Southwest

The distinct Southwest style has come a long way from the traditional tribal blankets and ponchos that once graced the American sandy deserts. But the love and admiration for these exotic crafts has gone the distance, its stylish fans becoming a tribe of their own. With its bright colour pops and geometric chic patterning, it’s one design you can expect catch a glimpse of wherever you go.

The American southwest is a melting pot of cultures. With Mexico just across the border and a legacy of Native American tribes, the area has given birth to an array of stunning art and culture. It’s not surprise that the fashion and interior design worlds have united in their admiration, drawing inspiration from its patterns and prints.

The trend really began back in the late 60s, as designers turned to exotic cultures for inspiration. The heightened drama and vivid palettes of these Native American prints seemed to suit the Hippie haze perfectly. The popularity of Navajo, Aztec and tribal designs this ignited has never left, and recent seasons have seen them blended into a sophisticated, bohemian chic style that can, and has, be worked into any wardrobe.

Native American inspired designs by Giorgio Di Sant’ Angelo for Vogue, September 1970. Photo by Irving Penn

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Last year, the trend saw one of its finest come backs. Valentino started with a SS14 collection indebted to Mexico’s Aztec culture, whose inhabitants once decorated their temples in opulence and splendour. Draped in dresses and cloaks richly embroidered with bright geometric patterning, the models appeared like 21st century Aztec princesses. Offering an option for the colder days, Ralph Lauren brought an AW14 collection of thick knits and fur lined cardigans, all bursting with a geometric Aztec vibe.

Valentino SS14

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Ralph Lauren AW14

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Model Sasha Pivovarova shot by Mikael Jansson for Vogue Februrary 2014

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Left on that closing note, it’s no surprise this year’s spring collections are revitalising the look for the warmer winds blowing our way. Etro’s SS15 collection offers an elegant and light take on the trend, maintaining the earthy origin of the prints and imbuing a neutral palette for an urban summer, bohemian treat. Holly Fulton has added a contemporary, minimalist twist to the trend with a collection of striking geometric dazzle.

Etro SS15

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Holly Fulton SS15

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The trend’s rich patterning and vibrant warmth is a popular choice for enlivening interiors too. Native American inspired accents and textiles work extremely well in rooms decorated in earthy tones, adding a striking yet subtle burst of style. Of course, you can go as bold with the trend as you like, and feature walls can turn any room into a bohemian dream.

 

William Morris in fashion

The first thing that comes to mind when we think of William Morris is his trademark wallpaper that adorned the houses of grand Victorian townhouses. The English textile designer was the proponent of the English Arts and Crafts Movement in the 1880s, and has in fact proven to have brought much more to the design world than simply decorating the walls of our dining rooms.

Many of Morris’ designs enjoy a beautiful medieval touch, however his primary inspiration was nature. His sources were plants themselves, observed on country walks as well as in 16th-century woodcuts and textiles. Yet his designs did not stay true to the natural forms he found in his gardens. Instead, he created his own, beautifully stylised variations, winding vine and flora embroidery into fine ornamental illustrations.

Sure, floral prints are nothing new in fashion, but Morris’ distinct take on the traditional patterning has steadily crept onto the catwalk. Drawn to his unique vision, we’ve seen the fashion world adapt Morris’ rich colours and textures into bold and dramatic designs that we clearly just can’t get enough of.

The fascination began in the 1960s, with the rediscovery of Victorian artists such as Aubrey Beardsley and William Morris. The dandy-esque boutique “Granny Takes a Trip” swiftly opened its doors to reveal an eclectic blend of the vintage with the psychedelic. One of their most iconic garments was the William Morris chrysanthemum print jacket designed by John Pearse in 1967. It was flaunted by the fashionable likes of John Lennon and George Harrison as well as rock bassist Noel Redding of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

John Pearse, William Morris inspired jacket.

Things were quiet on the Morris front for a while, until the 80s exploded into a melange of prints and patterns. The decade brought new bold takes on the look with a distinctly Club Tropicana feel, as seen in Norma Kamali 1980’s tropical print rayon jumpsuit.

Norma Kamali’s rayon jumpsuit

Prada explored Morris’ spikier, more dramatic fern and willow designs in 2003 with a gorgeous autumn winter collection. Then in 2008, Marios Schwarb introduced the artist into his designs with an unusually dark spin that left many of us pondering it all in awe. His Fall collection featured skin tight dresses with fabric that seemed to peel off the models’ bodies, revealing fragments of, what on close inspection, were William Morris prints mixed with pornographic prints underneath.

