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Posts tagged ‘couture’

Bath in Fashion 2015

Bath in Fashion gives the historic spa city its chance to show, tell and share fashion stories whether historical, bang up to date or revealing what’s coming next. Now in its sixth year, the event attracts some of the biggest fashion players with many talks and events staged in the Georgian Assembly Rooms, where the fashionable set of 18th Century Bath crowded to be seen.

Jolly's window display for Bath in Fashion

This year the city welcomed designers from established names such as Anna Sui and Roksanda Ilinic to the latest Fashion Week sensation Ed Marler, and fashion commentators including Susie Lau and Grazia’s Suzannah Frankel. Unfortunately I was out of the country for most of the events, but was still lucky enough to be one of the first to hear the Dress of the Year announcement, learn more about the art of embroidery and sit frow at one of the catwalk shows.

yarnbomb Bath in Fashion

Fashion permeated the city via these colourful yarn bombs by Emma Leith & creative crocheters raising money for Kids Company.

Dress of the Year reveal

The Bath in Fashion audience was in for a treat as the Dress of the Year 2014 was revealed. Gareth Pugh’s plastic dress was chosen by editor-in-chief of Love Magazine, Katie Grand. The announcement closed an event charting the making of a fashion book, Dress of the Year, celebrating 50 years of the scheme with author Richard Lester, Bath Fashion Museum manager, Rosemary Harden and publisher, Matthew Freedman.

At the end of the talk, Rosemary Harden unveiled the winner, and we were invited downstairs from the Assembly Rooms tea room to the out of hours Fashion Museum for a sneak peak at the Dress of the Year.

Dress of the Year reveal at Bath in Fashion

It had to be the Pugh dress for Katie Grand:

“I’m delighted to have been asked to select the Dress of the Year and to me Gareth’s plastic dress sums up 2014. I like the idea of how fancy and complex the dress is in structure, yet made of something so disposable. I had a super time photographing this with David Sims for Love 12; it was so easy as it gives a couture silhouette yet is ‘punk’, it’s Edwardian, forties, seventies and two thousands all at the same time. It is familiar in its historical references yet utterly new in its execution.”

Watch the Dress of the Year in the context of Pugh’s collection:

 

The sculptural piece comprises a tube dress which has iridescent plastic wrapped around to make a coat tied with a Japanese inspired obi belt. The wedge boots and trousers merge into one twisted around the leg. The everyday material of the dress contrasts with the architectural structure of the design (Rosemary Harden said it was like hanging a Dior).

Gareth Pugh's Dress of the Year in the Fashion Museum

Plastic is a recurrent material in Pugh’s work, and for the designer:

“I love the fact that is has such industrial connotations. The idea of making something beautiful from something that is generally used in a much more heavy-duty way is very interesting. It’s also an innately modern material and implies a mechanized method of production, which I think provides an interesting counterpoint to the labor-intensive handwork and historicism that is quite often present in my work.”

The idea of using throw-away, unwanted materials to create a beautiful garment swishing down the catwalk is appealing – and even better if recycled plastic. What do you think of Katie Grand’s choice of Dress of the Year?

The Dress of the Year story

Initiated by costume collector, Doris Langley Moore (pictured below), the founder of the Fashion Museum in Bath in 1963, the Dress of the Year scheme is a powerful and astute concept.  A leading fashion voice is invited to choose the outfit which encapsulates the year. The scheme works well in PR and marketing terms with a clear story to sell in to the press. But it also adds to Fashion Museum’s collection, as the outfits are donated at no cost ready to delight fashion historians and designers alike.

Embed from Getty Images

The selector of the Dress of the Year is almost as important as the designer. Colin McDowell, fashion writer says:

“But it was the Dress of the Year, initiated in 1963, that was the most exciting thing of all because it took account of a new profession in the fashion world: that of the professional fashion journalist who was an expert in her (or, indeed his) field.

“Previously, newspaper editors thought that fashion could be lumped together with cookery, flower arrangement and knitting as subjects that any female journalists could write about. But, by the time swinging London was born, the role of a fashion journalist was as specialist and precisely focussed as that of a theatre, art of music critic, a position it still holds today.”

For the first three years of Dress of the Year, the Fashion Writers’ Association were the pickers but then, marking their increasing power, fashion journalists were granted the honour. Significantly, Susie Lau of top fashion blog, Style Bubble, was the selector last year, showing the influence of style blogs, choosing the Christopher Kane dress below.

