Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Master of Light: Victor Horta in Brussels

The spectacular glass cupola of Victor Horta's Van Eetvelde House. Photograph (above) and Cover picture of the Horta- Lambeaux Pavilion for DAM by Elli Ioannou
Belgian architect Victor Horta was one of the pioneers of Art Nouveau and his work is celebrated this year by the City of Brussels with an extensive program of exhibitions and events. We look at some of the most innovative and influential townhouses he built, where he designed not only the architecture but every detail of the interiors. A special report by Elli Ioannou and Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photographs for DAM in Brussels by Elli Ioannou

The dining room Victor Horta designed for his own
townhouse in Brussels
ARCHITECTURE makes up the visual language of a city, it defines it’s identity, history and atmosphere. Evocative architecture creates great cities and draws people from around the world. Brussels distinctive Art Nouveau buildings have become landmarks for both the city's inhabitants and for visitors alike. One of the major Belgian architects who has contributed to creating Brussels' historic built environment is Victor Horta who has left his mark not only on the city's architecture but as a Belgian pioneer in Art Nouveau design.

This year, Brussels is celebrating the architect as one of Belgium's most influential designers and a leader of the Art Nouveau movement. The 12 month program, called Horta Inside Out, has many of the architect's Brussels' buildings open to the public for different events. It is presented by the City of Brussels and includes conferences, guided visits and exhibitions which explore Victor Horta's work.

Art Nouveau emerged in the 1890s and is characterised by sinuous lines and flowing organic shapes based on plant forms. It was a complete design philosophy and aesthetic that encompassed not only architecture but interior design, furniture, wallpaper and fabrics. The origins of Art Nouveau can be traced back to the writings of the French architectural theoretician Eugène Viollet-le-Duc whose Entretiens was published in 1863 and 1872. He wrote about using modern materials and new technology, such as lightweight metal armatures that would allow cantilevered or arched forms without the traditional use of heavy masonry, as a way to break from the past.

The light-filled cupola and atrium of
 the Van Eetvelde House
Victor Horta was a disciple of Viollet-le-Duc and was the first architect to use these ideas to create the sinuous Art Nouveau buildings we know today. Steel was the great innovation of the late 19th century and Horta used it in the designs of his new public, commercial and residential buildings and he was one of the first to expose it structurally rather than cover it with masonry. In 1893, he stunned the international architectural community with the virtuosity of his fluid design for the light and spacious Emile Tassel townhouse that brought Art Nouveau from purely the decorative arts into the architectural realm. The Tassel House is one of the key buildings of the era and has many of Horta’s design motifs which were to become synonymous with Art Nouveau. Other influential buildings are his home and atelier, now a museum, and the lesser known but equally important Maison Frison and Maison Van Eetvelde, all built within a short period, from 1893 to 1900.

Horta’s particular style of Art Nouveau was influenced by botanical studies and was less floral than the motifs used by designers in Paris. He was more interested in the stems of plants and the way they grow upwards seemingly ‘extending into infinity'. They inspired his use of the spiral staircase and creating landings ~ like leaves on a branch ~ leading to different living spaces. As Horta's stairwells are covered by glass ceilings they give a glimpse of light and sky, looking up into endless space.

Central to Victor Horta’s design methodology was his study of movement and light. His approach and design solutions also considered the ergonomic as well as the artistic and he was very forward thinking for his time. Horta valued both the function and look of a design equally and this was integral to his Modernist sensibility that was a true break from 19th century thinking.

Movement and light are key to Horta's design philosophy

The curling, plant-like design of the
 stair rail at the Frison House
The architect's sources of inspiration and influences were equally innovative. These included the work of Viollet-le-Duc, botanical studies and Japanese art and culture. Like many avant-garde designers, Horta's new and unfamiliar work was not always appreciated and accepted at the time. Even some of his builders tried to sabotage his projects. Unfortunately, many of Horta’s buildings which were privately commissioned, were destroyed or significantly altered during his lifetime. A distraught Horta subsequently proceeded to destroy many of his drawings, making it a difficult jigsaw puzzle to restore some of the remaining buildings back to their original condition.

