Friday 30 August 2013

Airline fashion. Couture and Airline uniforms ...

Airline fashion: key moments of style in the skies
From stewardesses' designer uniforms to Air Jamaica's in-flight fashion shows, we look at the moments that have defined style in the skies.

There was a time when flying was more about choosing which shoes to wear for boarding, and less about the eye-rolling inconvenience of taking them off at security. People dressed-up to travel – and the airlines reciprocated. The days of BOAC glamour and passengers dining at tables of four are long gone. Today’s airlines struggle with profit margins. Nevertheless, appearances must be kept up and – budget airlines and their rural airports aside – air travel continues to be marketed as a luxury, particularly to passengers in the nose of the plane. Consider the now iconic, richly patterned 1972 Pierre Balmain-designed “Singapore Girl” outfit, the Stephen Jones hats and Julian MacDonald navy tailoring of British Airways, or the fabulous mid-century modern Marimekko prints that have recently appeared on tableware (and on the sides of planes) at Finnair. Design defines an airline and airline design defines an era. We take a look at key moments of high style, old and new.

The Concorde era
Hardy Amies designed the crew’s uniforms, but it may be frequent flier Joan Collins who embodies the Concorde era (1976–2003) best. The fashion pack hopped on the service between Paris, London and New York as if it were a super fast taxi: a young Kate Moss could fit in extra modelling jobs while the late Stephen Sprouse, whose graphics are immortalised all over leopard- and graffiti-print Vuitton, once panicked when the Concorde hit turbulence and quickly scrawled his name on his arm, in his distinctive tag-style, so that his body could be identified if the worst happened.

The new smart casual look
In 2013, there are less Aunt Sally rouged cheeks, pelmets and high heels in the aisles, and more modern, relaxed looks. Cabin crew at Virgin America took receipt of a whole new wardrobe from the ultimate Casual Friday brand Banana Republic last August. Men’s shirts are slim fitting and short-sleeved, there are touches of Spandex, and the women’s trenches are the epitome of High Street chic. Over in Australasia, the new (weekend) uniforms at low-budget airline AirAsia combine red and white short-sleeved shirts, reminiscent of Formula One gear, with blue jeans.

Designer amenity kits
Avant-garde Dutch designers Viktor & Rolf currently put their name to the kits given to passengers who turn left on boarding KLM flights, while Qantas have started giving their Business class customers amenity bags designed by hip New York labels Kate Spade and Jack Spade. Regular British Airways passengers who travel in First will have amassed quite a collection of different Anya Hindmarch wash-bags.
Cabin as catwalk

Chanel spent a not-so-small fortune to recreate the inside of a jumbo jet for its couture show last January. Glasses of champagne were handed out by “stewards” from a trolley that made its way down the aisle, while models with mohawks emerged from the “emergency exit” in Lagerfeld’s latest. From the 1970s through to the 1990s, Air Jamaica did it for real – cabin crew turned into models mid-flight and paraded the aisles wearing new season Caribbean labels. Back in 2008 Air New Zealand hosted a mid-flight catwalk show on the Sydney to Auckland route, with designs by Karen Walker and Trelise Cooper. Model agency Elite had a show on an Air Asia flight from Bangkok to Phuket last year with 25 aspiring Thai models, competing in the Elite Model Look Thailand 2012 competition.

Gianfranco Ferré’s Korean Air scarf
This is the Kelly bag of the crew wardrobe – the most coveted, alluring accessory in the sky for trainee cabin staff. Designed by Gianfranco Ferré in 2005 as part of an off-white and duck-egg blue outfit, with an above-the-knee skirt hem length, the scarf is stiff, tied snugly, with one end styled to take flight away from the neck, as if on a wire. If this scarf were an airport, it would be Eero Saarinen’s 1960s sci-fi TWA terminal in New York.
The coolest airline of all time, bar none. This is the company that commissioned kinetic artist Alexander Calder to paint the outside of two of its planes, and whose TV commercials featured Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali. Braniff really made a name for itself by dressing its cabin crew in magenta, lime, lemon, and frequently psychedelic Pucci, from colour-blocked frocks with space helmets in 1965 to hot pants in the early 1970s. As Warhol said, to camera, in his advert: “When you got it, flaunt it!”

Air Force One and Michelle Obama
Every time the First Lady lands, it’s a photo opportunity that unfolds across countless fashion blog posts. “She’s wearing her favourite Alaïa belt!” “Oooh! Shorts!” In 2009, she arrived in Moscow, in salmon-pink Narciso Rodriguez, with her husband and children, who were wearing head to toe J Crew. The company seized on the opportunity and released a press release: "The Obama Girls Bring Some American Style to Moscow." They detailed each item, right down to the price. In case you’re wondering, Malia wore a buff-coloured, silk taffeta trench ($298) and black, satin ballet flats with contrast trim ($98).

Christian Lacroix’s new collection
Although the Paris couturier was forced to close his atelier due to financial disaster, he still dresses Air France cabin crew and First Class customers (who get Lacroix pyjamas). He’s also designed the new suits which CityJet staff began wearing in December – sober, chic, navy tailoring with taupe and red accents.

