As the singer P.J. Harvey prepares to record her new album, we decided to publish this slightly abridged version of the article about Harvey’s last album, Let England Shake, and about her friendship with Ann Demeulemeester and Patrick Robyn.
Last week Betony Vernon, the Paris-based jewelry designer, relaunched her collection of jewelry that double as instruments of sexual pleasure, at Dover Street Market in New York.
Though Vernon makes fine jewelry as well, her reputation comes from those of her products that are the stuff of sexual fantasy. Or, in the world according to Vernon, sexual reality.
In 1992 when Vernon launched a jewelry collection called Sado-Chic, she knew she hit a nerve. The sexually charged collection was based on pieces that connect to each other. The emotional and physical connection of lovers was now manifested in silver rings and chains.
“The Medium is the Message” – Marshall McLuhan
The iconic quote above epitomizes David Bowie Is, the new exhibit currently on show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago about the English singer who gave birth to glam rock in the early 70s and has become an indispensable fixture of pop culture.
The exhibit’s official text bills Bowie as “one of the most pioneering and influential performers,” either a tacit or an unwitting acknowledgment that he was neither a particularly gifted musician or lyricist. But, he was an unrivaled image-maker and storyteller who very early on in his career realized that appearance is an indispensable part of being a pop musician. Hence, his frequent metamorphosis and meticulous attention to the finest details of imagery.
Today, Rizzoli is releasing a new monograph on the Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto (YAMAMOTO & YOHJI, Rizzoli, $115). It is a road well-travelled, as there is already a slew of books on Yamamoto – from the collectable Talking to Myself to the forgettable “best hits” pamphlets by the publishers Taschen and Assouline.
The new volume contains 600 photographs and contributions by long-time Yamamoto’s famous friends, including the French actress Charlotte Rampling and the German filmmaker Wim Wenders. It is a hefty, cloth-bound tome, its 448 pages printed on thick matte paper, as it should be, since once cannot imagine anything glossy (read, vulgar) in the Yamamoto world. The cover is red and black, the two signature Yamamoto colors.
When Ann Demeulemeester departed her label late last year, some of her devotees spoke about the end of an era. They wondered out loud whether they would purchase another garment with the tag that bears the designer’s name. This summer in Paris the label showed an undeniably strong men’s collection, but when Demeulemeester’s former menswear assistant, Sebastian Meunier, came out to take the final bow I could not shake off the lightning bolt of cognitive dissonance, even though I knew that Demeulemeester has been quietly preparing her departure for a while now and that her assistants were being given more creative control.
The Man Who Played with Color: One January evening, before the men’s show of the Belgian designer Dries Van Noten, a crowd bustled outside the Musee Bourdelle, tucked away in a side street near the Montparnasse train station in Paris. Outside, the desperate hangers-on were held back by the implacable PR watchdogs, while inside the buyers and the press were trying to squeeze into the tiny Great Hall, where the most prominent statues of Antoine Bourdelle, one of the most prolific student’s of Rodin, stood.
This weekend The New York Times published an Op-Ed article by Vanessa Freedman, the paper’s fashion director, in which she bemoaned the contemporary culture phenomenon called the “new mediocre.” She gave instance after instance, beginning with fashion and extending it to other areas, of mediocrity as the new normal. This, she said, is the marker of the zeitgeist. As far as fashion goes, she wrote, “The reason for that feeling of déjà vu I had as I sat through fashion show after fashion show during the last ready-to-wear season and saw yet more ‘reinventions’ and ‘homages’ to 1960s rock chick dresses and 1970s flared trousers, 1980s power jackets and 1920s flapper frocks, and wondered, ‘How do I explain this lack of new ideas among so many extremely talented designers?’ The new mediocre.”
When Helmut Lang came out with a perfume duo in 2000 and followed up by a third one in 2002, it was one of those rare fashion moments that occurs when an independent designer with a cult following translates his vision to another medium, thereby expanding his world. Who can forget (and by who, I mean those over 35 and really interested in fashion) the iconic ad campaigns on New York’s taxis or the long narrow SoHo store opposite Lang’s flagship where you could only by those three products, the very definition of minimalism?
The work of the German artist Joseph Beuys, its politics, earthliness and primacy, has captivated me for a long time. His performance piece I Like America and America Likes Me was the one that hit me both at the gut level and the cerebral one.
Today, the publisher Rizzoli released a long-awaited monograph on the Belgian fashion designer Ann Demeulemeester (Rizzoli, $100). The book is an exclamation point in the last sentence of Demeulemeester’s career, which is a long novel in itself. When we met in Antwerp this April, Demeulemeester just sent off the final draft to the publisher, and she spoke of it as if it was the perfect closure to her body of work in fashion.