Victor Horta was passionate about design and often worked in his Brussels atelier for three days without stopping or allowing himself to be disturbed. His food was even left outside of the door so he wouldn't be interrupted. He designed buildings and interiors, oversaw the making of models and had a basement space dedicated to the making of ornaments created by sculptors he employed, many of them his friends.

Horta took a very different approach to design compared to French architects and his work is the opposite of the wide open spaces and direct perspective that was typical in Paris at the time.

The vaulted atrium above the stairwell
in Horta's house.
His work is complex and circular; Horta often used spiral staircases and steel and glass ceilings to bring movement and light into buildings. Tall terraces sitting side by side typified the housing in Brussels. Combined with the city's long winters, this meant that they could be dark and depressing so it was important to be able to bring natural light into the centre of buildings which Horta nicknamed the ‘dead zone’.

Horta's choice of materials was integral to both the design and functionality of his buildings: the transparency of glass in different textures, leadlight and mirrors all contributed to a sense of creating motion and a perception of light and space, as well as being decorative. The architect's other main design solutions for opening up the physical space of an interior was to introduce mezzanines between floors, a revolutionary change at the time. Horta also pioneered the use of electricity in private homes which, at that period, was predominantly only used commercially.

Horta was so passionate about design he often worked in his Brussels atelier for three days without stopping

The curvilinear design of Horta's
innovative suspended,
steel balconies.
Victor Horta's Townhouse and Atelier
The architect's former house and studio situated in the St Gilles district in Brussels is now the Victor Horta museum and embodies the essence of his Art Nouveau philosophy. It was built between 1898 -1901 and has recently been restored. Horta not only designed the architecture of the building but created every detail of the interiors. Each room is full of his experimental use of new forms and materials from the swirling designs of the mosaic floors and the wall coverings in marble, bronze and silks along with the vivid and curvilinear stained glass panels, plant-like light fittings, vases, carved wooden furniture and the fine bronze door handles and hinges with dynamic shapes.

It was very unusual at the time that his work encompassed not just the architecture but a complete and integrated design for the interior of his houses. He was daring in his design thinking and the insistence on its exact execution. And since Brussels in the late 19th century and early 20th century was one of the wealthiest industrialised cities in Europe, Horta's clients had budgets that allowed him to explore and experiment with new designs.

For his own house, the external materials were more elaborate than his adjoining atelier as he wanted to make a statement that an affluent architect lived here. The balconies were innovative and Horta used suspended steel rather than using supporting columns from below. He was one of the first architects to use steel in this type of construction and chose to reveal the structure which was new and experimental. He highlighted this by using bronze which showed the structure as part of the design.

The clever addition of mirrors
created a great sense of light
and space in the stairwell of
Horta's house.
Horta’s designs also reflected the societal norms of the times particularly in the separation of the movement throughout the building by the owners, their guests and the home's staff. Different stairwells, passageways and doors were designed just for the use of staff and ensured the smooth running of the household.

In Horta's house, the first floor landing of the stairwell opens to three different spaces separated by steel, glass and double folding doors in mahogany with botanical designs for the leadlights.

At the very top of the staircase is a vaulted, glazed atrium that brings natural light flooding through the building. This is further enhanced by mirrors on opposite walls that give the sense of looking into infinite, light-filled space.

Always inventive and going against current trends, Horta continued to experiment with unexpected materials. For example, he covered the dining room walls in white enamelled brick, a material that was not considered sophisticated at the time but was exquisitely worked, alternating with glass, marble, gilt metal and fine woods. He even used exposed steel in bedrooms much to his clients' consternation.

Horta's work encompassed not just the architecture of a building but a complete and integrated interior design

 Beautiful bronze door handles
with Horta's signature whiplash curve
Other inventive touches in the living and dining rooms of the Horta house are ergonomic door handles with the same curve as the hand, built-in furniture and a dining table connected to electricity to keep plates warm. He also had a telephone at hand to call his staff  whenever they were needed which apparently impressed his guests.

The UNESCO commission recognized the Horta Museum as a World Heritage site in 2000 along with three other of his major town houses: the Maison Tassel, Maison Solvay and Maison van Eetvelde. Victor Horta's Art Nouveau designs are considered some of the most remarkable pioneering works of architecture of the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Their revolutionary steel structure, open plan interiors, natural light, fluid, botanical designs and multi levels made them unlike any other architecture seen before. An extensive restoration project of the Horta Maison and Atelier was completed in 2013 and the following year it won the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage.

