Sunday, my desk is in the Huntington Park in Pasadena California. The reason to be here is the opening of Figaro at the Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles with costumes designed by Azzedine Alaïa – I admit a long way to travel for an opera, but I could not miss seeing the Alaïa designs for this new expression in his work. And they were clearly wonderful. Reds and Whites that worked with and played off of the sets of Jean Nouvel. A memorable evening and worth the journey.
This 180° view of Los Angeles was the welcome dinner party by Deborah Borda of the Philharmonic for Azzedine Alaïa, Frank Gehry and Jean Nouvel at the Soho House. All recalled how the collaboration started: Frank Gehry asking two other architects he respects, Jean Nouvel and Zaha Hadid to collaborate on two of the three Mozart operas with texts by Da Ponte. Gehry himself last year doing the sets for “Don Giovanni”, this year Nouvel “Le nozze di Figaro” and next ” Cosi fan tutte” by Hadid - and all to be conducted by Dudamel.
The Frank Gehry theatre at the Philharmonic was a good challenge for Jean Nouvel to do a dramatic presentation that was perfectly matched to the theatre and with the Opera. When it was lit bright red,
the drama filled the audience with good expectations.
It was a good feeling to see Azzedine Alaïa and Jean Nouvel take a bow together on stage, after all those long months of work and conversations and the questionings, and explorations and now - the process is over, it is time for a bow… ready to start something new, it is not an end but a beginning.
Dorothea Roschmann singing as the countess Almaviva seen here in red, a beautiful color for the Nouvel set. Her voice is astonishing and received endless applause,
her dress reflecting her voice.
Alaïa had never created costumes for a theatrical performance, nor previously designed menswear. Over the course of meetings with Jean Nouvel and Dudamel in Paris and the 11 performers traveling to his Paris atelier for fittings Alaïa made specific designs for each of them. Here the cast is seen all together at the end of the Opera.
Edwin Crossley-Mercer, a robusto French baritone who portrays Figaro in the Opera, took all of us to the Huntington gardens in Pasadena for a day of serenity in nature. The gardens are a widely different selection of outdoor “rooms” filled with an amazing number of plants. And since Mr Huntington’s death in 1927 have been growing and growing. But of them all, the cactus gardens are my favorite and are just astonishing and, of course, there is the perfect climate for them in Pasadena.
The week’s excitement has been so much talk about punk, and black, and music, and
fashion because of the gala exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in NY.
Looking at the books, and sitting quietly reading
about the clothes on display, and somehow trying to
understand how the movement happened. As with almost everything, it had its reasons planted in the past and grew quickly to its future.
And the news of Tai Missoni came this week. And I remember his quote on
black, “black is the mother of all colors” he would say.
And he was the master of colors.
In London in 1971 Malcolm McLaren opened a small shop in Kings Road, selling rock and roll vinyl records and clothes from the 50′s . Vivienne Westwood, his girlfriend, started designing some clothes and T-shirts… the shop was called “Too fast to live, too young to die” and later became SEX. And the original members of the SEX PISTOLS were their customers.
Today this is history and Vivienne is the symbol of punk fashion.
Influenced by the whole punk week, it seemed natural to do our own interpretation here at 10 Corso Como… mannequins wore Alaia’s wonderful python skirts and belts, Balenciaga T-shirts, and Kris Ruhs body jewels.
A couture vision of a new punk for the 21st century.
We all know and recognize that the punk movement started
in London. But its symbol, the safety pin,
was invented in America in 1849. It is disputed
who actually introduced it to punk fashion, but surely John
Lyndon (known by his nickname Johnny Rotten) used them to hold his pants
together. One of the founders of the punk movement
in the late’70′s he was certainly one of
the most recognizable musicians of the punk era.
In 1994 Gianni Versace created a whole punk collection, Richard Avedon shot the advertising campaign, and the catalogue for it, is now a collector’s item. This bag is an example of pure Versace, a designer I always highly admired. Daring – he knew the meaning of the word. He was always daring in his life and his creations.
Soo, the Catwoman was a punk model, an icon of the time! Sorry, being that I have three cats, I am always happy to see stories of them.
Here is the famous picture by Ray Stevenson that was in all the magazines, and now must be included in any book about the start of the punk movement.
In the mid sixties while the punk movement hardly existed and would eventually bring all of us into wearing black and camouflage colors, Tai Missoni was presenting these smart designs that would later evolve into the vibrant color palettes for which he would become globally famous. An influential reference then,
and for the fashion world for over forty years.
