Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ceremonials, Chanel and 007

'Ceremonials': rituals, history, rites. 
Florence and The Machine's new album explores these subjects on a very personal and individual level. The long awaited discovery of the self doesn't happen but is close and lurking in the shadows. The music on this album is more symphonic and melodic than that of the first record 'Lungs'. Inspiration was taken from sounds of church bells, harps, gospel beats and choirs. A spiritual if not religious record you would think, but 'Ceremonials' is more than that. The songs dig into the essential human fears and concerns. There's no threat from the outside, the evil comes from within. 
I feel very connected with the song 'Breaking down'. To me it's about nightmares and the terror I sometimes experience when I can't tell the difference between reality and dream.

'Never let me go' deals, not with a desire to self-destruct, but with the longing to self-dissolve. No aggression, no fight, no giving up, just giving in.

Not all is dark on 'Ceremonials', there are also some great up beat tracks, like 'Leave my Body', 'shake it Out' and 'Spectrum (Say My Name)'. 

This last video brings me to the exquisite fashion taste of front lady Florence Welch. You can easily see that her passion for music is accompanied by a passion for clothing. Her style is very specific and to me is a mix of Victorian, Art Nouveau and garconne.

Florence herself claims that women like Stevie Nicks and Francoise Hardy have formed her fashion sense. I especially love her suits and long dresses.

During the last couple of years Welch has revealed herself to be a muse to some of the greatest fashion designers of our time. She inspired the Gucci fall/winter 2011 line.

Gucci FW 2011

Notice the hats, long dresses and accentuated lips.
For her 2011 tour, Gucci even provided her outfits. Florence Welch has gradually acquired quite an expensive taste.
This fall she even took on an important role in the most awaited fashionshow of the Paris Fashion Week. For the Chanel Spring/Summer 2012 collection, she performed 'What the Water Gave Me'. The song matched the water themed dresses perfectly.

For the limited edition of her vinyl single 'Shake it Out', Karl Lagerfeld, creative director for Chanel and noted photographer, dressed Florence in his creations and took the pictures that adorned the cover.

Karl Lagerfeld for Florence and the Machine 'Shake it Out' 2011
For Christmas eve I ventured a Florence inspired outfit on a slightly tighter budget.

Golden Oversized Top: Massimo Dutti
Golden Bracelet: Family Vintage (thx Mami)
Long Sheer Skirt: H&M
Boots: De la Bretonnière
Golden Socks: Massimo Dutti

Faux-fur Hat: H&M (Christmas Gift from my sister)
Fur Coat: Lucky Find: Abandoned on streets
Our new year's eve party is themed 'Bond, 007'. I think this outfit also has a Bond girl appeal to it, so I'll just recycle it. Isn't that economical of me?

Tomorrow I'm off to Paris for a one day exposition extravaganza thanks to one of my best pals! I wish you all an overdue Merry Christmas and an early Happy New Year!

The Mere Alchemist

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Unique Uniformity: Fréger and Fashion

Clothing. It protects us from the elements. It covers our nudity, which reminds us too much of our descent of apes. It makes us clearer, more definable to our fellow men. 
This last function is where uniforms come into view.
The paradox of the uniform is twofold. First of all: The uniformity of the outer shell of a collection of people has one goal: to suppress individuality, to make clear that 'this' is one group, whether it be social, physical, bound by class, age or a common goal. But it's clear that everybody enters this world alone and for the rest of his life is trapped in his/her body and mind. You can never grasp what it must be like to be somebody else, however empathic you are. Second: the uniform is used to create objectivity and clarity but often spreads insecurity and doubt in the minds of those enslaved to its shackles. Disposed of a unique appearance, a person can go both ways: experiencing a calming sensation that one is amongst like-minded people and is part of the right path or feeling the blow of being bereft of his personality.
In a sense every fashion utterance is a kind of uniformity, an obedience to laws that get imposed by the commercial fashion world. That's why people who color outside the lines make such an impact on the world. Think of artists like Baudelaire, Salvador Dali or Frida Kahlo. Think of designers like Coco Chanel, Vivienne Westwood or Alexander McQueen. Think of fashion bloggers and exentrics like Isabella Blow, Anna dello Russo or Tavi Gevinson. 

Someone who, in my opinion, captured the essence of the uniform is French photographer Charles Fréger (°1975). I came in contact with his work through a workshop I attended during my internship in the museum for photography of Antwerp. I also had the privilege to get to know the artist a bit during his stay in Belgium. An interesting man he is! 
His work focuses on the human condition. A lot of his photographs are done in series. Each series depict a social group. Uniforms play an important visual role in his art.

Charles Fréger, From the series Portraits Photographiques et Uniformes, 2001 
Charles Fréger, From the series Portraits Photographiques et Uniformes, 2001 

Charles Fréger, From the series Rikishi, 2005

Charles Fréger, From the series Légionnaires Portraits Photographiques et Uniformes, 2002 

Charles Fréger, From the series Légionnaires Portraits Photographiques et Uniformes, 2002 

Charles Fréger, From the series Empires, 2010 
Charles Fréger, From the series Empire, 2010 
I know firsthand that Fréger has an immense respect for one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, August Sander (1876-1964). This was a German photographer who proclaimed the 'Neue Sachligkeit' or 'New objectivity' as the standard for all photography. His detached approach resulted in a systematic portrait collection of the German people of his time. 'Menschen des 20 Jahrhunderts' or 'People of the 20th century' would become one of the most famous photographical oeuvres of all time. He divided the people by professions and social groups and captured them posing consciously before his camera.

