The House that Dior Built: choose any door

Christian Dior must have had trials during his short life, but he doesn’t appear the kind of gentleman to be stopped by the likes of wars, great depressions, lost family fortunes, or childhood dreams realized, and just as quickly snatched from within his grasp.

 

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Les Arts Decoratifs . through 7 January 2018

Born in Granville, France – a seaside town in Normandy, Christian’s Father was a fertilizer magnate, who thought Christian was destined to be a Diplomat.  Christian had other plans.  From a young age he expressed an interest in art, and asked for his Father’s backing in a Parisian Gallery that he was to open with a childhood friend.  While his Father agreed – he insisted he keep the family name out of it.  The gallery was a great success, showcasing artists including Picasso along side less well known artists of the time like Marc Chigall, and forming lifelong friends.  The war, and the subsequent depression led to the loss of the family fortune, and the backing that Dior depended on to continue gallery operations, and it was forced to close.

Ever resilient, Dior simply went to work selling fashion sketches, eventually working for Robert Piguet in 1937 where he was allowed to include pieces of his own design in one of Piguet’s shows – they were well received.

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Les Couturiers outside their workshop…where all the magic happened.

After Dior’s military service was complete he returned to Paris to work for Lucien Lelong’s Fashion House.  Together they struggled to keep fashion alive in war torn Paris, designing for the wealthy wives of Nazi soldiers.  Dior credits Lucien for teaching him “the virtues of simplicity from which true elegance must come.”  They remained friends and confidants throughout his life.

A brilliantly set stage helped to recreate the mystique of the time.

Dior opened his “House” in 1947 with the launch of his first show – Corelle – Circlet of Flower Petals.  The collection was coined the “New Look” by the Editor-in-Chief, Carmel Snow and launched the brand which continues to thrive today.  A consummate perfectionist that loved the female form, Dior made curvaceousness all the rage.  A fortuitous clash of photography and fashion paved the way for a phenomenal pairing of artistic talents, exotic shoots, and the coupling of fashion and fashionable places that undoubtably enhanced the upward trajectory of the label.

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This year – the 70th Anniversary of the House of Dior led to the exhibition from which I just returned at Les Arts Decoritifs.

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Floral Perfection.

CHRISTIAN DIOR, COUTURIER DU RÊVE

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Percale wrapped in ivy and ribbon.

Over 300 gowns from his collection, miniature doll sized models, and toiles are on display through 7 January 2018.  Book your ticket now.   It was the single best museum exhibit I have ever seen, anywhere.  Tiffany agreed.  We could have spent all day in the museum setting off alarms that signal we were far too close to the dresses.  Signal away

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Toiles . Mocking up the designs.

– I will never feel close enough until I have slipped one on and headed to the ball.  The detailing, the beads, the fabrics, the folds, the genius, the glamour, it is all there.  From frocks to hats, shoes, jewelry, bags, and a stunning photography collection that captures some of the very best in advertisements.  The ode to starlets that wore his gowns and catapulted his name into the mainstream are beautifully displayed through film clips, and photographs, that have you spinning your head from one side of the display to the other, to first see the screen image that was created, and to then catch a glimpse of the real life confection, just over your shoulder, and through a throng of admirers, on the other side of the isle made me woozy with wonder and want.

Samples and sketches and created in miniature before the final piece is developed.

To think that it began with Dior holed up in his home, furiously sketching away, and then those sketches were turned over to the head seamstress – “Couturiere” that created the mock ups in the Atelier – the workshop – then presenting these to Dior, always with the same question….”have we achieved your vision for this piece Mr. Dior…thousands of hours can go into a single dress.  The mock-ups are pieces of art in their own right.  I would have walked right out of that exhibit in any one of those gauzy white creations – without a touch of color or a single embellishment owned one of the single most sublime creations that ever have I set my eyes upon.

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A prolific designer – in just 10 years he created a lasting legacy.

Now hip hop.  Pack that suitcase and book your ticket.  This exhibit cannot be missed.  J’adore Dior!

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I’m ready for a garden party with the Queen.

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I think I’ve used up all my adjectives…it’s beyond.

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Show up for work!

 

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Blow your own horn.

 

 

 

Something Beautiful: Jenna Lyons

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Jenna Lyons

Creative Director and President of J. Crew, until Monday, when I heard the sad news of her departure.  If you don’t know already, this woman is seriously cool.  Design is in her genes, whether she wears them (jeans that is) to the Met Ball, the who’s who of whoing in American Hip People of the Moment, or she’s donning a jacket that any American teenage kid would wear to school, with stilettos, and a high-fashion silk print pencil skirt.   She can pull it off.

