Thursday, November 19, 2009

Everybody Needs An Alexander McQueen Moment

This English designer (the son of a taxi driver, and a Pisces, for what it's worth - every second blog mentions it) grew up in London's shabby east end. One of his earliest memories, he says, is drawing a dress on a piece of bare wall where the wallpaper had peeled off in the family's council house. McQueen calls it his 'first design sketch'!

There is a quality to McQueen's work today (a luxury and a sense of abundance) that looks like a reaction against those times: the young boy saturated with a working-class aesthetic (mass culture over high culture, practicality over whimsy, function over form, Cats over Faust and Strauss's Blue Danube Waltz over Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier) has blossomed into 'the hooligan of English fashion', allowing inner vision to propel him beyond the 'classic' (bland) and functional.

The late 00s provided fertile ground for McQueen to indulge - he continues to push the 'sculptural shoe' trend (in particular) to stranger, more wonderful places.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Magical Interiors By Tony Duquette

'If I could trade places with anyone for a day, it would be the dashing Tony Duquette' - John Galliano

Costume and set designer and interiors genius Tony Duquette died in 1999, and he's one of design's best kept secrets. I think of him as a kind of Walt Disney of design. Actually, he has a kindred spirit in all of the arts - it's weird how quickly I can pinpoint them and how right it feels.

In Literature Tolkien is Duquette-esque, because he's able to construct whole imagined universes from scratch and make them feel real. In music Michael Jackson has the Duquette quality because he's fantastical and because he gets away with being over the top. You might have a split second where you'll recoil at how *tacky* or *maudlin* this all is, but there are other qualities - the great craftsmanship, the sheer force and boldness and inventiveness - that melt you. You just can't ignore him. Design has a Duquette in John Galliano himself, for obvious reasons: the vibrant colours, the mish-mashed textures, the soaring inventiveness and the showmanship.

Duquette's main room in his famous studios.

An eastern motif in pastel colours.

The orient seen through a Hello Kitty lens.

Table with chunky, Dali-esque 'legs'.

A winter ball in Los Angeles decorated with crystal snowflakes
and silver lame by Tony Duquette.

Duquette interior with his signature animal print tablecloth.

'It's interesting because Tony is probably more honest as a creator of spaces than many people because it's about the heartfelt desire to create what he perceives as a beautiful space.

Through his interiors he was able to give people the feeling they had been there for a long time, that they were very important, that they were very glamorous.

I look at decorative Tony Duquette work, its baroque roots, and it's very much about people. His interiors were about trying to create an environment where people feel they've been there forever. It is creating a false aristocratic history, a fantasy, a type of magical festival, it's a bit like Louis XIV - the fountains, the amazing sculptures, and the belief that you can make something out of nothing. It was just entirely out of his imagination.'
Designer Catherine Martin.

The part about 'false aristocratic history' is spot on. There's that grandeur and self-importance (in a good way) and - I've noticed - nods to stuffy upper class traditions from all cultures! Like in this shot above: you have intricate beaded pillows and expansive couches, all you need is a veiled Egyptian princess to languish on them. BUT on the walls are murals straight out of a Baroque Polish castle so you know, maybe the princess has shacked up with Sobieski's daughter.

Interior complete with very unusual wall feature constructed from scratch.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have the *sense* of aristocratic history in one's home without actually having the dubious family legacies, like slave ownership, colonialist expeditions,
whoring, stuffy, penny-pinching ancestors, deaths from cholera and connections
to powerful religious zealots?

Cream and red walls with the ever-present baroque influence.

Duquette's own toilet!!

This reminds me of so many things at once: a place in an Indian Jones movie where he stays around the middle of the expedition, after he enters the orient but just before all the action scenes; a stage set from The King and I, and... Christmas! There is a Christmassey feeling to much of Duquette's work. It's the lights, sparkles and ornamentation.

Mrs Duquette's dressing room cabinet - a nineteenth century piece lined in blue felt and decorated with her collection of precious jewels.

Duquette called his wife Elizabeth 'Beegle' because she had 'the industry of the bee and the soaring poetry of the eagle'. There were also times when he called her 'Beegle jewel fiend'!