The entrance to the Frison House
showing the stained glass windows
 and the sinuous handrails.
The Frison House
Where would historic buildings be without the support of private patrons and not for profit organisations coming to their rescue? Maison Frison is another of Victor Horta's important townhouses in need of restoration and its recent purchase reads like a movie script. The house was bought less than 12 months ago by Indian-born arts patron and jewellery designer, Nupur Tron. Living between Paris and Brussels, the designer says the decision to move to Belgium was with the intention of setting up a foundation as a platform for an exchange of art and cultural projects between India and Europe.

She was searching for a home to live in and came across the Frison House, even though at first she was unaware of its significant architectural and cultural history. She felt like it was destiny finding the house and buying it happened very quickly. Now she plans to run the Maison Frison as a museum and cultural foundation aiming to bridge the gap between the East and West with new artistic projects.

"There is a strong correlation between India and Art Nouveau ~ which was inspired by the East"

A detail showing the Frison House's bronze
handles and hand-painted decoration.
“I just went with the feeling and the energy of the house. It felt like the house found me, as if it was destiny,” she says today. “This house is a jewel and it was like discovering an uncut diamond that just needs polishing.

"There is a strong correlation between India and Art Nouveau, which was influenced by the East. The curves, the stained glass windows, are typical of palaces in Rajasthan. Yet the house is at the same time contemporary, futuristic and modern but not kitsch. Art Nouveau is liveable but also it is discreet. The restoration and preservation of a house like this makes you proud of your heritage.”

The Frison House was originally built by Victor Horta for his friend, lawyer Maurice Frison, in 1894.  There are many Art Nouveau details remaining in the house, including dozens of steel handles with the iconic motif of vines. The house, located on a hilltop near Sablon in Brussels, was altered in 1955 when it was turned into a retail space and its ground floor had a shop window installed.

The slim, light structure of the
Frison House's conservatory.
Until the 1960s, Art Nouveau was often not valued and some of the buildings were sold for the price of the land. Although, today they are rare and worth several millions of dollars.

The Frison House's grand salon upstairs, features the original decorative marble fireplace, oak parquet floor and curved high ceilings. The substantial doors have lustrous handles designed with counterweights that could easily be opened by staff.

One of the outstanding features of the building is the conservatory, with its vaulted, stained-glass roof and slim, curling iron columns.

This space was restored by the former owners in 2005, using old photographs to replicate iron work and stained glass. It is one of Horta's most notable winter gardens. Napur Tron has embarked on a major restoration of the building and, when it is complete, it will be a new arts and culture centre for Brussels.

The Van Eetvelde House
The beautiful glass cupola and atrium
of the Van Eetvelde House
Many of Victor Horta’s clients were affluent and came from the Belgian capital's cultural elite and bourgeois intelligentsia. The Brussels' avant-garde wanted not only a new and modern art but an architecture that reflected the break with tradition. With a booming economy in Brussels, Edmond van Eetvelde, King Léopold II's Minister for Congolese affairs, commissioned Victor Horta to design him a luxurious townhouse in 1897.

By the late 19th century, Belgium was an industrialized country producing iron and steel that was also used in building houses. But it was not until Victor Horta and the advent of Art Nouveau that these materials were used in such an expressive way, later to be simplified and expressed more structurally in Modernist buildings.

For the Van Eetvelde house, Horta not only designed an innovative steel and iron structure for the façade, allowing for large windows decorated with his signature whiplash curves but he used steel for the interior detailing. The townhouse's structure is particularly slender and represents a modern way of building construction still being used now, and yet Horta was using these techniques in the 1890s.

To solve the dilemma of bringing natural light into Brussels' terraced houses, Horta once again opened up the centre of the building. This lead to one of his most beautiful designs, the soaring, octagonal atrium on slim iron pillars topped by cupola in stained glass that the Maison Van Eetvelde is known for. Horta also used other effective design solutions for opening up the space by using reflective materials such as mirrored glass and steel to enhance the sense of light. The botanical Art Nouveau designs of the stained glass of the cupola have a palm leaf motif and the pillars form the stems with vine-like curling iron banisters.

