Thursday, November 12, 2009

Historical Artistic Styles and Fashion - a 4,000 year Journey

I. The World’s Oldest Love Poem

I will start my journey by going back some 4,000 years.

“It is as tiny as the sleekest mobile phones that fit in the palm of the hand, but its message is anything but modern. A small tablet in a special display in the Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient is thought to be the oldest love poem ever found, the words of a lover from more than 4,000 years ago.“ goes a February 2006 article in the New York Times.

Dating back to the Sumerian period, the tablet (below) contains a highly explicit ballad:

Bridegroom, dear to my heart, Goodly is your beauty, honeysweet

You have captivated me, let me stand trembling before you; Bridegroom, I would be taken to the bedchamber

Bridegroom, you have taken your pleasure of me

Tell my mother, she will give you delicacies; my father, he will give you gifts

In 2005, Urart Art Gallery, a prominent Turkish jewelry maker that manufactures pieces inspired and influenced by Anatolian civilizations, introduced a limited edition ring for Valentine’s Day that has a replica of the poem, as seen below:

II. Pojagi – 14th Century Korean Tradition and Chunghie Lee

According to Joan Barnatt, Pojagi, or wrapping cloth, has been a Korean tradition since history was earliest recorded. During the Chos┼Ćn kingdom (beginning 14th century), this art form developed into a distinctive and notable art form by Korean women. Pojagi are made up of pieces of like material (silk, ramie, or cotton) that, in many cases, were recycled by the women of the family, reminiscent of American quilting tradition.

Chunghie Lee is an artist and lecturer from Seoul, Korea. Her work has been influenced by Pojagi, and led her to create wall pieces, sculptures and wearable work. Below are samples of her wearable art (No-name women Drumagi; The Dream Vest; Multi-color top).

III. Nakis – 15th Century Ottoman Art and Cemil Ipekci

Moving forward by another century, Nakis is an Ottoman decorative style that is a synthesis of Seljuk, Byzantine, Persian and Mongolian states, reaching its peak in the 15th century Ottoman Court. Below are two samples of nakis art:

Cemil Ipekci, a modern day Turkish designer, has been heavily influenced by Ottoman art, and elements of nakis are visible in his runway show named Harem below.

IV. Denim Imitates Art - Damien Hirst and Fashion

Damien Hirst, the most prominent member of the Young British Artists movement has been expanding his footprint into the fashion world with a number of arrangements including Levi’s and skating apparel brand Supreme to deliver a collection of Holiday 2009 decks and t-shirts. Here are the details from Supreme’s web site:

"During the 1990s Hirst was known as a wild child in the art world and his work embodied both everyday realism and provocative sensationalism. Known for his ironic wit and cultural commentary, Hirst often explores the theme of mortality through a variety of mediums and techniques from installation work, to painting and sculpture…Hirst is known for his iconic graphic Spot paintings that depict rows of randomly-colored circles. Supreme will release a series of five individually designed decks and a Box Logo tee designed by Damien Hirst featuring his Spot paintings. "

Below are images from Supreme's collection:

In a 2007 Fashion Week Daily article, titled Denim Imitates Art, Levi’s vice president for marketing said the Original 501 jean has been the black canvas for self expression and individuality, referring to famous artists Damien Hirst, to Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat as those who wore it. Below are some pictures from the collectio:

V. Art Nouveau Meets Metallic Yarn

Antonio Gaudi was a late 19th and early 20th century Catalan architect and a member of the Art Nouveau movement. His unfinished masterpiece, Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (below left), is a reflection of his devote Catholicism, is now being worked on with 2026 as the planned completion date. His buildings dot the city of Barcelona, with the one below right one of them:

As depicted in the New York Magazine, English designer Louise Goldin’s label is known for its short, body-hugging knit dresses, tunics, and swimwear for women. According to a London Fashion Week press release, “Louise Goldin graduated in March 2005 from Central Saint Martins with a distinction in Fashion with Knitwear. Her graduate collection was ordered exclusively and re-produced for Selfridges in London...The Louise Goldin Spring/Summer 2007 collection is a combination of highly technical knitwear combined with innovative and unique techniques. The collection was inspired by architecture, particularly the work of architect, Antonio Gaudi. Louise Goldin’s knitwear is made up of yarns such as lurex combined with the finest cashmere blends.”

Below are pictures from her 2007 Antonio Gaudi-inspired collection, representing the inner architecture of Gaudi’s drawings wrapped around the body.