New dress codes
Everyone’s had the misfortune of flying next to someone who thinks that not-so-fresh-from-the-beach shorts and bare feet are okay attire for the air. Last June a passenger attempting to board a Southwest Airlines flight from Las Vegas to New York was given a stern lecture by staff for wearing a top that showed “too much cleavage”. In 2011, Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong was removed from a plane en route to Burbank for refusing to pull up his sagging trousers. Lucky Billie: a few months earlier a passenger had been arrested on a US Airways flight for the same thing. Police at the scene reported that his trousers were “below his buttocks but above his knees, and … much of his boxer shorts were exposed.”

Virgin Atlantic’s ruby slippers
It’s simple, memorable branding: British Airways is blue and Virgin Atlantic – which has also cornered the market in Swarovski crystal cabin decoration – is red. In 2011 Virgin issued female crew with vibrant, patent, ruby-coloured heels to go with their scarlet John Rocha suits – staff could choose from the “Dotty” (with a two inch heel) or the more daring “Dorothy” (three inches). For added chic (or indeed camp value), each comes in a yellow “brick” box.

Balenciaga for Oman Air

The turquoise-and-gold-trimmed pillbox hats are a strong statement, but it was Oman Air’s choice of Balenciaga for its uniforms in 2009 – when Nicolas Ghesquière was still at the helm of the legendary house – that puts it in a different league in the eyes of the cutting-edge cognoscenti. Oman Air won Best Business Class Airline Seat at the World Airline Awards in 2012 and gives their premium class customers products by Amouage, the Arabian perfumery that creates some of the most expensive fragrances in the world. This is an airline with a haute ticket.

Air France's love affair with designers - Air France : une histoire avec les grands couturiers.

At the crossroads of two different worlds which both evoke dreams, air travel and fashion, the Air France uniform is worn by 30,000 staff members in direct contact with our customers.

For the past 6 years, cabin crew, ground staff and pilots have been wearing the elegant uniform designed for Air France by Christian Lacroix.

Dior, Balanciaga, Patou and Nina Ricci are some of the other top fashion designers who have stamped their prestigious mark on the Air France uniform.
A la croisée de deux mondes fortement associés au rêve, celui de l'aérien et celui de la mode, l'uniforme d'Air France habille les 30.000 personnels de la Compagnie en contact direct avec la clientèle.

Depuis 6 ans, hôtesses, stewards, agents commerciaux et pilotes portent avec élégance l'uniforme créé par Christian Lacroix pour Air France.

Dior, Balanciaga, Patou ou Nina Ricci font également partie des grands créateurs de mode qui ont associé leur griffe prestigieuse à l'uniforme de la compagnie.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

The peculiar "Space Fashion" of the 60's ... From Couture to "Camp" ... From Courrèges to BARBARELLA ... and the "Space/Sport pyjamas" of STAR TREK ...

André Courrèges

'Where do his tennis dresses, his sailor dresses come from? Where did he find them? On the steps of Delphi. In the wardrobe of Electra. They are modern and they are antique.'
Violette Leduc 'Is Courrèges Wearable?' Vogue, 1965.

André Courrèges (born 1923) graduated in engineering before studying fashion and textile design. He worked for Balenciaga for ten years, which allowed him to develop great skill in cutting garments. In 1961 he established his own fashion house and began to develop a different look.

His Spring collection of 1964 showed radically different clothes. These designs included angular mini dresses and trouser suits. The look was created by using heavyweight fabrics like gabardine. Many of the outfits had cut-out midriffs and backs and were worn without a bra. These were matched with flat boots, goggles and helmets taken from the equipment worn by astronauts. The stark shapes and white and silver colour scheme immediately earned the name Space Age.

Courrèges' fashion shows were organised by his wife. These were lively presentations featuring athletic, partially nude models. Courrèges became interested in shorter skirts at the same time as Mary Quant was designing them and there has been some controversy over who 'invented' the miniskirt. He also promoted trousers for women. At the time, these were worn only on
informal occasions, but Courrèges introduced slim, tapering trousers for everyday and smart wear.

Courrèges wanted to produce affordable clothes. From 1965 he spent two years raising funds to make his clothing more accessible. However, his next collection was criticised for reproducing the same styles. Like the majority of big name couturiers, Courrèges now sells accessories, luggage and perfume in addition to his clothing ranges.

Andre Courreges
André Courrèges, the designer that created an ultra-modern style, forerunner of the space-age image of the Sixties

Besides him, Pierre Cardin, Paco Rabanne, Emanuel Ungaro and Emilio Pucci were the great designers of the '60s, a decade crossed by lunar influences, a fascination with aliens and geometric revolutions. Some have defined Courrèges' creations "car-like", given  the idea of momentum and sprint that they knew how to exude, and it is no coincidence, then, that his collections were particularly loved by Gianni Agnelli and his wife, the proud and elegant Marella . A pupil of Cristobal Balenciaga, he was able to outline his own style, leading women's fashion until the '70s. He is considered, in fact, the probable inventor of the miniskirt as a cult, whose paternity, to date, is still debated between Mary Quant and Courrèges himself.
The cuts of the French designer, basic and clean, aroused criticism from those who saw in this ultra-modern design a debasement of the female figure: the lines did not adapt to the sinuous shapes of the body, nor did they exalt its grace. Yet his designs had the ability to rejuvenate the shape of the woman, freeing her from overly structured bras and clothing. His style was openly inspired by the "Bright Side of the Moon", enhanced by innovations such as the go-go boots: boots with low heels, versatile, comfortable and able to slim legs. 1964 is the year of the "Moon Girl Collection" followed, in the following years, "Future Couture", "Hyperbole" and "Prototype". From that moment on, the Andre Courrèges items embody the myth of the future and the conquest of space: stylized stars and moons appear wherever. The use of the materials soon became refined and avant-garde, the crochet is inserted on delicate transparencies, the ethereal is contaminated by modernity, portholes appear on the little dresses. Even fashion shows bring a burst of innovation: no longer the usual catwalk set up in the studio for a selected, elite audience, but modern movies shot in the symbolic places of Paris, or innovative scenarios, stolen from films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick. All characterized by essential colors, bright nuances and lively new hues that leave all breathless. Courrèges' mannequins came out of the closet and assume plastics positions, putting a cat-like walks and provokative moves aside.

