty

“Fa…fa…fa…fa…fashion!” Jaded front row guests frequently ponder just how many times they’ll sit through a catwalk show soundtracked by that familiar 80s new wave stutter, while designers continue to plunder David Bowie’s early-70s wardrobe. Last spring, Balmain’s strong-shouldered metallic blue and gold women’s blazers led the way, followed by Bella Freud’s Aladdin Sane lightning bolt knitwear. From Ziggy Stardust to Zoolander, David Bowie is the most referenced musician in fashion history.

David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth and Lanvin A/W 2011

It’s Bowie’s wardrobe from the post-glam, second half of the 1970s that is inspiring the most interesting fashion right now, particularly menswear. The silhouette is a tailored mix of svelte on top and voluminous below. Trousers are generously pleated, shirts are slim-fit, crisp and white. David Bowie made the Lanvin and Dior Homme aesthetic his own even before it had been invented.

For his autumn collection, Dries Van Noten sent his corps of slicked, henna-haired men out to the beat of a 2 Many DJs remix of ‘Golden Years’, modelling an A/W collection that took inspiration from the Bowie movie Just a Gigolo. “The Thin White Duke is one of my favourite periods”, says Van Noten. “Bowie has proven to be timeless and relevant in a moment where many musicians fade into oblivion. Of course I love the Ziggy Stardust era too.”

It’s easy to pull together a Halloween approximation of Ziggy’s Kansai Yamamoto glam-rock robes and Pierre Le Roche’s make up, but when Bowie moved on to his soul-inspired Young Americans period in 1974, he moved the goalposts. The kimonos and jumpsuits stopped. His wardrobe became more subtle, more subversive and ultimately more influential. “He was wearing suits by Derek Morton from City Lights,” says Paul Gorman, author of The Look: Adventures in Rock & Pop Fashion. “Derek went on to become Paul Smith’s tailoring main man, and Smith provided the white shirts for the Thin White Duke”.

A Terry O’Neil image of Bowie from the Young Americans period appeared in the inspiration book left on the seats at Phoebe Philo’s Celine show this season. In it, Bowie holds tailor’s scissors, wearing a rake-thin yellow suit with exaggerated cuffs, shoulders and a rounded collar. If the suit was black, it could easily be edgy new season Todd Lynn for either gender. It has a sharp, modern insouciance. “I think that every menswear designer has referenced Bowie at some point,” says Lynn. “After he all, he made the trench coat rock and roll.”

This season, Roland Mouret identified Bowie’s character in 1983’s Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence as a strong influence in his menswear, while for spring, he’s looked to the swagger and relaxed tailoring of the 1976-1979 era, when Bowie was based in Berlin. “That was a transitional period for him,” says Mouret. “He left glam behind and was absorbing a new culture in Germany. He mixed the art scene with the leather of S&M and mixed it up with a British elegance. It was decadent and cinematic.”

The wedge-cut flame-red hair and platforms were strong signifiers, but Bowie’s trump card was repositioning the man’s suit in high fashion. He did it in a confrontational way that Bryan Ferry and Antony Price couldn’t match. He made it a postmodern fashion statement. “His Thin White Duke seemed conventionally masculine,” says Glenn Adamson, co-curator of the V&A’s current Postmodernism exhibition, “but it referred to the cabaret styling of Weimar Berlin.”

Bowie demonstrated that the suit could be outrageous and expressive as much as it was smart or a slightly dandy uniform. Emaciated but beautiful, living – infamously – on a diet of cocaine, coffee, cigarettes, red and green peppers and milk, The Man Who Fell to Earth persona he created was the visual blueprint for the fedora-clad men that appeared at Lanvin this season, as well as a precursor of the female supermodel of the 21st century – androgynous, angular and goth-white. “A lot of people have said they identified Bowie in our autumn show”, says Lanvin’s menswear designer, Lucas Ossendrijver. “It wasn’t intentional, but there’s certainly a graphic purity and crispness in that look that’s very modern again – the wide pants, the crisp white shirt and waistcoat and the hat. It’s a return to elegance. And I like Bowie best when he’s very natural, androgynous and mysterious.”

Before Madonna, and long before the cynical fancy dress of Lady GaGa, David Bowie was busying himself as much as a performance and visual artist as a musical one. He was ahead of every curve. When Bowie appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1979 he wore a skirt, six years before Gaultier showed men in skirts in Paris. In 1996, he commissioned stagewear from Alexander McQueen, in the same year that London’s most directional designer reciprocated with a collection inspired by the Bowie/Deneuve movie The Hunger. Like his 1970s work with Kansai Yamamoto and Derek Morton, there’s more to Bowie’s fashion influence than just providing an image – he’s constantly collaborated. The shame is, of course, that Bowie has gone quiet. Every designer wishes that he would return, but the signs aren’t positive. Bowie biographer Paul Trynka recently said that he has “most likely retired”. But as Todd Lynn says: “Although he hasn’t released a record since 2003, we still think of him as an artist who might perform something new tomorrow. And if he did, we’d all want to know what his new style would be.”