My Claim To Fame: Editors Choice in Fashion Magazine

Earrings I created in the October Issue of Fashion Mag for Montreal Edior’s picks. Hopefully the first of many features in publications ;). They are made of filigree metal findings, flat-back Swarovsky crystals and Czech glass.

Unfortunately, AquaSkye is closing. However, it will remain an online retailer and stylists will still be able to borrow pieces for photo shoots.


Glamazons and Olympian Goddesses on the Milan Runway

A new breed of Glamazon stomped down the runway during Milan fashion week. She wasn’t the aggressive leather and metal studs warrior that have invaded our television sets and conquered our sidewalks for the past two seasons, but rather a statuesque representation of strong, surefooted modern women.

Both the Versace and Ferré featured some leather and bondage elements that transitioned last season into the new one. Ferré paired strips of crisscrossing leather with softer materials and flirty feminine silhouettes.

On the Versace Runway, an ancient Greece influence was visible in the frieze-inspired motifs in the garment’s s cuts and prints. Donatella did not only summon the image of deities with her floor-length metallic fringe gowns, she also summoned goddesses with the strength and presence of Olympian athletes. This season, Donatella’s body-conscious designs combined many elements that gave them dynamism. The racer backs, cropped tops and strong shoulders gave the models an athletic built. Other trompe-l’oeuil devices such as high waists, vertical lines and tight pencil skirts made frames appear stronger and legs look longer.

Versace’s Urban Glamazon represents today’s stylish, healthy and athletic modern woman and has nothing to do with the usual glorified anemic waifs the fashion industry tends to have a penchant for.

Statement Earings are back!

Just started working on a collection of statement earings for Aqua Skye inspired by stained glass and mosaics!!!

Clip earings

Clip Earings

United Colors of Benetton: Branding your Face.

We are bombarded by various types of advertizing every day, and have been participating in the domino effect of Viral Marketing by wearing logo-clad clothing and by participating in online social networks. Given how fiercely they compete for advertising space in which to expose us to their imagery, it’s not surprising that companies have come up with new, effective ways to promote they’re brands. The new trend in Viral Marketing seems to be the creation of online competitions in which participants upload pictures of themselves on a website or bog in the hopes of winning prizes or representing the brand. You can find a substantial amount of these types of competitions online. I’m a bit of a contest junkie and I often enter these in the hopes of getting free stuff (I LOVE free stuff). Brands that have been organizing such competitions are Got2be Hair products, where the most popular hairstyles would win free hair products, and FCUK where participants would upload pictures of themselves in the brand’s clothes in the hopes of winning a fashion spree (this competitions was unfortunately only open to UK residents).

In February, Benetton pushed the online picture-uploading contest concept even further by making it part of a full-scale advertisement campaign. “Its My Time Gobal Casting Competition” is promising the 100 most popular profiles a place in the next Benetton book and a 200$ shopping spree, and promising 20 winners a spot as the new faces of Benetton in the next fall/winter 2010 campaign.

“The Competition intends being a global representation of style, an interactive search for new faces, new looks, new ways of being that fully convey the values of the United Colors of Benetton brand.” writes the Promoter in the Terms and Conditions of the “It’s My Time” competition. 

I applaud the “Promoter” who came up with this marketing ploy. Benetton is known for it’s controversial add campaigns photographed by Oliviero Toscani’s. These images had shock-value and were acute social commentary about racial issues, gay and lesbian rights and HIV awareness. In a world where the president of the United States is black, women have equal rights and Gay marriage is being legalized in many places of the world, these adds have sort of lost they’re relevance. This is not to say that the fight equal rights is over, far from it, but these adds do not have the same effect today as they did in the 80’s and 90’s.

With “It’s My Time”, Benetton has found a way to renew its relevance in popular culture by using the ever-growing online community as a means of viral marketing. However, I can’t help but find these new means of advertising slightly disturbing. The “It’s my Time” has reached 48000 entries (including my own), which means that right now thousands of individuals around the world are uploading images of themselves in the hopes of being the one that will “convey the values of the United Colors of Benetton Brand“. Which means we are fully prepared to be branded with the Benetton stamp and will participate in an advertizing campaign for free. Let’s not take into account the prizes we are competing for. Every time we post a link to our competition profile, we are actively participating an the advertisement campaign.