A special mention is also due to his "Lunettes Eskimo", launched in 1965: sunglasses with huge lenses that had a crack, almost like a slightly open lid. In the same year another event marked the career of Courrèges, adding another success to the ones collected by the designer and confirming, simultaneously, his reputation as a rising star, like Françoise Hardy. The singer, in fact, was in charge of co-hosting the program "Dim Dam Dom" - an acronym for des Dim(anches), de Dam(es), et D(h)om(mes) - and the couturier designs for her a simple yet innovative outfit in two colors: black and white. It is 1967 when, along with numerous designers of the time, Courrèges designed the versatile wardrobe for Audrey Hepburn in "Two for the Road", in which outfits in PVC, rugby-inspired dresses, accessories inspired by sport and important metal inlays reveal unpublished images of the queen of bon-ton. In 1972, for the Olympic Games in Monaco, the designer creates the 15,000 uniforms for a sports competition destined to be remembered for great victories and sanguinary chronicles. The Andre Courrèges woman is a charming creature with an iridescent appearance: austere as a crusader, graceful rider of the future, or provocative in skimpy metallic gladiator outfits, and even after forty years this woman remains very current, and always fascinating.

The men's uniforms in Star Trek Into Darkness' are reminiscent of moisture-wicking sportswear.
How sci-fi fashion has changed
Costume designers can only speculate on what coming intergalactic fashions will look like, but as Star Trek and After Earth demonstrate, the future is nearly always skintight

Posted by
Barbara Brownie

Recent sci-fi, such as JJ Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness and After Earth (Shyamalan, 2013), are reminders of how film and TV so often depict future fashion as skimpy or skintight. The uniforms in Abrams' Star Trek revival have progressed from previous versions, but retain the hallmarks of the originals. The men's uniforms have a mesh outer layer, reminiscent of moisture-wicking sportswear. The female uniforms are more precise replicas of the originals, with miniskirts and knee-high boots. In After Earth, the stranded father and son are costumed in something reminiscent of an armoured wetsuit. These films are following a tradition established by films such as Logan's Run (1976), Buck Rogers (1979-1981) and Tron (1982), in which costume left little to the imagination.
Historically, fashion has tended towards being increasingly revealing. It has become progressively more acceptable to wear ever more form-fitting garments and to expose the skin. It therefore seems likely that sci-fi costumes such as these reflect the logical progression of fashion.

In science fiction, the costume designers can only speculate as to what the fashions of the future may be. In hindsight, many of these prove inaccurate. The "futuristic" visions of some 60s and 70s sci-fi now have a retro feel. The minidresses that have survived Star Trek reboots are a homage to the 60s – the decade of the original series. Costumes such as those worn by Jane Fonda in Barbarella (1969) featured fabrics that were perceived as futuristic at the time, including metallic fibres and plastics. When these materials were incorporated into fashion by designers including Mary Quant and Paco Rabanne, they represented the height of fabric technology. Perhaps as a result of this enthusiastic adoption by the fashion world, they have become more closely associated with the 60s and the space-race aesthetic than with the future.

Science-fiction films tend to fall into two categories. First, there are those that imagine the progression of society towards a brighter, technologically enabled future. Second, there are dystopian societies that have regressed to resemble a historical era. Sci-fi costume can be divided into the same two categories. It imagines a possible future that has progressed forward, following established rules of fashion evolution (as in Star Trek), or a vision that resembles a western or Victorian period drama (as in Joss Whedon's Serenity, 2005).

Both of these approaches are fair. Fashion is cyclical. It relies on revival and bricolage. It is therefore likely that, regardless of how technologically advanced we become, our clothes will directly appropriate from what has come before. In order to move forward, fashion reframes the past. Historical references are also useful in connoting social, political and cultural aspects of these imagined futures. The Nazi-like uniforms of Starship Troopers (1997), for example, help to establish the sense of a military dictatorship.

Though fashion tends to be cyclical, new technology creates exceptions. It allows clothes that have never existed before. Some of the most influential trends of the last 100 years of fashion have been inspired by new science. Access to new fabrics, such as PVC, allowed Quant to rebel against tradition. Arguably, it was social change (sexual liberation) that led to the adoption of skintight jeans and leggings, but this could never have happened without the introduction of lycra [1]. Similarly, no pre-existing moments in the fashion cycle would have enabled us to predict CuteCircuit's Twitter dress.

Science is also transforming the way we create clothes. Clothes have historically been produced by sewing flat shapes of fabric together, thereby transforming multiple flat shapes into a three-dimensional shape. New technologies are beginning to make sewing obsolete. Issey Miyake has established a research institute in Toyko with the aim of exploring new possibilities in fabric and garment creation. This research has yielded new bonding methods that may change our approach to garment manufacture. As in A-POC (a complete outfit that is manufactured at once, from a tube of fabric), the acts of weaving fabric and sewing pieces together are no longer separate processes. The weaving of the fabric and the bonding of the layers can be a single automatic process. There is no sewing, and therefore no seams.