To solve the dilemma of getting natural light into Brussels' terraced houses, Horta opened up the centre of the building

Victor Horta's richly designed salon
 of the Van Eetvelde House with its
tall mirrors, green marble, silk
 and bronze borders.
The walls today are adorned with the original drawings of floral motifs synonymous with Art Nouveau. Victor Horta’s artists drew directly on to the wall, without stencils and in order to ensure their steady hands, their contract included a clause of no drinking or staying up late!

The octagonal stair-hall had various doors leading to different parts of the house and discretion and privacy were at the heart of its sophisticated design. The double height entrance also enabled circulation in a spiral movement. Horta designed the building so people lived at the centre of the house but circulated around the periphery.

The designer used expensive materials for the Van Eetveld house: marble and bronze with silk wall coverings, fine mosaics for the floors in green and pink with stairs bordered by dramatic curves. The colour palette of gold, green and ochre gave a cohesive look to the interior design.

 Horta was also a collector of Japanese art and the influence from Japan is especially evident in the main living room with its silk wall coverings. This large room has high, decorative ceilings and is lit by big windows. The architect cleverly uses mirrors as an integral part of the design rather than as a separate element. The walls are lined with green marble and the silk from France, bordered by rich bronze borders curling into Horta's whiplash shapes. The silk in the dining room is a copy of the original, as this was faded, but it has been recreated by the original company in Lyon.

Horta was not just an architect but a brilliantly creative artist and an unusually skilful designer.

A detail of the marble and bronze fireplace in the salon
with its handsome French silk wall covering.
The Van Eetvelde townhouse was designed and built in two stages, initially from 1895-97, and then an extension from 1899-1901. This had a sandstone façade and housed a garage, an office for Van Eetvelde with a separate entrance. Horta liked to design each of his buildings customised to the individual client, in exacting detail, according to their particular needs. This made it difficult for the next generation of owners to adapt to the space and many were sold with great difficulty although today they are very valuable. Today, the Van Eetvelde house is currently commercially leased.

Victor Horta's Legacy
Victor Horta was not just an architect but rather a brilliantly creative artist and an unusually skillful and imaginative industrial and interior designer. For him, architecture included every aspect associated with the buildings he designed from the light fittings to the furniture and the wallpaper to the floor tiles. Today, there are ten townhouses which remain standing and are now private residences, foundations or commercially occupied.

The intricate mosaic-tiled Art Nouveau patterns of the
Van Eetvelde's House's floors.
These buildings are considered the greatest expression of Art Nouveau in art and architecture and represent some of the most influential artistic and technological innovations that heralded the 20th century and the beginning of  Modernism.

The City of Brussels' program Horta: Inside Out  highlights and celebrates Victor Horta and his work and it is a unique opportunity to visit the architect's buildings that are not usually open to the public.

For more information about Victor Horta, the events in Brussels and the townhouses that are open, go to the Visit Brussels website.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Jasper Conran's Graceful Geometry and Luminous Colours

 Jasper Conran's vivid, monochromatic colours and bold silhouettes at his AW18 show in London. Photograph (above) by Kseniya Segina for DAM. Cover picture by Elli Ioannou
As one of Britain's leading designers and part of a family design dynasty started by his father Sir Terence Conran, Jasper Conran has worked across all aspects of design including fashion, the theatre and interiors. His streamlined and richly-coloured Autumn/Winter 2018 show was one of the highlights of last month's London Fashion Week. His latest collection has a spare yet graceful geometry highlighted by luminous colours, writes Antonio Visconti. Photographs by Kseniya Segina

Brilliant colour and flowing
silhouettes at the AW18 show
JASPER Conran is one of the founding members of London Fashion Week which originally started life as London Designer Collections. He trained at Parson’s School of Design in New York and produced his first womenswear collection in 1978 when he was 19 years old. Since then, Mr. Conran has also designed costumes and sets for ballet, opera and theatre productions and continued to expand his range to include menswear, homewares collections, fragrances and designs for eyewear and luggage. The designer has also opened L'Hôtel Marrakech in Morocco, in a beautiful riad that was once an 18th Century palace, at the heart of the city's Medina.

