A Good Woman – every saint has a past, every sinner has a future

A Good Woman - The Windermeres - Scarlett Johannson

A Good Woman – The Windermeres

Some women bring happiness wherever they go, others whenever they go.

And so this marital tale proceeds.

The dialogue crackling from start to finish with one-liners dispatching crisply and smartly and as movie script-writers are not usually this aphoristic I beginning to wonder if this was in fact a literary adaptation eventually cottoning on a little too belatedly that this is indeed being from the cup runneth over creative pen of Oscar Wilde, his ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan, a Play about a Good Woman‘. And it is quite clear who the good woman is and as notable that the bad woman gets far more of the best lines.

Scarlett Johansson is playing Meg Windermere but even then I did not make the immediate connection! In slight defence to myself the film is shifted in time and place – from its 1890′s original time-frame to 1930, their titles republicanized to Mr and Mrs Windermere and their origins Americanized to New York and their locations shifted from London to the Amalfi coast in Italy. Still a more die-hard Wildean than me would not have been I am sure deceived by these temporal and spacial liberties.

A Good Woman - Mother and Daughter

Mother and Daughter

Despite having read much of his works ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ I confess is not a play I have seen or read in its entirety instead familiar with it from oft told quipped quotes from the mouths of many others.

A Good Woman the 2004 Mike Barker film follows then as you would expect a similar trajectory as Lady Windermere’s Fan if taking its own celluloid contoured detours along its way. An apparently orphaned child who several decades later upon her twentieth birthday is visited upon again by her mother – and will the maternal secret be shared? – just how much of this tale can I spoil, just what are the chances that this tale is unknown to you anyway?! Likewise whether her masked motivation is maternal or material? She meets often and in private with her daughter’s husband Robert and we like the rest of the cast are left to buy in to the gossip and think the worst. (‘You’re so fond of gossip you don’t give the truth a chance to put its pants on’).

A Good Woman - Opera scene

Gossip is alright. It’s the moralizing that is in poor taste

They have been parted and nurture has overcome nature perhaps – like mother, like daughter does not appear to be so – daughter orthodox and moralistic, mother a law unto herself her own scruples fast and loose. And the bond between them too long rent asunder?

This Wildean tale explores a number of themes if primarily marriage and other romantic human relationships – can marriage endure, can men and women ever be friends. ‘Bigamy is having one wife too many.’ explains a character ‘So’s monogamy’ is the instant rejoinder from another, Lord Darlington. And following on ‘A man can be happy with any woman – so long as he does not love her’.

On love itself  ‘Undying love is like a ghost in a villa – everyone talks about it but no-one has seen it’ – you really cannot go wrong with Wilde!

On friendship ‘If everyone knew what everyone said about each other there would not be four friends in the world’. And I should add even less if we knew the thoughts of our friends!

A Good Woman

You know what I find worse than being talked about? Not being talked about at all.

The Wilde quotes are so good that I am trying very hard to resist shoe-horning them into this post!

So many humorous lines and no less insightful for their levity. Contrast the gravity of Nietzsche who warned to be careful looking into the abyss less the abyss looks back upon us – and which advice is why I do not read The Daily Mail – against Wilde who varies this equivocal aphorism to comment that we all straddle the abyss and if we never look down we can never know who we are. Mmm – do I really have to follow Sarah Palin on Twitter to get the measure of myself!

This 2004 film adaptation of this play stars Helen Hunt as The Lady Windermere absentee mother Mrs Erlynne and Scarlett Johansson the aforementioned Lady Windermere. Other notable performances are Lord Darlington played by Stephen Campbell Moore and Tuppy played by Tom Wilkinson – each romantically engaging and entangling with the mother and daughter Windermeres. Helen Hunt runs Stephen Campbell Moore close in being blessed with the character with the best lines but no character outshines the other I feel rather an ensemble acting performance prevails.

A Good Woman - Mrs Erlynne

Women don’t want to be understood. They want to be loved.

