Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wonder Boy

It was like a Marc Newson eclipse on the weekend: first, a way too short interview on the Australia show “Arts Sunday”, then, on the pages of Wallpaper, in all their glory, his designs for industrial denim brand G-Star, called strangely enough …. “G Star by Marc Newson”.

He’s back … but then he never left really did he?

I’ve had a love affair with Newson since I first locked eyes with his infamous “Lockheed” lounge in 1984, plus it helped that he was incredibly beautiful with his long hair and incredible fashion sense. It’s incredible to think that all these years later, his work ‘holds’ its design … a fact he concurred with in his interview, but then as he also added “My job as a designer is to constantly be ahead of everyone else”. While we play catch up to his aesthetic, he has moved on to bigger and better visuals.

Newson’s relationship with G Star commenced in 2003 and to this new collection he brings his expected “retro futuristic” eye to basic garments applying what he calls an “architectonic” approach where design is “translated into physicality with near invisible seams, basic monotones of black, white and grey with a mix of materials ranging from the classic leather and wool to the more futuristic laminated Gore-tex”. My god, the man has even turned his eye to the buttons.

His design interests are varied (planes, sneakers, watches, cutlery, interiors, dishracks) and in February this year he exhibited at the gargantuan Gargosian Gallery in New York (his dealer) in the show “Marble” alongside such greats as Brancusi, Moore, Giacometti, Noguchi, Bourgeois and Koons. Here, Newson both exposed and toyed with the fact his designs sit comfortably within both the art and design arenas. The viewer is forced to mentally volley: are these functional objects, or are these artworks?

Is there anything this design genius cannot do?

How about turning your attention to our cities Marc? I’m thinking perhaps the love child of Logan’s Run and Saarinen.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

De La Hot

She lives on the periphery of superstardom, but then, anyone who sees themselves as a true artist would want to remain there wouldn’t they? I’m talking about the American actor Paz de la Heurta.

She came to my attention via her intriguing sense of unkempt style: fashion aware, but in a messed up, sleazy/sexy way – then I got intrigued about who she is, what she thinks, her career.

Her career to date has been somewhat patchy, but it’s a career that is building – her most recent efforts include a hotter than hot sex addict in “Choke”, Jim Jarmusch’s “Limits of Control” where she’s permanently naked and holding a gun – yum. She is about to be seen as a stripper in French provocateur Gaspar Noé’s “Enter the Void”. It’s a career trajectory that reminds me of Asia Argento, with a little less grit.

Her responses are mostly cliched. When asked “Did you always want to be an actress?” she declared:

Yeah. It was always, for me, very therapeutic. It’s where I worked out all my shit when I was a kid, and now as well. But I’m also really passionate about life, and experiencing as much as I can in this lifetime. And I feel like you kind of have to live life to its fullest in order to be a good actor. Draw on experiences. The more experiences the better, and I really have had a lot of experiences in life, even at my young age.


But then it’s not really her thoughts on world peace I am interested in: it’s her performances, her look, her style. Paz is beautiful, but not in a completely obvious way and she has a style that does not shout out “a stylist put this together for me”. There is a dirtiness about her that drives me wild with desire.

With a fantasy list of directors to work with that includes Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro and Pedro Almodovar, things are about to get very interesting …

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Foamist

I am super excited about an exhibition of New Zealand artist, Peter Robinson’s work, to be held at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia in July.

Robinson's work originally explored issues of identity and ethnicity: personal and racial issues discussed in terms of his part-Maori heritage, but “his more recent work has shifted from this rhetoric and the weight of interpretation, to explore and celebrate the materiality of the mediums he works with” (Sutton Gallery website).

This latest work will hardly please the conservationists amongst us as it immerses itself in the infinite possibilities of polystyrene: pedestrian material and major pollutant. It’s an ingenious idea as the Artspace spiel explains “lightweight, negligible in mass yet physically substantial, able to pack out large spaces or articulate delicate forms, shaped in detail with sharp white lines”.

Robinson is an art schizophrenic. One minute we are party to the exquisite, delicate nature of his geisha-esque “waterfall” like drapings, the next we bear witness to the brutalist forms of a large rectangular solid, seemingly carved out by some anonymous anally retentive masculine entity and left in-situ.

It's his moment. In 2008 he won New Zealand’s prestigious Walters Prize and more recently he completed a residency at Sydney’s Artspace which produced the work “Polymer Monolith I” (pictured), not to mention various projects and shows overseas.