His colors were as vivid as his imagination.
Nobody ever, before or since, had his eye for mixing colors that did not belong together but worked perfectly. Here a dress from the early 70′s and a pin with flowers.
Happiness and optimism abounding.
Peter Max was born in Berlin. His images became the voice of the
counterculture of the 1960′s with a bright palette and gentle images. So
much so that his serious body of work including painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, video today is recognized as an icon of American 60′s and 70′s design movement.
Here a silk scarf from 1960′s with his typical bright psychadelic palette of colours.
Pop artist Peter Max’s tennis shoes from the late 60′s.
Max made a series of artistic sneakers for Randy Co,
really so incredibly vivid and modern, they seem made for right now.
Books. I will never get tired of talking about books. They nurture the mind but also the eyes. Getting lost in the beauty of books, their covers, their pages inside.
This week I was lucky to see the preview of an exhibition in Paris at Palais du Tokyo on Chanel parfum and the many inspirations that led Mademoiselle Chanel to the creation of the legendary No. 5. The most incredible journey in writings, photographs, and books, with many of the books from the ’20′s and ’30′s also objects of art.
A special celebration dinner in Place Vendome overlooking the Hotel Ritz, now closed for renovation. For 37 years, Coco Chanel lived in rooms at the Ritz from 1934 until her death in 1971. Steps from her couture house on the Rue Cambon, she had furnished the suite of rooms with her own furniture. Now, under renovation, a painting by 17th century artist Charles LeBrun was discovered in the apartment.
One must wonder what else might have been there?
The most famous fragrance in the world. Here the invitation to attend a preview of the Culture exhibition at Palais du Tokyo. No. 5 is curated by Jean Louis Froment who had earlier brought the first Chanel Culture exhibitions to Russia and China.
Chanel N.5 might have been inspired by grief, but it was born from love.
Created by Chanel herself with Ernest Beaux, a master perfumer in Grasse, after her affair with the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich. Beaux had been perfumer to the Tzars.
He used 80 different ingredients to achieve its magic released as a unique whole.
No single note dominent. A Number one.
N. 5 is N. 1 of course in the world, but there was another great parfum by Chanel made just a few years later, in 1925. It was the same kind of bottle and packaging, and also crafted by perfumer Ernest Beaux. It’s name derived from the English word for “jardin” (garden).Chanel used to say she wanted her bottle to be
“pure transparency…an invisible bottle”.
Here, Jean Louis Froment explains the structure of the exhibition he created where books, poems, artistic movements, foreign countries
and chance encounters …all bring their cultural effects to this enchanting journey.
To illuminate this unique and timeless perfume’s connection between Chanel and the arts, her friends, the writers, poets, musicians of the day like Jean Cocteau,
Pablo Picasso, Stravinsky, Apollinaire, Man Ray, Picabia… and reveal the subtle links of correspondences is stunning to see.
An enchanting garden, doubled by reflections. An homage to gardens, flowers, to Buren too perhaps? Being one of the artists Jean Louis Froment presented in Bordeaux and a close friend.
The spectacular installation of mirrors installed in 1991 by Daniel Buren at the CAPC (musee d’art contemporain de Bordeaux) magnifies the already amazing architecture of “Entrepots Laine”, the old warehouse rediscovered by Jean Louis Froment in 1973 where he created the first contemporary art center of its kind in France.
Vivienne Westwood, Azzedine Alaia and Jean Louis Froment
in Bordeaux at CAPC, 1991.
Frank Stella, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Sol Lewitt, here presented with an introduction by JL Froment. This catalogue of the CAPC Bordeaux exhibition “Minimal 1″,
is one I cherish. It is on my special “rare books never to lose” shelf, next to my desk.
I love this triangle piece by Dan Flavin. Flavin was one of the American artists presented at CAPC the year that Alaia also presented his work.
It was a great blend of talents and disciplines and an unforgettable moment for all of us who had the privilege to participate.
Is coffee the beverage of thoughts? This Sunday thinking of the soon to open 10 CC
in Shanghai and the books which are such an important part of our DNA,
I decided not to put the books next to the gallery
as in Milano but next to/close together with the café.
A literary café. Why not? From the Ottoman Empire to today
the cafè culture is part of our identity as Europeans. Coffee and dreams.
Most of the famous novels and literary moments
of all time were written in cafés,
like in the famous La Rotonde in Paris
where Hemingway wrote “The Sun also rises”.