August Sander, From Menschen des 20 Jahrhunderts, 1929

August Sander, From Menschen des 20 Jahrhunderts, 1929

August Sander, From Menschen des 20 Jahrhunderts, 1929

August Sander, From Menschen des 20 Jahrhunderts, 1929

Fréger's work resembles Sander's in a couple of ways. The object is almost painfully aware of its representation of the self. People are separated in closed groups. Charles Fréger has an immensely vast oeuvre which brings to mind the hundreds of people Sander tried to archive. But in Fréger's oeuvre there's room for other facets of the individual portrayed.
Compare the gestures of the people in these following photographs. 

August Sander, From Menschen des 20 Jahrhunderts, 1929

Charles Fréger, Portrait, 2007

Sander shows the cook during the exercise of his profession. The cooks on Frégers image display gestures specific to their respective personalities.
In this way he is a child of his postmodern time. Hyperindividuality is the norm, that's why uniforms are loosing ground in schools and professions. 
But not on the catwalk. Uniforms, not seldom military, have always influenced fashion designers. Most recent at the shows for the Spring/Summer 2012 collections.

Lacoste, S/S 2012

Haider Ackermann, S/S 2012

Charles Fréger has also ventured out in the field of fashion. He's done some beautiful fashion spreads for magazines such as POP and Another Magazine.

Charles Fréger for Another Magazine, 2010

Charles Fréger for POP Magazine, 2010

His own projects even involve designing his own uniforms. He calls this project the 'Vis Voluntatis' and has designed a guard uniform, an iceskating uniform (an earlier venture in to the realm of designing) and even a Chinese Opera Costume.

Charles Fréger, 2007

Charles Fréger, Vis Voluntatis, 2008

Now if this isn't a successful crossing between art and fashion....

Have a lovely Christmas everyone, and wear something festive, be it a uniform or something more unique..

The Mere Alchemist

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Which Fashion Reader Are You?

During the last few weeks I've become a real web-freak!  Not only did I start blogging, but I went all out by registering this blog on facebook, twitter, bloglovin, google+... You can follow it on all those websites (do it, do it!). I even purchased a smartphone after abandoning my old nokia phone on the train. I can only use the web services when I'm at home or wherever there's a hotspot available, because I can't afford the expensive subscription! And that's a good thing, because otherwise, according to regular standards, my online-time would officially be labeled 'highly concerning'.

All these amazing interactive applications on the interwebs aside, there are still some paper sources of information worth looking in to. 
I've always had a soft spot for the smell of new books, but nothing beats a sniff of a newly printed un-thumbed fashion magazine. Even if websites and blogs included this particular smell, it wouldn't amount to the possibilities that magazines give you. I keep ALL of them. I leave them about the house until they're well over their expiration date. Then I stack them wherever there's room: In boxes, under cabinets and closets and finally, causing sounds of protest from my (otherwise magnificent) boyfriend, under the bed.  

So here are my 7 favorite fashion reads out of all the ones I've tried. They're all available at the better newsagent's (a bit of searching required). There's something for everyone! 

Harper's Bazaar

Since: 1867 (American)
Language: English
Periodicity: Monthly
Price: € 7 
What?: First American fashionmagazine ever!
+: *Photographs by some of the best photographers in the world
* Not only fashion: lifestyle, photography and literature
* Interesting interviews with celebs
-: * A lot of advertizing
                                                                   * At times a bit elitist
                                                                    For: The Worldly Woman
                                                                    LinkHarper's Bazaar

Vogue Collections

Since: 2006 (French)
Language: French and English
Periodicity: Bi-annually
Price: € 30
What?: EVERY collection that makes the runway in Paris, Milan, New York and London
+: - Aaaaaahhhhh It's Amazing!!!!!!!
- Tens of silhouettes from each collection: A lot of colour images
- Small review included with most of the pictures
-: - The price, but it's well worth the 350 pages!
For: The Fashion Intrigued Collectioneur
Link: Vogue


 Since: 2005 (British)
Language: English
Periodicity: Bi-annually
Price: € 15
+: * Very nice photography with a Vintage Feel
* A lot of content
* Interviews with artists
-: * It can get a bit too whimsical
For: The Dreamy and Romantic Fashionista
Link: Lula


Since: 1998 (International)
Language: French (limited translation in English)
Periodicity: two-monthly / monthly
Price: € 12
What?: High Fashion magazine with short articles about art and fashion
+: * Amazing fashion photography
* Interesting Articles
* Innovative Lay Out
-: * Language limites audience, but still worth it for images
For: The High Brow Fashion Follower


 Since: 1980 (British)
Language: English
Periodicity: Monthly
Price: € 15
What?: Fashion, Youth Culture and Street Style Magazine
+: * Innovative on a lot of fronts like photography, typography, fashion
-: * Focus on a relatively young audience (20 something)
For: The Edgy Hipster
Link: I-D


Since: 1921 (French)
Language: French (fr), Dutch (nl+be)
Periodicity: Monthly
Price: € 3,95 (nl and be), € 7 (fr)
+: * Available in Dutch
* Very Accessible: content and availability
* Lovely editorials
-: * Advertizing
*Sometimes a bit commercial
For: The Fashion loving Shopaholic 
Link: L' Officiel NL


 Since: ? (British)
Language: English
Periodicity: Bi-annually
Price: € 17
What?: Artsy Magazine with top quality photographs and Articles
+: * A nice focus on art and the occasional collision with fashion
* No obvious or easy subjects
* Also a lot of architecture
-: * Hard to find
For: The Culturally Educated Fashion Victim
Link: Glass

So now that I've fed you some paper, hurry to the newsagent's! Let me know which one you prefer and which magazines I left out! 
They say a mother shouldn't choose between her children, but though I love them all, I go all sorts of crazy when I get the new 'Vogue Collections', months after the publication I still keep it in my handbag... but let's keep that a secret..

Have a good read!

The Mere Alchemist