Christopher Kane Dress of the Year

Another quirky feature of the Dress of the Year is that each time a mannequin is designed and donated by Adel Rootstein Display Mannequins and styled to match the chosen fashions – and sometimes has a resemblance to the selector or model of the period.

The art of embroidery

Earlier in the afternoon, Rosemary Harden shared her obvious love and knowledge of fashion history and admiration for embroidery, stressing the art of the craft. I was reminded of artist Hannah Höch, who wrote a manifesto on embroidery urging women to take up the form.

“Embroidery is very closely related to painting. It is constantly changing with every new style each epoch brings. It is an art and ought to be treated like one… you, craftswomen, modern women, who feel that your spirit is in your work, who are determined to lay claim to your rights (economic and moral), who believe your feet are firmly planted in reality, at least Y-O-U should know that your embroidery work is a documentation of your own era.”

(Embroidery and Lace, 1918)

The story of embroidery was told from being an ecclesiastic and royal preserve right up to its appearance in the Dress of the Year in the early 21st century. Embroidery features heavily in Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen in 2011 with her snow queen evening dress combining embroidery with symmetrical cutting to the skirt. Embroidery is again brought up to date in Raf Simons for Christian Dior which won in 2012 (below).

Raf Simon for Dior Dress of the  Year 2012

Vintage Jaeger

Young Jaeger won the Dress of the Year in 1966 with a black and white linen mini dress, worn with a space age visor hat by Simone Mirman and a clear PVC coat by  Michèle Rosier. Ernestine Carter from the Sunday Times was the first editor to choose a Dress of the Year replacing the Fashion Writers’ Association. The Young Jaeger label was very much of its time aimed at 20 and 30 somethings with disposable income, who desired to look different from their parents’ generation.

Jaeger, one of the sponsors of Bath in Fashion, had a display mixing vintage with current trends illustrating the fashion conversations which go back and forth in time.

Jaeger vintage display at Bath in Fashion

Jaeger wool at Bath in Fashion display

Jaeger display mixing vintage and new

Jollys statue

Spring/Summer 2015 Frow

chandelier in the Assembly Rooms Bath

In a spot of mid-week indulgence with my Mum, we headed to Bath in Fashion for a frow seat to view Spring/Summer 2015 designs. The seventies influence was apparent right from the start with high waist trousers, suede skirts and victoriana lace necked blouses, whilst the warm colour palette took us far from chilly Bath. Kimonos, fringing, culottes, head to toe white and bold floral patterns are all wearable versions of the high couture Spring/Summer looks.

Mirror Assembly Rooms Bath

catwalk shot at Bath in Fashion Spring Summer 2015

A fine vintage 

Time to check out your local vintage store for a touch of seventies or invest in pieces which will not date this time next year but still nod to the trends, such as Kitty Ferreira’s colour palette.

After the catwalk show, we headed to Bea’s Vintage Tearoom round the corner for coffee and buttermilk scones. A perfect end to our visit to this fashionable city.

Bea's Vintage Bath

vintage ornament in Bea's Tearoom Bath

vintage mirrors in Bea's Tearoom Bath

If only I could have caught more of the talks at Bath in Fashion… but I will put it my diary for 2016, and in the meantime enjoy browsing through all 50 Dresses of the Year for vintage influences at my leisure.

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Couture in Colour: Abraham’s silks in Antwerp at the Fashion Museum

Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Balenciaga… you may know their haute couture designs, but how much do you know about the fabrics that give body to their creations?

On a recent visit to Antwerp’s fashion museum, I learnt a little more about the luscious fabrics that give couture its colour. The Musée de Mode’s (MoMu) latest display is ‘Silks and Prints from the Abraham Archive: Couture in Colour.’ This fashion exhibition combines beautiful fabrics hanging like works of arts, key haute couture pieces and photographs from the Abraham Archive – a Swiss silk company, whose work is intertwined with couture from the 1930s onwards.

