Shirt Stories: Christiane Spangsberg

Shirt Stories Christiane Spangsberg 
I made a studio visit yesterday and although I can not reveal anything about it yet, my mind is still set on this theme of artist at work. Many of the artists and designers I admire, some of which I have personally met, when it comes to their own personal style, are committed to some sort of a uniform. By keeping their outfits as incospicuous as possible, they make sure they are not distracted from their creative work. And they invariably stick to what suits them best, thus channeling their attention to what really interests them, their art.

The name of Christiane Spangsberg sprang immediately to mind. The Copenhagen-based artist and her Picasso-like, Fauvist-inspired drawings have become something of a sensation; everybody in fashion and design seems to be talking about her. Her NYC exhibition, held this June, sold out almost immediately. I personally discovered Christiane’s work on Instagram, one of those moments when you feel your consciousness has been awaken, when you find yourself intrigued by what you see, realising you are in the presence of the new: a distinctive voice, a fresh aesthetic. The simplicity and complexity of it, the sense of curiosity it evokes, that deep signature blue paint. That being said, I never try to explain art, really, not even that which I like, because I believe art to be very subjective, and every one understands it differently.
 
Christiane Spangsberg
Christiane Spangsberg 
Veering towards fashion and style now (Spangsberg has even had a collaboration with J.V.Reid, a London fashion brand), it comes as no surprise that Christiane’s personal style expresses minimalistic and clean lines: blue jeans, white shirts, denim shirts. “I mostly work from home – where I feel most safe – and where I can relax”, she was telling an interviewer. Just the bare essentials, removing everything that’s unnecessary. “Sometimes we have a tendency to add more: color, forms, water etc. I want to remove, let the materials and form speak for themselves,” she said in another interview about her work. I think it is her lifestyle philosophy as well. Christiane Spangsberg is an artist with a beautiful soul. Her next project will be in partnership with The Danish Cancer Society, ending with an exhibition in Copenhagen at the end of the year. The money from the sales will be entirely donated to the breast cancer prevention.
 
Shirt Stories Christiane Spangsberg

photos: 1,2-Frederikke Norgard, 3-Christiane Spangsberg artwork, 4-Louise Veng

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Translating Hollywood: The World of Movie Posters

Translating Hollywood The World of Movie Posters

“Only the Japanese poster hints at Belle du jour‘s erotic nature
by showing thumbnail stills. The two painted portraits of the actress
(Czech and French) showcase Deneuve’s beauty, though little else.”


 

Movie posters for the sake of selling
and movie posters for the sake of art


 
With an arresting image and a pithy tag line, a movie poster can catch your eye and make you want to watch the film, without your knowing anything about it beforehand. But can you not know anything about a film that is about to be released in our time and age? We have access to all kinds of information even during the shooting: the subject, the actors starring, the behind the scenes moments, the story behind the movie. The accessibility to the making of a film may aim at building up the public’s interest, but it often has the exact reverse effect on me. And that’s exactly why I believe that it should be given great importance to film posters. Yes, I am talking about the medium that hasn’t always been the domain of Photoshop and graphic design. I am talking about art. It may be a lost art, unfortunately. Film posters that are not about advertising, but about adding something to the experience of the movie – accompanying it rather than simply attempting to sell it. Poster art is a medium designed to speak to the public before the film does, the window to the world or story waiting for you to discover. Another bridge to that world is the title sequence, but that’s a different story that I talked about a while ago.
 
Translating Hollywood
 
“The Argentine and Japanese posters both showcase the film’s Mediterranean setting and a sense of wanderlust. The Czech version uses a black and white newspaper aesthetic with typewriter type stamped across Monica Vitti’s face, eliciting a tragic, newsworthy story.” An interesting contrast, but I am afraid that all these versions fail to capture the essence of Antonioni’s film. I believe a much more evocative option is this one, by Sam Smith, and another choice would have simply been a still from the film, particularly the one used by the Criterion Collection as cover art for their blu-ray and DVD editions.
 
Translating Hollywood The World of Movie Posters
 
Translating Hollywood The World of Movie Posters

Cléo de 5 à 7 (Cleo from 5 to 7), 1961, by Agnès Varda. “Bold striking green lines break up the three distinct moods
of Corinne Marchand. The Japanese version presents Marchand in three fog-like moments of drama,
selling the film’s very touching tale of a woman becoming new again.”


