When talking or writing about Pablo Picasso today it is necessary to make a brief but due introduction. The Spanish painter, sculptor and lithographer was without any doubt an unparalleled genius, unique, extraordinary and at the same time also troubled, restless, dark, troubled, problematic and, apparently, also fierce and cruel.
Here we we will not address the personal issue related to Picasso’s life nor the purely artistic one, here I will try to analyze his personal style, the one related to the ephemeral par excellence, fashion.
2023 is the 50th anniversary year of Pablo Picasso‘s passing, and given his enormous influence also on the aesthetics of artists in the collective imagination-from Picasso onward if one wanted to depict an artist one relied precisely on the Spanish genius-I decided to take a little trip “into the closet” of Pablo Picasso.
A style archetype with few equals, Pablo Picasso set an aesthetic marker that is still propagated in so many contexts today.
What comes out from the countless photos depicting the artist at a first distracted glance is a seemingly sloppy, improvised, careless look, but the truth tells us just the opposite!
For 16 years Picasso relied on the skilled hands of his personal stylist as well as one of his closest friends, the tailor Michele Sapone. Originally from Bellona, province of Caserta, Michele was born in 1912 and was immediately very willing from a business standpoint.
First a bricklayer, then a farrier and finally a tailor as early as age 20 in the tailor shop of mastro Carluccio, Carlo della Cioppa, in his hometown. The urge to leave southern Italy was strong, and after being in Turin where, thanks to the intense social, political and cultural life, he had the opportunity to make his skills as a tailor known. Because of the war he moved to Split, where he met the partisan Slavka, who would become his lifelong companion and with whom he would have two daughters.
Once he moved to Nice after the war, where he worked as maitre coupeur at Seelio Tailleur- Chemisier, he met Pablo Picasso by chance-thanks to mutual friend and poet André Verdet-who was living in Cannes, in his famous villa called “La Californie.”
That meeting became the beginning of a 16-year-long collaboration and intimate friendship, during which Michele Sapone became in effect “Picasso’s tailor.”
That fabric craftsman from the province of Caserta did not just “dress” Picasso; he created and sewed the clothes for him, trying to capture all the complex and indefinite facets of his very difficult character.
It is the early 1950s and both protagonists in this story are imbued with a very strong creative energy. Soap was obsessed with “thinking of what to invent for the man who had invented everything”.
The first work Michele made for Picasso was a trouser “à la Courbet” that the artist loved from the first moment and that became the first piece of a union that led Sapone to create at least 200 pants, a hundred jackets and dozens of coats of all shapes and fabrics, but always of the highest quality.
Pablo Picasso loved stripes, indelible from everyone’s memory are the mariniére T-shirts he wore thickly, as well as the short shorts and espadrilles, his brown leather strap watch, his loose sweaters with buttons or without , the baggy pants, the V-shaped sweaters, the wide-brimmed hats and the jackets shorter than the canons of the time – by this expedient he tried to “hide” his height, Picasso was 5 feet 3 inches tall.
Let me close with a tidbit: on October 25, 1956, Picasso’s 75th birthday, Sapone gave the artist a new jacket that Picasso immediately wore, saying he would keep it on all day.He immediately loved that jacket: made of brown and black horizontally ribbed velvet with a collar without lapels, with an opening on the chest but no buttons. Soap called it a “Mao jacket”, but in fact the tailor was referring to a work jacket that Bellona peasants wore while working.
A story, that of Pablo Picasso’s style, about creativity, art and craftsmanship and at the same time about a friendship that will mark the lives of the protagonists forever.
We are just over 3 months away from the most important and glamorous event in the fashion world and beyond, the Met Gala 2023. Earlier in the day yesterday, the Costume Institute unveiled that co-chairing Anna Wintour at the event to be held on the first Monday of May and opening this season’s show will also be Penelope Cruz and DuaLipa, rounding out the quartet composed of actress Michaela Coel and His Majesty Roger Federer.
This year’s Costume Institute exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York will be dedicated to the immortal Karl Lagerfeld, one of the most important, visionary and decisive designers of all time. The retrospective will be titled Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty and will be a journey through the career of the designer whose unique vision contributed to the history of the maisons he worked for, above all Chanel and Fendi.
I take my cue from this news and, a month away from the 4th year since the German designer’s passing, try to tell you about Karl Lagerfeld’s personal, peculiar and inimitable style.
If there is one character of our contemporary times that anyone, or almost anyone, could recognize through solely his look and aesthetic, it is certainly the “Kaiser”.
Lagerfeld was one with his style, expressing his personality. His signature and defining elements remained the same for years but, just as his vision and work evolved along with the totality of his look.
The image that has rightfully entered the collective imagination is certainly that of the legendary ponytail she has been wearing since 1976. First characterized by a raven black and then by an almost immaterial white, made so by the daily and manic use of Klorane dry shampoo.
Another essential element of Lagerfeld’s look is the ever-present white shirt with a high, super starched collar that the German designer used to commission from the tailors at Jermyn Street, Hilditch & Key in central London-he apparently had more than 1,000 of them in his closet.
Accessories also play a key role: the ties, the black sunglasses characterized by a very thick frame, and the ever-present gothic-flavored jewelry made ada hoc by Chrome Hearts or those with a vintage aesthetic from Lydia Courteille’s Parisian jewelry store.
About himself Karl Lageferld described himself as follows in an interview with the Observer in 2007: “I am a caricature of myself, and I like it. It’s like a mask. For me, the Venice Carnival lasts the whole year”.
There are moments that make history, moments that remain forever in the imagination of those fortunate enough to see them, to participate in them, and the ability to think about them and turn them into something that has forever and indelibly marked the course of events. Without fear of contradiction, one such moment in the contemporary fashion world is undoubtedly Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2001 show entitled“Voss”.