This fashion season his brilliantly-hued AW18 show was set against a cool, white background at London's Claridges Hotel. The blocks of monochromatic colour in yellow, orange, bright pink, electric blue and green had a contemporary yet dramatic flair. The colour and inspiration for the designs have painterly origins in the work of artists such as Ellsworth Kelly and Howard Hodgkin. Long, pleated skirts in bright hues were teamed with sporty tops and three-quarter length coats or textured knits. Fluid gowns with cap sleeves fell gracefully to the floor in a mix of contrasting dark and vivid shades. Voluminous but form-fitting around the neck and shoulders, the flowing, long dresses had dashes of brilliantly mixed colours such as silky orange and bright pink (see above) and deep hues of cobalt and violet (see below).

A rich palette in cobalt and violet enhanced the sense
of a painterly collection.
Well-cut dresses and jackets had a spare yet graceful geometry. Navy blue outfits contrasted with ensembles in buttery yellow and others in pink, green and orange. A creamy-white short coat, knit top and skirt provided a palette-cleansing lightness and clever contrast to the luminous colours. Trainers matched the outfits and the low-slung shoes enhanced the sense of the clothes movement and freedom.

A high-necked sweater in grass-green managed to look both stylish and comfortable and made a captivating contrast to another version in daffodil yellow with a well-cut, overcoat with wide lapels flung over the top, in exactly the same sunny colour.

The collection had its sporty edge enhanced by snappy, zip-up tops, textured knits and windproof smocks. The combination of skillful use of colour and the mixture of different folds and pleats and silhouettes added to the sense that Mr. Conran is a master of his metier.

An elegantly monochromatic creation in deep indigo captures Vogue's editor at large Hamish Bowles attention in the audience along with milliner Stephen Jones.
A daffodil yellow knit and coat made for a burst of bright sunshine in the Autumn/Winter 2018 collection.
A grass green knit added to the panoply of bold colours in the collection.
A dark navy, textured knit made a bold contrast to the silky, glowing long gowns.
 Zip-up tops with hoods added to the sporty motif running through the collection.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Splashes of Colour Enliven Paris' Winter Whites at Victoria/Tomas

An indigo velvet jack on the runway at Victoria/Tomas looked warm enough to wear outside in a snow-covered Paris. Photograph and cover picture by Elli Ioannou
Wearing a wintry wardrobe of layered whites, Paris opened the last of the Autumn/Winter 2018 fashion weeks. It's the final stop on the frenetic month-long schedule that started in New York and London and moved on to Milan and the French capital. Engulfed by a sub-zero cold snap, the city's rugged-up fashion pack scurry between shows across town. The new collection of young French label Victoria/Tomas was presented in the dark corridors of YoYo beneath the Palais de Tokyo, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photography by Elli Ioannou

A vivid blue gathered jacket and pleated
skirt light up the dark corridors
of  YoYo
FREEZING outside in a snowy Paris, the show of young French brand Victoria/Tomas was held in the dark, concrete corridors of YoYo, underneath the Palais de Tokyo, once occupied by the Cinematheque francaise. However, the dim surroudings covered in graffiti, were still a respite from the cold and the sombre hues of the new AW18 collection were enlivened with dashes of dark red, celestial blue and pink. The collection, created by Victoria Feldman and Tomas Berzins, was the couple's second runway show in Paris, after their debut in September last year, on the official ready to wear women's calendar. The life and love of a couple was the inspiration for the new collection.

The daywear offerings included softly-gathered jackets and knit, pleated skirts with stripes, velvet puffer jackets, checked dresses and coats with houndstooth pockets, leather jackets with large, colourful ties and camel coats with ruched sleeves and waists. The checks and plaids that dominated many runways in London, were also part of the Victoria/Tomas collection, including a long overcoat in red with touches of green, blue and black, long shirt dresses gathered at the front and a draped denim jacket worn with a plaid skirt. This season, the duo also added evening wear with silk dresses in pink and black featuring voluminous sleeves and gathered hems.