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Lyons . Sleek Elegance

Like great interior design, there is a fascination with well juxtaposed materials in fashion.  Fluffy fur, paired with a utility jean, sequins with khakis, suiting with a pajama top.  Yes, it’s surely true this look will not work for everyone, and I don’t want it to.  She’s special. She’s amazing.  She’s the reason I still spend more money at J. Crew (shoes excluded) than on any other brand combined.

I feel like the air has been let out of my balloon.

I admit that I didn’t come to know who she was before her Park Slope Brooklyn Apartment was featured in Domino Magazine.  Will you hold that against me?  Not too long ago, she came to Boston and spoke at the Copley Place Store.  I was fascinated by her upbringing, her self-consciousness, her belief that she wasn’t pretty.  She’s so incredibly relatable, real, warm, and when I had my picture taken with her, she made me feel fun…special.

Jenna Lyons Park Slope Home.  Black . White and Yellow Graphic Beauty.

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I find it interesting that not all people that are fashionistas, are good at interior design, and not all interior designers are terribly fashionable.  Interesting because I draw inspiration from fashion for my interiors projects all the time, and I adore fashion.  I would’t say I am a huge risk taker, but wearing 5″ heels on a construction site is riskier than any Safety Officer wants you to be – what do they know about fashion anyway?  I love my industry, but I simply could not be in it, if it didn’t allow me, to be me, as far as fashion is concerned.

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Juxtaposing materials and textures.

“It only takes one colorful item to make a great day beautiful – or a bland outfit sunny.”  Jenna Lyons

J. Crew followers may not have been able to express themselves in quite the same way as Lyons – I suspect she wouldn’t want them to, but at the same time, to go back to a plain old t-shirt, khaki pant, and tennis shoe – the brand of old, seems too dull for words.

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Look at that floor!

“As far as I’m concerned…leopard is a neutral.”  Jenna Lyons

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I’m hoping that the Leopard that is so often present in her style, expresses itself in her comeback.  If her “Crew” couldn’t get on board the J., she’ll find another vessel and trust me when I tell you, I’ll be her winch man.

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“When something hasn’t been as beautiful as it can be, the reason is always bigger than the thing.”  Jenna Lyons.

Whatever the reason for the departure, it won’t be bigger than her ability to overcome it.  Certain of that!

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Enough Said…..

Back to Inspiration: finding answers

It’s not uncommon for me to feel befuddled by the byproduct of my own design. To feel my own inadequacy when seeking out an elegant solution to what I consider the central component of inspiring spaces.

hollywood-gown-3Balance.  Color. Detail. Craftsmanship. Clever resolution to that which is quite common – spaces and situations that simply won’t fit nicely into a formulaic solution.

What is inspiration anyway.  Derived from the Latin – as so much of our language is – the root “spirare” means to breath.  To breath is exactly what I stop doing when I am frustrated, anxious… in need of answers.  I hold my breath.  Stop that!  Inspiration, to me, is airy and ephemeral, shades of aquatic blue dotted with points of light.  It’s geometry and mathematical solutions that artfully address chaos – bringing order.

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Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy . pale, icy blue, white and gold, and look at those ribbons in pink and blue gray…swoon.

hollywood-gown-2Great design packs so much into such a little word.  It is engineering, it is art, it is math.  It’s renaissance era genius shimmying in those unassuming letters.  Don’t be fooled.  Great design is the confluence of many talents.  Even those that are considered top of class like Lin Manuel Miranda, Nader Tehrani, Mies, Aldo, Chanel, Bernini, DaVinci, surely they drew inspiration from others, as everyone must, from nature, the true genius at the heart of it all.

Left:  Iris Van Herpen.  Look at those folds, she’s like a butterfly or a ballerina….beautiful.

So, today as I shuffle through the snow, wade through the sawdust, avert the spiked nails that dot the floor, awaiting new finish boards.  I will tape, swing, shift, and bend that master bedroom to my will.  In the end, I WILL get the closets I need because fashion has always inspired me, and I refuse to allow it to be stowed away in some undignified manner.

Carolina Herrera – left:  vintage inspired, right:  recent couture collection. I could rule the world in either of those confections.

Alexander Vidal…speechless.

As Robert Frost so eloquently wrote in his poem – Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

…”The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

and miles to go before I sleep,

and miles to go before I sleep.”