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10 posts tagged "Harold Koda"

Was Charles James More Radical Than Punks? A Look Into the Upcoming Met Exhibition

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Charles James

“It’s an opportunity to blow everyone’s minds,” grinned Costume Institute curator Harold Koda at the new (and very much so, as the paint was still drying) Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art yesterday morning. Koda was referring not just to the physical space, but the forthcoming inaugural exhibition, Charles James: Beyond Fashion. “He is generally acknowledged to be one of a handful of designers to have changed the métier of design,” said Koda of the innovative couturier. “Christian Dior has credited James with inspiring his New Look. And Balenciaga said, ‘James is not America’s best couturier; he is simply the world’s best.’ When you have the two perhaps most important male designers of the mid-20th century endorsing you, you can understand that it’s something of a lack that the general public is not aware of this man’s work.”

Yesterday’s press conference provided a small window into what to expect in May’s exhibition. There was a curated collection of James’ original pieces on display: The deep red, seamlessly movable silk taffeta Tree dress he created for Marietta Peabody Tree (Penelope’s mother) in 1955 and the renowned Four-Leaf Clover ball gown, made for Austine Hearst and worn with a live-gardenia-covered jacket in 1953, were two. The jacket was re-created with the tech-ready help of architecture firm DRS. Elettra Wiedemann slipped into the 10-pound, strapless, curve-highlighting creation to give the attendees a sense of its ballroom twirl.

Costume Institute Presentation on Upcoming Charles James: Beyond Fashion Exhibition“[James was the] originator of the spiral-cut taxi dress. Advocator of the strapless. Inventor of the figure-eight shirt and puffer jacket. A waist that expanded after a meal. The no-cup bra,” asserted Koda, later telling Style.com, “[He] was really radical. He was an early proponent at a point where he made something that was difficult to understand very desirable. He treated the creation of clothing as an art. Even some of the greatest designers have said, ‘Oh, this is not an art. It’s a craft.’ Vionnet said, ‘I’m a dressmaker.’ Balenciaga, who used conventional tailoring and pushed it to the extreme, was still reliant on history. James wasn’t like that at all.”

The exhibition will open May 8 and run through August 10. It’s a move away from recent mass read, overtly pop culture, sexy Costume Institute shows—punk, the model, the supermodel, etc. A lesson in the underappreciated, indeed.

Photos: Joe Schildhorn / BFAnyc.com

Catherine Martin Talks Gatsby

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“We needed to find a way of translating the twenties into something that felt as new and modern and titillating as it was back in 1922,” said Catherine Martin—the designer behind the costumes for husband Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming The Great Gatsby film—during an intimate Q&A with Harold Koda at the Met yesterday evening. If there’s anything that can reignite the Jazz Age’s mystique, it’s Martin’s wares, which are at once painstakingly historically accurate (aside from a zipper here and there) and completely enchanting. The film, which opens on May 10 and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, and Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, boasts such fantasies as feathered frocks worn by the Fitzgerald-penned tale’s “girls in twin yellow dresses” (the looks were inspired by an actual twenties-era vaudevillian act), hordes of boater hats by Rosie Boylan, wigs made in England, and beach pajamas (for the elusive Jordan Baker).

Luhrmann and Martin’s fondness for Schiaparelli (the pair worked on the film for the Met’s Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations exhibition), lent a surreal edge to the story’s infamous party scene. “Baz kept saying, ‘We need a lobster!’” recalled Martin. And he got one—the costumer crafted metallic crustacean headpieces for the showgirls at Gatsby’s raucous soiree (below). Continue Reading “Catherine Martin Talks Gatsby” »

Prada: Her Conversation With Elsa

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The Costume Institute’s Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations show opens to the public on Thursday, following tonight’s red-carpet gala. The press preview this morning provided an early look at an exhibition that juxtaposes the fashions of two of our industry’s most provocative practitioners with videos of imagined conversations between them. Miuccia Prada plays herself and the late Elsa Schiaparelli is brought to life by the actress Judy Davis using real quotes from the designer’s autobiography, Shocking Life. The clips, which were directed by Baz Luhrmann, riff on not only Vanity Fair‘s 1930′s column “Impossible Interviews” but also Louis Malle’s 1981 film, My Dinner With Andre.

