“Even fifteen years ago, the fashion houses were still houses. That is the most intimate of terms. Coca-Cola and Buick were brands. But there is such pressure now to brand-build and be global and have this sort of all-encompassing image and aura. That’s very difficult. Some designers use it as an opportunity to push their primary lines. I know that Jack [McCollough] and Lazaro [Hernandez, of Proenza Schouler] feel that way. I just saw Jason Wu at the launch of his Miss Wu collection, and he said that it just really gives him the opportunity to have a division between the two collections. But I do think that the brand building is a major difference. Have Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent been brands for a long time? Yes. Did both of those designers brand? Of course they did. But now you have a kid who has been in business for three seasons talking about his brand. When Alexander McQueen was starting out, he wasn’t the wild child in London talking about his brand—he was talking about his work and his craft and pouring all of that emotion into the clothes. I think it’s important not to lose that.”
With precious little summertime left and that daunting stack of books still awaiting your “summer reading” attention, we’ve compiled this list of ten quick yet delightful online reads that will keep you busy while we spend the holiday weekend in Fashion Week prep mode (i.e., napping, binge-watching obscure documentaries, and multiple visits to the Reed Krakoff store). Until Tuesday, design fans!
♦ Whimsically grim storylines? Check. Dour yet dancerly protagonists? Yup. Eve Bowen examines “A Treasure Trove of Edward Gorey” and lives to tell about it. (New York Review of Books)
♦ Galliera, the Paris Museum of Fashion, is closed for renovation until the fall of 2013. That didn’t stop Lynn Yaeger from paying a visit. (T: The New York Times Style Magazine)
♦ LACMA’s plan to open a show featuring Robert Mapplethorpe’s gay sadomasochistic photographs two weeks before Election Day proves we’ve come a long way—maybe, writes Robin Cembalest. (ARTnews)
♦ Meanwhile, LA cops have declared war on street artists. (LA Weekly)
♦ With his first solo exhibition in 12 years opening next week, Futura gets reflective. (Interview)
♦ Whatever happened to digital art? Claire Bishop discerns the “subterranean presence” of the digital in the analog-loving art world. (Artforum)
♦ “I prefer buying things and figuring out where to put them later than regretting not buying them,” says designer Christian Louboutin. Peek inside his barn-cum-shoe archive, which houses 8,000 pairs and counting. (WSJ. Magazine)
Guzzle some creativity with your coffee by starting the day with CreativeMornings, a free breakfast lecture series for creative types. Founded in 2009 by New York-based designer and blogger Tina Roth Eisenberg, this “TED for the rest of us” takes place monthly in 29 cities around the globe, from Atlanta to Zurich. Throughout June, all CreativeMornings chapters are partnering with the Rhode Island School of Design to host events under a common theme: the intersection of arts and technology. “We’re honored to partner with RISD on this new effort to recognize the vital importance of art and design in the global economy,” says Eisenberg. “I am interested in the magic that happens when arts and technology come together.” Jessica Hische was a crowd-pleaser in Vancouver, and Rick Valicenti recently wowed ‘em in Chicago. Many chapters will convene tomorrow: San Francisco has nabbed Nathan Shedroff, who describes himself as an “Earth-based designer, educator, entrepreneur, author, and air-breather,” while Portland will hear from Nelson Lowry, winner of the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Production Design for his work on Fantastic Mr. Fox. Get the latest information on CreativeMorning around the globe and watch past talks at any time of day here.
Less than a month after Dieter Rams‘ eightieth birthday, Pentagram will hit the big 4-0. (Coincidence? You be the judge.) To celebrate four decades of eye-popping work, Naresh Ramchandani and Tom Edmonds in the London office whipped up “The Forty Story” (below). The film tells the story of a boy born on the day Pentagram opened—June 12, 1972—and how his life has been tracked (and kerned) by four decades of Pentagram design. Here’s to forty more years.
Three cheers for 22 vintage megaphones, which go on the block tomorrow at Wright in Chicago.
You don’t hear much about megaphone collecting. A cruel irony at a time when the world needs a bit of the old-fashioned boosterism that comes from holding a large cone to one’s mouth and yelling “Go Team!” Those that grimace at the sight of foam fingers (vulgar, shoddily made, soundless) won’t want to miss the rare opportunity to acquire an instant collection of megaphones that goes on the block tomorrow at Chicago’s Wright auction house as part of its Living Contemporary sale. Estimated to sell for between $3,000 and $5,000, the lot of 22 vintage bullhorns includes several handsome models designed to cheer on various mid-century squads of Spiders, Indians, and Macon Whoopies (“Georgia’s Finest”). The names of their original owners—Diane, Susan, Joan, Nancy, Lucy—are preserved in an interesting range of typefaces, while a wee brown one reads “Die Schnitzel Bunk Jug Band.” Set for speaking-trumpets? Cheer yourself with a few of the other offerings from tomorrow’s sale: Paco Rabanne space curtains, a delightful dozen of Dorothy Draper chairs, or a set of “Inflammatory Essays” by Jenny Holzer, who we suspect enjoys a good megaphone.
(Photos: Nico Neefs)
Bound for the Milan Furniture Fair yet short on time? Focus on the work of designers named Maarten! That will keep you plenty busy. Start at Ventura Lambrate, where Maarten Baas will have a bunch of new projects on display beginning tomorrow. Among them are spidery clay stools that Louise Bourgeois would have loved, a massive tablecloth woven—in a typeface called “Font of the Loom”—with the names of the inhabitants of Amsterdam (all 780,559 of them), and a still-under-wraps “kinetic object” for Laikingland. Also on view will be his Martin Puryear-esque “Empty Chair,” a 16-foot tall ladder-back seat created for Amnesty International in honor of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.