 
I am fascinated by movie posters and when I recently found this book, Translating Hollywood: The World of Movie Posters, in a local bookstore, I grabbed it on the spot. What’s fascinating about it is that the author, Sam Sarowitz, compares posters from a film’s country of origin against versions created for foreign markets. You know what they say, an image speaks a thousand words, and viewing posters of the same film side by side is so revelatory in realising the striking contrast between America and the rest of the world, between just how much America and Hollywood have always been interested in making money with films and in building an industry (you may have heard of the “floating heads syndrome”, a term referring to the tendency for film posters, especially for Hollywood movies, to have a black background with the faces of the lead actors, “the stars”, above the name of the movie, which eventually filtered into many international posters as well), and how much Europe and other parts of the world have been preoccupied in presenting films as an art form.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule. The American poster for Chinatown (left image below), for example, is a beautiful piece of classic illustration (by Jim Pearsall): a lime-lighted Jack Nicholson, smoke becoming Faye Dunaway’s hair, the waves of his chest. Whereas, the Czech version is an absurd surreal work – the truth is the Europeans sometimes overdo it. Although not mentioned in the book, it’s interesting to know that the German version (see below, bottom image on the right page) is a reproduction of another American poster for the movie, by Richard Amsel.
 
Translating Hollywood The World of Movie Posters  
The book brings something bigger into the discussion, as well. “More than about selling a film, these posters from all over the world embody the cultural tendencies of the respective countries, making for fascinating case studies about how information is disseminated visually and digested, and the responses they generate.”

That being said, one of the most pleasant surprises I found in the pages of Translating Hollywood was the Romanian (not Italian, as stated in the book – it’s Vacanță la Roma, not Vacanze romane) poster for Roman Holiday (see first photo below) – such a simple and suggestive art work that best evokes the escapist nature of the film.
 
Translating Hollywood The World of Movie Posters
 
Translating Hollywood The World of Movie Posters

In the original US poster for The Birds, “the famous image of Jessica Tandy’s character
being attacked makes fear the star, not the actual female lead, Tippi Hedren”.
I have always liked this poster, because although there is nothing artistic about it, it is very telling and gripping.
It’s Alfred Hitchcock, after all; he made great movies, and knew how to sell them, too.


 
 
photos of the book taken by me | Translating Hollywood: The World of Movie Posters, by Sam Sarowitz, published by Mark Batty Publisher

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Made in Milan

Martin Scorsese Giorgio Armani documentary

Martin Scorsese and Giorgio Armani

 
In 1990, a Martin Scorsese short documentary about Giorgio Armani, titled Fatto a Milano (Made in Milan) was released to little fanfare and had been practically forgotten until it was brought back to the attention of the public a few months ago. Why it has not been much talk about it, it’s very surprising. What with all the constant fashion documentaries being made and being ranked on all kinds of ‘best of’ lists, it is even harder to understand why this beautiful piece of work, that not only predates the current landscape of fashion films, but also Armani’s own book (I wrote about it here), released two years ago, 25 years after the documentary was made, has been overlooked. Or it may be that others have long known about it, and I haven’t. However, I myself only recently discovered it, and if it is news to you, too, you can watch it here (you should bear in mind that the original version lasts about 25 minutes, unlike the shortened 10-minute-long latest release).
 
Made in Milan Giorgio Armani

Giorgio Armani, the book

 

Giorgio Armani and Martin Scorsese’s partnership has been deep and lasting, just as the influence of films in the designer’s work. The two first worked together on some Armani commercials and the short documentary, then on Goodfellas (1990) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Armani actively supports and funds Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation, focused on preserving and restoring neglected film gems. They also collaborated on Scorsese’s 2001 documentary on Italian cinema. In 2015, Armani even teamed up with La Cinémathèque Française in Paris to support an exhibition dedicated to Martin Scorsese. The designer’s passion for cinema is well known, naming it his first great love.

Scorsese, in return, expressed his admiration and respect for the Italian designer in his letter to his long-time friend, appeared in Vanity Fair , in August 2015, preceding the 40th anniversary of the Italian fashion house: “I look at Giorgio’s clothes, at his sense of balance and proportion, line and shape, color and texture, and I’m always astonished all over again. It doesn’t matter who’s wearing them – he makes us all look good. Part of it is because we feel good wearing his clothes.”
 
Made in Milan Giorgio Armani

Giorgio Armani, the book

 

You can definitely notice Scorsese’s classic cinematic style come through in this Armani film portrait, as the director likes to call it, which was written by a long-time collaborator of Scorsese’s, Jay Cocks (Gangs of New York, Mean Streets) and edited by another valued and long-term collaborator, Thelma Schoonmaker. The film, voiced entirely by Armani, follows the designer through Milan, the city that breathes life into his collections, his “chosen city”, where he lives and works, through his studio and onto the runway. Milan is a city that respects you and lets you express yourself, he says, “if you have something to say”, he adds. Armani is subtle, just like his clothes. He is a perfectionist, too. “I think of myself as someone who is a beginner, not as someone who has already said a lot”.