The designers are both female, Italian, and feminist, but they disagree more often that not. Schiaparelli: “Dress designing is to me not a profession, but an art.” Prada: “Fashion designers make clothes and they have to sell them. We have less creative freedom than artists. Maybe nothing is art. Who cares?”

Still, the curators Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton often make compelling connections between the designers’ work. The overlaps, for example, between Prada’s Fall 2012 Ugly Chic printed pantsuits (which, of course, reference her own 1990′s take on the 1970′s) and Schiaparelli’s circa-1930′s version are uncanny despite the nearly 80 years that separate them. The exhibition is divided into themes. In “The Surreal Body,” the show’s final section, dresses from each designer are encased in Lucite and juxtaposed with photos of the other’s work. “Schiaparelli is pulled out of the past, made more relevant, and Prada’s contemporary aesthetic is given a rich resonance,” Koda said during the preview, citing production designer Nathan Crowley’s “crisp, timeless” sets. He was nonetheless quick to point out that Prada resists the comparisons. “She was struck by the similarities between two pleated dresses, her own trompe l’oeil and Schiap’s 3-D. But she told me the eras that she looks at, that’s she’s interested in, are the fifties, sixties, and seventies. ‘I really don’t look at Schiaparelli,’ she said.”

Conflict, Malle could’ve told us, makes for good conversation.

Prada and “Schiap”: The Conversations Begin

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Today in Milan, the fashion set got a glimpse of some of the Schiaparelli and Prada pieces that will be on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations exhibition, opening May 10. How does one make an impossible conversation between two great designers from different eras possible? Curators Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton dug through Prada’s archive, as well as the Costume Institute’s collection and private collections, and culled 90 designs and 30 accessories by the two Italian female designers to demonstrate the arresting affinities between their work (Elsa Schiaparelli from the late twenties to early fifties, Miuccia Prada from the late eighties to the present). Take note, these are the first female designers to be the centerpiece of the annual exhibition since Coco Chanel in 2005.

The “conversation” plays out in seven themes, starting with “Waist/Waist Down” (which includes a 1937 black and white Schiaparelli number worn by Madonna’s latest film subject, Wallis Simpson, sitting next to a very similar recent look from Prada). It continues with “Ugly Chic,” “Naif Chic,” “The Classical Body,” “The Exotic Body,” and finally, “The Surreal Body.” The galleries featuring iconic ensembles by the designers are paired with videos, directed by Baz Luhrmann, with made-up conversations between the two women (the idea for these “impossible conversations” was inspired by a Vanity Fair series of unimaginable exchanges in the thirties). Here, a few images from the exhibition.

Photos: Courtesy of Teh Metropolitan Museum of Art

Savage Beauty Comes To Tinseltown

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The Costume Institute’s Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty is currently drawing thronging crowds in New York (so much so that its run has already been extended), but its reach doesn’t stop there. Last night in Los Angeles, Friends of the Costume Institute Cameron Silver and Susan Casden hosted a dinner in honor of the exhibition and its curator, Andrew Bolton. Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, Peggy Moffitt, James Galanos, and Kimberly Brooks all came to raise a glass. So did actress Perrey Reeves, despite running on fumes after a day that began at 4 a.m. (She’s been filming the final season of Entourage.) “I can’t even begin to think about it,” she laughed. “But I adore Cameron.”

L.A. is known for its laid-back style, but the guests knew that where McQueen is concerned, casual wasn’t going to cut it. “Thank you all for dressing up for the chicest night in L.A.,” Silver said. (He, Casden, and several of their guests donned looks by the late designer.) “This is really becoming one of my favorite events of the year,” Bolton chimed in. “The exhibition has been such a heartwarming experience and I love seeing so many of the women tonight in his designs.” Those same women got their hands on a few more, thanks to the Savage Beauty exhibition catalog, and Bolton gamely signed them for any interested party.

Photo: Andreas Branch / Patrick McMullan