The other Eindhoven-educated must-see Maarten is Maarten De Ceulaer, who’ll be exhibiting at three locations during the Salone del Mobile. Head to Rossana Orlandi and the Triennale di Milano to be charmed by his “Mutations” series (pictured). “The pieces in this series look like they weren’t made by hands, but have grown to their present form organically,” says the Brussels-based designer. “They might be the result of a mutation in cells, or the result of a chemical or nuclear reaction. Perhaps it’s a virus or bacteria that has grown dramatically out of scale.” In fact, De Ceulaer created the molecularly marvelous seating, a kind of deep-buttoned upholstery run amok, by carefully composing patterns with sections of foam spheres that are then applied to a structure. The final step is coating the entire piece in a rubbery or velvet-like finish. “It is largely impossible to ever recreate such a specific pattern,” he says, “so every piece is completely unique.”
“They communicate fast. And with style and wit,” noted the circa-1965 promotional copy for Howard Miller’s Pronto Posters, designed by the George Nelson & Associates team of Bill Cannan, Lance Wyman, and Irving Harper. Screenprinted onto sturdy masonite(“treated so as to stay new-looking and be used and re-used for years”), the set of 24 placards tackled a range of freshly minted workplace safety regulations and best practices, from the strategically bandaged figures of “Wear Your Helmet” and “Use Your Safety Guards” to pseudocharred “Flammable” and “Think,” in which our magenta man has forgotten his pants. An original trio of Pronto Posters (pictured) is among a stellar line-up of Nelsonian lots—don’t even get us started on the 1954-55 Carousel Weather Vane (so Crying of Lot 49!)—that will go on the block at Wright’s Modern Design sale on March 29. “They add flair and humor to the surroundings, improve morale, reduce accidents, and aid efficiency,” promised Miller. At an estimated price of $1,500 to $2,000 for the set of three, how you can afford not to buy them?
Perhaps it’s the proliferation of crystal-clear HD televisions, the ascendance of 2012 Colors of the Year Tangerine Tango (Pantone’s pick) and Terracotta Rose (the ruddier hue favored by AkzoNobel), or simply a sign of the coming apocalypse, but companies of all kinds are suddenly enamored with the same vibrant pitchman: Roy G. Biv. Fresh from the “full spectrum”-themed TED Conference, we can’t help but notice that it’s color, color, everywhere on TV commercials, whether they’re touting pricey accessories, cheap n’ cheerful throw pillows, or the newest services of a big-box retailer. In these three rainbow-rific spots, color gets downright aggressive: running amok as a boldly costumed Parkour troupe for Target (“Color Changes Everything”), as “Sans Cans” paint flowing freely in the streets for Lowe’s, and slapping unassuming headphone-wearers upside the head for Beats by Dr. Dre. The take-home message: resistance is futile, color is coming for you, probably in the form of a limber European gentleman dressed in head-to-toe cyan.
(Photo: Bill Simone)
Never underestimate the power of license plates (as Cosmo Kramer once reminded us). They did the trick for the Society of Design (SOD). When the Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based nonprofit wanted an effective and memorable way to invite letterer, illustrator, designer, and Daily Drop Captain Jessica Hische to be a part of its 2012-13 speaker series, they looked no further than the Department of Transportation. SOD members researched the state’s custom license plate program (eight characters max, including one space), convinced 34 people to change their vehicle registrations, and mapped out a multi-plate message to Hische, a Pennslyvania native who is now based in San Francisco. After filing and re-filing oodles of paperwork over the course of several weeks, they finally had their invitation, in the form of 27 freshly pressed license plates.
The next step was to take the charming analog project to the digital realm. A website was created (invitinghische.com), and called to the attention of Hische via Twitter. “Pennsylvania misses you tremendously,” tweeted SOD to the designer. “Please come home.” Her response was immediate, heartfelt, and, fortunately for those who are now driving around with the plates on their vehicles, in the affirmative. “I am crying at my desk. I’ve never been so touched by a group of people I don’t even know!” Hische tweeted in response. “And the answer of course is YES! I will marry you! I mean come to Pennsylvania.” And she’s bringing presents. Each of the SODers involved with the project will receive a delightful drawing: Hische’s hand-lettered version of his or her name.
The design whizzes over at C&G Partners have many talents, but among the most mind-blowing is their ability to transform grayish-yellowish mountains of historical documents and artifacts into visually stunning, user-friendly exhibits and displays. Feast your eyes (and your web browser) on their latest archival triumph: a website for The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta. A C&G team led by partner Maya Kopytman (working in collaboration with Chicago-based web development firm Palantir) created a site that builds on the graphic identity established for a related traveling exhibition that the firm completed last year. At the core of the site, which launched yesterday, is a new digital archive for The King Center Imaging Project, a JPMorgan Chase & Co.-backed initiative to “bring the works and papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. to a digital generation.” Browse the archive to pore over King’s handwritten notecards and telegrams or zoom in on a Flip Schulke photo of MLK enjoying lunch with his family in 1964, under the watchful gaze of Ghandi, whose image hangs on a wall above them. Next up: more meticulously scanned and eminently searchable letters, speeches, drafts, notes, and photos. The King Center Imaging Project digital archive will eventually contain about a million documents.