Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Architecture: New United States & Olympic Paralympic Museum

The first ever US Olympic and Paralympic museum is completed in Colorado Springs, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. 
This year, the Tokyo games were scuppered by Covid-19, but a spectacular new museum in Colorado has just opened to celebrate the Olympics. The United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. It was originally planned to open with the games in Japan. The building is America's first Olympic museum and has a dynamic design that reflects athletic endeavor, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photographs by Jason O'Rear 

The façade is made up of 9,000 anodised aluminum,
diamond-shaped panels, each unique in shape,
creating a sense of motion and dynamism.
THE glistening, sculptural form of the new United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum (USOPM) sits below the craggy Rocky Mountains like a silvery, rectilinear rose.

Folded, anondised aluminium panels overlap like petals, wrapping around the building in a spiral and reflecting the limpid light that bathes this corner of Colorado.

Designed by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), the museum has just been completed after a long gestation, in the town of Colorado Springs, nestled under Pikes Peak. American athletes John Naber and Peggy Fleming were present at a ceremonial launch along with Museum CEO Christopher Liedel, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, and DS+R partner Benjamin Gilmartin, who oversaw the project.

This is the latest museum project designed by the high profile, New York-based architectural firm. Gilmartin lead the team along with partners Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio and Charles Renfro. The architects have become known in the USA not only for the High Line in New York but for their museum designs that include the Broad Museum in Los Angeles, the extension and renovation of New York's Museum of Modern Art, Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art and the Art History building at Stanford University, among others.

The glistening, sculptural form of the new museum nestles below the craggy Rocky Mountains like a silvery, rectilinear rose

The striking museum sits beneath the spectacular
backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. It will be at 
the heart of an urban redevelopment, connecting 
back to the city via a new bridge.
Colorado Springs was chosen as the setting for the museum as it is already the home of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and Training Center.

The museum is designed to celebrate American athletes and they were central to the planning of the building and its exhibitions. Accessibility formed a key element of the project, which is the only museum in the US dedicated to the legacy of the country's Olympic and Paralympic sportspeople.

"Every aspect of our design strategy has been motivated by the goal of expressing the extraordinary athleticism and progressive values of Team USA," said Benjamin Gilmartin. "A taut aluminum façade flexes and twists over the building’s dynamic pinwheel form, drawing inspiration from the energy and grace of Olympians and Paralympians.

"Inside, descending galleries are organized along a continuous spiral, enabling visitors of all abilities to have a shared, common experience along a universal pathway. After leading the museum’s design for the past six years, I’m so moved by the collective, herculean effort that allowed us to now share these stories of perseverance with the public."

"A taut aluminum façade twists over the building’s dynamic pinwheel form, drawing inspiration from the energy and grace of Olympians and Paralympians"

Folded, metallic panels overlap like petals, wrapping 
around the building in a spiral and reflecting the
limpid light that bathes this corner of Colorado.
The aim of the architects was to make the museum one of the most accessible in the world, so visitors with and without disabilities can move through the building with equal ease. Paralympic athletes and people with disabilities were consulted to make sure that from entering to leaving the building, everyone can visit and enjoy the museum together, regardless of ability.

Walking inside the museum atrium, you take an elevator to reach the third floor and then descend following the exhibits via a gently-sloping ramp that guides visitors down a circulation path through the galleries. The spiraling ramp is like New York's Guggenheim museum's curvilinear walkway that goes from top to bottom. The ramps here are particularly broad and can accommodate two visitors including a wheelchair. Glass balustrades in the atrium allow for low-height visibility, cane guards have been integrated into benches and there are smooth floors for easier wheel chair movement, plus flexible seating at the café.

The interior design of the museum tells the story of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in eleven permanent galleries with one that will change with new exhibitions. Visitors learn the history of the games and then explore the ways athletes train and prepare. The museum has the latest technology and visitors can try interactive sports and even experience being part of olympic awards ceremonies. There are more than 260 artifacts, from sprinter Michael Johnson’s golden shoes and Olympic torches to gymnast Shannon Miller’s scrunchie and the scoreboard from the Lake Placid Olympic Fieldhouse.

The spiraling ramp is like New York's Guggenheim museum's curvilinear path, leading from the top to the bottom.

"Every aspect of our design strategy has been
motivated by the goal of expressing the extraordinary
athleticism of Team USA," said Benjamin Gilmartin. 
The American athletes that were consulted on the exhibition spaces and the best ways of creating accessibility, described their experiences: from how they got into their sport to becoming part of the Olympic or Paralympic teams. 

The new museum is designed to give a real sense of what it is like to be an athlete: training, walking into a stadium and how it feels to stand on a podium accepting a medal. For example, visitors can virtually race athletes on an indoor track, and even talk to virtual versions of them. Another gallery offers a 360-degree immersive experience where visitors enter a stadium during the Olympic opening ceremony with a crowd cheering them on.

When you arrive at the museum, every visitor receives an RFID tag that allows you to design your own journey, rather like the digital pen that was designed with DS+R at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. RFID, short for radio frequency identification, uses radio waves to transmit data from the tag to a reader, which then transmits the information to a computer program. The visitor is able to focus on the sports, athletes and Olympic games they are interested in and store photos and videos that they can see later on the USOPM's website or by scanning the tag with their phone.

