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April 20 2014

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5 posts tagged "Madeleine Vionnet"

Hussein Chalayan on His “Unobvious,” “Intelligent-Sexy” Vision for Vionnet

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Hussein Chalayan

On the surface, Madeleine Vionnet—the 1920s and thirties revolutionary known for inventing the bias cut and creating elegant, sculptural, corset-free looks—and Hussein Chalayan—the conceptual daredevil responsible for the bubble dress, wearable furniture, and, most recently, his Spring ’14 hat-umbrella hybrids—don’t appear to have much in common. However, upon further inspection, the grandmother of modern dress and the cerebral Cyprian designer are remarkably similar—namely in their obsessive attention to detail, forward-thinking attitudes toward femininity, and refusal to be slaves to the past. Perhaps that’s why Goga Ashkenazi, who acquired Vionnet in 2012, tapped Chalayan to design the storied house’s demi-couture range. “I can kind of see why they asked me, because of my, let’s say, architectural approach and my interest in geometry,” said Chalayan, whose first Vionnet collection will hit the runway on January 21 during the Couture shows in Paris. “I like to do work that looks new rather than referential. So I think it’s a good collaboration, to be honest.”

Since the announcement of Chalayan’s appointment last week, his forthcoming take on Vionnet’s philosophy has been hotly anticipated. And it will be interesting to see how his presence at the house affects its stature. After laying dormant for more than sixty years, Vionnet was awakened in 2006, and saw a veritable revolving door of designers—some of whom, to put it nicely, didn’t do its namesake justice. Since buying the struggling brand, Ashkenazi (who, in addition to serving as its chairman, is the creative director of the label’s ready-to-wear line) has made a noble effort to restore Vionnet to its former glory. Could Chalayan’s twenty-plus years of boundary-breaking experience be the ticket back to the top? Here, Chalayan talks to Style.com about his debut Vionnet outing; making couture more accessible (if only a little); and why, despite his artistic approach, he’s not just a conceptual designer.

How did Goga Ashkenazi approach you about this project?
Davide Dallomo, who works with Goga, reached out to make the introduction. Then I met Goga in Milan just after the summer. We had a few conversations, and we signed a month before Christmas. Goga liked my initial sketches. We got along right from day one, and I was happy that I was able to realize a lot of my ideas with a few of Goga’s suggestions and changes. We had our first fitting before Christmas, and I’m pretty pleased.

Why did you say yes to Vionnet? Did you have any reservations?
I had to think about it, of course. But when I met Goga, she’s honestly such a life force. She’s got this amazing creative energy. She’s a great entrepreneur, and I thought, “My God, you’re only 33.” Also, she talks about how we’re all honoring Vionnet here. It’s not [Goga's] personal line. Vionnet is such an establishment. It’s got an undisputable heritage, so I thought it might be an exciting thing to do.

Vionnet was a revolutionary in the twenties and thirties, and her work has been inspiring designers for almost a century now. Is it intimidating to design clothes that bear her name?
No, because it’s not old Vionnet. This is a modern interpretation of Vionnet, and the whole idea is to keep her name going. I don’t think there’s pressure because we’re not trying to replicate what she did. We’re trying to work through her spirit. We live in different times. I’d like to think that she’d be pleased with it. It shouldn’t be seen as intimidating. I like to be positive about it rather than to think, “Oh, my God, how am I going to manage?”

In the last decade, several heritage houses have been revived to varying degrees of success. As a designer with a distinct point of view, what do you think it takes to respectfully work for and thrive at a heritage brand?
The whole idea is to look at what Vionnet would have done if she were living in this place and time. We are genuinely looking at the principles and the worldview that Vionnet had, and thinking about how that could be interpreted for now. There are already parallels in my work because of my interest in graphicism and sculptural forms and their relationship to the body. But it’s about honoring the brand. It’s not about my brand. It’s a different kind of responsibility from doing your own thing. The whole project is surrounded by a big sense of responsibility to do the right thing, and to respect Vionnet. Of course, my name will be associated with it, but honestly, it’s an honorary project.

While haute couture can soar into the six-figure price range, demi-couture sticks at a still daunting—but more accessible—five figures. Why is that? And can you speak to the difference between the two practices?
It has nothing to do with the nature or the preciousness of the garments. It’s to do with the number of fittings that the client gets. The fittings are what really raise the cost, so we will do one fitting only, as opposed to ten fittings.