A check shirt dress with gathered hem
 and jacket with hounds tooth pockets
The brand was originally founded by Victoria Feldman and Tomas Berzins in 2012, four years after they met in Paris while studying fashion. They showed a capsule collection of handmade leather garments in 2013, and were the youngest finalists of the Hyeres Festival of Fashion and Photography.

Before starting their line, Tomas Berzins worked in New York at Alexander Wang before returning to France to launch the label with Victoria Feldman. They both aim to put together collections for the contemporary woman that lives and works in an urban, city environment. The pair work as a team and appear to have a rich, creative dialogue. They have been together for ten years and got married more than a year ago.

While Tomas Bezins says he is inspired by the work of Tim Burton and the world of skaters and hip-hop, Victoria is interested in art and experimental fashion. Together they want to create artistic, sculptural clothes with a brilliant palette that enlivens their designs. The new collection embodies those aims with its dynamic yet comfortable silhouettes and mix of neutral tones like camel with bright colour.
Tap on photographs for a full screen slideshow
A long, houndstooth overcoat with an easy volume reminiscent of the Eighties and dramatic, black leather ties.

Dashes of vivid yellow added a new look to a black leather jacket worn with a long, pleated skirt with contrasting stripe in blue and yellow.  
A red and black knit dress and cardigan made a dynamic combination with its stripes and squares.

Large, check pockets and sleeves give a lively edge to a dark, navy winter coat.

Tones of camel in knitted top and a velvet, ruched sleev jacket made a more natural foil to the brilliant palette of the rest of the collection.
Designers Tomas and Victoria added evening wear to their collection this season, in the form of pure silk dresses with voluminous, graceful sleeves and gathered hems in pinks and blues and black.

A draped and distressed jean jacket with a check shirt and plaid skirt made for a comfortable yet artistic ensemble for daywear.

 A pink, boxy wool jacket with large pockets is worn over a more delicate concoction in pink and teal silk.

Dynamic fuchsia jacket and trousers made for urban life in big cities.
Checks and plaids dominated the runways in London and they were a key part of the Victoria/Tomas collection.

 The neutral tones of a camel coat are made both more contemporary and romantic by the ruched sleeves finished with flair.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Japanese Designer Yuima Nakazato's Cosmic Couture

Yuima Nakazato in Paris with a model wearing a long coat created with the designer's new technology and recycled parachutes. Cover picture of and photograph (above) by Elli Ioannou
Japanese couturier Yuima Nakazato was inspired by the Space Age and interstellar travel for his new cosmic haute couture collection shown in Paris last month. The designer continues his exploration of new production technologies and recycled materials to create unique clothes that can be updated and worn for generations, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photographs by Elli Ioannou

Bomber jacket made using Nakazato's
riveted pieces of laser-cut,
discarded materials
YUIMA Nakazato likes to create futuristic collections that explore new technology in fashion. Astronauts, space travel and Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey all inspired his new work. This season, the designer used recycled materials such as airbags and parachutes that are laser-cut and put together without sewing. Instead, they are riveted together with the couturier's special, patented snap connections. The designer uses these modular components to create clothes that fit each contour of the wearer's body and can be quickly and easily repaired or altered in colour and shape depending on changing fashions.

This season, the young designer used other discarded industrial materials to create supple, A-line coats and dresses, banded tunics and stylish bomber jackets. The space theme was also more literal with several models wearing white spacesuits, gleaming, domed helmets and panelled dresses with satellite images of earth. The new collection is part of Nakazato's continuing exploration of fashion and technology. Called Harmonise, the collection was shown last month during the Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris at the Elephant Paname. While the overall look of the show draws on space travel, Yuima Nakazato also went deeply into the technology that is actually used to create garments for astronauts. The designer spoke to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency ( JAXA) about their ongoing research into creating the perfect spacesuit.