 I’m not an advertisement or marketing expert, but I’m pretty sure that the cost of the prizes offered to the winner will come up to a lot less then setting up an international advertisement campaign. Let’s not forget that the “Promoter” plans on including the 100 most popular profiles in the next Benetton Book and that they will already have the rights to all the pictures uploaded by the participants. Maby someone more knowledgeable can enlighten me:  I’m not an expert on copy right laws or ownership laws when it comes to publishing, but I suspect that including the following passage in the Terms and Conditions was kind of sneaky:

All submitted material will be kept by the Promoter and will become the property of the same Promoter, who from that moment on will be free to use the aforesaid material regardless of whether or not the Entrant is selected as a Finalist or Winner. The Promoter may also use the submitted material, should the occasion arise, within the scope of advertising, commercial or communication activities connected with the Competition. With the acceptance of these terms and conditions, Entrants waive all intellectual property rights relating to the submitted material.”

Now I didn’t READ the Terms and Conditions before I created my profile and uploaded my pictures, and I’m pretty sure the greater part of the 48000 participants didn’t either. Which means that close to 50000 people gave away the rights to their image for a company to use whenever they want without really being aware of what it implied. It’s pretty amazing that by creating these contests, companies are inciting thousands of individuals to actively participate in the construction of the brand’s image and help it acquire new spaces for advertising possibilities (your blog, you’re facebook page, your myspace… your entire e-mail address book). I’m not against such marketing strategies, nonetheless I’m  disturbed by how easily people can be coaxed into being used in an advertisement campaign for free.

Burn Rubber on Me

The idea was making clothes out of recycled rubber.

On Alexander McQueen’s Beautiful Monsters

In my opinion, good art transcends criteria for beauty and ugliness established by social norms. If you’ve read my first post about the subject  you know how I feel about the relationship between art and fashion creations. In the light of the  media storm created by the death of the celebrated designer Lee Alexander McQueen, I thought I should write about him sooner rather than latter. (I won’t use the word “genius” to describe him and if anyone’s curious about why I refrain from ever using the term, please consult Linda Nochlin’s essay “Why have there been no great female artist?” as she explains the issue a thousand times better than I can.)

McQueen’s unorthodox use of the mediums made available to him by the fashion industry is what made him a creative force to be reckoned with and an artist in his own way. He orchestrated every aspect of a collection and it’s presentation to create fashion shows that were a spectacle. He was a master of the mise-en-scene, using technology of lighting and sound as well as multimedia to create an art total production.

The first McQueen show that had me completely enthralled was the Spring 2005 collection which was presented as a giant chess game. I thought that if I were to become a fashion designer, I would want to also be an entertainer and have my work featured in a fashion show that would be on par with an Opera production. Not only were the clothes beautiful, but the presentation was dramatic in itself.

The only one who can top McQueen is McQueen himself, and this spring’s collection entitled Plato’s Atlantis was again an example of art total. An eerie atmosphere was created by Knight’s opening video of Raquel Zimmermann, lying on sand, naked, with snakes writhing across her body and the presence of two sinister movie cameras sliding and rearing on the runway on gigantic black booms ( before the models started walking, looking like hybrids between reptiles and humans.

It’s not his mastery of the mise-en-scene that awes me the most. I think what was most fascinating about McQueen’s work is that he was able to defy traditional expectations of what beauty should look like. One of the spring 2010 shoes are reminiscent of a spine, twisting and writhing in a most unnatural way and another reminds us of an insect’s carapace . How does an object so reminiscent of the sordid become revered as amazing fashion? How does something essentially so ugly become admirable in our eyes? 

The McQueen paradox is strengthened by the fact that the fashion industry is obsessed with beauty and perfection and he has more than once surprised the world by sending down the runway creations that were not only out of the ordinary, but completely conflicted with traditional definition for the beautiful. In fact, these past seasons, McQueen has been sending more and more “ugliness” down the runway while still being credited for being an astounding designer. Who could forget the grotesque “blow-up doll” faces painted on his models for fall 2009.

