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15 posts tagged "Gianni Versace"

Tim Blanks Throws Back to Versace’s Cerebral Sexuality

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Versace

“When somebody says the word Versace to you, a very clear image probably forms in your mind,” Tim Blanks says in today’s Throwback Thursday video. He’s right, of course—there’s the gold Medusa logo, the bondage dresses, and the famed seductive vibe. Gianni Versace’s Fall 1992 show was the peak of this “aggressively sexual” aesthetic—he did call it “Miss S&M,” after all—but there was a deeper, less obvious meaning behind the collection. Blanks attests that the clothes are both physically and intellectually provocative; at the time, the AIDS epidemic was in full force, and Versace’s collection called on the audience to consider sexuality in a different way. No one thought the clothes would sell, but to this day they remain some of Versace’s most-coveted pieces. Miley Cyrus wore a vintage Versace ’92 bondage dress last year. How’s that for staying power? Watch the full video here.

Stephen Burrows Reflects on the Past and Present

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Stephen Burrows

This weekend, the Savannah College of Art and Design honored Stephen Burrows with the André Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award. His dresses, a huge hit in the 1970s, were able to perfectly capture the zeitgeist of the time: Technicolor jersey designed to dance the night away. We sat down with Burrows to discuss his pivotal appearance in 1973′s now iconic Battle of Versailles, the importance of business savvy, and how he believes that Gianni Versace copied his idea for metal mesh.

You studied at FIT. What was it like there in the 1960s?
It was exciting! I learned a lot there, I met some friends who became part of our group and we went into business together. Everyone would wear my clothes, and we would all go out together, and that’s how we all got recognized.

What is the most important thing you learned in fashion school?
I wish I had been more interested in the business part of it, but they didn’t really teach that at the time. I went into fashion school not really knowing anything about fabrics, the grains, patternmaking, but I learned all of that during my time there. I learned that I prefer to drape. Some people who are better patternmakers can look at a garment and see its flat parts—I always preferred to drape; I find it very relaxing.

Did you have any idea how significant the Versailles show in 1973 would become?
At the time it wasn’t significant to anyone except us. And it was just another benefit! It wasn’t supposed to be this battle they call it now. It just turned into that because the French were just so tacky. We didn’t even have scenery—we had brought some, but we couldn’t use it. It was too small—they measured it in inches instead of meters—so we had to get rid of it! Our stage ended up being bare, which looked incredibly modern. And our show, all five of us lasted half an hour. And the French show lasted for two hours! They had sleighs and reindeer, all these props, and it was just too long. And then we came on, and in half an hour we turned it out, and the crowd was screaming! They threw their programs in the air and were so amazed. But I did meet Saint Laurent that day, and he told me I make beautiful clothes, so I sort of knew that was an iconic moment for me.

Stephen Burrows

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing young designers today?
Finding funding is really hard, especially for minorities. It’s so different today than it was back then. You need so much more money to do anything today, and it’s all about branding. Back then, if you had $50,000, you could start a business. Now today, you need probably $5 million and that maybe lasts a year.

What would you consider your single greatest achievement?
The lettuce edge. It came from a mistake that became this big thing. We were making something, and I stretched the fabric by accident. It’s about pulling the fabric as you’re sewing them, and that became a trademark of mine. And chain mail—I was the first one to do it, before [Gianni] Versace did it. Of course, he saw it in a show we did in Japan called The Best Six, and the next season he happened to have chain mail in his collection.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I wish I had been more business inclined. And that’s because I hated math—I barely made it out of high school because of math. To me, 2 and 2 is 5, and that’s why I like knits, but for accounting, that doesn’t really work.

Are there any young designers you find particularly exciting right now?
I love Gareth Pugh, when it’s not too costumey. That’s the problem with fashion today, it’s too costumey. Where on earth are you going? In this outfit that costs $9 million! Where are you going!

And are there any other qualms you have with fashion at the moment?
Well, another problem I have is that girls don’t really know how to walk in trains. The train ends up in between their legs, and they’re kicking it in front of them instead of the train being in back where it belongs. They don’t know quite how to kick the train so it follows them instead of coming up between their legs. If you’re going to wear a dress, you need to learn how to carry it.