A collaboration between Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art resulted in the invention of Fabrican, a spray-on fabric. Fabrican canisters contain wet fibres that may be sprayed directly on to the surface of the body. As the fibres dry, they bond, forming a single piece of flexible, shaped fabric [2]. Spray-on fabric has the potential to revolutionise the fashion industry. As it is sprayed directly on to the body, it removes the issue of sizing from the dressmaking process. It also changes the way that garments may be repaired. In order to fix a rip or tear, more fabric may be sprayed to invisibly seal the hole.
Fabrican is like a second skin: tight-fitting and seam-free [3]. This gives credence to the theory that skintight garments may become more common, and provides further evidence that future fashion is likely to be seam-free. As in the reinvented Man of Steel (2013) costume, and wetsuits in Star Trek Into Darkness, clothes may be moulded to fit our bodies perfectly.

Another factor to consider is that many of these costumes are uniforms. Uniform tends to fall outside of the usual fashion cycle. It is fixed, rather than modal. Uniforms tend to remain largely unchanged for many decades, and are therefore likely to be at least partly historical in design [4]. It is possible that the uniforms of the future would be very similar to those worn today, and would follow the same signifying systems for rank and situation.

If we want predictions of fashion's future, we should ignore the Starfleet uniforms and explore the clothes worn by the extras in the background. In the bar scenes and on the streets of future London, we see signs of otherness that truly sets the Star Trek world apart from our own. Here, we see the exoticism of alien influence, and the hybrid styles that arise within the fashion cycle.

 BARBARELLA Costume designs are credited to Paco Rabane, though most were created by Jacques Fonteray, all influenced by Jean Claude Forest.

Andre Courreges timeline

Space Age-Futurism Fashion (Mort Garson 60's)

Sunday 25 August 2013

Austenland ...

Austenland is a 2013 American romantic comedy film, directed by Jerusha Hess. Based on the same-titled 2007 novel by Shannon Hale and produced by author Stephenie Meyer, it stars Keri Russell as a single thirtysomething obsessed with Jane Austen's 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice, who travels to a British resort called Austenland, in which the Austen era is re-created. JJ Feild, Jane Seymour, Bret McKenzie and Jennifer Coolidge co-star.
Austenland was filmed in the summer of 2011 at West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire.

The film was premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2013, and its distribution rights were bought by Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions soon thereafter for US$4 million.

Austenland is a novel by Shannon Hale, published on May 9, 2007 by Bloomsbury. A film based on the novel was released in 2013.
Austenland tells the story of 30-something Jane Hayes, an average New York woman who secretly has an unhealthy obsession with Mr. Darcy from the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. But after Jane accidentally reveals her secret to a great aunt, who shortly after dies, Jane gets the opportunity of a life time. In her great aunt's will, Jane's great aunt leaves Jane a trip to a Jane Austen-themed getaway destination where Jane hopes to meet her own real life Mr. Darcy.
While at "Austenland," Jane is plagued with self- doubt about pretending to be a woman from the Jane Austen era. However, along the journey Jane makes new friends and finds a new romantic interest.
The novel was adapted into a film scripted by Hale and Jerusha Hess. The cast includes Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie, Georgia King and Jane Seymour. Stephenie Meyer produced the film.

Hollywood banks on Jane Austen film to discover what women really want
The rom com Austenland is made by women for women – and the industry hopes it will herald a wave of box-office hits

Rory Carroll in Los Angeles

"One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other," sighed Jane Austen's heroine Emma. It is a lament that has resonated ever since. Entire industries – psychology, counselling, dating sites – have tried to bridge the gap. But what appeals to the opposite sex, it seems, remains a mystery.
This has long frustrated Hollywood. Directors have been hired and fired, scripts tweaked, audiences tested and endings reshot in search of a movie formula that appeals to men and women. Now comes a movie that says it is strictly a film by women, about women, for women. Men can take a hike.

"I have never in my experience come across a premiere that was women-only," said Tatiana Siegel, a film reporter with The Hollywood Reporter. "They're basically saying we don't really care if men don't see this movie. They're not even bothering to throw a bone to them."

The film, appropriately enough, is Austenland, a romantic comedy set in a fictional English theme park which recreates the writer's Regency world, replete with bonnets, carriage rides, whist and needlepoint. Based on the 2007 novel by Shannon Hale, the film stars Keri Russell as Jane Hayes, a thirty-something American singleton who blows her savings to cross the Atlantic and stay at a plush country estate where she can channel her inner Austen and, perhaps, find a Darcyesque Mr Right.

The director, Jerusha Hess, made her name co-directing Napoleon Dynamite, and the producer, Stephenie Meyer, made her name and immense fortune writing the Twilight saga books. Sony Pictures Classics (SPC), the art-house division of Sony Pictures Entertainment, snapped up Austenland for a reported $4m at the Sundance festival. It premiered in Los Angeles and New York last week and is due to start a limited release in the US on .

Reviews by the website Rotten Tomatoes and the Guardian each gave it three stars out of five. "A chick flick extravaganza," declared the showbusiness news site Chick flicks, however, seldom if ever go out of their way to alienate men. They throw in a subplot, or a man's man actor such as Gerard Butler, so boyfriends and husbands will accompany their partners to the film.