The difficult if enjoyable task of adapting the script was given to screenwriter Howard Himelstein, a new name to me. There are plenty laughs to be had but the film is not solely played to amuse us – it engages us cerebrally and viscerally too. Clearly the witty quick-fire exchanges are Wilde’s, the more prosaic slow-burn exchanges Himelstein’s. And this works taking the script off the stage and making it live and breathe on screen.

Many that are familiar with the play have disparaged the film. I though am not as familiar with the play and taking it on its own terms wonder at the purism and snobbery of such critics – most unWilde like.

It is sumptuously set and shot – it has the look and feel of a costume period drama but none of the sentimentality often associated with that genteel genre. The fashions and interior and exterior décor are a pleasure in themselves.

The film ends with a maternal exchange and a revelation, not to the daughter that she had a living mother standing there before her, but to the mother that her daughter had always been guided by her – if by an ideal of her. And the mother decides to leave the daughter with that ideal intact.

A sad if admirable choice. A satisfying literary ending perhaps but realistically believable too. A grown-up Hollywood ending.

A Good Woman - Mrs Erlynne and Tuppy

I like America. Name me another society that’s gone from barbarism to decadence without bothering to create a civilization in between.

About these ads

The Glorious Land – PJ Harvey

PJ Harvey The Glorious Land Oak Tree AutumnThe Glorious Land Polly Harvey release from April 2011 is a compact poetic view of the United States of America. Or is it England? Or both? The song proceeds in call and response where Polly is the caller and Polly is the responder -

How is our glorious country ploughed.

Not by iron ploughs.

Our land is ploughed by tanks and feet.

Modern English war poetry – this time subject the Afghan war. Some of the lines are based on extracts from Russian folk songs.

PJ Harvey The Glorious Land LyricsShe makes a link to England as the mother country – and as with the British Empire and its Imperial Power and Overpower and Overburden and Overspend so goes its most splendid, prosperous, courted, envied and feared child ‘America’.

The music accompanies this with faint recurrent bugling of the Regimental March and an acoustic light electric accompaniment again too with the rare autoharp of which she strums and wails. There is also a sample of The Police’s shuffling beat ‘The Beds Too Big Without You’ song of many decades past. Though I have listened to both the sampler and sampled song numerous times and struggle to hear the one in the other.

Nearly five minutes in length it is several minutes before Polly Harvey sings the opening salvo of The Glorious Land.

Taken from the album Let England Shake and as with all songs on that album there is a video for it too shot by war photographer Seamus Murphy – each video a mixture of video and stills.

The video for The Glorious Land commences with an autumnal tree and ends with it Wintered intervened with other unfolding English rural scenes cut against shots of Polly Harvey rehearsing the song. Also entrenched are soldiers preparatory battle scenes.

PJ Harvey The Glorious Land Oak on guitarPolly believes that what makes the USA what it is is not its Protestant work ethic but its Protestant war ethic – not the toiling of its land but the military adventurism in lands of other peoples – not of its working people but its ruling elites – elected politicians and unelected advisors; and other high-salaried members of this crony family – Wall Street, the military industrial complex, the compliant cheerleading media and judiciary. That war not peace drives the USA. And bemoans this fact ‘Oh America, Oh England’. England because America is its child – and where she traipsed before it they now traipse again. But then too as the child follows the parent so the parent follows the child intimately umbilically bound, the special relationship sending both in tipsy lockstep after each other.

But then perhaps England is more her focus that the USA – as she always sings of ‘our’ not ‘your’ – ‘What is the glorious fruit of our land’ – and Polly is a Cornish daughter. So perhaps indeed it is England that is primarily chastised (and notably not Britain with its Parliament, Financial Markets, Media Hub all resident in England, all in London indeed – we Scots and other Northern Britain’s innocent passengers of it all – and the cry of ‘America’ is because they are our offspring ‘Its deformed children’, ‘It’s orphaned children’.

These sentiments are also echoed by English war poets like TS Eliot and Wilfred Owen and Polly Harvey herself specifically cites Harold Pinter and like them all Polly Harvey is taking some poetic license. The sweat of our land not blood and tears is still contemporary but also less prevalent – the sweat of our land today is much more urban than rural, industrial than agricultural. Even heavy industry itself is taking a lesser role to the softer industry of our information age.

