1920s Jazz Age and fashion

Sparkle, fun and excess – this is what ´20s people were craving for, what they longed after the war and what the economy of the day allowed.

The exhibition at London Fashion and Textile Museum looks back nearly 100 years ago at the glamorous time when women´s rights expanded for the first time after the WWI and the ankles started flashing in the decade-long celebration of life. Women´s style of dressing changed unprecedentedly. Jazz music also played an important role in the decade, as well as fashion – allowing more comfortable dresses for dancing, as well as the whole idea of movement, energy and self expression. The clothes were designed to move and shift and allow the movement while wearing them.

The display looks back at the glittering haute couture, as well as everyday ready-to-wear, alongside large display of accessories, ranging from fans to cigarette holders, gloves and headbands.

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The photographs by James Abbe: Photographer of the Jazz Age, depict portraits of the well known ladies of the time reflect the realistic look of that time. Although on illustrations depicted always so slender, the real life women of that time looked rather healthy and far from the anorectic models.

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Of course, the bitter economic crash followed at the end of the decade, due to the overspending, but it was a decade to remember. The ´20s of this century are just a few years away, lets wait and see how this decade will turn out!

1920s JAZZ AGE Fashion and Photographs exhibition at London Fashion and Textile Museum open till 15th January 2017.

Retreat

This exhibition of a textile designer Kaire Tali´s works looks back at her two years taken off from the usual busy everyday life to reflect and re-evaluate her goals.
Perhaps this break was caused by an outside reason, this is not stated, however I quite like the idea of switching off for a while and taking a sabbatical for a period of time and I think this is becoming more popular in our busy everyday world.

Kaire Tali is a long time successful Estonian textile designer and one of the starters of the applied arts council of Katarina Guild.
„Retriit” is the designer and artist´s personal emotional journey manifesting in the comeback.

Her papier maché torsos wander into the realm of paper sculptures, while having a play with style and aesthetical garments that you can look at, but not wear, or at least this is how they “spoke” to me while looking at the displays.

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The exhibition stays open till 10th July 2016 at Tallinn Design and Architecture Gallery.

Alexander McQueen “Savage Beauty”

“I want to be the purveyor of a certain silhouette or a way of cutting, so that when i´m dead and gone people will know that the 21st century was started by Alexander McQueen.”

The retrospective exhibition of Alexander McQueen´s works called “Savage Beauty” finally came home to London. When “Savage Beauty” first showed at New York Metropolitan Museum in 2011 it became one of the most successful exhibitions in the Museum´s history. I think of the same fate for this exhibition at V&A.

You can feel tension in the air as you walk in through the doors into the exhibition room. Muzzled mannequins at one wall, with Lee McQueen himself talking on tape about making his first collections off his dole money. Creating gorgeous clothing pieces off absolutely no budget.
Shows were his playground to do whatever he wanted, go wild and stage a performance – never dull.
As you walk through the rooms of perfectly tailored jackets – a skill he learned while apprenticing at Savile Row even before starting his career as a fashion designer – you enter another room titled “Romantic Gothic” followed by the sound of classical music with mannequins wearing gimp masks and couture. The keywords here are: Victorian Gothic inspirations, Edgar-Allan Poe, dealing with dark side of his personality through fashion.
“There is blood beneath every layer of skin.”
McQueen´s women are never naive and innocent, they are dominating, aggressive, tough, someone who won´t go down without a fight and often come out as a winners.

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Then you continue to  the darkened corridor into the room with walls covered in bones, like Parisian catacombs. It is a fully engaging exhibition space with aquarium-looking screen in the ceiling, inspired by his “Irere” collection. “Romantic Primitivism” room explores tribalism in McQueen´s collections. Primitivism of noble savage, Yoruba mythology is used as inspiration for mannequins with horns in the middle of their face. Exotic pieces include beaded pony skin evening dress, a coat made out of hair, crocodile heads on the shoulders of a garment, etc.

4. Romantic Primitivism Installation view of London gallery Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty. Victoria and Albert Museum London

And you proceed to another room accompanied by the sound of classical music again that leads you to experience his “Romantic Nationalism” of his last, post mortem collection. Utterly royal. McQueen tartan mixed with lace and crystals.
“It was time to come out of the dark and into the light”.

5. Romantic Nationalism Installation view of London gallery Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty. Victoria and Albert Museum London

“I want to create pieces that can be handed down, like a heirloom”.
“The Cabinet of Curiosities” filled with a selection of his most creatively outrageous pieces and collaborations with other craftsmen and designers. Wooden dresses, leather molded body pieces, tops made of sea shells, metal pipes or crystals, unbelievable 3D-printed shoes.
“I find beauty in grotesque, like most artists. I have to force people to look at things.”