Prada AW 03

Marios Schward AW08

The National Portrait Gallery opened a new exhibition in 2012 dedicated entirely to William Morris, instantly renewing, and escalating, the Morris trend. Since then, designers have turned frequently and without hesitation to the archive of Morris textiles. The Jigsaw design team were first in line. Picking out the Brother Rabbit print, one of his lesser known designs, they transformed it into an elegant capsule collection of pieces of bomber jackets, tailored trousers and opera coats.

A year later, designers were hot on the growing trend. Ostwald Helgason’s Fall 2013 collection was ripe with Morris influences; green and golden fabrics floated along the catwalk like lush winter thickets, infused with a subtle tint of medieval-inspired, regal glimmer. Valentino too embraced the look for their Fall collection, welcoming a range of capes and dresses that blended wintry brambles with sweet fairtytale charm.

Ostwald Helgason AW 13

Valentino AW 13

As the blustery winds of the next autumn season arrived, a lingering appreciation for Morris’ designs followed in its midst. Mother of Pearl introduced a Fall 2014 collection that made us fantasise about ancient castles from a time gone by, while Louis Vuitton turned to nature with an array of trousers and skirts adorned with Morris’ more playful illustrations.

Mother of Pearl AW 14

Louis Vuitton AW 14

Thankfully, this year isn’t letting go of the hold on the trend, as Harper’s Bazaar brought out a special William Morris March Edition just in time for spring. But we can still look forward to some gorgeous autumnal looks thanks to the Marc Jacobs Fall 2015 collection. And although the influence couldn’t be clearer, it’s a truly unique and innovate take, intertwining Morris’ designs with funky boy blazers, punkish plaid and spiky, studded finishes.

Picasso in fashion


Huddled in his Parisian studio, the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso pioneered a new of seeing that would change the art world forever. Abandoning traditional perspective entirely, he created new compositions with stark geometric shapes and abstracted flourishes. His Cubist masterpieces confirmed the idea that art could be great without attempting to mimic physical reality, exerting a huge and liberating influence on many artists to follow. He even set aside his paintbrush to dabble in the fashion world, adding his artistic vision to delicious fabric prints that everyone could get their hands on.

At the beginning to the 20th century, new technologies like photography and commercial flights were radically transforming the way people viewed the world around them. Artists sought new approaches to try and capture the blur and speed of new cities and racing transport, and Picasso was definitely at the forefront. As he continued experimenting, his forms became larger and more representational, with flat, bright decorative patterns and strangely abstracted shapes.

The fashion world had already taken note of the Cubist’s endeavours as early as the 1920s, although only with a subtle nod, as dresses were adorned sweetly with geometric prints. As fashion became increasingly more inspired by modern artistic endeavours, Picasso began working his own designs into the mix. In 1955, American textile company Fuller Fabrics introduced their “Modern Masters” range. Picasso joined a range of artists from Chagall to Dali, providing the company with several designs to transform into trendy textiles. That year, avid fashionistas could buy a Picasso dress in Fuller “drip ’n’ dry” for just $8.99. In 1963, as the decade’s love for dramatic prints grew, he collaborated with American sportswear manufacturer White Stag, producing gorgeous, colourful PVC-coated anoraks, printed corduroy ponchos, shirts and sweatshirts. Advertisements appeared applauding the artist’s fame and asking the public “Can you afford a Picasso?” Now everyone could, and what’s more, they could flaunt it anywhere they went.

The last few years have seen a surge of Picasso inspired designs. Balenciaga’s 2012 spring collection brought a futuristic twist to the catwalk with graphic shapes, long pockets and panelled jackets all dripping in stalactites of metallic fringing. These edgy designs certainly recall Picasso’s cubist paintings, echoing his use of monochrome with a muted palette of lilac, peach and claret. Their sharp metallic twinges remind us of the flash of Picasso’s modern cities and his focus on severe forms like the cylinder, sphere and the cone to represent the natural world.

That same year, Oscar de la Renta welcomed a direct connection with his Resort 2012 collection and “The Picasso Newsprint Dress.” His designs reveal a unique and modern take on Picasso’s Cubism, mirroring the jagged edged and fragmented shapes of his paintings. The collection also draws upon the artist’s later use of newspaper and collage techniques, its designs featuring a similar jumbled together feel.