PJ Harvey The Glorious Land Field sceneThe military adventurism itself does still avail if less traditional defending of our physical borders from country-enemies instead from individual and collective terrorist groups and imagined and rhetoricised intellectual frontiers – overturning of dictatorships in far of lands that we believe are a threat less directly to our lives and liberties and to the lives and liberties of the inhabitants of those lands and our allies that neighbour them than to our commercial interests.

That Russian folk songs are sampled too merely reminds that imperial powers wherever they are in space and time put their own prosperity in peril with their over-reaching hands.

And here we are today and the US Debt Ceiling is a climbing and both the USA and England awash in credit, overcome by debt and the solutions from the Conservatives to reduce spending (to the poor and the many) and from the Liberals (or Sky Blue Conservatives) to do the same but also raise taxes (to the very rich and few) but no mention from either of cutting back the huge expenditure on the military both at home and overseas and which makes up most of the deficit spend.

An unnecessary hubris – the USA is mighty and wealthy – it need not flex its muscles so – but it continues to do so and who does it make weak and impoverish in so doing? Itself. Living and warring beyond its means – England too the country equivalent of trying to keep up with the Joneses by borrowing to the hilt and punching above its weight – and not borrowing so much for development of its infrastructure and in jobs – not ‘in ploughs’ but ‘in tanks’.

So though I quibble, the gist continues to ring true – the priorities are still to militarism, still to ‘War War’ not ‘Jaw Jaw’ – and pride comes before the fall, of empire – that itself the USA could learn from its ancient parent.

So yes Polly Harvey nails it. Her poetic words nail this delirious animal spirit to the wall.

PJ Harvey The Glorious Land Oak Tree Winter

The Emotional Stockmarket – Love Makes the World Go Round…

The Emotional StockmarketEmotional Stockmarket GraphLove and Happiness are on the up, Sadness is in a slump – so reads The Emotional Stockmarket.

The Emotional Stockmarket is another University of The Arts Showtime venture – this one has part of their Summer Shows 2011 season where as you might imagine we are able to visit the shows, meet the artists and see their works. Such as this Emotional Stockmarket from Max Dovey as part of his BA in Fine Art from the Wimbledon College of Art.

Unfortunately this particular show was open to the public for one week only in June 2010.

The idea is to measure Happiness, Sadness and Love based on Twitterfeeds – the instances of tweets mentioning the words Happy, Sad and Love! This I think is something that could have been sustained on the website if they were so inclined?

I note that they include Sad with the Happy but not Hate with the Love. Perhaps though we would expect when Love is peaking Hate to be troughing but perhaps not – as both heartfelt emotions can be experienced simultaneously by different groups of people and similarly when both emotions are in a trough indifference reigns – perhaps I am thinking about this too much?!

During the June week that this market ran I checked my own tweets to see if any of mine would have contributed and lo one did – I wished all my followers a Happy Summer Solstice. All of my 16 followers! I use Twitter to talk to myself! And so my musings into the void got picked up afterall!

I guess if they were so inclined they could have regional emotional stock-markets – or even country by country – to see where the worlds happiness hotspots are!

Or by gender – are men or women the happier people – I really am thinking about this too much!

Are there other emotions they coud track? Hope and despair? Ennui? Pride? Fear? Jealousy? Or do all of these get swept up under their umbrella triumvirate of Happy Sad and Love?

I wonder too the comparison of the Emotional Stockmarkets with the equity and bond stockmarkets – would the United Kingdom’s FTSE 100 and the USA’s S&P 500 etc correlate – should we expect happiness to be tied in with material wealth?

Okay – I have ran with this idea enough – any more legs you can give it?!

The Unsins of the Flesh …the Genius of British Art – Victorian Nudes

 

The Genius of British Art Flesh Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson

Flesh was a revelation to me. Flesh was part of the Channel 4 2010 series The Genius of British Art presented by English author Howard Jacobson. I had bought the clichés about our Victorian era too – that it was provincial, prurient and prim, the eternal ambivalent marriage of sensual repression and hypocrisy.