What is the relevance of couture today, whether it be demi-couture or haute couture? How do you think it fits into the fashion landscape in this economic climate?
Goga is the director of Vionnet, and its owner, but she’s also a couture customer. So one thing she was saying is that you spend endless amounts of money on the fittings, and that’s why she wants to do demi-couture. In this economic landscape, it’s a very good way of looking at couture—you are still offering highly refined garments, but customers are saving on the costs because of the reduced number of fittings. That’s quite a good move on her part. Continue Reading “Hussein Chalayan on His “Unobvious,” “Intelligent-Sexy” Vision for Vionnet” »

Caroline McCall Talks Dressing Downton Abbey for the 1920s

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The Ladies of Downton Abbey

Who’s ready for a glam-packed trip back to 1922? This Sunday, Downton Abbey—the British series that explores the dramatic lives of the well-to-do Crawley family and their staff—returns for its fourth season on PBS. And as the cast of lords, ladies, cooks, maids, and butlers enters into the 1920s, they experience a bona fide fashion revolution. With the exception of Maggie Smith’s uppity character, Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, the “upstairs” ladies begin to slip into the loose, beaded, embellished, and sometimes skin-baring designs of the pre-flapper age. Emmy Award-winning costume designer Caroline McCall is responsible for it all.

Many would argue that the elaborate period costumes worn by the show’s aristocratic characters, like the rebellious Lady Edith (who experiences somewhat of a coming of age this season), Lady Mary Crawley (who spends the entire season mourning the loss of her husband, Matthew, and thus exclusively wears frocks in mauve, black, and purple), Cora Crawley, and her mother, Martha Levinson, are one of the series’ biggest draws. “I think the romanticism and the glamour of the show attracts people,” offered McCall of Downton‘s international success. “Of course, the clothing helps with all that. The costumes help you understand who each character is, but would people still enjoy it without the costumes? I think they probably would.” Maybe so, but certainly not as much. Here, McCall talks to Style.com about how icons Jeanne Lanvin, Madeleine Vionnet, and Paul Poiret influenced Downton‘s looks, the perils of working with vintage clothes, and why she chose to dress Maggie Smith in the image of a queen.

Seeing as this season is set in the twenties, the characters are experiencing a fashion revolution. How are the new costumes different from what we’ve seen in the past?
Downton began in 1912, and now we’re in 1922 and 1923. In terms of fashion for women, that’s probably the most change we’ve seen in any single decade. It’s quite extraordinary to see the transformation from how covered-up women were, how uncomfortable and corseted they were, to how completely different they’re dressed in season four. I always tell the actresses that their characters would never have imagined in 1912 that they’d be able to go out like this. We’re not in the flapper period yet, but there are all sorts of designer influences going on in the early twenties. A lot of Lady Mary’s [played by Michelle Dockery] wardrobe is inspired by Vionnet. Lady Rose MacClare [played by Lily James] has a lot of knitwear because the argyle craze was beginning due to the fact that the Royals were starting to wear their knits in day-to-day life, instead of just for sport. Then there’s a lot of Lanvin-influenced dresses. And Edith [played by Laura Carmichael] has all sorts of influences, because of her being in London. She’s a journalist and she’s trying to be more sexy and womanly, so for her, I looked at lots of illustrations by George Barbier. Poiret has also been an influence throughout.

Lady EdithIt sounds like Lady Edith’s wardrobe changes pretty drastically this season.

Yes, it’s really the arc of her story. When you come back in series four, Matthew has been dead for six months, and it feels like the house hasn’t moved on. The whole house has been in darkness since his death, and Edith is desperate to get out. And when she returns to London, boy does she go for it. She’s decided that she’s a new, independent woman of the early twenties, so her wardrobe has changed to reflect all that.

Are any of the characters’ wardrobes inspired by historical figures?

Well, for Violet Crawley—she’s played by Maggie Smith—we looked a lot at Queen Alexandra and what she was wearing. She was the same age as Maggie Smith’s character in the same time period, and she was very glamorous. But she had a particular style. Queen Alexandra was an Edwardian woman, and her wardrobe and her silhouette remained as such during the twenties, but she still had a little pizzazz about her. That’s what I’ve tried to give Maggie. Alexandra always had stunning hats, and she always wore a high collar. Maggie’s silhouette has been more or less the same throughout the whole series—the fabrics and the trims have changed, but the silhouette of her clothing will not. However, a character like Martha Levinson [played by Shirley MacLaine] is desperate to keep up with fashion, even if she’s slightly older in years. She wants to stay young.