I wonder what he could do with my bean bag fill?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Artful Excess

Talk about stealing someone’s thunder, or alternatively, adding to the art-gorge going on right now in Venice, the new art monolith to money and creativity, the Punta della Dogana opened the day before this year’s Venice Biennale. Cruel or smart?

Housing major, major works by major, major artists (McCarthy, Catellan, Schutte, Kelley, the Chapmans, Gober and Gonzales Torres to name but a few) it is a sister/brother to Pinault’s first monolith, Palazzo Grassi.

The Punta della Dogana is a promontory at the entrance to St Mark’s Basin, where the Grand Canal meets the Giudecca Canal. The buildings of the Dogana di Mare were built in the late 17th century by architect Giuseppe Benoni. Where Benoni left off, Japanese architect Tadao Ando has taken off, completely transforming the builder’s interior with his signature cement blocking. It’s all Venetian glamour on the outside, and grey minimalism on the inside.

There are detractors already (the Boston Globe):

Pinault’s two displays of his splashy collection, at the Punta della Dogana and the Palazzo Grassi, are a case in point: They smack of an arriviste’s susceptibility to bloated works by fashionable names.

Criticism of the rich, beautiful, stylish or creative is not my arena, so Punta della Dogana, here I come.

I feel the heel

The Crystal Plumage loves this selection from the latest Topshop offerings. Are you feeling the love for the Union Jack platform wedges as I am?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Virginal Bombing

It was love at first sight for Christopher Kane’s debut “pre-collection” show.

It is just the right dose of death and pretty that demands we pay attention. The images of nuclear explosions were sourced by Kane from “free public-access photos on the U.K. Ministry of Defense Web site”.

Isn’t this mix of raging experimentation, cheeky subversive humour and craft exactly why we continue to look to London for inspiration?

However, there is another nasty edge to the entire proceedings – those amazing shoes are not for sale. The designer and his creative crew “cobbled” them together with gaffer tape and bits and bobs, as they simply could not find the right match.


Prince of Shingles

I opened my latest copy of Wallpaper* Magazine (which has returned to form thank god) and was beyond taken by the article on the home American architect Bart Prince has designed for Joe and Etsuko Price in Southern California.

With its cathedral-like use of wood and penchant for shingles and shag covered walls, at first glance, it reads like a den for playboys and porn kings, but it is its hefty dose of intellect that truly saves its soul.

He works out of Albuquerque, New Mexico and he has a concise way of discussing his work:

When I say that the design ‘responds’ to the site, client, climate, materials etc. and that the design ‘grows’ from this situation, it doesn’t mean these things ‘happen’ by themselves. It’s the mind of the architect that brings these ideas together and synthesizes everything into a final scheme. It’s a very complex process and far from ‘winging it’! In fact it is a much more difficult process that the standard so-called design process used by many. You are dealing with materials, structure, ideas, space while solving complex design programs presented by the client. It takes years of experience to make this process look easy!

He has also described his houses as “butterflies alighting in the landscape — as much a part of nature as trees and rocks, but soaring free of conventional restraints and familiar forms”. In his hands wood, glass and stone are no longer inanimate building materials, but take on a life of their own.

What I love about his work is it completely nails that nexus between good and bad taste that we all crave. Anyone who is constantly searching to be jolted by a new style, will absolutely ‘get’ these homes. In some ways it is no major surprise Prince is hot right now, because as the earth’s environmental safety slips conceptually out of our grip, we are turning to all things “natural” as some kind of comforting symbol of the need to redeem or hopefully, save, ourselves.

I want to live in an Armadillo.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"The passion burns deep"

Continuing my journey back through time to some of the defining films of my teenage years, I watched St Elmo’s Fire recently.

Made in 1985 and directed by Joel Schumacher ("Lost Boys", "Flatliners"), it involved virtually every hot brat packer of the time: Demi Moore, Andrew McCarthy, Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson.

The film tells the story of a group of friends that have just graduated from Georgetown University and their adjustment to their post-university lives and the responsibilities of encroaching adulthood. Some of them do not handle their new life well: Lowe is a drunk constantly in trouble and milking his wealthy best friend (Mare Winningham) for all she is worth and Moore is a credit card/drug abuser living an ‘apparently’ glamorous life. It’s all typical of the American yuppie generation of the mid-80’s with their cheesy politics, outfits, belief in advertising as art and cocaine addictions.

The soundtrack is too tacky for words, featuring such 80’s masters as Airplay, Fee Waybill, Elefante (who?) and the irritatingly unforgettable theme song "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)" performed by David Foster.