Armani talks about his personal style, about his dressing uniform, about the colour blue. “Why blue? Because I think blue looks good on me.” He talks about his work, about the jacket, where it all started. “I have always insisted upon rigorous simplicity. I can’t stand exhibitionism. It’s all a process… searching for elegance… knowing where to look… then finding it… hidden away.” He is shown before one of his shows, preparing the models, supervising every single detail, directing them before sending them on the catwalk. He talks about his past, while still remaining reserved. He has always been influenced by his own past and his family’s, and by the past of the cinema, but has tried not to be trapped by it. The cinema, which, more than his own fashion collections, can reward him in the most satisfying of ways: eternity. “Society changes, and my clothes change with it. But I try to filter my own ideas through a daily reality. It’s as if I were on a movie set. Life is the movie and my clothes are the costumes.”
 
photos: 1-Marie Claire Italia / photos from sets one and two taken by me from the book Giorgio Armani, published by Rizzoli / set 1: Peter Lindbergh, Giorgio Armani Women FW 1993-94; Aldo Fallai, Giorgio Armani Men SS 1992; Jacques Olivar, Giorgio Armani Women SS 1990/ set 2: Bob Krieger 1978; personal archive of Giorgio Armani, the designer at work in his studio on Via Durini, Milan, 1978; personal archive of Giorgio Armani, Pantelleria, 1995

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Style in Film: Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde


Note: This is a revised edition of a previous article I wrote (initially published in September 2012), in celebration of today’s 50th anniversary of “Bonnie and Clyde”.
 
Faye Dunaway’s wardrobe in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) evoked a sense of the ’30s elegance and glamour that went against the fashionable mini skirt of the ’60s and ushered in the midi. Simple-cut silhouettes, slinky midi skirts, knitted sweaters worn with silk printed scarves, cardigans, the windowpane checked suit, jaunty berets and the iconic honey gold bob were chosen by Theadora Van Runkle, the self-taught costume designer who won her first Oscar nomination for Bonnie and Clyde, her first film, to create Faye’s “gun moll” look in this landmark American movie. Bonnie and Clyde was at the forefront of the New American Cinema or New Hollywood (mid-to-late 1960s – 1970s), when a new generation of filmmakers came to prominence in the American cinema. They were the auteur-directors, whose work was highly influenced by the European cinema, and which was thematically complex, technically innovative, morally ambiguous, sexually charged and anti-establishment.
 

 
“I knew it was a great role. I really identified with Bonnie. She was just like me, a Southern girl who was dying to get out of the South. She wanted to take risks, she wanted to live. I knew exactly how she felt – I’d felt that way for years”, said Faye Dunaway. She was perfect for the role. Dressed in effortless looking, fluid outfits suffused with tomboy sexuality, she became the most memorable and beautiful female outlaw. A controversial crime classic, a daring, disturbing tragicomedy, Bonnie and Clyde was directed by Arthur Penn and inspired by the films of Truffaut and Godard, and although in Europe it was an instant hit (no wonder), it was, at first, dismissed by many critics in the US. However, the young movie-goers immediately fell in love with it. Amateur bank robberies swept the American nation and women rushed in the stores to buy berets.

But can anyone wear a beret better than Bonnie Parker? The beret is her signature. Faye’s character would not have been the same without it; it gives her an identity, confidence and sex appeal. Reportedly, Arthur Penn put her in a beret as an homage to Gun Crazy’s bad girl Annie (Peggy Cummins). It’s interesting, in this regard, a remark in the book Film Noir: 100 All-Time Favorites: “Joseph H. Lewis’ and writer Dalton Trumbo’s Gun Crazy (1950) and its couple are far removed from the innocence of other fugitive-couple films like Fritz Lang’s You Only Live Once (1937) and Nicholas Ray’s They Live by Night (1949). Instead, its lethal lovers look forward to the more blatantly sexual fugitive couples of post-Production Code neo-noirs like Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (2967) and Tamra Davis’s homage film Guncrazy (1992).”

And what further completed Faye’s dramatic looks and became a fashion in itself was her glowing make-up, with sun-kissed skin, black eyeliner, peachy blush and lips, enhanced by the beautiful cinematography by Burnett Guffey. They would get up every day at 4.30 and shoot at first light. Bonnie and Clyde made Faye Dunaway a movie star, but it was Warren Beatty, her partner in the film, who gave her one of her most cherished compliments: “You’ve got a lot of class!”
 

 
The black blazer and flowing skirt. The designer used a bias cut so that the dresses would swing and incorporated her own concepts with vintage pieces. In my interview with Caroline Young, writer of Classic Hollywood Style, she named Van Runkle her favourite costume designer: “I came across a selection of her costume sketches, and they are beautiful works of art in their own right – she actually began her career as an illustrator – and they are so detailed, I think someone described them as being like Leon Bakst illustrations.” Van Runkle reportedly said that her ability to synthesize the character, the colour, the line, the era and the particular star into one drawing gave her an advantage because people knew what they were going to get.