6. The Cabinet of Curiosities Installation view of London gallery Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty. Victoria and Albert Museum London

The maze of the exhibition continues into the dark room with a glass pyramid in the middle with a hologram of Kate Moss “dancing”. This was created not digitally, as one can assume, but using a “Pepper´s Ghost” technique from the 19th century, involving projectors and mirrors that at a time was believed that real ghosts were being called back from beyond the grave.

Kate Moss hologram

Just when you expect it to be the end you step out into the mirrored room of pastels inspired by the Far East, Japan in particular. It is easy to spend hours there looking at every stitch and guessing the source of inspiration for every pattern or detail.
This is followed by a room of “Romantic Naturalism” with real(or probably artificial) flower dresses from “Sarabande” collection, sea shell dress and feather dresses. McQueen´s love for ornitology and savagery of animal world and nature. You can only wonder which unusual materials did McQueen not use in his collections…
The final room displays his arguably best collection of “Plato´s Atlantis” early era of digital print, and 3D-printed footwear, perfectly captured and evolved within itself.
“There is no way back for me now. I´m going to take you on journeys you never dreamed possible”.

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5 years since his death McQueen´s star shines brightly. During his short life he gave so much to the world of fashion. He was without a doubt one of the most talented, creative and masterous designers of our times.

Utterly inspiring exhibition! I would recommend going there alone to fully experience it, breathe in all the details of his craftsmanship and absorb dark and savage concept.

This story was also published in Estonian web magazine Femme.

Paris´ best hidden secret

Waking along walls of human bones with a slight smell of mold in the air. Bones of people who once were rich or poor, powerful or simple, lie mixed with one another, symbolizing human equality – if not earlier, then at least after death. Literally under the beautiful city of Paris there is another secret town with about 300 km of secret passages that have streets running parallelly under the ones on the ground, often bearing same names. Parisian catacombs are former quarries, dating back to Roman times. Strictly regulated stone digging went on until the prohibition at the beginning of 19th century. At the same time several Parisian cemeteries were severely overcrowded, starting to cause diseases to their living neighbours. It was then decided to turn the catacombs into common graveyard and transfer the bones underground. Additionally the underground space has been used for other purposes, such as covert during the Second World War. A small part of the catacombs have been open to public already since mid-19th century.
Public entrance can be recognised only by a long winding queue in front of it. Other than that it´s just an unremarkable black door of a random small house with a spiral staircase leading underground as you enter. The corridors are cut off with prison doors that trigger paranoid thoughts of getting locked up for good. However, excitement beats claustrophobia, urging to continue deeper and deeper underground.
“Arrête! C’est ici l’empire de la mort.”
Bones of approximately six million people are laid out as straight wall of 18-27 meters in width, next to the side of a kilometer long passage. All of the bones are systematically grouped according to the cemetery where they are from. The first impression is quite appalling, but it is easy to get used to the surroundings. After a while you tend to forget that these bones ever had in fact belonged to people and this seems to be just part of setting.

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Most of the catacombs are closed to public. Despite it being illegal there are several secretive bands forming a subculture of cataphiles. Those are the people deeply into discovering catacombs through and through, having carefully mapped out the entire area. There is a danger of getting lost underground without knowing the passages. In the shadows of the night cataphiles crawl underground using drains and ventilation shafts. Although it is easy to imagine people holding extreme rituals, the main interest of cataphiles is just discovering secret passages, having underground picnics or throwing raves. Some of them even live there.
In 2004 police in Paris had discovered a fully equipped cinema with a small couscous restaurant in a large and previously uncharted cavern. It looked like an underground amphitheatre, with terraces cut into the rock and chairs. The whole thing ran off a professionally installed electricity system with several phone lines underground. There was a selection of movies from 1950s film noir classics to more recent thrillers. None of the films were banned or even offensive according to the spokesman. Three days later, when the police returned to investigate further, the place was cleared out with all of the phone and electricity lines cut off. On the floor they found a sign “Do not try to find us”.

Looking at Parisian catacombs from the style perspective, Alexander McQueen´ s sculls come to mind. Particularly his men´s AW 10/11 collection that was directly inspired of the catacombs with graphic prints on the suits.

Recently Riina O had a lookbook shoot collaboration with Belle Sauvage. Some of their AW 15/16 dresses suggested they had also used catacombs as one of their inspirations.

Parts of this story were published in Estonian newspaper Eesti Ekspress.