Not Austenland. Advance screenings and premieres were for women only. "It's not like we're going to have guards at the door throwing men out," SPC's co-president, Tom Bernard, told The Hollywood Reporter. "But I think everyone will get the message based on the invitations." The move was prompted by the response at Sundance, he said. Women loved it, male critics were vicious: "We just said, 'Fine, it's not for you. Don't see it. Can't come'."

The gender apartheid is based on the calculation – the hope – that the film will thrive at the box office without men. A new genre of women's films is creeping into the zeitgeist, said Bernard, and Hollywood can smell the money. Austenland is following in the footsteps of Bridesmaids, The Help, The Blind Side and The Heat, which earned big profits showcasing strong female characters, and taking things a step further by explicitly targeting just one gender. "This is a movie written by a woman, directed by a woman, based on a book by a woman, produced by a woman and starring a woman," said Siegel. "It's a real female-driven product. They really knew who their audience was. They were prepared to put all their eggs into that basket."

With a modest outlay of $4m, the makers do not need millions of bums on seats to make a profit, she said. "It's not The Avengers," she added. "If [enough] women show up they'll be in great shape. If this is a small breakout hit, it will grease the wheels for other campaigns to cater to exclusive audiences." In which case, Hollywood may no longer fret about half the world not understanding the pleasures of the other.

Not all welcome the prospect, however. Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film, challenged the notion that men do not want to see films about women: "It makes no sense."

Marketing a film as women-only was a self-fulfilling prophecy which bolstered the idea of women comprising a niche market even though they accounted last year for 50% of US filmgoers and 52% of revenue, said Lauzen: "It reflects a world view that is very myopic."

Hit or not, Austenland does not signify female progress in Hollywood. "When we see a high-profile success like Bridesmaids or [Oscar-winning director] Kathryn Bigelow, our impulse is to say, gee, everything must be OK. But it's not."

Hype about the "Bridesmaids effect" or the "Bigelow effect" auguring breakthroughs for women in Hollywood proved hollow. According to Celluloid Ceiling, a long-running study of female employment trends in the industry, only 11% of the characters in last year's top 100 grossing films were female. A decade ago the figure was 16%.

Only 9% of directors of last year's top 250 grossing films were women, the same proportion as in 1998. The figure for other positions behind the camera, such as executives, writers and editors, rose to 18%.

Lauzen, a film professor at San Diego state university, called the numbers shockingly low: "The film industry is quite resistant to change. It's easy to be misled by a few high-profile cases and to assume that women have achieved some level of equality. That's why it's so important to count the number of female characters and women working behind the camera."

The showbusiness magazine Variety did not boost Austenland's feminist credentials by noting it was due to open in a mid-August slot that is typically reserved for chick flicks such as The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia and Eat Pray Love: "Call it the kitchen and bitchin' weekend."

Meyer, who took a break from writing to produce Austenland, acknowledged that Hollywood was proving slothful in making female-driven films, despite the success of Bridesmaids and the Twilight saga. "Change takes time," she told Yahoo! "Though it's slow, it's exciting to be able to watch that change happening, and especially to be a part of it."

wycombe park estate

Friday 23 August 2013

For Those who like "Americana" ...

As he celebrates the 30th anniversary of his groundbreaking home collection, the legendary designer discusses the inspiration for his stylish empire

Text by Brad Goldfarb | Photography by Björn Wallander | Produced by Howard Christian/

He may helm one of the best-known and most successful luxury brands on the planet, but Ralph Lauren designs for himself. Always has. It’s what got him started in the late 1960s, when he couldn’t find the wider neckties he wanted to wear. No one was making them, so he did. Ties and shirts eventually led to seasonal head-to-toe collections, outfitting both men and women for everything from a formal evening out in the city to a yachting excursion off the New England coast to a weekend on a Western ranch. “When I started out, people would see things I was wearing and say, ‘Can you make that for me?’” Lauren recalls. “I guess that was when I knew I had something different.”

But Lauren didn’t stop at clothes. Back in 1983, in the days before major fashion houses had furnishings lines, the designer launched the Ralph Lauren Home Collection, expanding his vision of a thoroughly stylish life. “I came at everything with a sense of how I would want to live,” Lauren says. “My wife, Ricky, and I were shopping for things for our apartment, and all the sheets were very feminine and covered in roses. I wondered, Why can’t I get something masculine? So I took the Oxford cloth we were using to make shirts, turned it into bedding, and sewed buttons down the side of the pillowcases.”
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Lauren’s pioneering home collection, a line whose impact and influence have been monumental. Customers can now buy Ralph Lauren bedding, furniture, lighting, rugs, china and glassware, wall coverings, and paint in a wide variety of looks with evocative names such as Thoroughbred, Modern Penthouse, Jamaica, and, new this fall, Apartment No. One. The latter was inspired by the Duke of Windsor and named for the residence at London’s Kensington Palace where Prince William and Kate Middleton will make their home. The range of offerings reflects Lauren’s unwillingness to be pinned down by a single style. “I’m never just one person,” he notes. Nonetheless, everything carries the unmistakable imprint of the designer and his brand.