That if I wanted to see the joys and the projected sins of the flesh I had to look to the wider European continent – to Italy and France in particular…that our British shores were barren ones.

When it was all around us all this time. The nude in British art began in the Victorian era in the 1820′s with William Etty, and Queen Victoria was a keen collector of such art herself. Though not entirely clear whether an embarrassed and shameful regal secret – at least from her subjects.

The Genius of British Art was a six part series examining various facets of British Art – Royal Portraiture,  the Common People – that’s we the prole subjects again – our Imperial exploits and the art  of war all the way forward to Modern Art in the anarchic forms and sensationalist works of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin among other art misfits.

The Syrinx Arthur Hacker

The Syrinx Arthur Hacker

It was this episode though Flesh that I found most revealing and rewarding. The other episodes were more familiar both in their content and context, this episode on the otherhand was full of artists and art  unknown to me.

This was Flesh in art both longing and longless.

Howard Jacobson makes a distinction between British and French depictions of the nude – for the French it is enough to be for its own sake, at hedonistic ease with itself. The British on the other hand if they must show flesh must provide it a moral context

We don’t just do the fires of love today. We think about the ways we will feel tomorrow.

This breezy and thoughtful prose reminding that it is a writer – and a novelist at that – who is presenting this program and this colourful narrative style made this program an especial pleasure. If you were not able to see this program but just read his narrated text the visual picture it would likely conjure up in your mind would not do disservice to the actual visual content.

He starts with the claim

If you want to understand a culture see how its art tackles the subject of sex.

And goes on

It is only in our Art that we tell the truth.

And then

I paint with my penis the French painter Renoir is said to have said. The too-too moralistic British so the story goes paint with everything but.

And with this pithy summation of the perceived distance between British and French Art the program proceeds to demonstrate otherwise, debunking at every turn.

Florinda by Winterhalter

Florinda by Winterhalter

With artists such as William Etty, Arthur Hacker and Walter Sickert such myths and prejudices get dispelled.

And it was not just the home-grown English artists and their nude subjects but the naked bodies portrayed by other European artists that the Victorians took pleasure in, again including Queen Victoria, herself commissioning many paintings with naked subjects, such as ‘Florinda’ by German artist Winterhalter, which hung pride of place in her office as she went about her daily business.

Patricia Preece by Stanley Spencer

Patricia Preece by Stanley Spencer

Flesh also looks at the genre of Fairy Art but this is no out of place diversion as the Fairy Art is no sentimental chocolate box banal expression of the physical and metaphysical human and not so human form but rather as outward projections of deeply felt but mute inner thoughts and sexual desires. The safety to explore all sorts of dark desire under the mask and metaphor of witches, changeling’s and other goblin pixie monsters.

Later Jacobson’s prose gets ever more climactic as he describes Stanley Spencer’s painting of his second wife Patricia Preece (who in fact it seems only married him for his house and was herself a Lesbian and continued to live with her lover Dorothy Hepworth and so a painting also of unrequited love) ending in eulogy

If there is a more cruelly voluptuous piece of painting anywhere in art I don’t think I could bare to see it.

The latter part of the program brings the British portrayal of the Nude in Art up to date – in his words current artists almost mocking the naked form ‘the end of the body in Art’ in Jacobson’s typically forthright words pointing out the 1997 work Pauline Bunny by Sarah Lucas which he admires for its conception rather than its treatment of flesh – a disillusionment rather than a delighted celebration of the human body.

John William Waterhouse - Hylas and the Nymphs

John William Waterhouse – Hylas and the Nymphs

Suggesting that we Brits today are far more scared and timid of the body and sex than we were in these Victoria times of a century and a half ago.

The recently departed Lucien Freud was not lingered on long nor Francis Bacon (perhaps Freud’s spiritual cousin) but then the focus of this program was the nude in unlikely places and times – this being in the provinces and in the Victorian era and not where we expect and know we can find it, certainly not in the abundant arena of the here and now.

