Friday, 26 March 2010

Ron Arad at the Barbican Centre

Yesterday I went to the Ron Arad exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London. Arad is an Israel born, London based, architect and product designer, although at times it would seem fair to refer to him as an artist too (similarities to the work of artists like Anish Kapoor spring to mind). I was aware of Arad’s plastic ‘Tom Vac’ chair, of his curvilinear ‘Book Worm’ shelving system, and of his use of metal for seating and other furnishings, but this exhibition introduced me to many other aspects of his work, giving me a newfound, greater interest in the designer.

The exhibition is called ‘Ron Arad: Restless,’ probably in reference to the incredible fluidity and sense of movement possessed by a lot of Arad’s designs, many of which are in themselves miniature feats of engineering and construction. Arad works frequently with metal, yet his pieces often have an organic feel to them, along with underlying connotations of sensuality and sexuality thanks to the smooth, curvaceous forms, and the throbbing movements they make when set into motion (several of the moveable pieces, like the rocking chairs, were displayed with mechanical mechanisms to make them move). Arad really is a very talented and interesting designer.

These are a selection of the photos that I took (I apologise for the quality: I did not have a proper camera with me).

These metal chairs resemble geological formations, or molten volcanic rock:

USA shelving:

Reclining chair with an indented human shape to lie in, inspired by the work of Antony Gormley:

Rocking shelves:

GOD/WAR light:

The chair on the right is the 'inverse' of the chair on the left (and vice-versa):

Shots from some of the architecture videos:

The exhibition is on until 16th May 2010, and it really is worth visiting. For more information, click here. Click here for more Arad images, including a clearer picture of the amazing Y's Yohji Yamamoto store in Tokyo that he designed.


The Barbican Centre is an enormous, Brutalist style concrete complex in the heart of the City of London (the financial district), designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon in the 1960s. It houses the largest performing arts centre in Europe, an art gallery (where the Ron Arad exhibition is on), and upscale residential apartments and houses. Unsurprisingly, the architecture is hated by many, but I think it’s just fantastic… I love the uncompromising harshness of it, the systemisation, and all the sharp straight lines. It’s an exercise in fairly avant-garde town planning too: cars are banished to lower levels, while pedestrians walk around on airy ‘high walks,’ elevated above street level, with lots of communal garden spaces.

Of course, I love it partly because it upsets so many people with ‘normal’ taste, and because it goes right against what we are told to believe is visually attractive. Architecturally speaking, it is uncharacteristically bold for Britain, and I love how it totally overturns the dull, nice-and-safe British ideal of some anonymous suburban home, complete with pretty garden and golden Labrador.

Even the decorative waterfall in the central lake has been reduced to some Brutal, utilitarian, great pipe!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Azzedine Alaïa Fall/Winter 2010

Images via The Fashion Spot - click (and scroll down) to see more of the collection.

It is difficult to come by images of Alaia's collections online (and, indeed, in most magazines too) which is a shame, but in a way it adds a further appeal to the work of the legendary designer. To put it bluntly, Alaia is just fantastic. He is one of those characters who gives me a sense of optimism about fashion. His fall/winter 2010 collection, shown as usual to a tiny select group of editors in his Paris complex (which includes an ultra-chic boutique hotel, where I dream about staying), is brilliant. Alaia really knows how to dress women respectfully, with a sharp, incredibly chic, minimal aesthetic, all with flawless craftsmanship. We hear so little about Alaia, yet he truly is one of the most skilled couturiers of our time.

From the current issue of Love magazine (given to me, not bought), I learnt some interesting facts about Alaia: he trained initially as a sculptor, and his process now is done almost entirely with his hands, with no recourse to drawing or 'mood boards.' He told the magazine that "I do not think about clothes or about “trends”. I just pick up the fabric and go to the girl and the ideas come." The feature also said that Alaia, who works with a small team, is involved personally at every stage in the physical production of his collections, and he even undertakes repairs to his pieces himself.