Jean Charles de Castelbajac’s 2014 spring collection was filled with gorgeous oversized prints featuring large, loosely drawn Picasso-like faces. In bright primary colours, they share the distinct simplicity that Picasso mastered in his portraits, a signature style of disjunctive, primitive allure.

The latest Paris Fashion Week brought Picasso into the limelight with a new and bold approach. Young French designer Jacquemus made a bold beauty statement at his AW15 show, as his models sauntered down the catwalk with two faces. These stunning make-up designs seem to be a direct influence of Picasso’s unusual take on portraiture, where eyes were perfectly misplaced and noses delightfully distorted.

Confirming the artist’s place in the fashion world, Spanish photographer Eugenio Recuenco has turned his lens onto the visual richness of Picasso’s heritage. His images recreate the artist’s paintings with a chic contemporary twist, allowing us to approach the famous paintings with a modern mind and a fashionable flair. The models twist and stretch into strange postures in a delightful attempt to capture the warped cubist realm of Picasso’s figures. Stunning details complete the collaboration, the model’s patterned clothing and bold make-up transforming Picasso’s vivid colours and abstracted brush strokes into magazine-ready looks.

Walking the fashion line

Today, stripes are always popping up on the latest “trend-of-the-season” lists. In fact, striped cloth is so prevalent in our fashion-consciousness that it has become a completely fundamental part of our wardrobes. Men’s suiting materials, shirts and ties all feature subtle pin-stripe patterns, and who doesn’t own a cute nautical-inspired striped top that they whip out each spring? This season, we’re seeing stripes again, and it’s been a long-lasting love affair indeed.

Once upon a time, stripes were not at all the fashionable forte we enjoy today. The style really emerged in the 19th century, a white cotton top with blue stripes that became the official uniform of the French navy. The look didn’t really make its way from the decks to the fashion world until Coco got her hands on it after a trip to the French coast. Inspired by the sailor’s uniform, Chanel incorporated the “Breton stripe” into her 1917 nautical collection, worn with loose trousers. It was a stark contrast to the then-popular corseted dress look for women, and it played a significant role in changing the face of casual womenswear. Striped clothing began to acquire sporting or leisure connotations, making a regular appearance in many seaside scenes, as both men and women donned black-and-white or blue-and-white adorned their tanned bodies in striped tops and shorts.

By the 1930s, the Breton stripe was rising steadily to attain its own “haute couture” status, perhaps something to do with the obsession that the wealthy and fashionable elite had with the French Riviera. Hollywood starlets embraced the look, from Audrey Hepburn, the epitome of effortless chic, to Marilyn Monroe, the era’s classic femme fatal. Once Hollywood had started seeing stripes, it quickly became a “classic” and a “staple” style. It swept across into the high fashion arena, appearing in various magazines and strutting the catwalk in many designers’ collections. Rebecca Osei-Baidoo, women’s wear buyer at Browns, London, explains, “Breton stripes have become like leopard print, something everybody has in their wardrobe and can go back to every season.”

Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor

Vogue August 1939, Seventeen 1949, Harper’s Bazaar 1951

But the look quickly evolved from Parisian chic to take on vibrant new heights when London exploded as the fashion capital of the world in the 1960’s. At its epicentre, Carnaby Street boutiques became lined with striped delights, its bohemian designers unable to resist adding their own eclectic twist to the nautical charm. Baby doll dresses, mini-skirts and men’s ties were all splashed with bright striped patterns. Perhaps one of the most influential designers at the time was Paul Smith, who made a dramatic entrance with his trademark rainbow of colourful stripes. The 70s wasn’t letting go of the look, turning it up a notch with a multitude of colourful kaleidoscopic patterns and incorporating the funky wavy chevron stripe into its designs.

With the melange of bright patterns that the next two decades brought, it was no surprise to find the striped variety nestled safely amongst the florals and block colours. The pattern even went on to become a mark of professionalism and status, making its way into the business sector with an array of shirts, suits and ties.

Today, stripes have maintained their status as a timeless and enduring motif. There’s still an abundance of looks across the catwalks that have arisen straight from the lookbooks of past decades, from the 60s vibrant rainbows to the nautical look that Jean Paul Gaultier and Tommy Hilfiger have perfected. But then there’s also a distinctly unique striped style of today, as designers are finding innovative ways to incorporate the trend into new looks. Make-up, hairstyles and fabric cut-outs – nothing is to be left out from the enduring striped sensation.