Today there is a bookshop café in Paris in the 4th
Arrondissement called “Café Livres” that is charming.
With lines and lines of books, books covering the walls, the bar,
and the counter, you can sit in their comfortable
leather chairs, read, and have lunch there.
It is in Brussels Belgium, this large space, a dream
of all bookshops. 1500 square meters of culture.
Where books are everywhere from ceiling to floor -
a restaurant where you can taste food and try books,
here you can read, buy, have a coffee, a drink, and also a meal.
A place where you can spend a whole day and more.
Coffee shops and cafés have always been like the breath of life
– central in our culture –and to share this way of living
in Seoul has been a wonderful experience.
People enter through the bookshop and see all the beautifully
displayed books before sitting down to sip a coffee,
or have a perfect lunch in our 10 Corso Como café. Events, book readings,
book signings, or just sitting and reading…
so many people enjoy spending an afternoon here.
Book lovers in China can now go to the magnificent “The Bookworm”.
Both English textbooks together with an amazing China section
make this one of the best bookshops in the world.
It is also a central meeting place where writers
are invited to talk, speakers introduce their ideas,
and all the cultures are mixed together along
with the tables, couches, seating counters,
and a bar and kitchen that also hosts wine tastings through
their wine club… everyone’s favorite place to rendezvous!
A cultural haven overlooking the calm blue sea of Greece. In the middle
of the Mediterranean , on the island of Santorini in the town of Oia,
the unexpected paradise of the bookshop called Atlantis Books.
Founded by American writer Craig Walzer. One can read, hear talks,
meet traveling scholars who share their favorite books
from the shelves of the Atlantis…reading by the wine dark sea….bliss.
The fascination with the romance of the literary cafés
has opened more and more bookshops with coffee.
That is behind the creation of this project in NY.
Fascinating and beautifully conceived, but … deceiving.
No Books! For people like me, a book is smell, touch, eyes,
it must involve the senses. The smell of coffee
is not enough for the true cultural effect.
The biggest public library ever and recognized as
the most sustainable public building in Amsterdam.
It is a gem! The design is stunning, using all round arcs as corners, to cruise around
and find the perfect hub of research and pleasure. It is so big,
so beautiful, you can get dizzy and lose your way.
There is also an outside terrace overlooking the city with wide windows
so you feel you are in a modern art museum. Books being such a pleasure to see.
Books, music, coffee, dvds, magazines, both new and back issues…and coffee.
And a lounge with leather seats.
All in one amazing unique space right in the heart
of the crowded Daikanyama District. Both big and cozy – very rare to achieve.
Tsutaya books is an exquisite building where everything
appears to be perfect, from the design to the content.
It is worth a trip to Tokyo.
I just happened to find an old issue of, “Il Giornalino della Domenica” or in English,
The Little Sunday Journal. It is an old style graphics journal and the many illustrations are of the events of the week, local news stories, and foreign affairs.
Nowadays we are bombarded by very strong images.
The reality of photojournalism is everywhere.
I think I prefer to calmly and peacefully look at drawings and let my mind travel through them. It is a way to get away from this constant visual bombardment
and still be in touch with life.
The Little Sunday Journal was the first magazine for children in Italy, but it clearly was read by many more. It was founded in 1906 in Florence by “Vamba”,
a pseudomym for Luigi Bertelli who was a well respected
journalist at the turn of the century.
The journal published stories by Edmondo De Amicis, Giovanni Pascoli
and Grazia Deledda, some of the most noted writers of the time, as well as works
by the avant-garde graphic artists Sergio Tofano and Filiberto Scarpelli.
It introduced off set printing into magazine publishing, leaving us
some of the most wonderful graphic covers still today.
Sadly, it closed after five years of publication printing only from 1906 to 1911.
Here the first cover in June 1906, illustration by Filiberto Scarpelli, two months after a very large eruption of Vesuvius changed the shape of the crater above Pompei.
As much as I love photography there is something magic about the work of the human hand. It adds something alive when the edge of journalism melds with the graphic art and makes reading a visual journey quite different.
That is why I love comic books. Here, an unusual book cover where the writing and illustration both speak to the Beat Generation.
Igor Tuveri has signed his graphic art as IGORT since the 1970′s and
worked with many major publications here in Italy Linus, Alter,
and Metal Hurlant among them. He is one of the comic aristocracy.