In the world of Ralph Lauren, the private and business spheres are so tightly aligned as to be virtually indistinguishable. He’s living out the fantasy he’s marketing, with all the trappings: a minimalist Manhattan apartment, a rustic-modern Long Island beach house, a ranch in Colorado, a tropical retreat in Jamaica, and a stone manse in Bedford, New York. Each home is its own distinct vision of the good life, and each tells a different but complementary story—stories that directly shape his collections. “I think it’s the eye, the taste, and the spirit of the dream,” he says when asked what links it all together.

All Photographs in Architectural Digest.
Photo: Victor Skrebneski

Wednesday 21 August 2013

How ro recreate "Imperial" Bling Ring and "Palatial" Kitsch ? Behind the Art Direction/ Set decors of The Candelabra.

The world-renowned pianist and entertainer extraordinaire Liberace once remarked, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful.” While he may have borrowed the line from Mae West, the Glitter Man’s personal creed served as the design theme for the sets of the upcoming HBO biopic Behind the Candelabra. Directed by Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh and starring Oscar-winning actors Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as the flamboyant showman and his companion and chauffeur Scott Thorson, respectively, the film explores the pair’s tempestuous and secretive five-year affair. Production designer Howard Cummings—this marks his fifth collaboration with Soderbergh—and set decorator Barbara Munch Cameron (Glee) had only six weeks to design and decorate 30 glitz-and-glam-rich sets that included Liberace’s self-described “palatial kitsch” mansion in Las Vegas, a penthouse pied-à-terre in Los Angeles, and a Spanish-style 1920s retreat in Palm Springs known both as the Cloisters and Casa de Liberace. Behind the Candelabra airs May 26 on HBO.

Photographs by Architectural Digest 

set decorator
Barbara Munch Cameron SDSA

production designer
Howard Cummings

HBO Films
“Too much of a good thing is wonderful!”
The raves keep coming for the rhinestone-encrusted Liberace biopic BEHIND THE CANDELABRA and the sets that brought his world to the screen! The Steven Soderbergh film opened Cannes Film Festival to a wildly enthusiastic response and continued on to its home run on HBO.

Soderbergh once again entrusted Production Designer Howard Cummings and Set Decorator Barbara Munch Cameron SDSA [HAYWIRE, MAGIC MIKE] with creating the visual foundation for his film. This time, there was the added twist of depicting a legendary personage…it would be the re-creation of the last 10 years of the flamboyant entertainer’s life, 1977-87, focusing on Liberace’s [Michael Douglas]  lavish lifestyle as well as his stage performances and his closeted relationship with the much younger Scott Thorson [Matt Damon].

Liberace’s exuberance extended offstage as well as on. He was fond of quoting Mae West, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful.” Cummings notes, “She said it. Liberace lived it.” Excess was his signature, along with crystals and rhinestones. “We had fun with the excess,” Munch Cameron says with a twinkle. “Liberace collected any number of things. I tried to find things in pairs because he never seemed to buy just one of anything. If there were 2, he would buy them. If there were 6, he would buy them. If he liked something, he’d buy all of that were available.”

 Chandeliers and candelabras…

“100 large candelabras and chandeliers were required to achieve the amount of dazzle we needed,” she adds. For Liberace’s stage sets, she had two 50-foot trailers filled entirely with chandeliers sent to Las Vegas. “There are 8 chandeliers hanging over the stages, I think there were a dozen up in the air in Las Vegas…they were all the big ones at Omega Cinema Props. We had every single one of their large chandeliers. The key thing with Liberace is the matching, and Omega had multiples of the chandeliers. So we took those 8, and 4 of another, plus 2 really huge ones, and then 4 pairs of a different style chandelier…also, pairs and pairs of wall sconces and their 4 large standing candelabrums on gold pedestals, expensive, but phenomenal. House of Props had beautiful candelabras and candelabrums that lit up…the two hero candelabras on Liberace’s pianos were antiques from there. We got pieces from all over Hollywood, but Omega and House of Props were our main resources because of the multiples and the quality. And they both had items that Liberace had actually owned!”

“Buyer Libby Morris and I went to the same people that Liberace dealt with…as much as possible. For instance, Lester Carpet had made the original zebra-striped carpet for his penthouse in Beverly Hills. They pulled out the floor plan of the apartment and were able to give us the exact same carpet.”

Liberace had shopped at design boutique Phyllis Morris in West Hollywood, where among other objets d’art, he had purchased a large poodle lamp. With that info, Munch Cameron said she then bought every poodle statue she could find, “The bigger the better!” From Phyllis Morris, she rented a reproduction of an ornate 19th-century French piano with filigreed ormolu that she used in the re-creation of his opulent Las Vegas home.


“Liberace had an exclusive deal with Baldwin regarding pianos,” reveals Munch Cameron. “He never had to buy one! We discovered that Baldwin Piano is now owned by Gibson Guitar. The mirrored glass grand piano that Liberace had in his penthouse currently resides in the Gibson showroom at their corporate offices in Beverly Hills. They loaned us the piano, which we had to have hoisted by crane up to the penthouse, and which we were later able to send to Las Vegas to pair with a matching one (of course!) that he had used in a dueling piano scene on stage.”

“The Liberace Foundation has ownership of the companion piano and several of his others, all of which they generously loaned us for the stage scenes.”

Pianos also appear in the two Palm Springs houses. Although we only see a glimpse, the living rooms in both houses were fully dressed and included pianos, a white one in his mother’s house and burnished wood in his last home, The Cloisters.