Haute couture and Abraham Ltd

Abraham Ltd meant nothing to me before attending the exhibition. The origins of this Swiss silk company can be traced to 1878, but it was not until after World War II that it became an international fashion heavyweight. In the 1930s, Abraham was run by Gustav Zumsteg, who mingled in the artistic environment of 1930s Paris with the likes of Georges Braque, Marc Chagall and Alberto Giacometti, and famous fashion designers, including Pierre Balmain, Christian Dior, Elsa Schiaparelli and Yves Saint Laurent. This creative atmosphere influenced his designs, helping to position him as one of the top fabric suppliers to haute couture designers.

swatches of Abrahams fabric

Abraham archives interactive swatch files

Prêt-à-porter from the 1960s ushered in a new era for Abraham Ltd; as the demand for high quality silks diminished, they adapted to the high-end ready-to-wear market. In 1995, when the firm’s collaboration with Yves Saint Laurent ended, Abraham’s time was numbered. The company may have closed in 2002, but they left behind an extensive archive of textiles, sample books and fashion photographs telling a vibrant story of twentieth century extravagance and couture.

Christian Dior and Abraham partnership

Dior’s New Look, with its luxurious and excessive fabric contrasting with war-time austerity, was a perfect match for Abraham’s high quality silks, and thus an important fashion partnership was born in the 1950s.

Dior exhibit Fashion Museum Antwerp

This sweet, but nonetheless grown-up, Dior cocktail dress exemplifies the 1950s silhouette and style. Abraham’s flower print, “Apricotine” could hardly be more aptly named.

Dior orange dress

Yves Saint Laurent and Abraham

Yves Saint Laurent met Gustav Zumsteg at Christian Dior’s funeral in 1957, marking the start of a working relationship and lifelong friendship. The red and black silk satin dress from 1985 was the stand-out piece for me, with its bustle and large exotic flowers spreading across the fabric.

Yves Saint Laurent dresses

Balenciaga and Abraham

Balenciaga also came to Abraham for fabric, in particular for gazar (a crisp, sheer, plain-weave silk cloth), which was a speciality of this silk manufacturer, and was perfect for Balenciaga’s sculptural creations.

Fashion Museum Antwerp Balanciaga and monochrome display

Balanciaga black dress in the centre

Balanciaga blue dress Fashion Museum Antwerp

Fabrics everywhere

Fabrics weaved throughout the exhibition providing, not just a pretty backdrop to the fashions on display, but literally the material for them. From checks and animal prints to monochrome, from matte to sheen, a wide range of Abraham textiles, textures and patterns were on show.

monochrome fabrics hanging

Monochrome fabrics

Checked fabric fashion museum Antwerp

animal prints - fashion museum

Fashion Photo from Museum of Fashion Antwerp MoMu

Luxurious fabrics hanging Fashion Museum Antwerp

Flowers, and in particular roses, were a recurrent motif in Abraham’s designs, from traditional bouquets to more abstract, larger patterns.

Roses fabrics

roses catwalk

Fabricand shadows Fashion Museum Antwerp

Luxury shines through these heavy, glittering cloths. The high production costs of such fabrics meant that they were often the preserve of haute couture.

Luxurious fabrics Fashion Museum Antwerp

Givenchy and Abraham

Givenchy, whose fashion idol was Balenciaga, also collaborated with Abraham Ltd. Givenchy has become synonymous for dressing two stars in particular: Audrey Hepburn appeared in Givenchy on screen, for instance in Sabrina (for which costume designer Edith Head won an Oscar), and Jackie O wore one of his designs to JFK’s funeral. The yellow evening dress and cape below is from 1973 in silk gazar, and the similarities in shape between it and the blue Balenciaga dress (pictured above) are apparent.

Givenchy evening dress in yellow gazar

Givenchy dress black and green

The Givenchy piece above from 1987 is made from Abraham silk in crêpe de chine falconné imprimé. Although the puffball feature would probably be best avoided by almost everybody, this dress with its 1940s silhouette stood out for me (perhaps a nostalgia trip to the 1980s and reminiscent of a dress that my Mum wore and loved).

Kronenhalle

Towards the start of the display, this sweet table-for-two tableau greeted visitors. It represents Kronenhalle restaurant, a Zurich institution with a guestbook of the big names of the time across the spectrum from politics to art. Gustav Zumsteg helped his mother, Hulda, run the business and used the restaurant to house his growing art collection. His artistic connections helped in designing the restaurant: Alberto and Diego Giacometti designed lamps and other furnishings for its bar which was designed by Robert Haussman.

Kronenhalle Zurich at Fashion Museum Antwerp

Before Pinterest…

Long before Pinterest, the pleasure of preserving memories and aspirations was played out through cutting out and sticking in scrapbooks. On display were twenty scrapbooks from between 1947 and 1996 creating a picture book history of fashion, textiles and Abraham Ltd. 