Very well known in the field, he was one of the first to recognize the graphic
genius growing in Japanese animation and has collaborated with many of
the graphic artists of Japan. In 2000 he started Coconino, a publishing
company for graphic comics and cartoons that merged with
Luigi Toccafondo’s production company Fandango in 2009.
Here one of his illustrations for “Casino”.
One of the most original artists today when it comes
to graphic novel art is Marjane Satrapi. Her graphic autobiography “Persepolis” dealing with her childhood in Iran and being raised in Europe has won many awards.
The book was adapted as an animated movie and shown at Cannes in 2008.
She has done another film with Chiara Mastroianni
called, “Chicken and Plums” and now lives in Paris.
Here one of her vivid illustrations.
Joe Sacco is perhaps first a journalist and then a graphic artist.
This has moved the emphasis from the words to the pictures, and back to the
words in a full circle. But both are for him equal and he is considered
one of the pioneers of contemporary graphic journalism.
He uses the format of short comic journalism to report on events and wars around the
world. His books are informative and intuitive, without being harsh.
Joe Sacco contributed to the series of autobiographical comic books started
by Harvey Pekar in 1976. Called “American Splendor”, the series is based on Pekar’s life – working as a clerk in a Veteran’s Hospital, his car, his marriage and his friends.
Pekar had seen Robert Crumb’s comics in Cleveland where they both listened
to jazz – and he could see that pictures with words had a wider use and could be used for more complex stories. The first artist to work with him on American Splendor was his jazz friend Robert Crumb, still a legend in American comic graphics.
So many people from all over the world are here for the Salone del Mobile,
it seems like everyone you see or speak with is involved with design this week.
Design is such an important part of our life – as much as we all live with fashion,
there is no fashion without design – the proportions, shapes,
the space in which we all work, and the objects we have around us.
But is there design without art?
Jean Nouvel’s project creating office environments for Salone is quite
unusual. Four designers and friends, Marc Newson, Michele De Lucchi,
Ron Arad, and Philippe Starck show their studios to the public and
talk about their visions of what a home or working environment could be,
and whether they can separate the second from the first.
This week one of the most acclaimed projects of the Salone
are the Jean Nouvel offices – the idea of the home away from home,
or is it a real home? Will the future see our working space so differently?
For many of us our work is where our heart is, and our time at our desk
already filled with life and joy, so these rooms were a delight to see.
Here, Kris in my office showing me a small prototype
of a new system of tables and shelving.
Made famous in the 1960’s by the “Superonda”
sectional sofa that looked like a jigsaw puzzle piece,
and all the SuperStudio projects, Poltronova also produced this perfect modular bookshelf and storage unit in natural and black lacquered wood.
A desk I have always desired and will never have! The simplest and most
perfect, designed by Franco Albini in 1958, in wood and enameled black
steel. It seems as though it were designed today, with just enough space
for the computer or lunch – very future thinking.
Looking like something from 1962, the year he was born,
Michiel Van der Kley and Artifort brought out this work station called Globus in 2006.
Here, a unique chair perfect for a cozy home office. Made by Brazilian
artists Fernando and Humberto Campana, it seems ideal inspiration for me
right now thinking about China.
The new store for Shanghai is taking shape in many different directions.
One of the best parts for me of planning new projects is
working on the graphics and new designs.
Here, a drawing just arrived on my desk from Kris’ studio -
–still smelling of the oil paint he uses for all the graphics –
that will be part of Shanghai’s “personality” when we open in September.
The city of Milano again gets ready for its best week of the year,
Furniture Fair. Perhaps because I have always followed architecture and
design as closely as I have followed fashion – and also Spring is finally
arriving – it is the best week to be out and about in Milano. We opened
last night our Angelo Mangiarotti exhibition at the gallery and in
Torino, the Regio Theatre, designed by Carlo Mollino, will celebrate on
Tuesday its 40th anniversary. A good beginning.
Carlo Mollino was famous for designing in so many areas, buildings, fashion, photography and beautiful chairs. His chairs, if they ever come up for auction, carry such strong prices only the very brave can bid these days. In 1990, on the occasion of the exhibition at the gallery, we printed a “Chairs” catalogue with pictures signed,
“Dr. Architetto Carlo Mollino” that showed his drawings before re touching, where even to see his work process is wonderful.
Here, a great wood chair (1959) by Angelo Mangiarotti that one could say recalls the Mollino shapes…….but that was the period!