Visitors can virtually race athletes, talk to them and experience entering a stadium during the Opening Ceremonies with a crowd cheering them on

The soaring, central atrium that forms the entrance
to the museum with balconies that overlook the 
space and orient the visitor.
The atrium at the entrance soars three storeys high, with balconies overlooking the space below. This central gallery is brightened with clererstory lighting, designed to orient visitors along the path that moves through the exhibitions. The height of each glazed balcony overlooking the space is based on record-breaking Olympic jumps.

On the first level of the building, there is a theatre that has removable seats to accommodate wheelchairs, so that a Paralympic team can sit together. The second floor has an event space with a panoramic view across downtown Colorado Springs to the Rocky Mountains. Also on level two are the café and an education centre, across the plaza from the main museum building. The cafe’s landscaped roof has native plants that will change each season. On the third level is a multi-function boardroom with an outdoor terrace and a vast window looking across the dramatic natural landscape.

Diller Scofidio +Renfro also designed the new pedestrian bridge that crosses the railway yards in front of the museum, to a park opposite and connects a bike network downtown to the Midland Trail. Six prefabricated sections make up the bridge that will be built on site later this year, completing the museum project.

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Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Fashion and Film: Clueless at 25 ~ Like, a Totally Important Teen Film

“She’s my friend because we both know what it’s like to have people be jealous of us.” ~ Cher. Stacey Dash as Dionne Davenport and Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz in the 1995 hit film Clueless. Cover picture: Stephane Rolland Haute Couture AW20 by Elli Ioannou for DAM
While many teen films fade away never to be heard of again, Clueless, a loose adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, has remained in the cultural consciousness since its 1995 release. Maybe it’s the catchy soundtrack, or familiar story about social comeuppance, or the endurance of the teen film as a genre. Most likely it’s a combination of many factors. By Phoebe Macrossan, Queensland University of Technology and Jessica Ford, University of Newcastle

Ugh, as if!” ~ Cher Horowitz.
Alicia Silverstone's Cher became
an unlikely fashion icon 

AUSTEN'S Emma Woodhouse is transformed into Cher Horowitz (played by the then relatively unknown Alicia Silverstone), a Beverly Hills teenager, who ~ like her matchmaker predecessor ~ considers herself the centre of her social circle. As in Emma, our clueless protagonist meddles in her friends’ lives, attempting to transform Tai (a modern day facsimile of orphaned and penniless Harriet Smith, played by Brittany Murphy) into a worldly and fashionable “catch” for the suitor of Cher’s choosing - the dashingly handsome Elton (in a rework of the original Mr Elton, played by Jeremy Sisto).

Austen’s books have an enduring appeal for filmmakers – with varying levels of fidelity to their source material. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) borrows from Pride and Prejudice (as does 2004’s Bride and Prejudice and 2016’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies); Whit Stilman’s Metropolitan (1990) adapts Mansfield Park; Ang Lee described Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) as “Sense and Sensibility with martial arts.” Austen’s life and books also inspired Becoming Jane (2007) and Austenland (2013).

Clueless has engendered a cult following since its release, leading to a number of spin-offs including books, comics, a television series (1996-1999) and even a 2018 jukebox musical written by the film’s writer-director Amy Heckerling. Clueless was a labour of love for Heckerling. She worked on the script for years, as producers came and left and studios signed on and then abandoned the project.

By the 1990s, Heckerling was an established director who had critical and commercial success with Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985) and Look Who’s Talking (1989). One of only a few female directors working for major studios at the time, she had established herself as as strong voice in the teen film realm. As journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner has written: “She was a woman who was somehow able to join a fraternity and thrive in it.”

Clueless has engendered a cult following since its release, leading to a number of spin-offs including books, comics, a television series and even a jukebox musical

“Searching for a boy in high school is as useless as 
searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie.” ~ Cher
Brittany Murphy, Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash
as fashionable students 

Eventually produced by Paramount, Clueless became the surprise sleeper hit of 1995. Re-shaping the times Clueless is a film out-of-time in many ways. Fashion, language, music and story are all taken from other eras and remixed to create a unique aesthetic.

In a nod to its literary roots, Clueless plays with language in interesting and memorable ways. The endlessly quotable movie had its teenage characters communicate with exaggerated affect. At times, Cher seems to have her own language that requires translation. A “full on Monet” refers to someone who “from far away, it’s okay, but from up close, it’s a mess”. A “Baldwin” is a cute guy, in reference to the famous and famously handsome Baldwin brothers. Not only do the characters talk with an ironic knowingness, the characters comment knowingly on how they use language. Not long after we are introduced to Tai, she says to Cher, “You guys talk like grown ups”. Cher replies, “Oh this is a really good school.” One of the self-improvement tasks that Cher assigns Tai is to learn a new word every day. Her first word is “sporadically.”

The costumes are also aspirational. Clueless did not reflect the fashion of its time but re-shaped it. While we may think of Cher’s yellow plaid ensemble, organza shirt, white Calvin Klein mini and red Alaïa (“like a totally important designer”) dress as iconic 1990s fashion, in the early 90s high-school students were wearing grungey flannel and loose-fitting jeans, which did not fit Heckerling’s ideal aesthetic. ‘You don’t understand ! This is an Alaia!’