This program is a cerebral pleasure but mostly like the fleshy subject itself it is a carnal pleasure – not so much to be contemplated as consummated.

And Howard Jacobson should be given a commission for a whole series about British art – or any Nation’s art for that matter!

Atonement

Saoirse Ronan Briony Tallis Atonement

The Young Briony

A butterfly flaps its wings…a tell-tale is told and the lives of those concerned are inexorably and irrevocably altered. As is the Tallis tittle-tattler who has to live with the consequences in a way those told on do not due to reasons later to be revealed – in the 2007 film and in my review.

Atonement shifts in place and time like Tarantino but in a more hazy and unpredictable way – a number of times I got caught out believing a new scene was being played out only to find it was an old scene relived from another’s perspective.

The film starts to the clatter of type-writer keys in rural Shropshire, England in the late 1930′s soon to be engulfed by World War II – though for the key characters engulfed by something else seemingly far more trivial yet of a far more fatal outcome.

Robbie and Cecilia Atonement Keira Knightley James McAvoy

Robbie and Cecilia

The precocious young writer completes her play. In another scene the object of her childhood affection types another piece this time a briefer but far more deadly and significant prose – two letters – one an innocent  explanation of his behaviour and request for forgiveness and one more blunt in jest not intended to be shared – ‘In my dreams I kiss your cunt. Your sweet wet cunt’ all typed out to the delirious ardour of Jussi Bjoerling’s version of ‘O Soave Fanciulla’ from Puccini’s La Boheme playing on the record player in his room – but it is that one that is to get shared and its messenger the aforementioned young writer who first reads it – and espies the C word in duplicate. And for that word all this trouble unfolds?

Robbie & Cecilia Atonement

Robbie and Cecilia caught in the act

He is imprisoned but is allowed his freedom if he becomes a British solider in the second World War to be stationed in France – he regains his liberty at the cost of his life.

His beloved estranged from her family because of this accusation becomes a nurse to care for the wounded victims of this War. We believe they are ultimately reunited in her Balham flat only to belatedly discover this was a fabrication of the younger sister whose story this film is. Instead the elder sister is herself a victim of the war – of a bomb and gas explosion killing the sheltering inhabitants of the Balham underground station.

Briony Tallis Romola Garai Atonement

The Teenage Briony

The younger sister wants to atone for her lie to her sister and her now husband by retracting her statement. And she knows and remembers now the culprit only to discover that he has married the victim of his crime making her testimony null and void.

At the end of her life we discover she has finally written and confessed all in her 21st novel – Atonement – but why wait until her twenty-first we wonder – until we discover that the two lovers had never been atoned in real-life as their life had in fact ended in the War and only she had to live with her shameful secret the rest of her life. Only now she decides she must reveal and unburden herself also made more keen by the discovery that she is dying – her brain is diseased and her memory and words will begin to desert her.

Her elder sister is Cecilia Tallis played by Keira Knightley and the object of both sisters affections and love is Robbie Turner played by James McAvoy.

Briony Tallis Vanessa Redgrave Atonement

The older Briony

The younger sister on the other hand is played by three actors because unlike the doomed couple she gets to live out the full span of her life – the youthful Briony Tallis who makes the accusation is played by Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai takes on the coming of age period of her life and the end of her long life is finished off by Vanessa Redgrave who finally writes the book and shares the secret, in effect with all as the interview is on live TV. All and sundry that is but the two most needing to hear it the victims of her tale Cecilia and Robbie.

All Briony’s give striking performances – Saoirse Ronan a very convincing and compelling performance as the younger and Vanessa Redgrave a typically memorable and charismatic finale to the life of the younger Tallis. Captivating too again is Romola Garai in yet another impressive literary adaptation (on TV as Jane Austen’s eponymous Emma and as Sugar in Michael Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White) as the coming of age, innocence-ending Briony.

Dunkirk Atonement

Dunkirk

The war scenes both in the hospital wards and on the fields of battle around Dunkirk were very moving, visually striking and unsentimental.