The most famous of the Mangiarotti stone and marble tables were like toys, mostly produced by Skipper. In the 1980’s in Milano, a stroll on Saturday afternoon would always include Skipper’s store, right next to the Emilio Pucci store….to see the latest Eros pieces, and shop.
Angelo Mangiarotti lived to be 91 and was prolific until his death last year. Here, the “Ide”. Another famous and beautiful shaped light he designed many years after his well recognized “Saffo” lamp,a collector item today. Very rare to find.
Today Ruhs’ new 6 meter long stair chandelier has been installed as a great welcome to all our guests visiting Milano for Furniture Fair.
Finally – the first Sunday at my Milano desk in what seems like
months… and it looks so beautiful with the orchids and the soft light
of early spring – so good for the heart to be home, even in the rain.
Another party! This time to celebrate the 5th anniversary of 10 Corso Como Seoul,
we all got together at AvenueL.
A special compilation 10 Corso Como cd in honor
of our anniversary is called “Seoul Melody” -
a name we created for Star Museum or SM Entertainment,
the indy record label here that is making such an
international splash these days with many of their bands.
It was always such a wonderful surprise to sit in the 10 Corso Como Café
at Avenue L and look out the windows – and now after a big renovation, it
is again open with its flowers all back in place for spring.
Here the entrance to a great restaurant in Seoul that serves classic Korean food.
Real Korean food, I think like most traditional foods,
certainly Italian, is good, healthy and light.
After twenty courses we were feeling great – old friends
having a good time and taking pictures to celebrate.
We had two evenings in Shanghai at two very popular
and elegant clubs, and in both, everybody,
especially the very young and trendy, seemed to love spending
the evening playing billiards. In the 1800’s,
all the men’s social clubs in England played,
“the winning and losing carambole game”.
Women not allowed. Now everyone of both sexes here is playing -
replacing ping pong tables with pool tables.
An unusual experience in Shanghai was receiving an invitation
to have dinner with Mr. Tweed Roosevelt,
the great grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt
and a nephew of President Franklin Roosevelt.
The house is a Neo-Classical building originally built in 1920,
wonderfully placed at 27 Bund, looking over the skyline,
and of course the conversation at dinner is one I will treasure.
We started the evening with a tour of the house and its stunning
wine cellar that holds a collection from all over the world.
A very foggy rainy day in Shanghai with Kris at the new 10 Corso Como store.
The building itself is so beautiful with a spectacular view on the Golden Temple and Nanjing Park… Here a drawing of the doors on our working desk this Sunday.
Outside our window the view is magical with the Golden Temple all lit and the Shanghai streets reflecting the night lights – inside a few strands of prayer flags are the only help from heaven as demolition starts on the new 10 Corso Como – we have a very long way to go. 6 months and the count down begins…
Last night, March 23rd, at 8:30 we were all united to save the planet. To help reminding ourselves that we need to use less energy, it was lights off for one hour – only candles. Here in the beautiful Italian restaurant Capo, in Shanghai, the candlelight was a special time to be without lights and makes me think we should do more of this – everything looked so beautiful.
Kris and Felix planning the evening’s parties at Rat Tar Art Bar
at Reel down the road on Nanjing.
The ceiling of the new café restaurant at 10 Corso Como Cheongdam is a great design by Kris that reflects light everywhere in the room. Like a maze of reflections, your eye can wander forever in the endless repetitions that float above you. Using reflection to light is very energy efficient and why the ancients would put mirrors on the walls.
Never mind how famous his name has become, he is always the same warm person.
Everyone was telling him this in Seoul during his exhibition, “you are so normal!”
I have found in all my work, that the truly talented people are the nicest.
What a beautiful exhibition in the new temporary space at 10 Corso Como Seoul
while we celebrate our 5th anniversary.
Peter’s “Images of Women” presents such strong and impressive ideas.
Each surprises. Each is different. His eye is unequaled.
It is nice to know that his photos are available in a book
I have in my office when I return to Milan.
It seems like only yesterday and yet today we celebrate the 5th anniversary
of 10 Corso Como opening in Seoul. It has been five years of great moments shared with Charles and Junsuk and now so much future to plan together. Thank you.
There is a strange silence now. For many years – no matter how hectic things
would get – the ritual of lunch with the family – Franca, Sara, Donato –
every Sunday at my mother’s house, was the most important thing on our calendar.
It was as important to us as it was to her. To tell the stories of the week, hear how the family was doing, to talk about the past, and the future.
No one remembers like a mother. No one listens like a mother.