The sets are filled with statuary, interiors and exteriors. Sculptures appear in every room and around every pool. A full-scale Hermes stands outside the bedroom window at his Las Vegas mansion. [It was also used, gilded, in MAGIC MIKE.] “That’s from Greenset,” Munch Cameron says. “We took all they had and gathered all we could from other places, and then had everything painted fresh.” She laughs, “We swooped up every single naked David statue in Hollywood, from mini to giant.”

Copies of Liberace’s portraits, with Michael Douglas as Liberace and Debbie Reynolds as his mother, were commissioned, painted by Alex Tavoularis. The Liberace Foundation holds the originals.

 Las Vegas house…

Liberace described his style as “palatial kitsch”. In the film he says, “I just love it!” His Las Vegas home, 15,000 square feet, 20 rooms, was “…his interpretation of Versailles,” says Cummings. It also reflected his enchantment with King Ludwig II, the mad king of Bavaria’s, sense of décor.

The ceiling of the master suite was painted as homage to the Sistine Chapel, the bathroom an homage to himself…a painting of his head floats among keyboards and cherubim on the bathroom ceiling. Marble Grecian columns flank the stepped marble tub. There was much press during Cannes re: the tub, not always accurate. Munch Cameron clarifies, “Libby found the guy whose father made that tub for Liberace…the son still has the company. He said, ‘I have the recipe and the drawings, so I’ll just make the whole thing, with the columns and everything’…and he did!”

Liberace’s crest adorns the canopy of the Venetian four-poster bed, which is centered between two huge Baroque mirrors and two Italianate dressers serving as bedside tables. Munch Cameron recalls, “We bought the bed from Charles & Charles, but then we had the posts built up to that huge height and everything made oversized, including the custom-made bedding and all the drapery.” She adds, “Drapery foreman Bob Renna was amazing, he had to deal with a sea of draperies…it would be difficult to estimate the yards and yards of fabric we used on this production!”

The sitting area of the suite contains matching sets of crystal chandeliers, fireplace chairs and silk-upholstered daybeds. The chaises were made by Omega, as was the ottoman in the bathroom and its matching pouf in the adjoining walk-in closet. The room-sized closet has its own custom draperies [that match the pouf as well] and pairs of crystal sconces. Hanging in special niches are many of Liberace’s rhinestone and crystal-covered original costumes, on loan from the foundation.

These areas of the home were built onstage, but for much of the rest of the house, including exteriors, Zsa Zsa Gabor’s Beverly Hills home was used as a stand-in, her husband Prince Frederic serving as host.

“We had the pool emptied so piano keys could be painted around the edge and the logo on the bottom,” reveals Munch Cameron. “Howard had a wall built, and we added greenery to hide the views of Capitol Records and Hollywood below…after all, this was supposed to be his home in Las Vegas! The living room became gold and silver wallpaper, and we filled the house with new draperies.” After filming, Prince Frederic did not require anything to be restored. “He said he loved it all, and we loved him for that,” she smiles.

“I just had to have Liberace’s eyelash sofas for the living room, which Omega made for us. He loved draperies and upholstery, along with mirrors and crystal, but his taste was ridiculous…he would take a $40,000 chandelier and spray-paint it gold! We think he had somebody do the penthouse, it actually had some taste…”

 Beverly Hills pied-à-terre…

“In the early ‘80s, Liberace bought a 6-story brick building on Beverly Boulevard and moved into the penthouse. He still owned it when he died,” she points out. Cummings adds, “The penthouse had a black lacquer Chinese look, very 1980s. That was his city look.”

This was the only actual Liberace property the production was able to film in, and it came with an added bonus. The owner was a fan and had photographed every room in detail when he purchased it, so the BTC design and décor team were able to do an almost exact re-creation. Not easily, though! There was only a two-person elevator. Everything had to be lifted by crane to the 6th-floor deck, on which a kidney-shaped pool takes up much of the “floor-space”!

Munch Cameron remembers, “Looking at all the original pictures, I kept thinking, ‘Why is this furniture so little?’ He had tons of little pieces. It’s because he would buy something that could fit in the elevator! Otherwise he would have to hire a crane to get it up on the deck, which is what we did. In fact, we had a crane for two days. Can you imagine, the neighbors…walking their dog or trying to get to their garage, and the alleyway is blocked off because we’re craning up this jewel-encrusted grand piano! But there was no other way to get stuff up there, the camera included. They tried to put it in the elevator and the elevator wouldn’t even go up, consequently they had to repair the elevator a few times. But we actually had very, very little L&D, and nothing big was damaged.”

 Scott’s house…

“Liberace owned many other homes,” says Cummings. “He didn’t invest in stocks, but he bought houses, often for other people. He fixed up ramshackle places, and he shopped and shopped, filling them up with stuff.” He bought a house in Las Vegas for Scott Thorson, as an insurance should anything happen to the significantly older Liberace, who even pursued the idea of adopting the younger man. This house had a more masculine style, with nods to Thorson’s experience as an animal handler and intent to become a veterinarian.  In the film’s re-creation, a none-too-subtle water buffalo’s head punctuates a rugged stone fireplace wall, contemporary furnishings are mixed with the usual kitsch.

 Liberace’s mother’s house in Palm Springs…

The house Liberace bought for his mother was aptly referred to as “The White House”, more for the color choices than the political prowess, although his mother was a profound influence throughout his life. The location used for her home was a Hearst family property, complete with a pool reminiscent of the one at Hearst Castle.

