2 posts tagged "Antonio Monfreda"
The Creative Force Behind an Extraordinary New Book on Veruschka Discusses Fashion Film, Fashion Egos, and Fashion Icons
A friend of mine likes to say that the name of the greatest art director in the world begins with an A—by which he means “A” for Accident. He insists that it is often a chance impulse or encounter that produces the most interesting work. Such is certainly the case with the latest project from Antonio Monfreda—another exceptional art director whose name begins with an A. At a dinner party in Rome, Valentina Moncada told Monfreda that she had discovered a cache of old photos taken by her father, Johnny. The cache in question, stored in dusty boxes, turned out to be three thousand early pictures of Vera von Lehndorff, the German model who would later come to be known to the world simply as Veruschka. A week later, Monfreda walked out of the offices of Rizzoli in New York with a book contract in hand. The resulting volume, Veruschka: From Vera to Veruschka, is a showcase for some very modern-looking sixties Italian fashions, Florence and Sardinia when they were still mostly undiscovered, and—above all—the transformation of Von Lehndorff from an angular young ingenue into the icon who would later entrance photographers like Avedon and directors like Antonioni. “She is the most mysterious model of the sixties,” says Monfreda, analyzing Veruschka’s appeal. “She has the kind of beauty that is chameleonic. It’s the same kind of quality you find nowadays in Kate Moss, the ability to transform in a very natural way in front of the camera.”
If serendipity played a part in the book, it has also been a theme in Monfreda’s career. He started out as an art dealer, but he was looking to switch to the creative side when he had a meeting of the minds with Patrick Kinmonth, the opera director, exhibition designer, and artistic polymath. In short order, Monfreda found himself in New York, codesigning the Anglomania show at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum. Together, he and Kinmonth have conceived and installed some of the most memorable fashion experiences of the past decade, including the museum exhibition that accompanied Valentino’s forty-fifth anniversary celebration in Rome and Making Dreams: Fendi and the Cinema, a magically immersive show that took over an abandoned theater in Milan last fall and that will be resurrected in New York next year. And how does Monfreda, who divides his time between Rome and London, deal with the outsize egos he must encounter in his line of work? “That’s a good question,” he says with a laugh. “But sometimes it’s not just a question of power or egoism or nonsense. Egos sometimes have good things to say, and I listen.”
Along the way, Kinmonth and Monfreda’s interest in filmmaking has grown, and they recently established their own production house, The Visual Clinic, to address the needs of their luxury clients. Monfreda believes they can bring a “new energy and a new vision” to the field. In other words, we can look forward to many more happy accidents in the future. In the meantime, enjoy this exclusive short film that accompanies the book (above) and a slideshow of photos from the book that traces Veruschka’s journey as she emerges from a world of black and white into vivid color.
Jackie Kennedy was 39 years old when she married Aristotle Onassis on October 20, 1968. One of the many pleasures of Valentino: Master of Couture, opening today at Somerset House in London, is the opportunity to reflect on how incongruously jeune fille her wedding dress was, with its lacy stockings and bowed, kitten-heeled shoes. It would look positively dreamy on Cara Delevingne, 2012′s Girl of the Year. That’s one way of making the point that, in the 50 years of Valentino outfits on display in Patrick Kinmonth, Antonio Monfreda, and Alistair O’Neill’s masterfully curated exhibition, there is virtually nothing that couldn’t walk down a street or—more likely—a red carpet today. Call it timeless genius, or maybe just settle for the fact that, in being true to his own vision, Valentino managed to glide past the whims of the moment. The curation makes that point crystal clear. “The clothes are grouped not by decade but by instinct,” Kinmonth explained at a preview yesterday, “because Valentino as a designer was always instinctive, never trend-driven.” Just check out the first look in the exhibition, from 1959. The navy blue wool cocktail dress with panel detailing on the back has got Alexa Chung written all over it. (Funny coincidence that Valentino was chosen to present her with the Style Icon trophy at the British Fashion Awards on Tuesday night.)
Kinmonth and Monfreda were responsible for Valentino’sfarewell to fashion in Rome in 2007, but where that event had an imperial grandeur, this one is intimate and reflective. Monfreda took one look at the long, vaulted space in Somerset House and imagined a catwalk where the “audience” was composed of mannequins wearing the clothes, and the “models” were the visitors. It’s a simple, brilliant switcheroo that transforms a tricky venue into le dernier cri in fashion exhibitions. No mean achievement given Kinmonth and Monfreda’s track recordwith the Met’s Costume Institute.
“All my girls, my daughters,” Valentino mused yesterday as he looked at his dresses. “I feel like the daddy.” But fathers have favorites and, pressed to pick a few, the designer indicated apink taffeta suit from 2008, a blue chiffon dress he’d first sketched in the fifties, a satin and lace evening dress that Doris Brynner wore to the Patino Ball in 1968. He chuckled over a camo-patterned couture gown from Fall 1994. “Warhol had done it in art, so I thought why not do it in fashion,” Val recalled. “Not one sold.”
There are, in fact, 45 dresses from the Valentino archives that have never been seen before, alongside more obvious drawcards like Julia Roberts’ Oscar dress, Jackie’s iconic ensemble and Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece’s wedding dress, which took 25 people four months to make, with every minute obvious in the surreally extravagant result. Adjacent to the M-C opulence is a room screening videos that detail the techniques that created the clothes. There is also a “virtual museum” (available soon online), which includes more “how-to’s” for obsessives who care to duplicate the extraordinary handwork on display throughout the show. The “behind-the-scenes” element is Kinmonth and Monfreda’s acknowledgement of London, a rather moreloosey-goosey proposition than Rome, the city that hosted the last Valentino retro they designed. But it also offers an intimate human perspective on the grand legacy that Giancarlo Giammetti, the éminence grise of the Valentino story, has worked so hard to guarantee. The designer himself seemed to be feeling the same thing. Asked what he wanted people to feel as they left the exhibition, his answer was a wistful, “We miss you.”
Plus: See all the photos and read Tim Blanks’ report from the exhibition’s celebration dinner here.