This Sunday, and all the rest of my Sundays are dedicated to mine. Mina.
This week my sister and I both read from Ecclesiastes at our mother’s service.
We gave this edition translated by Guido Ceronetti to the church in memorial.
Ceronetti himself was a wise man and a great humanist,
as well as a poet and an artist. Ecclesiastes, the Book of Wisdom,
is a philosophical essay on the meaning of human life
that has always accompanied my important steps in life.
Written by David Schiller over a decade ago, this open
and joyous collection of sayings and ideas has been well used this week.
Reading helps in Life. Here from the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci,
“ Among the great things which are to be found among us,
the Being of Nothingness is the greatest.”
Thinking of our mother is to think of our roots
in Mantua and the basilica of Sant’Andrea,
built in 15th century and finished over three hundred years later.
Here the cupola of Sant’Andrea by the architect Filippo Juvarra,
who also designed sets for plays, garden fountains and silver designs,
many talents not uncommon in the later Baroque.
The Church, sadly suffered damage in the earthquake of 2012.
It is in the heart of Mantua and is the church in which we were baptized.
It is a time for singing, and this Cherubini chorus
is the perfect representation for the joy of the spirit.
It is a close up from the famous painting by Mantegna
done around 1485 of the Madonna with Cherubim.
Mantegna was from Mantua, where our mother
was from and where we were born.
A new pope for Rome and a new leader for
so many around the world was elected this week,
with the seagull sitting on the chimney waiting for the smoke.
Some thought the bird was a sign from the Saint.
I hope that Pope Francis’ wisdom, and humility,
becomes the voice for all the inhabitants of the earth,
like St. Francis, so that the planet can heal itself.
Fashion Week has a rhythm all its own. For me, even after 44 years, the moments we wait at the beginning are not annoying, but moments of excitement. I am always looking forward to seeing something new, fresh and never seen. I know not every thing will be Utopia, but I always hope for the designer that it will be.
Believing it will happen again and again.
This week the question of time, and how fast it flies, has arisen many times during fashion week. Is this the right rhythm for ourselves?
for quality of life? creativity? to enjoy pleasure?
But right now, who has time to write the Elegy “de la lenteur” ? Here, a piece by Raymond Hains from 1966, to express those feelings we all have about time.
Here, a rare book that I cherish always next to my desk, Man Ray. A most beautiful edition, published in 1934, rather damaged after years of turning the pages in admiration, but still existing. It shows a wonderful pen and ink drawing done by one radical of another radical. It was Paris, between the wars, and the American Man Ray had come to France. He was photographing the people he enjoyed spending time with. And Picasso did this drawing of him, January 3rd,’34. It is a great portrait, the one searching eye going to the root. It makes me wonder what are the combinations it takes to bring out a radical idea? The artist? alone working? Or the environment? Where is that perfect balance that says, “yes, you have found the root”. A radical person goes to the roots…
The use of solarization was developed by Man Ray and Lee Miller around 1929. This book first showed the pictures in print, with texts by Man Ray, Andrè Breton, Paul Eluard, Rose Sélavy, Tristan Tzara… radical beauty in images and texts.
In an article from 1950, Man Ray wrote some reflections on his success. Painting was controlled, he suggested, by the heart; photography by the mind. “But desire and love for the subject directs both mediums.”
In the same radical way, he considered himself more of a painter than a photographer, and yet it is his photographs that are so sought after now. Until the end of May, the National Portrait Gallery in London is showing many of these portraits.
Dressing is Easy. In 1973 an article in the most influential magazine at the time, Casabella, published a series of drawings on what you could make out of a square of cloth with a few cuts, folds and stitches. As radical then as the new materials, Rei Kawakubo is using now to fashion a single radical article of clothing. Vestirsi è Facile was another of the many ideas that came from Archizoom beyond architecture.
Here, another radical innovation from the period, body painting!
Rei Kawakubo took us to her radical root this week. The amazing technical mastery she has over fabric and pattern. So many demands on the cut, the execution, that only a master of the craft could have achieved such an amazing vision.
In 1968, Poggi of Pavia crafted this bookshelf for Ugo La Pietra.
It is called “uno sull’altro”- one over another.
A native of Milano – Ugo La Pietra is an artist, an architect, a designer, a film maker and a radical thinker. He was exploring very early in the 70’s the power of the video as social comment and winning awards for his filmmaking. As an architect, Ugo was a radical citizen on the streets of Milano in his public activities “repurposing” spaces for living. Most recently seen at FRAC Paris in a retrospective, “Habiter la ville, c’est partout chez soi” “Living in a City where everywhere is home”.