There were a number of other good cast performances if mostly supporting and fleeting – Olivia Grant played a probationary nurse but blink and you may well miss her! Gina McKee playing the head nurse Sister Drummond you would not miss but still a fleeting performance. As also Robbie’s mother played by Brenda Blethyn. Fans of the recent BBC Sherlock Holmes adaptation Sherlock get to see Benedict Cumberbatch in an early role – with a name destined not to be forgotten!

I am not familiar with English author Ian McEwan‘s novel on which this film was based and certainly now want to become so. I cannot comment then on how the narrative treatment by English director Joe Wright compares to the novel – whether it is faithful to it or strays in any notable ways. Joe Wright himself the longest in a line sure to get ever longer of those bringing Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to our screens – his version also starring Keira Knightley and indeed Brenda Blethyn. He has begun work on another literary adaptation this time Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina – and guess who plays Anna – yes you guessed it Keira! The youthful Briony Saoirse Ronan also gets a recall too. A film director who is developing a reliable pedigree of intelligent and worthwhile book to film adaptations.

Atonement is a romantic tale with as much high sense as deep sensibility, a moving doomed romance told and recalled without sentiment.

A romantic tale which remains lodged as much in my mind as my heart.

Cecilia Tallis Kiera Knightley Atonement

Cecilia in the Balham Underground

The Life and Fashion of Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent Profile Shot B&WYves Saint Laurent was born August 1 1936 and died June 1 2008, two months short of his 72nd birthday. He died a fashion legend.

Though inextricably associated with France, and Paris in particular, he was born in Oman, Algeria and on his death his cremated remains were scattered in Marrakesh, Morocco. Africa was to influence his collections and design philosophy throughout his career.

He was a precocious talent, coming to the attention of another French fashion legend, Christian Dior, where he became his assistant, aged just 17. And then, just four years later, upon Dior’s death, became head of the Dior Fashion House, the wishes of Christian Dior himself.

Yves Saint Laurent Trapeze Dress

Trapeze Dress – The White Elephant – around 1958

His first Dior collection was based on the New Look template and introduced the world to his first statement piece the Trapeze dress; dresses and other outfits that were narrow at the neck and widened out toward the waist.

His time at Dior was though a short one. Subsequent collections were not received well by critics, in particular his ‘Beat Look’ collection. Having been conscripted to the French Army in 1960 he subsequently discovered the label had fired him.

His time in the Army had been traumatic for him; he had been hospitalized and received Electroshock treatment and a heavy course of drugs. He was to be plagued with both drug and mental health issues for the rest of his life. In the 1960’s and 1970’s when he had become financially very secure he was known to have been a heavy user of alcohol and cocaine.

YSL 2011 Safari Kori Richardson

2011 Safari – modelled by Kori Richardson

He quickly bounced back from his experience in the army setting up his own fashion house in 1960. During this period he produced and popularized looks which are now well established and iconic such as the beatnik look, Safari Jackets, tight pants, tall thigh high boots and Tuxedo suits (for both men and women). His first 1960 collection included bubble skirts, turtlenecks and biker-jackets in luxurious fabrics.

His first business partner was also his first (and last) romantic partner Pierre Berge who helped him establish his fashion house. This romantic relationship ended in the mid-1970’s but they remained business partners to the end of his professional career. And they remained close with, prior to Yves Saint Laurent’s death from brain cancer in 2008, the two joining in a same-sex civil union.

In the 1960’s French Fashion was still Haute Couture – his was the first French Fashion House to establish Ready To Wear (Pret-A-Porter) collections. To this end his fashion house also established shops in Paris. His first shop was called Rive Gauche (Left Bank). His first customer was French actress Catherine Deneuve significant because she would become a lifelong fan and muse of Yves Saint Laurent.

Another first for Yves Saint Laurent was the use of non-White models in his collections, most famously, the Somali supermodel, Iman.

Likewise his collections were the first to reference other cultures outside the European traditions usually favoured by European and North American designers at that time.