Bonnie and Clyde ignited a fashion trend at its release and has been influencing the catwalks for five decades now. The beret made a comeback after the film was released, with the production in the French town of Lourdes reported to more than double. Theadora said: “The beret was the final culmination of the silhouette. In it, she combined all the visual elements of elegance and chic. Without the beret, it would have been charming, but not the same.” When Faye Dunaway attended the French premiere of the film, a crowd of thousands had gathered outside the Cinematique in Paris just to meet the star, many with bobbed haircuts and berets.
 

 
Bonnie’s look included a belted tweed jacket with matching midi skirt, paired with a black beret and flat pumps. She has found a profession, a bank robber, and she adopts a masculine-inspired, powerful and professional look. “They have $ for clothes at last,” reads a note made by Van Runkle on her sketch of the costume. Bonnie’s costumes record her development from bored Midwest waitress to bank robber. Her loose, crumpled pale peach button-down dress evolves to more professional looks as she gets into the swing of bank robbing, with a cigar in her mouth and a gun by her hip. Part of the success of the Bonnie and Clyde look, Theadora Van Runkle said, was that “they wore clothes that people could wear to work and wear in their real lives.” I think that’s the secret of any enduring style. The costume designer’s ability to fully realize the onscreen sex appeal of the characters through clothing was what made them irresistible to audiences, pointed out Deborah Nadoolman Landis, costume designer and author of Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume Design. “It’s not the clothes people want to emulate, it’s the characters,” she said.

Writers David Newman and Robert Benton captured the world’s fascination with the film best: “If Bonnie and Clyde were here today, they would be hip… It is about style and people who have style. It is about people whose style set them apart from their time and place so that they seemed odd and aberrant to the general run of society.”
 

photos: screen stills captured by me | production credits
bibliography: Classic Hollywood Style, by Caroline Young, Film Noir. 100 All-Time Favorites, an article from L.A.Times by Patrick Goldstein

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Smiles (and Stories) of A Summer Night

Giles and Brother 
I love stories. Films, books… They all tell stories. And you know I love them dearly. There are also the bed-time-stories – the books my son and I both adore and which I have absolutely no problem reading for the 1,000th time (even if they are sometimes resumed to one favourite paragraph or another which I have to read ten times over, putting me to sleep much faster than my two-year-old). There are the style stories, too, not those just for the sake of style, but the living-your-style kind of stories I have been featuring lately, of wonderful, amazingly talented and beautiful (inside and out) people.

But personal stories are those I probably love the most. That may sound funny, coming from a very private person. But the stories I am talking about are not those you find on social media, they are neither those you find on blogs, nor even in books, but those you hear and tell at filled-with-laughter family gatherings, at long, casual, noisy dinners with your friends, over a glass of wine or two with someone you’ve just met but feel you’ve been friends your entire lives. Your most inner stories, your most cherished memories, because these are, as photojournalist José Cordero Iza so sincerely said in our recent interview, “personal moments that are magical, and I keep them for me”.

And what better time for story making and telling than summer? Just like in childhood, when the best things seemed to happen during the summers (which, in my case, were largely spent in the countryside at my grandparents or on mountain hikes and climbing with my brother and parents) and would be recounted the whole year until the next summer. Today, things have changed a little. Everyone, even children, travel year-round, there is always something to “share”, to show, but Summer still retains something a little more special, even when you don’t take an amazing trip, even when nothing special seems to happen, even when you wish summer was over because you physically and mentally can not go through another heat wave. But the truth is you don’t want it to end, not even if it puts you through temperature hell.
 
Giles & Brother 
That’s because Summer in itself is special. It is the time when you don’t have to wake up early in the morning, but you do so regardless, at sunrise, without any plans for the day ahead, but with a sense of wander. When you can find joy in the everyday and contemplate the unknown with the same enthusiasm. It is this hallucinatory combination of emptiness and endless possibility, this transitional time between past and future, a time when you let things go and prepare for new challenges, a ripe time for misbehaviour, but for pushing your limits, too, a time for childlike fun and games and dreams, a time when the only thing on your mind can be the heat, a time of discovery, a time when you let yourself just be.

It was on a summer night of a long weekend in the country (the best there is) last month when I decided to order this Giles & Brother cuff (which I did, right then and there) as a little something to remind me of all the reasons why I love summer. Something tactile to remind me of the magic of summer, something subtle to remind me of the exuberance of summer. It feels very personal, crafty with just the right rough-hewn finish, statement-worthy without standing out, an “enduring addition to the wearer’s personal narrative”. And it is a railroad spike cuff, so summer appropriate.
 
Giles & Brother

photos by me

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