Lasting a little more than a decade, from 1966 until 1974, Florence based Archizoom’s projects reflected the group’s search for a new and flexible technology-based approach to urban design. The four architects Branzi, Corretti, Deganello and Morozzi created Anti-Design ideas for furniture as well as visionary environments presented at international exhibitions. Always the use of new materials are seen in the radical idea of any era and Archizoom was no exception. Here a square couch with a leopard flower seating arrangement.
SUPERSTUDIO from the 1970’s raised concerns about the exhausted modernist ideals and design both in Italy and abroad. In 1972 their ideas at MOMA in NYC, “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape” claimed that modernism was adding to the social and environmental ills. SUPERSTUDIO’s thinking still influences. Their idea that technology could have negative consequences, and the environmental impact of architecture must be considered, are now very much a part of the next generation of radical contemporary architects.
In Magazine was another very special outlet for many designers and architects during the 70′s and sadly had a short life. With drawings, photos and montages of Sottsass, Sordi, Superstudio and Archizoom, the radical ideas of Italian design even now always seems fresh.
While the shows this week presented beautiful and sometimes costly clothes reflecting a wide expression of creativity, everyone is talking about the perfection and beauty of Italian manufacturing. It is time to re-inspire the Italian workshops to keep our treasure of skilled craftsmen and talents alive. To support apprentice training projects and expand the manufacturing of quality goods for the world with the pride of elegance and excellence we have always been known for in fashion and beyond.
The link between art and craft has been, since the Renaissance, closely joined. Only recently in our modern era were they seen as different. But now we are more than ever aware that the artisans, our craftsmen, are living treasures. They are not only the technicians, but also the creative thinkers, inventors, collaborators, and discoverers of new ideas. Whatever their realm of expertise – painting, paper and printing, sculpture, leather, metals, pottery or jewelry, their knowledge of how to make something often forms the artistic question what to make. As Dante (here painted by Botticelli)wrote in Paradiso, “A great flame follows a little spark.”
The traditional “Artigiano” is a special way to recognize throughout Italy the difference between heavy industry and crafts. The Italian artisan is the keeper of tools and techniques that are passed from generation to the next; preserving in a living tradition of training and application skills that are hundreds of years old. Carvers, gilders, gold and silversmiths,tailors, glass blowers in Venice, Pottery studios in Naples and the leather goods of Tuscany all benefit from being Artisanal. The art of the artisan is the history of Italy’s most famous objects.
Especially recognized in Florence, but all over Italy from the Renaissance,“La Bottega”, or the artisan shop, was recognized as a meeting place where new ideas were exchanged, and through training and experiment new styles and techniques introduced.The artisan was then, and is now for all practical purposesfirst and foremost an artist.
Engaged in the gesture of needle and thread with thimble. Here, a picture by Alfred Stieglitz of the hands of Georgia O’Keefe, 1919.
Her hands became the focal point of his photography for several decades, creating a body of work of hand portraits that have become legend.
This week the announcement of the Pope resigning has stunned not only the Catholic Church, but all over the world. It has had a very positive impact on Italian television as well… finally they have stopped showing the hundreds of political interviews in advance of our elections, although here in London I am also spared! And I can enjoy the doors open in front of my desk for some fresh air and sunshine.
He used to say he didn’t like ruins. And truly his way of looking at cities was unique. He crisscrossed the globe finding the essence of the new urban landscapes from Milano, where his first photographs were taken, through Rome to Moscow; Rio and Beirut… roofs, walls, buildings, streets, arches. A lover of the cities in all their diversity. Here in the picture a Berlin Swimming pool.
Alfa was the first “important” photographer I worked with, when I took my first steps into fashion, in 1968. We shared so many moments and emotions, as far as Africa, as close as around the corner. His culture was boundless. Always surrounded by his books, he would tell me stories behind stories, and teach me how to see his way. Since he passed away, I have always wanted to show
his work at the Gallery, and finally, because of the great archival work
done by his son Paolo, this is now possible. A wonderful show to see,
and a great catalogue to remember him has also been published. Thank you Alfa.
Alfa would often recall his first fashion shot. It was of a Land Rover in Florence in front of the Palazzo Strozzi, where all the fashion shows and events were held at the time.
He used to say it was Mirella Petteni on the Land Rover. Only she can say! Is it her?