It is incredible to watch again for a few reasons: Demi Moore, pre plastic surgery and still with her puppy fat, Rob Lowe destroying his life (not sure any man should be born that beautiful, but that is beside the point) and the apartments these kids live in - particularly the one Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy own with its giant Nike add covering an entire wall of their loft – yes, this was what was covetable in 1985. Didn’t we also want to look like Demi in her homage to Madonna (all corsets and fur and teased hair) and the pearls … god these girls wore them and they wore them well, usually teamed with a Holly Hobbie lace collared long dress – remember those? It seems frump fashion really rocked hard in 1985.

See it now if you consider yourself a true 80’s fan, but be a purist and only rent out an old boxy ‘video’ if you can get your hot little hands on one.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Artist

Time for another style icon alert and what has taken me so long to discuss Tilda? It's craziness.

Not only is Tilda Swinton an amazing actor, she is transformed into a living artwork when she dons various designer pieces and she has a husband and a younger live-in lover. If that's not a winning combination, then what is?

In terms of her art, there is really nothing she cannot achieve in film – it really seems to be her moment. She is one actor who authentically manages to straddle both the alto and more pedestrian worlds of film with mesmerizing turns in earlier offbeat films such as "Love is the Devil" and "Caravaggio" to more popularist fare such as "Michael Clayton", "Burn After Reading" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button". She has come a long way since working with Derek Jarman and Sally Potter (think "Orlando" where she plays the title character in both male and female guises).

Right now in film she's back to the risky arena where she stars as “Blonde” in the new film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, "Limits of Control", the story of a mysterious loner, a stranger, whose activities remain meticulously outside the law. His journey, paradoxically both intently focused and dreamlike, takes him not only across Spain but also through his own consciousness.

Right now in fashion, she's taking risks too, appearing swathed in liquid cranberry Haider Ackerman at Cannes, immediately after every fashion editor worth his/her salt raved about his recent collection. Personally, I think it an absolute crime that she is often placed on worst dressed lists as since when has Prada or Lanvin been deemed distasteful?

All fashion brutality aside, this amazing creature is 100% deserved of our complete admiration as she embodies a kind of utopian ideal of true life, fashion and craft 'original'.

Yearning for more? Grab yourself a copy of the latest "AnOther" magazine, where she graces the cover ... and speaks.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hirdy Girdy

Muccia Prada continues to stun with her inclusive philosophy of art, fashion, design and architecture – exactly what The Crystal Plumage gets turned on by.

Her latest incredible project sees her again working with Rem Koolhaas to create the Prada Transformer in South Korea.

In a recent interview in Interview magazine, they both take great pains to inform us this is not merely a “pavilion” … it is a space that is mutable: its 3 sides are shiftable by cranes to suit the intended purpose e.g. cinema, art or fashion. It is essentially a metal structure consisting of 3 shaped "walls": hexagon, circle, cross and rectangle and covered with material used to wrap abandoned planes. Genuis!

As Prada herself says:

"What makes this project so radical is this kind of ever-changing shape and form according to requests ... But this flexibility and changeability was crucial. The conent could be done any place, but the real invention is the architecture. The architecture is the only work that really defines a new way of doing things. I think this point is fundamental."

I think this is what impresses me the most about Prada as a designer. She isn't primarily focused on having her dresses worn at the latest Hollywood premiere … she really falls into the category of “visionary” and works with others at the top of their fields, such as Koolhaas to conceive her fantasies. Prada sets the pace, she doesn’t just attempt to keep up.

With evenings in the Transformer where famed directors discuss their favourite films and the infamous touring “Waist Down” skirts installation feature, who wouldn’t want to enter this bizarre futuristic tardis.

Next stop for this "amorphous" structure is Milan – could you include Sydney or Melbourne please, please, pretty please?

For more information or timetables for events see:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

“It only looks like the good life”

I recently had a mad yearning to revisit one of my favourite films of the late 80’s, “Less than Zero”.

Featuring the hot young brat packish actors of the time: Robert Downey Junior, Jamie Gertz, Andrew McCarthy and James Spader and with its title taken from the 1985 best seller from Brett Easton Ellis (he of "American Psycho" fame), it extinguishes any fantasy we ever had of the young and rich of LA.

It is somewhat disappointing that Ellis’ books are never translated to screen with quite the same level of darkness that leaves you completely hollowed out – which is exactly the point Ellis is trying to make – societal greed and lack of humanity is pointless. So, we miss out on the snuff movies, abortion, kiddy sex and odd dead body featured in the novel, but then American Psycho hardly reached the heights of its promised translation from page to screen either.