Paramount Pictures Costume designer Mona May brought together vintage styles, designer dresses and thrift shop finds to create Cher’s iconic style, which fused 1920s over-the-knee socks with 60s mod mini skirts and chic 90s figure-hugging designer dresses. Cher’s iconic fashion still informs runways and street style, with today’s teens recreating these iconic looks. Willow Smith paid homage to Cher in Cosmopolitan, Iggy Azalea casts herself as Cher in the music video for Fancy and Ariana Grande channelled her inner Cher for her 2019 world tour.

Clueless did not reflect the fashion of its time but re-shaped it, Cher’s iconic style fuses 1920s over-the-knee socks with 60s mod mini skirts and chic 90s figure-hugging designer dresses

“He does dress better than I do. What would
 I bring to the relationship?”
Cher and her crush Christian in his sports car
on what she thinks is a date
With its mansions, designer dresses and fancy cars, Cher’s world is a fantasy for most viewers. Heckerling said: “I wanted that feel of a fantasy that you would like to live in.” Similarly, Austen’s Emma has been criticised for ignoring the political and economic realities of 1815, including widespread poverty and war.

At the same time, economic survival is at the centre of Austen’s Emma: Harriet must marry or risk becoming a spinster like Miss Bates; Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax keep their engagement secret to avoid familial financial fallout; and Mr Elton improves his station by marrying the garish Miss Augusta Hawkins, just as Elton winds up with the irritating Amber (played by Elisa Donovan) in Clueless.

Clueless’s soundtrack forms a key part of its success and popularity, but it also adds to the film’s sardonic humour, irony and character development. An eclectic mix of 1990s American pop punk, hip hop and rock, along with covers of hits from the 1970s and 1980s, the music establishes the milieu and expresses characters’ internal emotions. The film’s opening titles feature Californian punk rock band The Muffs’ cover of Kids in America over a montage of Cher and her friends driving through Beverly Hills in her jeep, shopping on Rodeo Drive, lounging by the pool, and talking and eating at the mall; all images of her extreme wealth, privilege and carefree teen life. 

This is ironically undercut by Cher’s narration: “I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl”. David Bowie’s 1980 hit Fashion plays while she picks out an outfit on her computer and selects it from her motorised revolving wardrobe. The songs add to the ironic nature of the film’s commentary on Cher’s obliviousness to her own wealth and privilege. Cher’s carefree feminised lifestyle is also mirrored in the lyrics of 1990s pop hits sung by women (I’m Just a Girl, Shoop, Supermodel), just as these pop hits are a reflection of her. Meanwhile her dopey love interest and ex-step-brother Josh (Paul Rudd) listens to ~ in Cher’s words  ~ “the maudlin music of the university station” when he comes home from college.

Clueless’s soundtrack forms a key part of its success and popularity, but it also adds to the film’s sardonic humour, irony and character development

"OK, so he is kind of a Baldwin.” Cher and Josh 
break through initial animosity and high 
school hierarchies to come together
Teen films often use the romantic comedy genre trope of two leads who start out either hating each other or from different worlds: different schools, friendship groups, sports teams, or social and class stratas. It’s jock vs. nerd, popular vs. unpopular, rich vs. poor. In teen films, opposites always attract.

The pleasure in watching their eventual romantic union comes from their compromise for each other, or their ability to break the strict social hierarchies of high-school and come together. Of course, this trope far predates the teen film: it’s as much Shakespeare as it is Jane Austen.

In Clueless, musical taste forms a key part of distinguishing not just Cher from Josh, but the whole cast of girls from the boys. When the gang go to a party, they listen to Coolio’s Rollin’ with My Homies; Elton sings along to The Cranberries’ Away while driving Cher home; Tai and Cher watch Travis (Breckin Meyer) perform at a skating competition to The Beastie Boys’ Mullet Head. Two songs bring the whole gang together: Where’d You Go? and Someday I Suppose, performed by ska punk band the Mighty Mighty Bosstones during a college party.

Cher and Josh’s relationship begins to soften at this point, as everyone gets into the dancing ~ girls and boys together, at last. The soundtrack also adds an ironic note to Cher’s eventual pivot towards Josh. To the sounds of 1990s pop singer Jewel singing a cover of All By Myself, Cher walks around Rodeo Drive feeling sorry for herself. When she realises she is in love with Josh, a fountain comically erupts behind her.

The pleasure in watching the eventual romantic union of Cher and Josh comes from their ability to break the strict social hierarchies of high-school and come together

She could be a farmer in those clothes.” ~ Amber
The film is full of brio, fun and fashion and 
is endlessly quotable

The teen film has been around since the classical Hollywood era, largely defined by its youthful intended audience and subjects, rather than any consistent style or aesthetic.

While Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney films of the 1930s may be considered forebears of the teen film, the “teenager” is a relatively modern phenomenon, emerging post-World War II. The post-war economic boom, the introduction of compulsory high school education in the US and the availability and affordability of cars lead to the increased visibility, mobility and financial independence of “teens” in the 1950s and 60s.

The decline of the Hollywood studio system in the 1950s produced a spate of films where young people were central, catering for this newly identified “teenage” market. The concept of ‘teenagers’ was still relatively new when Rebel Without a Cause was released. These movies often incorporate elements of other genres. The “first” teen film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), incorporates romance and drama tropes, telling the story of Jim Stark (James Dean) a rebellious teen who moves to a new town, starts at a new school, upsets the local gang and falls in love with Judy (Natalie Wood). By the 1980s, teens had become a recognisable audience and were ripe for exploitation and capitalisation, particularly in the newly created multiplex cinemas.