What advice would you offer young designers?
Learn about the financial side of fashion. That will keep you alive with a healthy business. You need to mix the commercial with what you do. Many young designers fight against that, but that’s what you need to make a healthy business—to learn how to blend the two together.

Photo: Courtesy of SCAD 

Glitter and Be Gay? Addressing the LGBT Influence in Fashion

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Calvin Klein AdAs industries go, fashion may be the least closeted there is: No one can deny the massive impact made by men and women who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered in the history of fashion and costume. Fashion historian Valerie Steele addresses the contributions made by LGBT people in a new exhibition, A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk, opening this week at the Museum at F.I.T. It includes pieces ranging from designs by Jean Paul Gaultier and Gianni Versace to Edwardian suits and nineteenth-century finery; clothing made by gays and for gays; as well as those items and styles co-opted and fetishized by gay audiences, and from gay audiences. (See, for example, Versace’s adaptation of leather fetish regalia into his women’s haute couture.)

As the exhibition makes clear—not that it wasn’t out, as it were, already—the gay contribution to fashion is beyond doubt. The question that’s much harder to answer is why. Shortly after the show was announced last year, I sat down with Steele, who co-curated the exhibit with Fred Dennis, to try to tease out the curious correlation and connection between gayness, politics, fashion, and style.

It goes without saying—but let’s say it—that many, many fashion designers and professionals are gay. Is gayness fashion’s default position?

I don’t know if it’s the default position, because there are heterosexual men, and there are women of all different sexualities, straight, gay, and bi, in fashion—though fewer of them have come out than gay men. But I think it’s not just a stereotype to say that there’s a lot of interest in fashion and style among a lot of gay men. What we’re interested in doing with Queer History is, if you can get beyond saying it’s just a stereotype, maybe you can start exploring why it might be the case that there’s this interest in fashion and style. You’re not pathologizing it; for one thing, most people like fashion now. You could explore, is there a kind of gay sensibility that would be drawn to issues of style and fashion?

And is there?
We tend to think yes. But we think there’s not one gay aesthetic, but at least a couple of different gay aesthetics. Several, probably: One that would tend to be more idealizing, and the other that would be more disruptive and gender-fuck.

But that idealizing aesthetic could be a kind of misogyny, no? You have male designers creating designs for women’s bodies that aren’t necessarily forgiving, or even possible…
If you go online, this is the vox pop: Do gay men hate women? You saw that [first] in the fifties, when you had all these very homophobic commentators, like the psychiatrist Bergler, who said that gay men hate women and therefore they make weird clothes for them to wear. But the point is, gay men have made all different types of clothes. It’s not just that they like girls to look like teenage boys, or they like girls to look like a caricature of women. It’s all different styles. And you find that straight men and women of different sexual persuasions also doing those, too. It’s much more related to their individual aesthetic and their time period than it is to their sexual orientations. So I think you have to confront that. Some people who don’t like fashion are going to say that it’s gay men making things for putatively straight women. But I think you can’t be held back by homophobic complaints. I think it’s more important to try and explore where things might lead you and not be constrained by irrational homophobia—and irrational fashion phobia, too.

Which go hand in hand.
Which often do go hand in hand.

Where does this connection between gay men and fashion come from?
I think it’s partly a kind of self-selection early on that gay boys, maybe before they know they’re gay, are interested often in artistic pursuits. “Artistic” was always a kind of euphemism for being gay. Lots of gay people talk about, “When I was four, I was telling my mother how to dress. When I was four, I was doing elaborate drawings of ladies’ costumes.” That’s before you have much of a sexual identity, but there’s already possibly something there that’s attractive about artistic and transformative fields like fashion. Fashion is about artifice and transformation and fantasy and a certain idea of beauty. I think it’s intrinsically very appealing to a lot of people, and it may just be that, at least in certain cultures—and there’s been so little cross-cultural work done, it’s hard to tell—that may be something that’s part of a gay male sensibility. Continue Reading “Glitter and Be Gay? Addressing the LGBT Influence in Fashion” »

Inside Punk: Chaos to Couture

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By now, you’ve no doubt already heard about—or even seen—the facsimile of CBGB’s bathroom that Andrew Bolton included in the opening gallery of the Met’s Punk: Chaos to Couture exhibition, which opens to the public on Thursday, following tonight’s red-carpet festivities. “CBGB was the heart of punk in New York,” said Bolton at a preview this morning. “Punk was all about shock and provocation, and so to start off an exhibition in the Metropolitan Museum of Art with a toilet—well, I thought was the ultimate punk statement,” the curator told Style.com.