Let’s start by saying that to call it simply a “show” is extremely reductive, that was something that crossed all kinds of boundaries and was able to amalgamate fashion, art, performance, social denunciation and raising awareness of a topic that is more important and contemporary today than ever before, mental health.
Sublime, enchanting, shocking, powerful, engaging and destabilizing, Alexander McQueen’s SS01 fashion show was all this and more. An almost theatrical portrayal of an extremely complex and still denigrated human condition, that of mental instability and all those mental health-related difficulties that affect a huge segment of the human population at various levels.
One of the most well-known, famous and revolutionary fashion shows of the British designer who passed away at the age of only 40 in 2010, “Voss” is a lofty moment in contemporary fashion history in all respects..
The title of the show is a reference to nature, its beauty and enchantment (Voss is a Norwegian town famous for the wild and wonderful nature in which it is located) and in fact the garments in the collection reflect this very aspect – see the clothes also constructed with natural and animal elements such as shellfish shells and stuffed birds. But there is another one that is much more important and hidden before the eyes of everyone present and beyond: the context and setting of the show.
A large glass catwalk-like box placed in front of the spectators and the many photographers invited to the show and was the nerve center of the entire show.
White tiles like those typical of a psychiatric hospital as well as walls composed of mirrors like those we find in interrogation rooms, used to control what goes on inside without being seen and, as a final element, another glass box but covered with metal to hide the contents.
McQueen’s choice was to drop the audience immediately into a surreal and eerie atmosphere: for more than an hour the audience was left to wait for the show to begin while they could only see themselves reflected on the mirrored walls of the box with only the sound of a very slow and continued heartbeat in the background.
In this way the designer also directly involved the audience, pushing them into a condition of stress and anguish, almost as if they were experiencing a kind of coercion to stay there, sitting and forced to wait. The same coercion of people forced to live trapped in a condition that is very difficult to understand, to share, and that often still leads, in many cases, to marginalization due to repression and superficiality (although things are fortunately changing thanks to normalization and awareness on the issue of mental health).
The models moved as if they were vulnerable and helpless, gripped by fear and anguish, of those who are forcibly locked up not only in physical place but in a place of the soul and mind from which it is difficult to escape.
After the last model on the runway, who walked down the runway in a bodice made of microscope slides painted blood red and a red skirt of ostrich feathers, the lights went out, the music stopped, and the only background noise returned to a slow heartbeat.
Once the lights come back on, the steel-covered box opens and shows its interior: writer Michelle Olley naked, with a respirator, a pair of horns, lying on a chaise longue and surrounded by butterflies, like a post-apocalyptic Venus.
An ending that leaves the viewer open-mouthed and speechless, but at the same time forces the viewer to reflect in an almost overpowering way on one of the most sensitive and relevant aspects of our lives: the treatment, understanding and acceptance of mental disorders at all levels.
The one between Louis Vuitton and Yayoi Kusama represents more than just a collaboration that brings fashion and art together. This 2023 of the French fashion house directed (for the womenswear part) by designer Nicolas Ghesquière began under the banner of color and timeless beauty, but not only.
The idea of the LV x Yayoi Kusama collaboration, was born during the 2020 pandemic and echoes the first joint venture between the iconic Japanese artist and the maison of the LVMH group in 2012: a true dialogue that takes a step further by seeking infinity, representing the obsessive search of Kusama, class of ’29, since she was 10 years old. This quest is expressed artistically through her now characteristic polka dots, colorful and repetitive, which have invaded the entire Vuitton universe dialoguing precisely with the French maison’s monogram.
Bags, jackets, pants, glasses and accessories covered in Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Dots become collectible works of art that, thanks to sharing extremely recognizable and immediate codes (polka dots and monogram), speak to anyone.
The Japanese artist’s quest for infinity is reflected in the campaign dedicated to the LV x Yayoi Kusama collection, whose name is actually Creating Infinity, in a very strong push toward perpetuity, eternity, immortality.
The project has globally involved the brand’s best boutiques and the most important billboards around, such as the robot in the likeness of the artist painting her polka dots in the window of the New York store on Fifth Avenue or the huge 3-D images that camp out towering over everything and everyone in Tokyo, or even the huge installation on the splendid Champs-Elysées building that houses the maison’s beautiful boutique in Paris, covered in the colorful polka dots and a giant Yayoi Kusama painting them directly on the building’s walls.
Of course, Milan was also involved in this project, with the reopening of the former Garage Traversi, closed for 20 years and brought back to life, which Vuitton made its home during the renovation of the historic Palazzo Taverna headquarters. The second floor of the rationalist building designed by architect Giuseppe De Min in the 1930s-the first multi-story garage in Milan-is dedicated to the French fashion house’s special projects, including Creating Infinity itself. The worlds of Kusama and Vuitton merge in an immersion of what is the world of the Japanese artist: her Infinity Dots, black in this case, invade the yellow space, while the Metal Balls reflect the surrounding space in a sort of infinite repetition.
The campaign dedicated to the LV x Yayoi Kusama collection is equally impressive. Shot by photographer Steven Meisel and under the creative direction of Ferdinando Verderi, Vuitton has assembled a series of absolute top models in a feast of color in which play and dream coexist perfectly.
Bella Hadid, Gisele Bundchen, Christy Turlington, Liya Kebede, Senegalese-born model and photographer Malick Bodian, Chinese model Fei Fei Sun, Natalia Vodianova, Dutch model Parker Van Noord, American Karlie Kloss, Dutch model Rivanne Von Rompaey, Chinese He Cong, American supermodel of South Sudanese descent Anoki Yai, and finally, after a period of absence from the scenes, U.S. model and actress Devon Aoki.