In the 1980s, middle-class US teens had disposable money and ample leisure time, which made them an ideal market segment. The teen film ~ specifically the female-focused teen film ~ really came into prominence with the John Hughes’ films starring Molly Ringwald: Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985) and Pretty in Pink (1986). While these films had questionable sexual and gender politics reflective of their era (which Ringwald has addressed) they focused on teenage girls’ feelings with sincerity and humour in equal measure. Pretty in Pink wasn’t the first time Molly Ringwald was pretty in pink.

For writer-director Amy Heckerling, the film was a labour of love and she worked on the script for years, as producers came and went and studios signed on and then abandoned the project

“Cher’s saving herself for Luke Perry.” ~ Dionne
Jane Austen's Emma Woodhouse is transformed into 
Cher Horowitz, played by the then
relatively unknown Alicia Silverstone
Clueless sits within this lineage but also starts a more ironic, knowing trend that lovingly pokes fun at both its characters and the genre conventions itself ~ much like Austen did. This irony and knowingness are perhaps what makes Clueless so enduring.

There is a depth to the writing that allows the viewer to laugh both with and at the characters. This can be attributed to Heckerling’s respect for them and their problems. As Paul Rudd said: “One of the things that I think is very clear in her work […] is just how much she loves young people and doesn’t talk down to them.”

Films like Legally Blonde (2001), Mean Girls (2004) and Easy A (2010) use irony and knowingness in their tone and humour and have become stand-out cult successes like Clueless. These films stand in contrast to more sentimental and romantic teen girl films, such as The Spectacular Now (2013) and The Edge of Seventeen (2016), or the epic and earnest science fiction adaptations of young adult novels, such as Twilight (2008-2012) and The Hunger Games (2012-2015).

Yet, the ironic teen rom-com hasn’t been lost. The teen-focused dramedy television series Sex Education (2019-2020) and indie film Booksmart (2019) have touched on the same sardonic humour. But unlike Sex Education or Booksmart, Clueless was made by an established bankable director and supported by the marketing apparatus of a major US studio - Paramount. In contrast, Booksmart was a much smaller film made by first-time director Olivia Wilde, produced by niche indie studio Annapurna Pictures and debuted at South by Southwest before its wider theatrical release.

Twenty-five years on, even as Heckerling was a “a pioneer as a female director”, her place as a woman working in the major studios is still an anomaly. While Clueless’s winning combination of writing, cast, music and humour is yet to be matched, there is room for a Clueless of the 2020s. But could Clueless ever be replaced in our hearts? As if!

Phoebe Macrossan, Associate Lecturer/Sessional Academic, Queensland University of Technology and Jessica Ford, Lecturer in Film, Media and Cultural Studies, University of Newcastle. This article is republished with permission from The Conversation.

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Thursday, 16 July 2020

Daniel Roseberry: Schiaparelli and the Avant-Garde

One of Daniel Rosesberry's sketches done in New York's Washington Square Park during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Maison Schiaparelli's Daniel Roseberry is the first American to head an established Paris-based couture house. The young, bearded Texan took over as artistic director, after more than a decade at the exuberant hothouse of Thom Browne. For the first digital haute couture week, a video showed the designer sketching his Collection Imaginaire during lockdown in New York. We look at the origins of this famously avant-garde fashion house and it's flamboyant Italian aristocrat founder. Story by Jeanne-Marie Cilento

Artistic director of Schiaparelli, Daniel Roseberry,
drawing in Washington Square Park 
during lockdown.
MAISON SCHIAPARELLI traditionally opens Paris Haute Couture Week and this season when all the live shows were replaced by online presentations, the house showed a short film featuring creative director Daniel Roseberry sketching a new collection.

It was one of the very few engaging videos from this first digital Paris fashion schedule. Many of the films for both couture and Paris Men's Fashion Week were irrelevant and lacklustre, without a story to tell, and often unwatchable. A fashion designer, a film director does not make. This digital season demonstrated that live, theatrical runway shows are still the most effective way to bring new fashion and innovative designs to life

During the Covid-19 lockdown in Paris, Schiaparelli decided to close its Paris atelier to protect its staff. Meanwhile Daniel Roseberry was stuck in New York for three months, after what he thought would be a brief visit to the United States. He couldn't see his French colleagues in person or leave to work in the Paris atelier. He ended up sketching out his new Haute Couture collection on a bench in Washington Square Park, on a Monday morning before Paris Fashion Week opened. The “imaginary collection” was designed for a season that was impossible to produce but his sketches have inspired designs that will be made-to-order.

"On June 29th, 2020, I woke up early, got ready in my New York apartment on 12th street, put on my mask and headed outside to face another day of life in quarantine," the designer explains. "Three months ago I was marooned in New York while taking a quick trip back to the States. Since then I have been living in isolation while Maison Schiaparelli took a hiatus.

Daniel Roseberry was marooned in New York for three months after what he thought would be a brief visit to the United States. 