The exhibition juxtaposes original (and contemporary) punk wares by Vivienne Westwood against luxury and haute couture looks from the likes of Dolce & Gabbana (who are featured in the Graffiti room, above), Maison Martin Margiela, Comme des Garçons, Dior Haute Couture by John Galliano, and Gianni Versace (yes, the 1994 safety-pin dress is on display). One might be hard-pressed to differentiate between Vivienne Westwood’s destroyed seventies sweaters and Rodarte’s Fall 2008 knit dress, which are on display side by side. The same gallery boasts Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s lewd T-shirts (for instance, her famed “Tits” top hangs against a black PVC curtain). “I love that we start off with T-shirts with very obscene political and sexual slogans,” said Bolton. “They’re still shocking thirty-seven years later—in a way, more shocking, because of our political correctness.” Beyond the T-shirts lies a reproduction of McLaren and Westwood’s infamous—and iconic—shop, Seditionaries, which stood at 430 King’s Road. The remainder of the show was divided into DIY categories, like Hardware, Graffiti and Agitprop, Bricolage, and Destroy—and each room was punctuated by a film by Nick Knight.

“No other subcultural movement has a greater or more enduring influence on how we dress today,” Bolton noted in his opening remarks. Consider, as evidence, the fact that there is a slew of Fall 2013 looks in the show, from such houses as Viktor & Rolf, Saint Laurent, and Gareth Pugh—whose Fall 2013 trash-bag dresses are arranged into a veritable mob in the center of the Bricolage installation.

Bolton made sure to steer away from clichés—for instance, he noted that hairstylist Guido Paulo, who created the spiky Technicolor mops that topped each mannequin’s head, avoided Mohawks, and instead pulled inspiration from Richard Hell’s signature ’do.

“I wanted to present punk in a respectful, and even reverential, manner,” said Bolton. That’s already earning the show some mixed reviews. And of course, there are those who protest discussing punk in a high-fashion context—or, for that matter, paying couture prices for a punk-tinged look. “I think that’s completely punk,” said Bolton in response. “People seem to forget that punk really was a commercial movement. Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, in a way, created what we know as the punk look. And they commodified it,” he explained.

As for why consumers and designers, from Karl Lagerfeld to Met Ball host Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy, are still drawn to the seventies subculture, Bolton offers, “Punk endures today because it reflects our longing for a time when originality and creativity were celebrated, a time when fashion was provocative and confrontational. And, above all, a time when fashion championed the individual and self-expression.”

Punk: Chaos to Couture opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this Thursday, May 9.

Versace Nails It

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Versace’s Fall 2013 collection walked down the Milan runway just hours ago. The looks—some of which were in plaid or PVC—definitely had hints of the punk sensibility that’s been gaining steam this season. But what really jumped out at us was Ms. Versace’s use of metal nails in a few of her sexed-up wares. One purple dress, in particular (above, left), recalled that famed Versace safety-pin gown that Liz Hurley wore in 1994 (above, right). (Side note: Hurley’s gown will appear in the Met’s upcoming Punk: Chaos to Couture exhibition.) We’re also reminded of Christopher Kane’s ultra-feminine Spring ’13 collection, which was literally held together with plastic nuts and bolts. So, we have to ask: Could Kane’s Spring fastenings have ignited a sartorial hardware movement? Or perhaps more pressing: Is Donatella doing for the nail what Gianni did for the safety pin? We may need to wait until the end of fashion month (and until the Fall ’13 collections start popping up on the red carpet) to find out.

Photos: Versace Fall 2013—Filippo Fior/InDigital/ GoRunway; Elizabeth Hurley—Richard Young / Rex USA