The inspiration for the collection was drawn from the spacesuit research by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

The studies made by JAXA related to Yuima Nakazato's experiments with using units of fabric that are riveted together to fit each individual customer. This technology allows garments to be updated or changed in form and material according to new fashions or changes in the wearer's body shape. Yuima Nakazato calls the production process the 'unit constructed textile' that allows customisation of each garment to the size of the wearer. He has already experimented with 3D printing and body scanners to produce clothes that are a perfect fit. Mr. Nakazato's method is a technology the designer has been exploring for several years along with creating more sustainable fashion. The inspiration for the current collection was drawn from the exterior structure of spaceships and the spacesuit research by the team at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

White spacesuits with domed helmets
captured the Space Age theme 
Yuima Nakazato says it was also important for him to understand how vital a recyclable system is in space to sustain long-term stays with limited resources. This lead to the designer's research and development into using discarded industrial products originally designed to protect humans such as airbags and parachutes, from around the world. Mr. Nakazato dismantled and reassembled the materials using his digital fabrication method and the craftsmanship of his atelier in Tokyo's Shibuya district. He found the materials were able to be repurposed and used to created innovative fabrics. "Our system of putting the finished designs together allows the atelier to make updates to the garment in response to changing environments and the wearer’s body shape, significantly extending the lifespan of the piece to semi-permanent," explains Yuima Nakazato. "With this system, clothing can truly harmonise with each wearer and adapt to the world they live in." While the couturier has a strong vision of the future of fashion, he also looks back to Japanese tradition to inform his work, including kimonos that are reused and kept in families for generations. These precious pieces are not thrown away but repaired and kept for future use

"These are the garments designed for pioneers who dare venture into the new age. This collection is our message to the future."

The designer called the collection Harmonise because he wanted to bring the human body and clothing together in a new way. Yuima Nakazato sees mankind's growth reflected in our way of manufacturing and wearing garments. He uses outer space as a symbol of the future, dreaming of worlds beyond our own. Looking back to Neil Armstrong’s first footprints on the moon and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the designer is inspired by the 1960s, a time when we were fascinated with the future and exploring the universe in a way that is only now becoming a reality today. "We put together this collection with the hope of expanding the possibilities of mankind, even if it is a small step," says Yuima Nakazato. "These are the garments designed for pioneers who dare venture into the new age. This collection is our message to the future."

 Tap on photographs for full-screen slideshow
Yuima Nakazato likes to create futuristic collections that explore new technology in fashion.

Astronauts, space travel and Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey inspired Nakazato's new work.

 This season, the designer used recycled materials such as airbags and parachutes that are laser-cut and put together without sewing.
Instead, the garments are riveted together with the couturier's special, patented snap connections.
The space theme was also more literal with several models wearing white spacesuits, gleaming, domed helmets and panelled dresses with satellite images of earth.
While the overall look of the show draws on space travel, Yuima Nakazato also went deeply into the technology that is actually used to create garments for astronauts. 

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Poetry and Drama at Stephane Rolland's Haute Couture Show

  A pearly, winged creation at Stephane Rolland's haute couture SS18 show in Paris. Photograph and cover picture by Elli Ioannou

The dramatic and poetic haute couture show of Stéphane Rolland was held in the gilded Favart room of the Opéra Comique in Paris. The fluid and sculptural creations of the designer's Spring 2018 collection were embellished with gleaming discs as well as jewellery created in a new collaboration with Albert Boghossian, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Additional reporting and photographs by Elli Ioannou

Violoncellist Francois Salque plays during the
 StephaneRolland couture show in Paris.
FRENCH couturier's Stéphane Rolland new show opened in velvety darkness with the liltingly melancholic sounds of violoncellist François Salque lit by a single circle of light on the stage at Paris’ Théâtre National de l’Opéra Comique. Singers from Les Cœurs Parisiens later appeared and heightened the sense of atmosphere. The music accompanied a poetic and subtly dramatic show of flowing, ethereal gowns in pale silky tones of pearly cream and white with dashes of gleaming, silver and crystalline sparkle. The fluid creations were silhouetted with abstract, sculptural forms, some in the shape of flowers or wings. The designer has said his favourite sculpture is the Victory of Samothrace, also called the Nike of Samothrace, a marble Hellenistic sculpture of Nike created in the 2nd century BC. Wings are a potent emblem in his work and his interest was first piqued when he saw the sculpture as a child at the Louvre and was enthralled by the surging sense of movement and the exquisite drapery.