One of the designs created  for
Daniel Roseberry's AW2021
couture collection.
"Everyone has their own lockdown story, some harrowing, some tragic, some utterly lonely. The luckiest of us have been able to spend this time in nature, far removed from city life. My own experience was shared with millions of other Manhattanites: it was privileged, but nothing extraordinary. What was extraordinary, however, was the ability to walk into Washington Square Park on a Monday morning and sketch out a Haute Couture collection."

The designer believes our lives have changed with COVID-19 but he thinks that imagination, the drive to create, has been even more important. The new collection is a tribute to the creative impulse. "Imagination and dreams can be profound, but they are even more so when they guide us into action. Without putting our dreams into practice, these abstractions would be denied their ultimate power," he says.

Roseberry was inspired by the original founder of the Paris-based fashion house, the Italian aristocrat Elsa Schiaparelli, who was born at the Corsini palace in Rome. Her father was the director of the Lincei library and a professor of Oriental literature and she grew up in a family of aristocrats and intellectuals.

From the beginning of her career in London and New York, she delighted in experimentation, the avant-garde and the Surrealist artists who influenced her designs for her atelier, later established in Paris. "The new AW2021 collection has many tributes to her work and her obsessions,"  says Roseberry, "but done in my way, on new terms."

Schiaparelli brought art to fashion and fashion to art when she founded her Paris fashion house in 1927. The fusion of fine art and fashion brought famous clients, including Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Lauren Bacall, Gala Dali, Marie-Laure de Noailles, Marlene Dietrich and the Duchess of Windsor. Schiaparelli was a contemporary and rival of Coco Chanel and was one of the most inventive designers in the history of fashion.

From the beginning of her career, Elsa Schiaparelli delighted in experimentation, the avant-garde and Surrealist artists 

Avant-garde fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli
in her Paris atelier. By 1932, the couture house,
was called “Schiaparelli: Pour le Sport, Pour la Ville, 
Pour le Soir”. 

She introduced runway shows, made the first jumpsuits, culottes and women's shorts and was so innovative that she was the first female fashion designer to be featured on the cover of Time, the American weekly magazine, in 1934.

The following year the couture house moved to bigger premises and took over the Hotel de Fontpertuis at 21 Place Vendôme. This demonstrates how Schiaparelli's success had grown. The building had five floors, 98 rooms, and more than 700 employees with a boutique overlooking the Vendôme column.

During the 1930s, Schiaparelli worked with Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau. She and Dali collaborated on many Surrealist fashion designs and Jean Cocteau's drawings featured on clothing and jewellery. There were many artistic creations that were in the anarchic Dada spirit with a men’s fragrance bottle in the shape of a pipe (inspired by Magritte), gloves with red python nails and a Lucite necklace encrusted with insects.

During the 1930s, Schiaparelli worked with Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau on fashion designs, perfume and jewellery

Daniel Roseberry is inspired by
Elsa Schiaparelli's Surrealism
with this shoe-shaped 
hair style. 
Elsa Shiaparelli's friendships with Dali and Cocteau led to some of her most iconic pieces, that are part of the fashion canon today, including: the lobster dress with Dali's painting on the skirt, the famous shoe hat (a version appears in Roseberry's drawings, at left) the skeleton dress with it's prominent ribs and backbone, knitted sweaters with trompe-l’oeil bows and neckties that were a runaway success in America, as well as the original "power" suit with with wide shoulders and embroidered lip-shaped pockets.

By 1954, following the austerities of World War II, Elsa Schiaparelli closed both the haute couture and pret-a-porter labels. It wasn't until Italian businessman, Diego Della Valle, chairman of luxury goods group Tod’s, acquired Schiaparelli in 2006 that the house was reborn. Della Valle even waited another six years for the lease at the designer’s original atelier in central Paris to be free again.

By 2012, the couture house had reopened at the Hôtel de Fontpertuis, Place Vendôme, at the very place where Elsa left it. Two years later, the first Haute Couture runway show since 1954 was presented during Paris Haute Couture week. By 2017, Schiaparelli was awarded the official Haute Couture label by the French Ministry of Industry and the French Couture Federation.

Daniel Roseberry says he is inspired by the history of the Schiaparelli fashion house, founded on inventiveness and ideas rather than just making beautiful clothes. When he took the reins of Schiaparelli last year, he said it was an "honor and joy to pick up where Madame Schiaparelli left off some 85 years ago.” He loves the idea of exploring the nature of fashion today, as Elsa Schiaparelli had done in her own era, and believes the Surrealist sensibility is particularly suited to the strange times we are living though now.

"Life today is lived according to opposites; the pandemic has inverted everything we knew," Daniel Roseberry says. "Now, instead of a team to execute this collection, I just have my own imagination. Instead of the Place Vendome in Paris, it’s been designed and sketched on a park bench." Now the designer has been able to venture back to Paris and these designs will be handed to the Atelier.

The House of Schiaparelli was founded on inventiveness and was always about ideas rather than just making beautiful clothes

A dress is draped from a long necklace
that falls in elegant folds that have 
the signature Schiaparelli
innovation & whimsy.
Daniel Roseberry was born in Texas and began his fashion career when he moved to New York to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Before he had even finished his degree, he had already starting working at Thom Browne, a New York City-based brand. For the last five years he was the design director of men’s and women’s collections. He was named artistic director of Schiaparelli following the departure of Bertrand Guyon in April 2019. 