Perhaps McQueen felt the need to expose fashion’s dark underbelly. Afterall, his Atlantis show was far from an allegory to female beauty and elegance. The models were transformed into supernatural creatures by insect and reptilian like structured dresses and engineered prints. The shoes grotesque hooves, conflicting with the natural shape of the body and transforming a elegant gait into an aggressive stomp. He mutated some of the most beautiful women in the world into eerie monstrous creatures far from our ideal of what beauty should look like.

His ingenious designs, entertaining fashion shows and superior craftsmanship  are all things that made him a fascinating actor in the fashion industry. But what made him an artist in my eyes was his capacity to completely defy our expectations of what fashion and beauty should be by delivering us objects reminiscent of the gruesome and distasteful all while conserving an aura of undeniable fierceness and mystery around them. In McQueen’s world, even the ugliest of subject matters became a thing of beauty to be envied.

Vivienne Westwood Red Label Fall 2010 London Fashion Week

Times change and veteran punk designer Vivienne Westwood addapts, all while remaining true to herself. Her Red Label collection was a mix of prim and proper pieces layered with textures and prints, amongst which the designer’s signature tartans were stratigically placed. As expected, the designer incorporated a rebellious element by having the models proclaim their “Loyalty to Gaia”, a message printed on some pieces.

What better way is there to represent mother nature in all her glory than to pull inspiration from Renaissance painterly traditions? After all, artists from the period were inspired to better and develop modes of representation with the sole purpose of representing more accurately the beauty of nature. Vivienne Westwood is known for being inspired by subversive cultural movements, but she has also over the years proven to be sensitive to past artistic movements as well. I couldn’t help but feel that this time, she was channeling not only her love for Mother Earth and supporting today’s ecologists but was also inspired by Renaissance painting. 

The clothes were slightly reminiscent of the Renaissance silouhette as strong shoulders and  diverse styles of sleeves were featured. The wealth of an individual all throughout the Renaissance was often shown off by wearing excentric and artfully executed sleeves. The predominant colors were rich browns and shades of reds like burgundy and crimson, typical of a fall collection but also revered as the more elegant dies during the Renaissance. I also couldn’t help but think of characters of the Comedia del’Arte, as the mix of argiles and plaids as well as a strtegically placed mask on a headress were reminscent of harlequins and pierrots. Carnival in Venice was lived at it’s fullest during the Renaissance years, when society was tightly regulated by  social decorum and sumptuary laws.

However, what prompts me to say that Dame Vivienne Westwood was inspired by Renaissance Art isn’t because of the clothes per-se, but rather because of the show’s styling. The subject-matter itself isn’t so typical of the period, but the visual language used to represent it is very much so. The assymetrical cuts, oversized pieces and abundant layering gave the outfits an air of constant movement, as did the hair which was artfully back-combed and teased into whimsical swirls over the model’s heads. The main actors of the Renaissance were fascinated by classical aesthetics, hence the enthusiasm for ample draping and textiles movement in many of the period’s masterpieces. Fueled by the desire to accurately represent nature they payed more attention to perspective, texture, and of course the human form and it’s movement.

In both the clothing design and the styling of the collection, there is a frequent contrasting between saturated colors and shades which could be seen as a contrast between shadow and light or chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro is a technique of representation said to have originated during the Renaissance that implies a use of contrast between shadow and light to create volume and three-dimensionality, especially when dealing with the human body as subject-matter. It was frequently used when representing scenes of divine interventions, where light was considered holy and the contrast between shadow and light added a dramatic visual effect to the scene. The make-up used on the model’s faces were very much inspired by this dramatic lighting effect, as they emulated the effect that a candle or a flash-light would have on someone’s face in a dark setting. The model’s features were not transformed or enhanced by cosmetics but rather highlighted and put into relief by an artificia lighting effect created by the make-up artists.

Carravaggio’s The Calling of St Matthew’s 1599-1600 oil on canvas (left). Tintoretto’s Pieta (descent from the cross) 1559 (right).

Chiaroscuro is a term now used in both cinema and photography analysis, so why not apply it to the study of fashion design and styling? Dame Vivienne Westwood’s fall 2010 fashion show proves again that some techniques of representation are just too good to ever get old and that the Renaissance left an important legacy that will continue to condition all fields in visual culture, art and design.

All Runway images from