Etro SS13, Lisa Perry AW15, Dolce & Gabanna SS13, Rochas Pre-Fall 2015

Jean Paul Gaultier, Tommy Hilfiger

Vogue Paris 2007, Jasper Conran SS14, House of Dagmar A/W13, Fendi SS15

We’re going dotty for prints

They say some things never go out of style, and the dotted print is no exception. New York fashion designer Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss explains the lingering fascination, “It’s almost like a neutral print. I think it’s something that’s universally liked.” Polka dots truly are timeless, and they’re continuously being refreshed and reinvented, reaffirming the love that’s been making us completely dotty for over a century.

First, it was a dance craze; a simple, lively spin that bounced the floors in the 1880s. The fashion world raced to find their own spot in the sensation as little faint dots crept quietly into every day clothes, subtly scattered across blouses or tumbling lightly down skirts. It wasn’t until the 1920’s however, that the look began to find its true place in the fashion realm. House and garden dresses featuring playful patterns of small dots were becoming more and more popular. By the end of the decade, the polka dot dress had left the house and was starting to become a staple pattern for semi-formal afternoon dresses. French designer Coco Chanel quickly caught on to the trend about to burst into the fashion world and pushed it over the edge, incorporating dots into her stylish dresses, blouses and skirts with a distinctly delicate femininity.

The trend continued through the 30s, moving away from being the previous casual, playful look as it became more increasingly more sophisticated and en vogue. Frank Sinatra’s ballad “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” captured America’s chic allure while that same year, the Los Angeles Times assured its readers of the trend, “You can sign your fashion life away on the polka-dotted line, and you’ll never regret it.”

But it was in the 1950s that the dot pattern entered its forte, becoming a truly elegant choice. It could be matched with accessories to form an entire ensemble, from gloves and hats to purses and even shoes. In 1951, Monroe was famously photographed wearing a polka dot bikini, and soon, everyone from suburban housewives to Hollywood movie stars were going dotty for the trend.

Christian Dior Couture Collection 1954, French Designer Jacques Griffe 1951, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn

 

Elle 1952, Harpers Bazaars 1952, 1965 Vogue UK

 
By the ‘60s, it was well and truly a part of popular culture, and “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” became a pop-song anthem to mark the occasion. Fashion conscious Mods got into the swing of things with a splash of polka dot prints on baby doll dresses and vibrant shirts. Suddenly, dot patterns were no longer symmetrical but were bursting into lots of different shapes and sizes in bright, bold colours. Polka dots made a striking comeback in the 1980s, when fashion went on a retro rampage, revitalising polka dots prints with a completely new trend. Large spotted tops with big shoulder pads were slung over black leggings and dotty blouses plumed into puffed sleeves. And of course, we’ll always remember Julia Robert’s white-and-brown polka dot ensemble in the 1990 movie “Pretty Woman.”

YSL Spring 2005

 
Today’s dots have a much bolder, more striking vibe. With loud colours and unusual textures, they’re surprisingly fresh and new, despite the whole collection of history they bring with them.

Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Furstenburg, David Koma 2011

 

Moschino Spring/Summer 2011

 

Moschino Autumn/Winter 2014

 

Moschino Autumn/Winter 2014

 

Couture Armani Privé Aumtum/Winter 2014

 

Frida Kahlo in fashion

Mexican painter Frida Kahlo is one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century. Although her life was filled with physical and emotional pain, her unyielding passion helped transform her suffering into art, filling both herself and her life with beauty. With her fiery, determined spirit, she exuded a confidence and respect for her own self; an image of individual beauty that so many women have turned to in complete admiration. It’s her unique fashion sense that helped exude this bold personality, and which continues to inspire fashion designers around the world today.

Frida Kahlo’s paintings are filled with the pain and traumatic emotions she experienced throughout her lifetime. At just 18, she was left plagued with enduring physical disabilities after a horrific bus accident, adding to them emotional scars through her stormy relationship with revolutionary painter Deigo Rivera. Yet never succumbing to the darkness that threatened to overwhelm her, Kahlo exerted a larger than life attitude, projecting her individualism into both her art and her physical appearance.