When he began as artistic director of the house, a film crew followed Roseberry for 10 months after his move from the United States to Paris, for a documentary called Schiaparelli: The Next Chapter. He was filmed  making his second couture collection for the house and it gives a fascinating insight into the ateliers, the creation of a haute couture collection and the couturier's method.

Elsa Schiaparelli's iconoclasm has inspired Roseberry to design collections that both recall the artistic roots of the house and bring a contemporary, sporty aesthetic to the clothes while still maintaining a dreamy,  otherworldly quality.

For the September ready-to-wear shows, the house plans to have a small presentation at its historic salons in the Place Vendôme to show the Spring 2021 collection. By next January, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode is planning the return of Paris Couture Week to live runway shows. Daniel Roseberry may then be able to create his next collection back in Elsa Schiaparelli's Parisian atelier, instead of on a New York park bench.

Watch the video of Daniel Roseberry creating his collection in Washington Square Park 

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Friday, 3 July 2020

Paris Haute Couture Profile: Julien Fournié

Diaphanous silk billows behind a model at Julien Fournié's SS20 haute couture show in Paris. Cover picture and all photography by Elli Ioannou for DAM
The French fashion federation has created a special digital platform for designers’ new collections for Paris Haute Couture Week instead of holding live shows. We profile couturier Julien Fournié and his spectacular last haute couture collection, when we didn't think twice about sitting at a crowded runway. Story by Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photography by Elli Ioannou

A beautifully-tailored creation
from Fournié's SS20 collection
FRENCH couturier Julien Fournié's Spring-Summer 2020 show was held at his favourite locale, the atmospheric l'Oratoire du Louvre. This historic church on the rue Saint-Honoré, in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, built across from the Louvre when it was a palace, was originally the royal chapel of Louis XIII in the early1600s.

This evocative space with its chiaroscuro light, was the backdrop to the designer's collection, inspired by enterprising women explorers, ethnologists and archaeologists. Julien Fournié imagined clothes that could be worn travelling, from crossing the wilds to dancing in a ballroom.

“Haute Couture and female explorers do share a taste for challenging experiences, pragmatism and different encounters,” Julien Fournié explains. “I am convinced that the search for freedom is our common point in order to imagine the world off the beaten track.

"Whether these women were discovering South America’s pre-Columbian civilizations, Africa’s tribes or the Sahara’s Berber and Tuareg arts, they gave up nothing, neither rejecting the society from which they came, nor turning away from the new worlds they were exploring. Far from the masculine values that led to predation, via colonizing or evangelizing, their conquests advocated discovery, acceptance of differences, aid but sometimes at the cost of their own lives."

How did these ideas translate into the couturier's SS20 collection, called First Conquests? Fournié has a genius for creating razor-sharp, tailored silhouettes combined with a sense of poetry that allows him to also design fluid, filmy gowns that flow around the body in delicate swirls. This season, the theme of travel was evinced by embroideries inspired by talismans and amulets, strap belts, including braids, bags and bandoliers symbolizing movement and new lands. The aim of the collection was to mix elegance with treasures found on faraway journeys.

Fournié has a genius for creating razor-sharp, tailored silhouettes combined with a sense of poetry that allows him to design fluid, filmy gowns 

Bold colour & pattern
combined with brilliant cutting
& drapery are Fournié's signatures
The wonderfully cut dress (see above) is the colour of desert sands and hugs the body, an exquisite look for a luxurious train trip on the Oriental Express. Bold fabric designs combined with voluminous sleeves and skirts (right), all pulled together with a wide belt, gave a sense of freedom of spirit and ease of movement.

The froth of an electric blue skirt that kicks out with every step in a dynamic way made a strong contrast to the beautifully tailored, shimmering jacket worn with it (see below). Other dresses had layers of semi-transparent organza floating as the wearer moved, combining style with an easy comfort made for travelling.

The couturier draws his designs directly on to a special electronic pad and this allows him great freedom to test out varied colour palettes, fabrics and textures as he works and also allows him to send the image immediately to his atelier or to individual clients.

Founded eleven years ago, the Julien Fournié fashion house is built on what the designer describes as his 'laboratory of couture'. He decided to found the label in 2009, inspired by the virtuosity of Parisian couture, with its mix of traditional sartorial skills and new innovation.

His new collections are shown in Paris during the Haute Couture Weeks in January and July. The First Pieces collection launched in June 2009 demonstrated the Fournié signatures: beautifully draped fabrics in silk, muslin and organza plus experimentation with new materials and his masterful ability to cut.

Founded eleven years ago, the Julien Fournié fashion house is built on what the designer describes as his 'laboratory of couture'.

A frothy electric blue skirt
contrasts with a shimmering
fitted jacket 
In 2010, the couturier was awarded the Grand Prize of Creativity by the City of Paris. The following year, the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the governing body of the French fashion industry, granted Fournié guest member status in 2011, which allowed his house to show at Paris Haute Couture fashion week. At the same time, the designer worked with Dassault Systèmes to create FashionLab. Fournie has been developing different projects using 3D digital technology for clothing, footwear, materials and for use in retail.

Six years after being made a guest member, the Julien Fournié House was officially given the Haute Couture imprimatur. In January 2017, Fournié was granted full official status as a Haute Couture label, which is protected in France and which only fourteen houses can legally use. The French government is rigorous about its selection of who is on the list. Designers must show superlative creativity and design ability plus unsurpassed skill in the way the garments are made in their ateliers.