“We had every bit of period patio furniture we could find anywhere, for all of the film’s exterior sets. Then it was a matter of having the appropriate cushions made for each one,” Munch Cameron notes. “This set was Hollywood Regency style.”

The Cloisters, Liberace’s final home in Palm Springs…

A Spanish-style 1920’s house, complete with a Catholic chapel, became Liberace’s retreat and hospice. He died there of AIDs-related complications, after a lengthy, but secret, battle with the illness. The scene focuses on his oversized bed, with its custom linens made to match the heavy draperies. Munch Cameron relates, “We did a lot of work for this set, but you don’t get to see much of it in the movie, so I’m happy to publish these photos.”

 Liberace’s stages & additional sets…

“The stages were a big deal,” she acknowledges, “…the chandeliers, pianos, candelabras, obviously…but also, the stage curtains! We had Dazian make a $17,000 Austrian curtain, which weighed 400 pounds and served as the backdrop for his piano. Thankfully, we were able to sell it back to Dazian when we wrapped! In the theater house, we took all of the stadium seating out and had the shop at Sony build 16 booths to match the 8 that we got from Omega.”

Additional sets included the theater backstage and dressing room, the drug dealer’s ultra ‘70s pad, Liberace’s agent/manager Seymour Heller’s [Dan Ackroyd] office, plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz’s [Rob Lowe] office suite, hospital rooms, Thorson’s ranch foster home, Thorson’s post-L apartment, a men’s sex club, adult bookstore, jewelry store, lawyers’ conference room and the memorial service chapel.

“We all worked really hard on this,” says Munch Cameron. “I had a great crew…crews, actually! I had 4 leadmen, each with their own crew: one in Las Vegas, one in Palm Springs and two in Los Angeles, but one of those was mainly a strike person and oversaw all the strikes of the whole show.”

Munch Cameron estimates that, even with a budget of $900K, “We rented probably 70% because there was so much stuff! And we got deals because we were doing so many multiples. We bought a few chandeliers that were a different style to put in the penthouse…and we bought some candelabras, just because they were there and were perfect. Of course, we had to buy the bathroom accessories, all the bedroom linens, and things like that…and they were all expensive, but you can’t cheat on those details.”

Soderbergh embraced the sets. As usual, he showed absolute confidence in the team. Munch Cameron smiles, “Working with Howard on the Soderbergh films and on projects like RENT is always a fabulous experience, but this was a set decorator’s dream.”

Peek ‘Behind the Candelabra’ at the costumes and sets of the new Liberace movie

It’s fitting that for a crazy whirlwind of a film about Liberace, Zsa Zsa Gabor’s Bel-Air home would be one of the set locations. Production designer Howard Cummings fell in love with her house, given its similar decorative aesthetic to Liberace’s, and used it as a basis for re-creating his Las Vegas home.

The only problem? The pool had a stunning view of the ocean, which you can’t see in Nevada.

“I had to erect this wall and put up all the greenery in order to obscure the incredible view the house actually had,” says Cummings. “That’s when we started to find every Greek-themed garden statue in the greater LA area. I did collections of [Michelangelo’s] Davids. Because that’s something he’d do. One is not enough. More is better.”
This philosophy sums up the challenge the producers faced in designing the sets and costumes for Steven Soderbergh’s shimmering new Liberace movie, “Behind the Candelabra,” which premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO. Twenty-five years after the world-famous pianist’s death, the biopic follows the star (played by Michael Douglas in a wig and rhinestones) and his relationship with boy-toy Scott Thorson (Matt Damon).

Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick made 60 looks for the actors in just eight weeks.

“I didn’t copy anything. I used [his outfits] as a springboard,” she says.
Mirojnick breathes new life into several of Liberace’s most famous looks, such as the elaborately embroidered and appliqued clam-shell-collared King Neptune outfit he first wore at the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans.

Luckily, Mirojnick has been fitting Douglas for films since 1987’s “Fatal Attraction” — it helped her meet the tight deadline to pull together a platter of sequins, embroidery and fur to fit Douglas precisely.

“When you see these transformations happen [to the actors] with the help of a costume,” says Mirojnick, “it’s magic.”

The costumes also get a thumbs-up from the people who might know Liberace’s clothes better than anyone else: costumers Connie Furr Soloman and Jan Jewett, who wrote “Liberace Extravaganza,” the essential Liberace costume bible.

“She had a really tough job, and she did a great job with it,” says Furr Soloman.

It was production designer Cummings’ job to create the Liberace glamour beyond his outfits — 36 sets worth in five weeks.

“Fortunately, Liberace was such a big self-promoter, he liked to talk in front of the camera and show off his houses,” says Cummings. “So going into it, I had a really good picture.”

In many cases, Cummings was able to track down Liberace’s actual furnishings — some purchased by LA prop houses from his estate sale. The Liberace Foundation also loaned the filmmakers his pianos, cars and, of course, candelabras.

With more than 100 candelabras and chandeliers in the film, Cummings laughs, “We got angry letters saying, ‘You’ve tied up every chandelier in LA!’ ‘Lincoln’ was in production there, and they were doing the White House in the 1800s and they needed chandeliers — and [we] had snagged them all.”

As Liberace always said, borrowing a line from Mae West, “Too much of a good thing . . . is wonderful!”