Another aspect and recurrent theme of his collections were retrospective appraisals of fashions from previous decades, in particular from the 1920’s through to the 1940’s. The silhouettes of these times were often integrated into his 1960’s and 1970’s collections.

Though like many of his collections these were met with a mixed response. A 1971 vintage theme was described as ‘Yves Saint Debacle’ whereas a 1976 ‘Ballets Russes’ collection was positively received as a ‘New New Look’

He was also one of the first fashion designers to branch into other related accessories by way of growing his brand such as with Opium perfume in the late 1970’s.

Russian Ballet 1976 Yves Saint Laurent

Ballet Russes 1976

The heavy drink and drug use, alluded to earlier in this post, was to return to haunt him later in his life. He found difficult the pressures of the demanding fashion schedule that required fashion houses to produce two Haute Couture and two ready-to-wear collections per year. He was known to rely on drink and drugs as a coping mechanism for these pressures of producing collections that were able to meet with both critical and public approval.

In the late 1980’s he finally decided to delegate the design of his collections to his assistants. By this time the critics had fallen out of love with him though his ready-to-wear collections still remained popular with the public.

His collections are also very popular with wealthy and conservative clients. At the same time many of his collections were radical cutting edge ensembles – setting and defining fashion trends rather than following them. Many of his signature pieces – ‘Le Smoking’ (Tuxedo Suit), pantsuit and safari-wear have since become staples in fashion.

Gucci modelled by Jac

Gucci Trouser Suit – modelled by Jac

Another theme of his was androgyny – and other world famous fashion houses such as Gucci and Prada in particular took up this look. Yves Saint Laurent popularized the trouser-suit; previously it had been seen as an unfeminine and unflattering fashion choice for a woman.

His legacy continues not just in his fashion house but also in his influence on many other couturiers and fashion houses.

Christian Lacroix, Jean Colonna and Marc Jacobs have all openly acknowledged the debt they owe to him.

This influence was not always welcome by him though. It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; he did not see it that way, when in 1974, he sued Ralph Lauren over a Tuxedo dress, that he considered too similar to one of his own Tuxedo creations from 1970.

Biker Jackets Yves Saint Laurent

Biker Jackets

Though taking a back seat throughout the 1990’s it was not until 2002 that he officially retired. And it should be noted that even in the relative obscurity of the 1990’s he continued to grasp trends and innovate, for example being the first fashion house to broadcast one of their haute-couture runway shows on the Internet in 1996.

In 1996 he had also retired from Ready To Wear passing the designing mantle to Alber Elbaz leaving him to focus on Haute Couture.

In 1999 Gucci bought his fashion-house.

Yves Saint Laurent’s Haute Couture house itself closed in 2002 with a final collection in Paris.

Though Yves Saint Laurent died in 2008 his fashion house endures and the fortune it made in 2009 for example according to American publishers of the Rich List, Forbes, made him the top earning dead celebrity for that year.

The Yves Saint Laurent brand continues today enduring along with his legendary fashion status.

Plus Sized – Models 1 and Excel – more walks beyond the catwalk

Excel Model Agency

Amy Griffiths

Amy Griffiths

I have posted previously about All Walks Beyond the Catwalk who are set up to promote different models to the standard catwalk tall and thin template – aiming to include bigger curvier models, older models and a wider ethnicity.

Another such venture focussing on the bigger curvier model has just been set up by Models 1 (set up in 1968 and now the largest model agency in Europe) who have teamed up with plus-sized model agency Excel to form a division Models1. Like All Walks Beyond The Catwalk they are aiming to prove and establish that there is a demand for models in high fashion that are neither tall or slim.

One of the challenges they face will be getting Haute Couture designers on board – they have had some initial success with Jean Paul Gaultier and Mark Fast employing plus-sized models over the last few seasons. This year was also the first time a plus-sized model graced the front cover of Vogue – in their Mexico edition in the shape of Crystal Renn. Still a long way to go but a start at least.