In the era of the mega-brands, with their myriad collections (women's, men's, haute-couture, r-t-w, resort/pre-fall, bags, shoes, sunglasses, watches...) overseen by designers who simply cannot have a say in (let alone actually have a hand in producing) most of the output, and when certain big luxury brands are outsourcing production to China (with some going to great lengths to conceal this fact), there is something incredibly refreshing and attractive about Alaia's approach. No vulgar publicity-grabbing, nor any compromise on quality, nor much conformity to the break-neck pace of fashion today, for Alaia: just an incredibly skilled designer quietly doing what he is best at.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Style Snippets: Raf Simons x Vogue Hommes Japan, Jeanne Lanvin’s Apartment, Karl Lagerfeld in Vice Magazine & the Lego Kitchen

1) Raf Simons archive pieces shot by Pierre Debusschere for Vogue Hommes Japan:

Scans are from The Fashionisto, which is a really good blog for men’s fashion.

LOVE this. Despite a few slightly dubious seasons recently, Raf will always be my fashion god... the things I would do for the pyramid bomber jacket!

2) Jeanne Lanvin's Paris Apartment

Jeanne Lanvin, the founder of her namesake fashion house, lived in a spectacular Art Deco apartment in Paris, decorated by Armand-Albert Rateau in the early 1920s:

The apartment has been recreated within the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris where (I believe) it can be viewed. Click here for more information.

3) Karl Lagerfeld’s interview in Vice Magazine

Interviews with Karl Lagerfeld are always a treat. His latest, with Vice Magazine, does not disappoint. First, I just love the accompanying portrait of Lagerfeld, in his private library, standing in front of (part of) his legendary book collection. Second, his answers are brilliant. Here are a few choice extracts, but I really do recommend clicking the link at the end to read the interview in its entirety if you haven’t done so already.

[On his omnipresent sunglasses] “They’re my burka… A burka for a man. I’m a little short sighted, and people, when they’re short sighted, they remove their glasses and then they look like cute little dogs who want to be adopted.”

[On being asked to remove his sunglasses by an interviewer] “I had an interview once with some German journalist—some horrible, ugly woman. It was in the early days after the communists—maybe a week after—and she wore a yellow sweater that was kind of see-through. She had huge tits and a huge black bra, and she said to me, “It’s impolite; remove your glasses.” I said, “Do I ask you to remove your bra?””

[On holidays] “I was a beach boy in my youth.”

[On charity] “Do it, be charitable, but don’t make a subject of conversation out of it because then you bore the world to death. It’s very unpleasant. But I don’t go out a lot so I’m not so exposed to people.”

[On children] “If I were interested in children, I would be a godfather—or a godmother.”

[On homosexuality] “When I was a child I asked my mother what homosexuality was about and she said—and this was 100 years ago in Germany and she was very open-minded—“It’s like hair color. It’s nothing. Some people are blond and some people have dark hair. It’s not a subject.” This was a very healthy attitude.”

[On his childhood] “And of course I was very successful with pedophilia.”

[On sex] “I admire porn… I personally only like high-class escorts. I don’t like sleeping with people I really love. I don’t want to sleep with them because sex cannot last, but affection can last forever. I think this is healthy.”

[On meat-eating] “I don’t like that people butcher animals, but I don’t like them to butcher humans either, which is apparently very popular in the world.”

[On communicating] “People I’m really friendly with have faxes. Anna Wintour has one. We speak via fax. And in Paris I send letters to people... When I speak English I am one person, when I speak German I’m another, when I speak French I’m another.”

[On Latin] “When I was 10 or 12 years old I could speak Latin like I speak English. But I cannot speak Latin with French people. I don’t understand the way they pronounce it. For me, they don’t pronounce it right. But I love dead languages. Homer was one of the first books I read when I was starting to read. I think the Iliad is still one of the greatest books in the world.”

[On Andy Warhol] “I shouldn’t say this, but physically he was quite repulsive.”

It’s hard to know how much of what Lagerfeld says is part of a carefully cultivated public image and how much is natural, but either way he really is funny, and clearly is a genius in a number of different ways. I love that he still sends faxes too… there is something I love about faxing as well, but I haven’t been able to convince anyone else, except my optician in Paris. The thought of Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld sending faxes to one another is brilliant.

Click HERE to read the full interview.

4) The Lego Kitchen

I have been meaning to post photos of the Paris home of designers Simon Pillard and Philippe Rosetti for a while now, because of their absolutely amazing Lego kitchen counter, and Lego chair. I LOVE the giant Lego man in the living room too, and the Lego head jar in the kitchen. The whole apartment looks very cool (there is something very French about how the bright, clashing colours have been pulled off with style) and it has been featured in several interior design magazines – I had one which I was going to scan, but then I found the pictures online too (via Coolhunter).