Throughout her life, Kahlo was part of a group of artists and intellectuals who were both fiercely proud of their Mexican heritage as well as their dedication to Communism. Rebelliousness was in her nature, and she exerted in every way imaginable. While the other women in Mexico City wore the latest designs from Europe, Kahlo shunned their prim, tailored suits and dresses, developing instead a completely unique and daring style of her own.

Combining exotic fabrics from China, brightly coloured folk textiles from her native Mexico, and finishing it all off with a splash of European lace and silk, she fashioned her appearance into a bold and vibrantly unique vision. Her electric patterns just didn’t match in any traditional sense, her iconic unkempt unibrow was noticeably different from the fashionable thin and preened shapes around her, and her floral hair accessories were a truly unique flourish.


Since the beautiful and mysterious contents of her wardrobe were revealed to the public in 2004, people all over the world have turned to them in fascination. Museums have exhibited her fashion creations, as though they themselves are works of art, and numerous fashion designers have certainly viewed them as such, creating a range of stunning, Kahlo-inspired collections and designs.

In 1939, the great Elsa Schiaparelli created a dress in her honour, called “La robe Madame Rivera” (shortly after her marriage to Diego Rivera). Since then, Kahlo’s style has been present on all the major runways across the planet. One striking example was Jean Paul Gaultier’s ‘Homage a Frida Kahlo’ collection in 1998, which emerged with a truly arresting ad campaign. In it, a modern Frida Kahlo glares out at us fiercely with her hands on her hips, a fashionable woman of power and steady determination.


In 2009, Tao Kurhihara for Comme de Garçon’s Fall collection combined folk-inspired capes with elaborate head pieces, while exaggerated Kahlo- style unibrows swept across foreheads in bright colours. Spanish designer Maya Hansen also infused a more traditional Kahlo touch to her 2013 Spring collection with intricate braided hairdos, simple black unibrows and an exotic vibe found in the ruffles and bright sunshine colours of her designs.


COMME DE GARCON 2009 AW


MAYA HANSEN 2013 SS

Other designers have toyed with the Kahlo-vision in interesting ways, creating a fusion with other cultures and traditional looks. For her Spring 2013 collection, New York-based designer Misha Nonoo added in delicate floral head pieces and lush colours claiming, “I specifically drew inspiration from Frida’s use of colour and bold personal style interlaced with Havana’s beautiful faded grandeur.” At the same time, Indian designer Deepak Perwani introduced his “Frida Goes To Kharadar” collection, a stunning collaboration of Latin American and Indian colours, patterns and aesthetics.


MISHA NONOO 2013 SS


DEEPAK PERWANI 2013 SS

Perwani’s images show just how photogenic Kahlo’s style is, something that photographers and designers had certainly already noticed. In 2012 Vogue Mexico used photographer Nickolas Muray’s iconic 1939 portrait of Kahlo for its cover, while later that same year, Karl Lagerfeld photographed Claudia Schiffer as Frida Kahlo for German Vogue in a dark and dramatic collection of images.


VOGUE MEXICO 2012


VOGUE GERMANY 2012, KARL LEGERFELD & CLAUDIA SCHIFFER

Numerous editorials have been created for magazines around the world, drawing greedily from Kahlo’s rich, creative memory. What unfolds between the pages is simply magical, whispering of exotic climes and fashionable yet fierce femininity…


US HARPER’S BAZAAR 2001


MARIE CLAIRE ITALIA 2011


VOGUE MEXICO 2011


HARPER’S BAZAAR UKRAINE 2013

Matisse in fashion

Henri Matisse’s deliciously enchanting artworks have long captivated those with a certain visual sensibility. His intoxicating use of colour, distorted perspectives and patterns create a dreamlike world into which many have been lured, and it’s an attraction that certainly hasn’t escaped the pages of fashion designers’ sketchbooks.

The French artist pioneered a fierce and free use of colour that became known as Fauvism, a wild approach to painting that helped overturn a new way of seeing. Disregarding traditional planes of perspective, shadow and depth, Matisse confirmed that artists were no longer obliged to imitate the external world faithfully.

Yet some of his most famous works are from the final chapter of his artistic career, after he’d put down the paintbrush. In the 1950s, no longer able to paint due to ill health, he developed a new technique known as the paper cut-out. He called it “painting with scissors,” a new medium characterised by bold, simplified shapes and pure, bright colours.