VI. Sonia Delaunay - Orphism

"Russian painter, illustrator, and textile designer who was a pioneer of abstract art in the years before World War I. Delaunay grew up in St. Petersburg. She studied drawing in Karlsruhe, Germany, and in 1905 moved to Paris, where she was influenced by the Post-Impressionists and the Fauvists. When she married the artist Robert Delaunay in 1910, she was painting in the style known as Orphism, which involved the harmonious juxtaposition of areas of pure colour. She extended Orphist principles to the design of fabrics, pottery decoration, stage sets, and other applied arts." (Encyclopedia Britannica).

Some of Delaunay's paintings are below:

Clara Leskovar and Doreen Schultz For Autumn/Winter 2009 the C.neeon designers Clara Leskovar and Doreen Schulz were inspired by Delaunay. Called “One cannot live without champagne and gypsies,” the collection is bright, fun with an air of nonchalance, that makes it all the more irresistible (Highsnobette). Below are samples of their work:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Genealogy of Power Suits

“Every man needs at least one suit that exudes power, prestige and classic refinement. The power suit is a vital component of any man’s wardrobe regardless of his profession because it serves as his modern-day suit of armor…The purpose of the power suit is to project unrelenting, untouchable power in the face of adversity without saying a word... “ says

Since power is associated with money, I will focus on what the bankers have worn since the banking profession was invented.

According to an article written by Stephen G. Cecchetti of Brandeis University, while the history of banking dates to Babylonia in the second millennium b.c., we can trace modern-day banking to practices in the Medieval Italian cities of Florence, Venice and Genoa. Particularly the Bardi and Peruzzi families were dominant in Florence in the 14th century and established branches in other parts of Europe to facilitate their trading activities.

I will start my journey with the 14th century bankers. Below is a painting depicting the bank of the 14th century:

Note that the bankers are wearing draped clothes, consistent with the Mediterranean school of clothing we covered in Module 4.

According to the Swiss Private Bankers Association (SPBA), in the 15th century, Cosimo de' Medici, during the Council of Basel, set up one of the first banking houses. Below is a portrait of Cosimo de' Medici painted by Agnolo Bronzino located in the Uffizi gallery in Florence.

Perhaps it is not coincidental that this man of power is depicted in an armor.

With the increased merchant trading in the 16th and 17th century, banking centers moved close to these trading outfits. The British Empire had a prominent role and the historical Banking London Royal Exchange was established in 1565. This represents the origins of what is now referred to as Merchant Banking. In the 17th Century London's importance as a trade center led to an increasing demand for ship and cargo insurance. Modern Western economic and financial history is usually traced back to the coffee houses of London. Edward Lloyd’s Coffee House in 1688 established the beginning of Lloyd’s as an insurance pioneer (source Llyods web site).

As we again saw in Module 4, in the Northern European School of Tailoring, French and English tailors and couturiers’ work is internationally recognized by its perfect measures, cut, fit, and stitching work.

Below is an image from Lloyd’s archives depicting the bankers with top hats, scarves and tailored pants and jackets, styles of the Northern European School of Tailoring.

According to David Kuchta in his book titled The Three-Piece Suit and Modern Masculinity,”… in 1666, King Charles II felt it necessary to reform Englishmen's dress by introducing a fashion that developed into the three-piece suit. Between 1550 and 1850, English upper- and middle-class men understood their authority to be based in part upon the display of masculine character: how they presented themselves in public and demonstrated their masculinity helped define their political legitimacy, moral authority, and economic utility…”

Hence the beginning of the power suit.

Here we see J. Pierpont Morgan wearing the three-piece suit. He founded J.P. Morgan & Co. with Anthony Drexel in New York in 1871 under the name Drexel, Morgan & Co.

In 1878, J. O. Madison created a drafting system that made it easy to manufacture custom measured sack-suits.

According to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, " the men's sack suit pattern was drafted from J.O. Madison's Elements of Garment Cutting (Root and Tinker, New York, 1878, rev. 1880), a drafting system designed to be used by professional tailors. Unlike other systems that relied on proportions or block patterns, Madison believed in the direct-measure approach which used several measurements taken directly from the customer's body. “

Below is an image of the 1878 sack suit.

Today men wear an updated version of the nineteenth-century sack suit.

If we fast forward to today, Brooks Brothers is the supplier of Wall Street bankers’ outfits. Below is an image from The Madison 1818 collection.

The Madison 1818 collection is tailored from elegant wool woven in Italy, favored for its relaxed fit, natural shoulders and easy fitting trousers, and is fully lined. You can see the entire collection here.

Below are their Madison Shadow Stripe 1818 (left) and Madison Two-Button 1818 (right) suits.