However, all is not lost … not only do we witness the destruction of these smug rich kids’ lives, but we get to see it done stylishly. The interiors are all fashionably lit and in colour tones you could die for: all peaches and greys. Robert Downey Jr descends into the depths of despair yes, but he does it in style – wearing Commes des Garcons sandals and socks and an array of their shirts and jackets and to a soundtrack that will stir the emotions of any kid who lived through the 80's.

A literary sequel is in the works to be titled "Imperial Bedrooms", which, like "Less than Zero" is a title taken from an Elvis Costello song. It will be in our hot little hands in 2010.

Hopefully this time we will get our style with a little more hard core nihilism.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Be wonderful and be strange"

... says Susie Bick in the latest I-D Magazine to hit our shores.

It is not often you stand at Borders and are moved by a magazine. But yes, I-D managed to conjure up such feelings yesterday.

All fashionistas … be kind to yourself and buy a copy, which has soul stirringly devoted its entire edition to Britain’s top models, both current and historical: from Jourdan Dunn to Twiggy … you get the drift.

I purchased the Susie Bick cover, as I absolutely adore her gothic aesthetic and current come-back status – someone please bring back women like this in fashion on a permanent basis – out with those emotionless Russian skeletors please!

You will be enthralled by all the inside gossip style interviews with Kate Moss, Agyness Deyn and Stella Tennant, not to mention the styling – all molten black and white imagery and spectacularly sculptural clothing selected by uber-stylist Edward Enniful.

Very pervy, delicious stuff indeed.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Astral Travelling

This divine collection first came to my attention last season. It is the mash-up of varying fabric patterns that provides the thrill.

No surprises, it has also come to the attention of the gorgeous Thea from Blonde Venus, Brisbane, Australia who will stock Peter Pilotto this season.

So, who is Peter Pilotto? Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos are the designers behind the Peter Pilotto label. Pilotto is half-Austrian, half-Italian and De Vos is half-Belgian, half-Peruvian. They met whilst studying at Antwerp's prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the year 2000.

Is it my imagination, or is Anouck Lepere their muse? She seems to be constantly swathed in these fabulously trippy clothes.

Big question - are the clothes in store yet?

Down in the Valley

I recently jetted down to Sydney to see the new show “Uncanny Valley” by one of Australia’s most interesting artists, Hany Armanious (showing at Roxlyn Oxley 9 in Paddington throughout the month of April).

As Amanda Rowell writes in the press release, “Everything is not as it seems” and she means it. This show requires a constant visual adjustment as you are repeatedly challenged to believe in what you see – what appears stone, is polystyrene, what appears metal, is gold, wood is resin and so on. It’s a mind fuck of the highest order.

So what does it all mean? Rowell explodes the mystery: “Uncanny Valley is a robotics term that describes the threshold crossed when a robot has become so lifelike in its appearance as to be almost indistinguishable from its human model, precipitating a sudden drop – on the graph – in the hitherto increasing levels of empathy of the human toward the humanoid.

There are constant tricks and turns of order: Lagerfeld is a maker of models, a bare plinth is an object of worship ... it is a spiritual, historical, witty labyrinthical world Armanious conjures up for us to behold.

As Adam Jasper boldly asserts in this month’s “Art World” magazine, Armanious “is the real deal”. But, how do we know? What is he made of? Do androids dream of electric sheep?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mcqueen v Bowery

Bravo, thank god and hallelujah. Finally, a collection that has blown us out of the proverbial fashion water. Alexander McQueen does it again for Fall 2009.

Yes, the show could be deemed misogynistic with its models as blow up dolls and sex fetish gear (a la Leigh Bowery and lately, Boy George in his own homage to Bowery), but take away the trimmings and these are amazing suits and dresses – what an artist! While Karl Lagerfeld languishes in occasionally adding an interesting styling slant or colour combo to a basic Chanel suit, McQueen continues to push our boundaries.

In a rather irritating conundrum, fashion both annoys and amazes me. Things deemed ghastly eventually become the norm which is rather irritating for those of us who like to look absurdly different from the majority that walk this earth.

During most of his career, underground performance artist Leigh Bowery, lived an unpopularist existence and only after his death were there major retrospectives of his work. Would he be turning in his grave as to how fashion is now “nicking” his look and rendering it acceptable? Isn't the point of being alternative, to remain that way, or is this the beauty of living in post-modern times: one gigantic mass of adaptation of ideas borne from others?

Now, where do I get myself a pair of those red lip thingies?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dr What?

Can you spot the difference? I'm having trouble. Daleks aplenty versus Junya Wattanabe's effort for Fall 2009.