The current MoMA exhibition, “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs,” has awakened the public once more to the genius of the French artist. The New York installation has in fact been so successful, bringing in over half a million visitors since its opening in October, that it’s been extended through February. When word got round that the cut-outs would be displayed together for the first time in over 40 years, fashion designers were ready for the storm. 2014 saw a colourful explosion of collections that openly referenced Matisse’s renowned masterpieces; an artistic trend that’s already continued into the next season.

But the fashionable fascination with his dramatic use of colour and bold shape is nothing new. Matisse’s work has long been an influence upon the fashion world, speaking directly to many designers’ imagination. We only need to look at Cecil Beaton’s Matisse-inspired shoot for the 1949 spring issue of Vogue. Models Jean Patchett and Carmen Dell’ Orefice pose elegantly against a powerful backdrop of cut-out shapes in the era’s latest designs and chicest ensembles.

British designer Paul Smith was one of the first to incorporate the artist’s vision into his own designs. Referring to Matisse coolly as “the boss of colour”, he focussed on the extraordinary ways in which Matisse combined bright, clashing hues within a single canvas. Enthralled by this, Paul Smith began applying the same effect to his early creations, throwing colours together dramatically in a time when trends were faithful to more classical colour combinations.

Smith isn’t the only fashion designer to be inspired by Matisse’s innovation. Yves Saint Laurent’s 1980 fall-winter haute couture collection featured a stunning black velvet and moiré faille evening dress, its multicolour satin appliqué leaves straight from the cut-out The Sheaf (1953). A year later, his 1981 autumn-winter collection arrived, named “La Blouse Roumaine” after the painting of the same name. A homage to Henri Matisse, many of the designs were themed around the painter’s famous canvases and sculptures, and the Romanian peasant wear of the painting was appropriated straight onto the catwalk.

But last year, when MOMA announced the brightly glowing treasures behind its doors, the art-fashion collaboration truly took off.

Lulu Guinness turned to the cut-outs directly as inspiration for her AW 14 collection. “I’m proud to introduce my AW14 Collection inspired by one of my all time favourite artists, Henri Matisse. From abstract cut-outs to rich and deep winter hues, this is a collection of fun and fabulous accessories to see you through the autumn/winter season and beyond.”

Christian Dior followed suit with an autumn-winter collection that flashed Matisse from every dramatic angle. His bold colour blocking and sharply sliced designs strutted along in purposefully jarring colourways. Grass green met electric fuchsia while red sizzled beside sky blue folds, and it all popped deliciously, just like Destiny (1947.)

London designer Issa’s 2014 autumn-winter collection brought a splash of bold, paintbox hues to the catwalk that were just oh so art house chic. Fragmented slices of colour stretched across the designs, recalling the choppy shapes of Matisse’s gorgeous Memory of Oceania (1953). Her 2015 spring-summer collection has taken a step back from the artist’s signature brights, focussing instead on the form and shapes of his cut-outs with a delightful flurry of bold, wavy black and white patterns.

Putting a spring in our step (one step closer towards MoMA?), Serbian designer Roksanda Ilincic’s gorgeous 2015 collection adds a sweet pastel spin to the trend, her simple shapes and fresh colours recalling cut-outs such as Beasts of the Sea (1950.) But for those who definitely can’t make it to MoMa within the next month, Tata Naka’s 2015 Pre-Collection is perhaps the next best thing. Featuring an array of Matisse-inspired shapes, the design duo’s creations look ready to blend seamlessly into the gallery walls. To become fully immersed, South African graphic designer Diana Moss has created a fabulous mash-up of designs with Matisse backdrops.

Gustav Klimt in fashion

The fantastical and ornate worlds of Gustav Klimt are instantly recognisable. His paintings drip with luxury, submerging his feminine muses in mosaics of jewel and gold. Their bodies are draped in gilded ornament and fabrics tumble through the paintings into iconic, geometric Art Nouveau shapes. The renowned Viennese artist possessed a unique aptitude for transforming his paint into illusions of precious metals, stones and jewels. It was during his “Golden Period” that Klimt found critical acclaim and financial success, and these paintings have become some of his most iconic.

Klimt’s works are among the most expensive in the world and replicas have found their way into many other walks of modern life, adorning everything from mugs to birthday cards. Of course, never one to be left out of a trend, fashion has found a significant influence in his work. It’s his sensuous femininity and opulent, romantic aesthetic that has perhaps continued to seduce designers today.