The culture and humour of both of them is emblematic in this picture, where the contrast of the two worlds- fashion and street- meet in the Alfa Castaldi portrait of Anna Piaggi, all dressed up in front of a crashed car in London.
Stefano Boeri has announced this week the formation of the Association Anna Piaggi (a shot of her exhibition at Albert and Victoria Museum) as the starting point for the future Museum of Fashion, here in Milano.
We all have been dreaming of this for years. Grazie Mr. Boeri. Thank you for keeping your eye as much on the future of Milano, as the past.
Another great step for Milano would be to add a fashion school to the Museum of Fashion. A school not so much to explain creativity, but to teach the traditions of craftsmanship. To master the skills and encourage the artisan tradition for which Italy is praised all over the world in knitwear and well crafted leather shoes.
The London College of Fashion has a Cordwainer’s Department to teach shoe making. The name descends from Cordoba Spain, where leatherwork has always been prized.
Who is going to wear the red shoes next? It has been a tradition that the Pope wear red shoes since ancient Rome. During the Byzantine Empire only three people were allowed to wear red shoes during official events – The Emperor, The Empress, and The Pope. Benedict’s red shoes are made by Adriano Stefanelli, an artisan from Novara. He was the cordwainer also for Pope John Paul II.
Over 600 years ago, Celestino V resigned to bring peace to the Church, much as Benedict is resigning to bring new energy to the Church. It took two years then to find a new Pope, but today with the amazing times we are living in, and all the Cardinals emailing and texting each other, it should be less than a month for the decision.
It seems impossible on such a sunny day in Milano that tomorrow we will have a heavy snowfall. Sitting at my desk with the sunlight shifting across the window, I enjoy opening my new Hermès box with the Comme des Garçons dots on it, a collaboration between two of the most “worshipped” brands in the fashion world. The new moon of the Chinese New Year today is supposed to be a time to plant the seeds of growth. Hermès orange, like the sun, and the fresh surprises of Comme des Garçons are a beautiful present to start off the new beginnings for Year of the Snake,
in spite of the snows!
An event on Thursday in Paris at the Comme des Garçons store
in Faubourg St. Honorè launched this unique collaboration. The mannequins covered in a patchwork of silk scarves were stunning. The series is called “Black and White Collection”, and show Rei Kawakubo’s strong interpretation of aspects of Hermès own very recognizable iconography, in five printed scarves.
Which one to choose among the five new designs on display at the opening?
So hard to decide, but being Italian, The Pegasus inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci
has of course attracted my eye.
This divine winged horse was rendered by French sculptor Christian Renonciat for Hermès and is here re imagined by Comme des Garçons. The symbolism of power, wisdom and the solar myth is framed within the writing of Leonardo himself.
The collaboration with Hermès started with the Black and White Collection presented in Paris last week. Another Color Collection with an additional five designs, also in a limited edition, has just been presented in the Comme des Garçons store Aoyama Tokyo. Kawakubo has added her signature images of Comme des Garçons – polka dots, a black chessboard – and abstract images as well, to bring a new visual identity not seen at Hermès before now.
Since 1937, the Hermès scarf has been a signature of the Maison and many artists have contributed to their designs. Pierre-Alexis Dumas has started “Hermès Editeur”, a project “In order to keep moving with the times, to stay refreshing and surprising, the Hermès scarf had to become a meeting point between forms, a place where art could express itself freely and fully.” Hermès has collaborated with the artist Daniel Buren on the “Photos – Souvenirs au carré” scarves presented in Paris at “la Monnaie” museum that Buren did, using an ink jet printing technique on silk, new to the Hermès atelier.
Hermès’ famed square scarves, the “carrés” began a fine art series several years ago with a memorial edition of the designs of Josef Albers, known for his squares and his elegant color theories. Since then, two other artists have been so honored – Daniel Buren and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Here, several of the 140 scarves of Sugimoto’s Polaroid photographs taken over a period of ten years using prisms to fracture the light in a darkened room, as Isaac Newton had done to reveal the original color spectrum.
Here, a square of Alexander Calder, done in 1947 for the visionary Czech textile manufacturer Zika Ascher. For many years Ascher London edited and printed artists’ scarves. No one took particular notice of them in the art world. Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore, Calder and Matisse participated in this unusual collaboration.
In 2011, an Ascher scarf by Henri Matisse, produced in a limited run of 30, was sold for £ 3 million at Christies.