3 posts tagged "Charles Frederick Worth"
The exhibition Cartier: Le Style et l’Histoire opens tomorrow in the freshly restored Salon d’Honneur at the Grand Palais in Paris, and to say it’s dazzling would be a gross understatement. Overwhelming is the only fit description for the show’s richness and scope.
Upon entering this low-lit exhibit, the diamonds on which the jeweler built its reputation hit you between the eyes. Slowly spinning on a column is a remarkable display of tiaras worn by such royalty as Princess Marie Bonaparte and American high-society figures including Mary Scott Townsend, whose headpiece prompted one onlooker to comment, “But she wasn’t even royalty!”
Yet however regal Cartier’s origins, the purpose of this 600-piece exhibition is to show its evolution from “jeweler to the kings” to inventor of modern, radical style. Two early twentieth-century examples: the bold graphics of diamonds paired with onyx, and daring to show color combinations that were previously considered in poor taste (think sapphires and emeralds). The idea of shaking up the fine jewelry palette started when Cartier developed close ties with fashion, notably with the original haute couturier, Charles Frederick Worth. It further gathered momentum many years later, when Coco Chanel began mixing Cartier’s wares with semiprecious stones. A Deco evening dress by Jérôme, on loan from the Palais Galliera, adds further texture to an impressive array of everyday objects small and large, from cigarette cases and lighters to opera glasses, handbags, and clocks.
Two cornerstone gems are the 478-carat Sri Lankan sapphire, one of the largest in the world, which once belonged to Queen Marie of Romania, and the Berenice, a carved emerald of Mongol origin, which was mounted into a necklace for the International Exhibition of 1925.
And then there were Cartier’s clients, A-listers all. A rogues’ gallery of Café Society figures, loyal customers, and style-makers begins with major collector Daisy Fellowes, whose favorite tutti-frutti Hindu necklace was renegade in its day, and includes Marjorie Merriweather Post, Gloria Swanson, Elizabeth Taylor, and the original panther client, Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, as well as Barbara Hutton (who preferred tigers). Special displays pay tribute to Maria Félix, who is said to have brought live baby crocodiles into the Cartier shop to illustrate her commission. The jeweled result is on display.
Also shown are more familiar pieces, such as the Halo tiara, which the Duchess of Cambridge wore on her wedding day in 2011. The crown was originally commissioned in 1936 by the Duke of York, the future King George IV of England. So opulent is Cartier’s display that, by the time you catch Grace Kelly’s practically perfect 10.47-carat diamond engagement ring, it seems like the most demure piece in the world.
The signature struts of today’s catwalkers, such as Cara Delevingne and Karlie Kloss, can be traced back to the early twentieth century, when the shift toward movement and modernity produced a desire to see clothes in motion. Staged in the U.S. and France, these first fashion shows were—as Caroline Evans posits in her new book, The Mechanical Smile—”a nodal point” for the convergence of everything from visual art and cinema to international trade and women’s liberation. “This shift occurs in the same period as cinema, so you have lots of moving devices, and people were particularly fascinated by the technology,” Evans, a professor of fashion history and theory at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, told Style.com from London. “Collectively, it contributed to a sense of modernity and a sense of speed and acceleration.”
Though not the first designer to use live models, Charles Frederick Worth was, in the nineteenth century, among the earliest dressmakers to account for movement in his creations. And later, Lady Duff-Gordon and the House of Lucile, as well as Paul Poiret, among others, helped foster the early twentieth-century rise of the fashion show. In time, models replaced the practice of using dolls to sell clothes. “The most pioneering designers were all excellent sales promoters,” Evans said. “Fashion is an industry. It’s a creative industry, but there’s no reason why you can’t sell creativity.”
It’s ready-to-wear time, but the fashion set will fete made-to-measure clothes tonight when Paris Haute Couture opens at the Hôtel de Ville. The Swarovski-sponsored exhibition showcases one hundred pieces from the Musée Galliera’s archives and a few loans from private collections. According to curator Olivier Saillard, the Galliera’s director, it tells a chronological story, starting with Charles Frederick Worth at the turn of the century (the show’s first dress was owned by the Comtesse Greffulhe, who inspired Marcel Proust’s Duchesse de Guermantes) and ending with one of the final pieces Cristóbal Balenciaga made before he shuttered his couture business in 1968.
Many of the dresses are juxtaposed with contemporary pieces; “For me, haute couture is not a discipline slave to the present,” Saillard explained. A Galliano-designed Dior, for example, is matched with Paul Poiret, while a 1920s Chanel is paired with a dress from Bouchra Jarrar’s latest couture collection. Saillard has affection for every piece in the show, but he’s partial to the 1930s. “The thirties is the most elegant period. There were a lot of women designers: Vionnet, Chanel, Schiaparelli—that means something,” he said. “They didn’t see back to the past, they see only the future.” As for couture’s future, Saillard says it’s not dead. “There are a lot of designers interested in haute couture: Raf Simons at Dior; Comme des Garçons is doing another kind of couture; Nicolas Ghesquière was, for me, a good designer who could make haute couture.”
Paris Haute Couture is free to the public from March 2 through July 6, at the Hôtel de Ville.