Klimt’s life-long friend, and supposed lover, Emilie Flöge was one of Austria’s most sought after fashion designers and dressmakers. Her eclectic designs were loose, flowing and bold, reflecting her love of folk costume and Japanese textiles. It is believed that her work was an important influence on Klimt’s art and the opulent textiles he depicted in his work. The close interplay between Klimt and the fashion world has perhaps survived a long history, and it might come as no surprise that his distinctive visual signature has appeared on many catwalks over recent years.

In 2008, Christian Dior re-introduced Klimt’s aesthetic with a daring, opulent Spring collection, as floor-length tunics graced the catwalk in bursts of vibrant reds, magenta and yellows. Sheaths of fabric were bejewelled with geometric patterns made of golden appliqué panels and gilded swirls. It was a stunning blend of mythical fantasy and high glamour that seems to stem straight from the artist’s paintbrush itself.


Hygieia (1900), Christian Dior SS 08

Aquilano Rimondi followed in 2011 with their own dazzling spring collection and a more direct nod towards to Klimt’s most famous work, The Kiss (1908)Autoportrait. Knee-length skirts, dresses and short-sleeved shirts were draped with striking prints of delicate swirls and geometric shapes; patterns that seem lifted straight from the works of his renowned “Golden Period.”

This focus on Klimt’s rectangular, geometric pattering has since been seen in Alexander McQueen’s spring 2013 collection by Sarah Burton. Her mood board overflowed with Klimt masterpieces, from Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (1907) to the swirling tendrils of The Tree of Life (1905), and her fabulous suits for both men and women shimmered with golden geometric blocks.

The Klimt-inspired look remerged for autumn in the Hermès 2012 Fall collection. Designs moved away from the blazing allure of the “Golden Period” towards a richer, darker and more sultry feel that echoed works such as Klimt’s Portrait of Emilie Flöge (1902). An array of puff-sleeved dresses, all adorned with intricate geometric patterning, radiated the luxury and romance of a true Klimt masterpiece; one hidden behind his more decadent golden works perhaps, yet a masterpiece nonetheless.

Most recently, L’wren Scott declared dramatically in 2013, “I’m having a gold moment.” This Klimt-inspired avowal towards luxury brought with it a stunning collection of extravagant jacquard, brocades and embroidered flora patterns. Details were lifted straight from Klimt’s brushstrokes, from serpentine swirls to fur collars, all bringing the 19th century paintings to life.

With such an intoxicating visual appeal, photographers have also found an affinity for Klimt’s sumptuous aesthetic. Photographer Norman Parkinson proved, in 1965, just how well suited the artist’s work was to the glossy pages of the fashion magazine. In his Vogue UK shoot for designer Pierre Cardin, Klimt’s paintings provided the backdrop to the very latest trends.

In Vogue Italia’s December 2007 issue, Steven Mesiel embraced the rich texture and ornate drama of works such as The Dancer (1916) for an editorial shoot ”Vogue Patterns.” Models were surrounded by a swirling aura of floral prints, almost engulfing them entirely. It’s arguably one of the visually busiest yet most enticing shoots around, and you’ll want to lean in to capture all the intricacies that fill the page- which was most likely Gustav Klimt’s very intention in the first place.

Tamara Lempicka and fashion

The work of Polish Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka enjoys an eminent spot in the Art Deco movement of the 1920s, a style characterised by rich colours, bold geometric shapes and ornamental finishes. Yet her bold public persona and extravagant lifestyle helped immortalise her as a key female figure, not merely in the realms of art history, but reaching as wide as music, photography, fashion and feminist aesthetics.

In her iconic portraits, de Lempicka beautifully illustrates the high society of Paris, Milan and New York, her sitters elegantly poised in their sumptuous satin and furs. Her style is instantly recognisable, as she adopted and reinvented the geometric shapes of Cubism and the Futurist aesthetic, in thrall to the machine, draping everything from hair to skin in a shimmering metallic sheen.

From writers and entertainers to scientists and industrialists, her portraits reveal the beautiful and glamourous elite of an extravagant epoch, and de Lempicka didn’t think twice about including herself in this clique. One of her most iconic works is that of her own self-portrait, Autoportrait (1925), in which she speeds seductively and fabulously behind the wheel of a green Bugatti.

And why would she think twice? Tamara de Lempicka was able to so perfectly capture the spirit of this high-flying era precisely because she was part of it. Living lavishly in Paris, she was bold, indulgent and sexually adventurous, the epitome of the emerging, brazen modern women – and fashion was an integral part of exerting this newfound female identity.