The couturier says he started drawing from the age of three years old and sketching has always been central to his work. Although he started out his career as a medical student, he ended up switching to fashion design and went on to the study at the École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. Demonstrating his skill and talent, Fournié was able to work as an intern at the top fashion houses in Paris, including Christian Dior, Givenchy under Alexander McQueen, Celine and Nina Ricci.

In 2017, Fournié was granted full official status as a Haute Couture label, which is protected in France and which only fourteen houses can legally use 

  The couturier in Paris at the finale of
his show at the l'Oratoire du Louvre
After he had finished his graduation runway show in 2000, the future couturier received the Moët et Chandon Award for best accessory at the Paris Fashion Awards. By the time he was an intern at Céline, Jean Paul Gaultier had asked to employ him as an assistant in his Haute Couture studio. This was an important experience for his later role as artistic director of his own house as he was in charge of researching materials and embroidery. Fournié was also able to collaborate designing some of Madonna stage costumes for her World Tour.

Claude Montana, a starry couturier of the time, who was known for his brilliant ability to cut and tailor clothes, also wanted to have Fournié on his team. When he was a designer at Montana Creations in 2003, the young couturier was appointed by Torrente Haute Couture not only as creative director for its ready-to-wear lines but also for the entire brand, including haute couture.

Three years later, in an unusual move for a Parisian designer, he collaborated with brands in South Korea, where he was keen to explore other fashion worlds where the industry was just starting to take off. After working on the creative direction at Ramosport back in France, known for it's iconic travel coat, and designing accessories at Charles Jourdan, he decided he had enough experience to launch his own label. It turned out to be his best move yet.

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Thursday, 28 May 2020

Lockdown and Liberty in Paris: A Photographic Essay

The normally bustling 1st arrondissement in the centre of Paris. Main photograph and cover picture of the wonderful phalanx of trees along the Tuileries Gardens by Elli Ioannou  

Our Paris correspondent Elli Ioannou writes about her experiences living under the Covid-19 lockdown, looking across the Louvre from her eyrie, perched high above the Rue de Rivoli in the heart of Paris. Her photographs document Paris: deserted as the city has never been before, as the coronavirus took hold; and now as the streets, bridges and parks slowly fill with people again as restrictions are lifted. Story and photographs by Elli Ioannou. Edited by Jeanne-Marie Cilento

Looking across the Louvre at twilight
 from Elli Ioannou's apartment,
with not a person in sight
IN PARIS, there was a very real sense of the Covid-19 threat as the city shut down in mid-March. The crisis touched every part of our lives and left us marooned in our apartments, disconnected from the rest of the French capital.

Everyone was an island unto themselves as we watched news reports of the virus spreading so quickly and rapaciously in the European cities around us. At the start, it was difficult getting used to this new reality.

From March 23rd we had to carry the declaration, known as an Attestation de déplacement dérogatoire, stating why we were out in public. If you didn't have the official document you could be fined, if you weren't shopping for food, traveling to work (if it couldn't be done at home) or to help family, and exercising close to your home before 10am for an hour. 

Police set up road blocks to check those outside their homes had good reason to be and that their exemption declarations were in order. By April 7th, more than 8 million checks had been made, and half a million fines had been issued for failure to respect the rules of confinement. There were telephone denunciations from citizens complaining about their neighbours walking their dogs too often. A woman even denounced her husband to the police for going out to see his mistress.

For me, the first two weeks went very fast, filled with daily video calls from Europe and Australia. But I began to wonder how it was possible to be so unproductive when you were given the gift of time. I was worried about the energy wasted, the distractions, the non-stop chain messages about Coronavirus, the incessant waves of information and the conspiracy theories.

It touched all parts of our lives and left us marooned in our apartments, disconnected from the rest of the French capital 

The Centre Pompidou's colourful facade 
on the Boulevard de Sebastopol
devoid of traffic & pedestrians 
By week three, I had to switch off from the constant overload of Covid-19 updates and reclaim my life and sanity.

By now, the rules in Paris were more defined and strict and they were enforced by a roving police force. I could see them below my windows on bicycles, some even rollerblading around the city, to make sure everyone stuck to the one hour out and one kilometre radius rule.

Yet after the first weeks, I was able to settle down and choose to see this period as one of personal and professional growth, living in between moments where the collective atmosphere of worry and fear got to me. None of my friends in Paris lived near my house. Yet I found I still felt emotionally close to them and my family.

I am a person who always connects with the environment around me for inspiration and reflection. I still had access to the Seine near my house, the gardens surrounding the Louvre, the alleyways of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, the leafy Tuileries entrance and I was able to walk past Notre Dame.

By week three, I had to switch off from the constant overload of Covid-19 updates and reclaim my life and sanity

Place Vendome deserted in the heart of Paris  
“Lockdown” I found too harsh a term, so I avoided using it. Instead, I liked to use the French word "confinement." It gave me the sense I still had the mental and emotional freedom to move, even if I was restricted physically.

Could I look at the Paris confinement as sort of artist's retreat? It felt like a luxury to have this time for my work, with no social outings to distract me.

I tried to cultivate daily moments of gratitude. Most of the time, I didn't feel any fear, I had already survived war as a child in Cyprus with my family. This affected the compass of my life so much, nothing afterwards ever felt so traumatic.