Stéphane Rolland's new show opened in velvety darkness with the liltingly melancholic music of violoncellist François Salque

A fluid and silky dress with a flowing cape
 takes centre stage.
Today, the couturier also sculpts and sees it as an extension of his work as a fashion designer. Past collections by Mr Rolland have been inspired by architecture, sculpture or art, from Velasquez to Anish Kapoor. But this time the leitmotif was the meeting of different artists. Stephane Rolland says these artistic encounters expand and inform his work. He loved the emotion created by musician François Salque's recitals and wanted to include that in his new collection. The designer also formed a new creative partnership with jeweller Albert Boghossian after deciding he wanted to create something new and entirely different for this collection. Gowns were embellished with the intricate jewellery pieces. The collection's standouts are billowing capes and long, pleated skirts and creamy, floating satin gowns decorated with glinting, silver disks, like wearing a piece of mid-century modern design.

Silvery discs catch the light on
a flowing gown.
Softly falling, voluminous satin crepe was the other central theme of the show in tones of white, sand and amber. In contrast  to the fluid gowns, were tailored trousers, coats and shorts. Although architecture is often one of Mr. Rolland's starting points for designing a collection, this time he wanted to "let go" and create pieces that were more gentle in form and shape. The theme of the show was "art and nonchalance" and although there were pieces designed like sculpture he combined this ethos with more relaxed creations such as slimline, lamé pants, white leather shorts and tops paired with flannel, wide trousers and jumpsuits in white crepe. Simplicity and comfort were emphasised with long, voluminous coats in platinum lamé or black wool that had an androgynous look. The couturier has said he grew up surrounded by black-and-white photographs as his mother worked at well-known Parisian photographic studio, Pictorial Service. The sense of volume, contrast and movement Stephane Rolland noted in the photographs as a child were to become integral to his work later as a fashion designer and can be seen in this new collection today.

Softly falling, voluminous satin crepe was another central theme of the show in tones of white, sand and amber

Couturier Stephane Rolland at the finale of his show.
Mr Rolland had an early and fast rise in the fashion world, working at Balenciaga in his early twenties as creative director of menswear. By the time he was 24 year old he had launched his own prêt-à-porter business and worked at this for six years before becoming artistic director of another haute couture fashion house for a decade. He also worked as a costume designer and was nominated twice for the prestigious Molière awards, becoming an official partner of the Cannes Film Festival. In 2007, Stephane Rolland presented a couture collection under his own name and today is a full member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. Mr. Rolland is one of just 14 fashion designers based in Paris and nominated by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture as “Grand Couturier,” which also allows his fashion house's collections to officially be called haute couture.

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The satin gowns are embroidered with the jewellery pieces made in collaboration with jeweller Albert Boghossian.

Stéphane Rolland also sculpts and sees this creative work as an extension of his work as a fashion designer.

The designer has said his favourite sculpture is the Victory of Samothrace, also called the Nike of Samothrace, a marble Hellenistic sculpture of Nike created in the 2nd century BC.
  Wings are potent emblem for Stephane Rolland's work and his interest was first piqued when he saw the Victory of Samothrace as a child at the Louvre and was enthralled by the surging sense of movement and the exquisite drapery.
Past collections by Mr Rolland have been inspired by architecture, sculpture or art, from Velasquez to Anish Kapoor. But this time the leitmotif was the meeting of different artists, including jeweller Albert Boghossian. 
The gilded dome and frescoes of the Opéra Comique in Paris where the show was held.
Stephane Rolland grew up surrounded by black-and-white photographs and they influenced his sense of volume, contrast and movement.
The collection included billowing floating satin gowns embellished with fabric flowers.

  The music accompanied a poetic and subtly dramatic show of flowing, ethereal gowns in pale silky tones of pearly cream and white with dashes of gleaming, silver and crystalline sparkle.

  The guests of the Stephane Rolland show at the Théâtre National de l’Opéra Comique.
The sense of volume, contrast and movement Stephane Rolland noted in the photographs as a child were to become integral to his work later as a fashion designer and can be seen in this new collection today.
In 2007, Stephane Rolland presented his first couture collection under his own name and today is a full member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.
Mr. Rolland is one of just 14 fashion designers based in Paris and nominated by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture as “Grand Couturier,” which also allows his fashion house's collections to offcially be called haute couture.
The finale of the haute couture show by Stephane Rolland.

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