How important is historical accuracy when you’re designing these costumes? Do you take any liberties?
We try to create something that’s as true to the time as possible. There are looks this season that people will think are not right, they’ll think they’re ahead of their time, but they’re not. We do a lot of research—I look at books and magazines from the time, and I visit Cosprop, a costume house in London where they have a museum of original clothes. Going through original pieces helps me understand the way things were constructed and the differences, the little nuances, that changed from one year to the next. But obviously you can’t be slavish to the period because you can’t only use original clothes. The fabrics are too fragile. However, when we make new costumes, we make them as closely as possible to what they would have been. Continue Reading “Caroline McCall Talks Dressing Downton Abbey for the 1920s” »

Smile! You’re on Copyright Camera

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Through its latest exhibition, 1931, Face-Dos-Profil (1931, Front-Back-Side), Paris’ Galliera Museum offers a detailed look at the fashions of the 1930s. But the photographs featured in the show, selected from a collection of 10,000 copyrighted documents from the period (courtesy of Paris’ patent office) look more like mug shots of well-dressed delinquents than haute relics. The vintage snaps depict couture-clad ladies posing in front of a three-sided mirror and offer complete 360-degree views of the 1930s’ most covetable designs (think beach pajamas, romantic satin ruffle dresses, sheaths constructed with a complex system of figure-hugging seams, and sumptuous evening wrap coats in silk velvet and white ermine) from the era’s most sought-after names (like Schiaparelli and Mainbocher).

The images, you see, served to prevent knockoffs. In 1931, a large-scale counterfeit clothing operation—which had illegally obtained couture sketches—was uncovered in Paris. Not surprisingly, that same year, a record number of couture houses (almost 50 in all), including Madeleine Vionnet and Lanvin, patented the hats, bags, dresses, and shoes from their collections. Curator Sylvie Lécailler juxtaposes these patent documents with a few actual pieces and fashion spreads from the era. While it’s not the most glamorous peek back at fashion’s past, the show certainly reminds us that imitations are not to be accepted—not then, not now, not ever.

1931 Face-Dos-Profil runs from March 28 through July 6 at the Galerie du Crédit Municipal de Paris, 55 rue des Francs-Bourgeois 75004, Paris.

Photos: Courtesy of the Galliera Museum

Donatella Versace On Her Gift-Giving Strategy, Marc Fisher Responds To Derek Lam, And More…

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“Sometimes I cheat and give friends some of my favorite pieces from my current collection. Whatever I give, though, is chosen with that person’s taste very much in mind,” says Donatella Versace on what she’ll be giving this Christmas. Versace, along with a host of other designers and actors, told WWD what they will be giving, what’s on their wish list, what they will be eating, and more. [WWD]

Stylist Marina Mñnoz is hitting the Park City slopes this holiday season and she suggested a few pieces that will keep you warm and chic. What to wear: Moncler’s retro parkas, Celine loafers, Jil Sander’s ski-luxe sweaters, and Illesteva reflective glasses. [T]

The first directly owned Vionnet boutique, set to officially open during Milan fashion week in February, “pays tribute to Madeleine Vionnet’s staples—geometric shapes contrasting with soft and more rounded ones and the designer’s masterful use of draping,”WWD reports. Another key feature is the use of brass, which was the key element on the designer’s first perfume bottle, throughout the store. [WWD]

Yesterday, Derek Lam sent a cease-and-desist letter to Ivanka Trump Footwear, claiming that they copied his Ayami wedge sandal. Today, Marc Fisher, the producer of Ivanka Trump Footwear, is saying that is not the case, and the design is too popular to stake a claim to it. [WWD]

Photo: David X. Prutting / BFAnyc.com

Vionnet: First Lady Of Fashion

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With so few pants on the runway and so much leg on view, a tribute to Madeleine Vionnet—the designer who ensured that sexiness need not mean frostbite—is a welcome change from today’s usual eye candy. Madeleine Vionnet, Rizzoli’s latest coffee-table topper, is chockfull of designs replete with sensual draping and subtly suggestive nips and tucks; anything sheer is definitely a trompe l’oeil, but the effect feels supremely fresh. (See more images after the jump.) Famous for introducing the bias cut, Vionnet dressed women like chic goddesses. Fellow designer fans are legion: Karl Lagerfeld, one for whom admiration does not come easily, once declared, “Everybody, whether he likes it or not, is under the influence of Vionnet.” Perhaps even more enamored was Cristobal Balenciaga, who once gushed, “Madame Vionnet is my master.” Continue Reading “Vionnet: First Lady Of Fashion” »