It does seem strange to me this need for the tall and skinny model shape upon the catwalk – the fashion designers will say their shapes better show off their outfits leaving aside that most of their customers will not have these body-shapes and sizes. It is as much expedience as easier and cheaper to design for a narrower size range but it does seem a wider size range could be catered for simply by having a range of models and body sizes along the catwalk.

I welcome this project between Models 1 and Excel and hope it proves a successful and influential initiative.Amy Griffiths

Creatures of the Wind – CDFA/Vogue Fashion Fund 2011 Hopeful

Creatures of the Wind

Creatures of the Wind Fall Winter 2011

Fall Winter 2011

Shane Gabier and Chris Peters of Creatures of the Wind are among those shortlisted for the CDFA /Vogue Fashion Fund 2011 hopefuls, the winner of which to be announced November 14 in New  York.

CDFA is the acronym for The Council of Fashion Designers of America – their event is annual having commenced in 2003.

Others on the shortlist include Ohne Titel, Cushnie et Ochs, Suno and Finn Jewellery.  There are ten on the shortlist all told – full details on the CDFA website.

Previous winners Proenza Schouler and their designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez are on this years judging panel along with US Vogue’s Anna Wintour, Steven Kolb and chaired by Diane von Furstenberg.

The award is based on the finalists most recent collections. They also have to produce a design project for L’Oreal Paris. The fashion challenge gets ever more daunting.

The awards for the winner last totalled $100,000K so a different order of magnitude to the award noted in my last post for the Dorchester Collection.

I would not like to venture what Creatures of the Wind might produce. Their Spring Summer 2011 collection was a two-tone pallette in the main with occasional forays into browns and yellows. Their Fall Winter 2011 collectoin in contrast was a vivid collection of reds and oranges if black not abandoned entirely.

The company is US based but they do have stockists in several other fashion capitals such as London, Milan and Tokyo.

Time will tell if Creatures of the Wind and their creative use of fabrics and colour will take away an award.Creatures of the Wind Spring Summer 2011

Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize Shortlist Announced

Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize

Giulietta Collection Fall 11

Giulietta Collection Fall 11

The shortlist for the Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize 2011 in New York was recently announced.

The panel passing judgement included Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein, and Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig of Marchesa.

As noted in Vogue UK the prize will be announced in the Autumn and will include £40,000 and the opportunity to display their collection during Paris Fashion Week in 2012 at Hôtel Plaza Athénée (which is owned by the Dorchester hotel group).

Julian Louie Fall Winter 2010

Julian Louie Fall Winter 2010

Last year’s winner was Canadian born and London based Thomas Tait. They should also get the prize for most pointless website – there are three tabs – one Biography prompts you to download a PDF document, a second Information to send an Email to them (!) and the third Lookbook takes you to a page which states ‘Lookbook is available upon request’! You are spoiling us Thomas Tait – Not!

The London Fashion Week Designer Gallery provides you with a better visual record of his works – his most recent collection a Two Tone one.

This years shortlist were:

Anndra Neen – who are two sisters Phoebe and Annette Stephens – they are New York based but born in Mexico City – they specialise in jewellery and accessories. Their jewellery is of antique ornate flavour.

Giulietta- who produces a mix of casual and prim outfits with understated elegance. I think Audrey Hepburn is one of a number in the Giulietta’s minds-eye.

Julian Louie – who produces an unlikely mix of couture-casual with exotic prints. Stylish.

Setareh Mohtarez – produces bright punchy art-like installation cocktail type dresses with striking modern digital prints.

Siki Im – their collections don’t go by back to back season convention but are titled Silent Thunderbird Prayer and Black Beat White Wonder which alone prepares you for what is to follow. They are devoted solely to menswear. Smart yet casual generally with a monotone palette.

All of their works can be seen on their websites though Anndra Neen’s site is little more than a place-holder and Email contact address. Mohtarez’s site presents their outfits the most imaginatively. The Siki Im website allows you to see the works as collection stills, as video and provides full textual artistic impressions.

Setareh Mohtarez gets my pick – how about you?

Setareh Mohtarez Brightness Dawn Collection

Setareh Mohtarez Brightness Dawn Collection