The preparation that goes in to planning a new exhibition is always a suspended moment that is mostly quiet research – looking at books, reading, and looking again. A Sunday of peaceful contemplation in my office brings memories and new ideas, or a moment of nostalgia. Very often, after fashion weeks, nostalgia for the elegance as style used to be, before jeans and sneakers changed
all the parameters of modern, cool, in, out, trendy…
Born in St Petersburg, Hoyningen-Hune was a nobleman who in 1925, at only 25 years, was already the most important photographer at French Vogue. A companion of Horst, they were the two most elegant and stylish contributors to the new ideas of French couture, both for their own style, and the pictures they took that illuminated the times. An aesthetic never equalled.Here, one of his most famous pictures:
Lucien Lelong’s bathing suits, 1929.
Both Lucien Lelong, and Jean Patou, were also incredibly elegant. While Patou,, was introducing a new sense of fashion, a new style of American reporter was writing about French fashion, calling Patou “ the most elegant man in Europe”. Known for his silhouettes, he also designed fragrances, Patou was a real parfumer. His signature perfume launched in 1925. He is said to have invented sportswear for women including knitwear swimming suits. The freedom of his tennis skirts that Suzanne Lenglen wore revolutionized the sport, bringing fashion to the tennis court.
Here, Jean Patou wearing a double breasted tuxedo, one of his many,
made in London exclusively for him.
She was playing tennis “like the men” and she needed freedom of movement. Leaving the old ideas of rolled stockings, her knee-length pleated skirts made by Jean Patou, and the bright bandeau, caused many comments when she appeared at Wimbledon beyond the comments on her skill- she won 31 Championship titles in twelve years. For the first time sport was influencing fashion.
French photographer Lucy Schwob, seen here, created her alter ego “Claude Cahun”. She disguised, masked, costumed herself, to explore androgynous ambiguity, the exploration of her identity, and sexuality. A form of rebellion against all fixed ideas about women, her photographs show the restrictive attitudes of the time she pushed against. Today it is seen as so contemporary – women thinking about identity,
gender and sexual difference.
He was right in the center of artistic modernism in the 20’s. Paul Poiret began his revolution at the turn of the century, using clothing to provoke a social change, as often fashion does. Discarding the wasp-waisted silhouette in favor of the “garçonnes” look, creating an ideal of femininity never seen before: Here, Paul Poiret
in the streets of Paris with his models.
This week an amazing new project of bags and travel bags by Vuitton in collaboration with some of the most famous designers of today brings back the memory of the trunk made by Louis Vuitton for Poiret in 1911.
The idea of travelling light was not a question at the time!
“The Bachelor Girl” is a novel published in 1922, when for a woman to act as a man “comme un garçon” was becoming a focus of attention in the “new society”. It was truly a revolution. It is a story of a woman who decides to live freely and on her own terms. At the time considered scandalous, it was adapted for the movies. Today it makes us smile in our society, except we know in so many countries so many women do not have the freedoms we have.
Clara Gordon Bow, a silent movie actress in the ’20’s – appeared in 46 silent movies – but was very different from all the other Hollywood movie stars of the time. She was ahead of her time in style and attitude, and behaved with great freedom. She retired at 28 years of age when she was the N° 1 star in America. There were of course many public scandals as she was the prototype of the “new woman”…free to decide about her life. Girls wanted to be her, while their parents thought
she represented the apocalypse!