Scrapbooks at Fashion Museum Antwerp

The Abraham Textile Archive is housed at the Swiss National Museum. Abraham Ltd began archiving professionally in 1955 preserving 50 years of creativity, and I imagine this collection would be invaluable to fashion students and designers now.

Fashion Museum Antwerp Musee de Mode MoMu

I would recommend an Antwerp adventure full stop, and if you do, check out the Fashion Museum (MoMu). “Silk and Prints: From the Abraham Archive: Couture in Colour” is on until 11 August 2013.

Dior wins Dress of the Year at Bath in Fashion

The 50th Dress of the Year frees the ballgown. Raf Simons’ winning dress for Dior embodies all the glamour of couture, but updates it, replacing a restrictive full skirt with elegant ease.

The winner, chosen by Vanessa Friedman, the fashion editor for the Financial Times, was revealed during Bath in Fashion Week. Each year Bath Fashion Museum asks an expert to pick a dress that exemplifies the time’s fashion mood or tone, and that’s why this Dior piece is such an appropriate choice. Raf Simons’ debut couture collection for the House of Dior was so hotly anticipated, and this dress manages to pay tribute to the status of this fashion house behemoth without compromising on the Belgian designer’s fresh, modern vision. Indeed the flared hip silhouette of the dress has been taken from an original pattern in the Dior archives, but cut off and worn with slim pants.

Dress of the Year

Dress of the Year at the Fashion Museum. Photo: © Come Step Back in Time

As Vanessa Friedman states:

“This dress, or rather (this) evolution of the dress, from Raf Simons’ first collection show for Christian Dior, represents not just a generational shift in fashion – the moment when a new designer took over at the intimate couture house – but also an aesthetic new direction. It signals a move away from the most escapist, extreme garments of the fin de siècle and forward to a new 21st Century post-recession balance that blends functionality with fantasy…”

Detailed shot of the embroidered embellishment on the Dress of the Year © Come Step Back in Time

Detailed shot of the embellishment of the dress. Photo: © Come Step Back in Time

The ballgown may be cut short, but glamour abounds, and the intricate design of the bustier is complemented by the simplicity of its line and slim pants.  Pale blue and pink flowers are appliquéd and embroidered onto fine tulle which covers the silk dress, more than nodding to Christian Dior’s love of flowers, “where designs for dresses played second fiddle to the studies of flowers that inspired them.” (see Impressionist CouturierAll hand-sewn, the embroidery is covered with gemstones, pearls, tiny petals, and metallic thread. 

The heavy dress is corseted inside, and there’s a mini silk tulle petticoat, which you can see in the picture above. For the exhibition, the Dress of the Year is accessorised with a net veil by famous milliner Steven Jones and kitten heels. It is a look that is easily transferable to a vintage-lover’s wardrobe by shortening an evening gown and pairing with trousers.

For this small, but fashion-packed museum in Bath, it is a coup to display this piece, and it was wonderful to see the dress up close as part of visit to Bath Fashion Museum during Bath in Fashion. Raf Simons said:

“It is a great honour to have one of my debut Christian Dior Haute Couture collection’s looks chosen as Dress of the Year… The way the Museum’s collection is such a distinct document of, not just fashion, but history in general makes me proud that my clothes can feature amongst those looks and say something about today.”

Raf Simons’ debut show for Dior did not disappoint back in July last year. Take time out for a stylish reminder of his collection, referencing New Look silhouettes, parading down the floral-covered catwalk in the video below.

For the past 50 years, a fashion heavyweight has picked his or her Dress of the Year for Bath Fashion Museum, and you can relive fashion history via their list of the previous 50 winners. With wedding dress designs on the minds of many in the fashion industry and beyond in 2011, Sarah Burton’s exquisite “Ice Queen” wedding dress for Alexander McQueen was the winner last year, especially fitting as she was later revealed as the creator of the Kate Middleton’s bridal gown.

Dress-of-the-Year---Dior-2---(c)-Come-Step-Back-in-Time

Dress of the Year – Raf Simons for Dior. Photo: © Come Step Back in Time

There is more Dior at 50 Fabulous Frocks, an exhibition to celebrate the Fashion Museum’s 50th birthday, featuring an opera coat, which, though not couture, exemplifies the trademarks of this fashion house.

If asked for my Dress of the Year, I just wouldn’t know where to start… but I feel that this dress really fits. What would have been your Dress of the Year? Does this piece embody fashion’s mood in 2012? Let me know…

Look out for more blogs about my Bath in Fashion adventures coming up…