Wednesday, June 24, 2009

HARRIET THE SPY: Museum as Muse

On Sunday, being the devoted daughter that I am, I ventured from the East Village via the M103 to meet my parents in Murray Hill for Father’s Day brunch before indulging in an afternoon of hedonistic art à la the MET’s Francis Bacon exhibit.

Despite initial reservations, I was more interested in Bacon’s work than I’d preemptively thought. The portraiture he produced through the 60’s and 70’s was deep, twisted and evocative; and, while I didn’t exactly get the warm fuzzies from the too-frequent imagery of crucifixion and mammal carcasses, I certainly felt appreciative of Mr. Bacon’s style and the retrospective as a whole. But, before I begin to bore you with the art chat here, let’s talk about the real highlight of my museum adventure:


Cloaked in layers of gauzy cotton, colorful linen scarves and a gorgeous pair of perfectly worn knee-length mahogany leather boots, the petite fashion designer trolled the exhibit with her well-attired husband, several friends and two tiny daughters in tow. I recognized her immediately (I am not a stalker; I was merely an avid watcher of the Style Network through most of high school) and began to do what any healthy, normal, fashion-obsessed individual would do: I followed her for the rest of the afternoon.

Not a stalker you say? Hah. It seems I spoke too soon. But you see, I was intrigued. Rowley, who had been out at the Love Heals charity event for HIV/ AIDS education only hours prior, was gazing longingly at each painting, carefully reading the captions and whispering thoughtfully to her seersucker-clad hubbie as they passed from one room to the next.

I had to know what she thought. Was she inspired? Would I somehow see Mr. Bacon’s work reflected in her next collection? Would Spring 2010 feature a series of green Lucite watches – as per the artist’s recurring accessory in his Self Portrait, circa 1973? Would his Picasso-esque renderings reappear in Rowley’s work via painterly prints and watercolor blends of silk chiffon (read: Alessandro Dell'Acqua)?

As I tip-toed behind Ms. Rowley, from canvas to imploring canvas, I wondered where other designers seek inspiration before they approach the drafting table.

A century ago, Coco Chanel and Paul Poiret borrowed from the male wardrobe, influencing top designers today – from Christian Lacroix to Nicolas Ghesquiere – who still cite Poiret’s anti-corset movement among their chief sources of inspiration. I’ve always found that gender-bending politics, art, cinema and theater are inextricably linked to fashion. But, to avoid a torturous history lesson here, I figured it best to think about where are today’s collections are finding their footing.

Here’s what the designers du jour had to say about their ‘aha!’ moments:

- The Mulleavy sisters, who just won 2009 CFDA Women’s Wear Designer of the Year for Rodarte, count imagery from horror movies – think The Lost Boys and The Birds – as gothic inspiration.

- Jason Wu’s Fall 2009 Collection reflects elements of everything from classic fairy tales and Brothers Grimm-style silhouettes to "the quirky-chic look" of Manhattan socialite and fashion icon Iris Apfel.

- Erdem Moralioglu, a budding young London-based designer, who has also drawn from the world of wonder, told (UK) that his Spring/Summer 2009 Collection stemmed from a 1970’s production of “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” produced by Peter Brook, inciting looks that are both “modern and hyper-romantic.”

- Michael Kors’ life among the jet-set typically fuels his designs, which echo the exotic locales he so regularly frequents. This autumn, however, the recession-attentive designer told The Washington Times’ Stephanie Green that “the harsh reality of city life, right around the corner,” spoke to him. He describes the result as something “a little less romantic and a little more powerful…tough luxe."

- Just for fun: Remember the torturous 80’s flashback episode of “Gossip Girl” this past season? Los Angeles costume designer Meredith Markworth-Pollack told Women’s Wear Daily she drew from a variety of sources, including pop music divas – Olivia Newton-John, Madonna and Pat Benatar – and the era’s major designers – Chanel, Betsey Johnson and Norma Kamali – for inspiration. (Not to mention the added delight of referencing the resurgence of 80’s style on today’s runways; e.g. Alexander Wang and Balmain.)
The award for Most Literal Translation of Museum to Runway goes to German leather designer Daniel Rodan. In Berlin earlier this month Rodan dressed models for a promotion of 'Mauerkleider - East Side Gallery goes Fashion,’ part of the 20th anniversary celebrations of the fall of the wall. Featuring a new collection of Berlin Wall art-themed clothing, the collection brings iconic art from the Gallery walls to the dresses themselves.

Photo credit: Photographer Tim Walker for British Vogue, 2007.

1 comment:

Toothfairynotes said...

I love hte pic. Have seen it before, but it amazes me everytime! Stunning. love the post