Living a creative career in a foreign country had also given me many tools to deal with adversity and being on my own for long periods. I found focusing on my own artwork and my rituals of meditation and yoga helped me during this period immensely.

Could I look at the Paris confinement as a sort of artist's retreat? It felt like a luxury to have this time for my work

Elli Ioannou contemplates the empty
Pont des Arts near her home
during the Covid-19 crisis
Creative projects I had begun but had no time finish could now be developed during during isolation, including curating an online exhibition entitled What if you Fly. I discovered that everything I needed was already within my reach, I just needed to look.

I live on a very busy corner in the centre of Paris, usually bustling with tourists. In summer, I can barely reach the front door of my apartment building.

But I became accustomed very quickly (to my surprise) to fewer people. I started to recognise the locals, who like me only left their homes for groceries, medical supplies or a quick walk. Sitting at home one evening, I suddenly heard the the sounds of clapping and cheering.

Since my windows are double-glazed, I thought there was a rogue opera outside in the street. But by day three of the clapping, I realised it was for the health workers putting their lives at risk to save others in Paris hospitals. I began to join in and was surprised how moving the sense of connection and energy was. Even though I don't have direct neighbours, as I live the opposite the forecourt of the Louvre, I could put my head out of the windows to see them.

Creative projects I had begun but had no time finish now had time to be developed during during the isolation

Parisians enjoy the freedom of being able to
sit on the banks of the Seine again
As I complete this essay, the strict confinement has eased with its one hour/one kilometre restrictions and carrying a legal document is no longer required.

I could now see my friends in person instead of on a phone or computer screen.

I stood on the Rive Droite of the Seine when it opened, and tears flowed at the realisation that it was time to start moving beyond my little world above Paris, the four walls that had confined me. After 55 days in isolation, it was time for me to move on to a new chapter in my life, with a much greater appreciation for the French motto Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

Paris dreams quietly waiting for the city to wake again. Tap pictures for full-screen slideshow
Looking across the tranquil waters of the Seine to the Pont Neuf, with the graffiti "1785" referring to the date of the French Revolution

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes Square decorated with the bottles of a last party before Covid-19 shut Paris down

Work stopped on the restoration of Notre Dame after it was ravaged by fire last year

The Paris booksellers had to closed up shop during the crisis 

The famous Belle Epoque Cafe Angelina ,at 226 Rue de Rivoli, with its windows and doors boarded up, a favoured cafe of Coco Chanel and Marcel Proust 

L'Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, looking towards the Louvre, remained eerily deserted 
Making a wish, looking across the Seine River
Anais, one of Elli’s favourite local florists, on Rue Montorgueil, also closed
Edouard Manet;s house in the Rue Bonaparte on the Rive Gauche, within a one kilometre radius of Elli's home

Elli Ioannou looks out across the vacant streets and vast forecourt of the Louvre during the lockdown 

During the Coronavirus confinement spring burst into bloom in Paris 

Elli Ioannou's dormer window onto the world looking over the mansard roofs of Paris 

The Ritz Hotel in Paris has all of its wrought-iron doors shut as it closed down during the lockdown and tourists all returned home

The bridges over the Seine are free of people and traffic  
All is quiet in the delightful Place Dauphine in Paris during the Coronavirus restrictions 

B.Biberon & Fils pulled down its dark green shutters 

The French police monitored the city on bicycles and even on rollerblades 

The stone seats under the trees of Place Dauphine are deserted 

The lush greenery of  Saint-Germain-des-Pres, nature had two months to take the city back

The abandoned Pont Neuf Metro station, silent under the spring sunshine

The home for all English language booklovers in Paris, Shakespeare and Company was much missed during the lockdown

Looking through the gilded wrought-iron fence to the Tuileries gardens
The gravel paths of the Tuileries without the crowds that would normally fill its gardens

The trees begin flowering in the Place Dauphine 

The luxurious Hotel Meurice shut up during the lockdown in Paris 

Nature begins to take over the sleeping city after two months of Paris coming to a halt

The deserted Pont des Arts in the heart of Paris 

Louis Vuitton's Saint-Germain-des-Pres store with doors and windows locked up

The green lawns and chairs waiting for Parisians to return to the Tuileries gardens
Astier de Vilatte shuttered, another of Elli's favourite ceramics stores, on Rue St Honore
I.M Pei's glass pyramid lights up the empty forecourt of the Louvre
Fences close off the great courtyard of the Louvre
A lone photographer shoots the vast emptiness at the Louvre

Saint Laurent locked up in Paris

Daisies and poppies grow by the footpaths in the centre of Paris

Chairs stacked inside the historic Cafe de Flore, on the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain and Rue Saint-Benoit, in Saint-Germain-des-Pres in the 6th arrondissement

A lone cyclist takes in the Places des Victoires

The circular Place des Victoires designed in 1685 by Mansart with its statue of King Louis XIV 

Gilded statue of Joan of Arc opposite the Hotel Regina

The gardens around the Louvre closed off for Covid-19

Fifty-five days after the lockdown began, Parisians are able to walk and stroll to their hearts content

People gather on the Pont des Arts as restrictions are lifted in Paris by mid-May
People gather on the banks of the Seine, with social distancing soon forgotten 

Paris is open again and everyone is out to enjoy it

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