The clothes in her paintings were as much a focus as the subjects themselves. Their bodies were draped in supple folds of material, billowing out into silky backdrops or unfolding into jagged, skyscraper peaks. Looking as though they had stepped straight out from the pages of Vogue, her women flaunted the era’s most contemporary fashions; from bright red lipstick and nails to garçonne hairstyles and clothes inspired by designers such as Schiaparelli, Vionnet, and Gres.

It’s no surprise that, decades later, de Lempicka was still making an impact amongst female audiences. The strong feminine presence and sensual aesthetics seem perfectly suited to Madonna, with her brazen attitude and eccentric sense of style. Her 1987 video Open Your Heart opens directly onto a large reproduction of Andromeda, modernised and sexed up to suit Madonna’s temperament with its breasts blazing. Madonna goes one step further with director David Fincher, incorporating de Lempicke’s visual aesthetics into the very fabric of her videos. In both Express Yourself (1989) and Vogue (1990), it’s not just the era’s fashion that Madonna emulates, with her tightly coiled blonde hair, bright red lip stick and an austere suit reminiscent of the Portrait of the Duchess of La Salle. It’s the indulgence of rippling silk sheets, metallic mist, skyscrapers and light penetrating the shots in bold geometric shapes that simply radiates Tamara de Lempicka.

Express Yourself (1989)

 

Vogue (1990)

 
It’s an appealing female aesthetic that has found its way into so much of our popular culture. In 2011, Florence Welsh collaborated with Karl Lagerfeld for her vinyl release of Shake it Out, and the Lempicka influence is undeniable. Her poses are sensuously feminine yet Florence’s attitude is pure poise, aloof and commanding against the crumpled, metallic backdrop.

A number of editorial photographers have directly emulated Lempicka’s paintings, including Serbian Fashion Photographer Marijana Gligic , Spanish photographer Eugenio Recuenco and Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia. In 2010, the luxury eyewear brand Cutler and Gross even incorporated this Art Deco vision into their autumn advertising campaign, entitled “Sprit of Lempicka.”

Marijana Gligic, Eugenio Rexuenco, Steven Meisel, Cutler and Gross

 
Within today’s fashion world, there is an unwavering allegiance to the Art Deco pioneer, nearly a century after the first wave of flapper decadence and allure, as designers continue to be influenced by her work. In Ralph Lauren’s A/W 2005-2006 collection, models sported an array of chic caps and wraparound scarfs inspired by Lempicka’s Autoportrait. Later, in 2011, Peter Copping’s chic and elegant A/W look for Nina Ricci emerged from a mood board overflowing with references to her artwork, while Emporio Armani’s 2013 A/W collection showcased a range of extravagantly tailored dresses that perfectly captured the essence of Femme bleu a la guitare.

Vogue: Ralph Lauren, Nina Ricci, Emporio Armani, Dries Van Noten

Nocturnal animals contest on Front Row Society

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Nocturnal animals contest on Front Row Society
Please vote if you would like to see Kociara’s prints made into new products!

Front Row Society is an exciting new fashion platform giving designers from all backgrounds the opportunity to showcase their work as well as a unique fashion brand which produces and markets beautiful products with prints created by designers from all over the world.
Kociara has already had 2 scarves produced by FRS and there are several more products to come for AW14 and SS 15 collections.
The latest contest is for scarves and asked designers to explore the nocturnal world. We were asked to think of the transparent wings of houseflies and dragonflies, the near-metallic colours of scales on beetles and butterflies, the beautifully shimmering feathers of hummingbirds. The brief asked us to picture the black panthers and other night predators, perfectly camouflaged and patiently stalking their prey in the dark; a whole other world coming to life while we are sleeping. The keywords were: raven feathers, oil slick, morpho butterfly, dark iridescence, metallic hues, ultraviolet and animals skins and furs.
The images in this blog are my entries for this particular contest.
I usually try to explore a few ideas and for this contest I submitted a few different pieces working with the colour palette required. I tried to capture the slightly eery and yet magical atmosphere of the nigh time, the glistening lights and textures of feathers, scales, skin and fur.
Here are the links to the contest page
Wild Thing
Into the Night
Fantasy dance
Flutter
Ocean Magic
Hidden close
Butterfly repose