Mr Blasberg
7:25 am

FIVE IS ALIVE! BAZ LUHRMANN’S NEW CHANEL OPUS, STARRING GISELE

15/10/2014, Fast + Louche
YouTube Preview Image

 

Want to feel old? Baz Luhrmann’s first Chanel No 5 video, the one starring a fresh Nicole fluttering around Paris in pink marabou feathers and ending up in the arms of Rodrigo Santoro, came out more than a decade ago. Well, Baz is back, and instead of Nicole he brought Gisele with him. His updated film, which you can watch above and runs a little over three minutes, is very Luhrmann-esqure. There’s a bit of Moulin Rouge (cabaret set, dramatic musical number) and a pinch of ‘The Great Gatsby’ too (glitz, glamour and a gorgeous aerial shot of a convertible drive into Manhattan), but with some modern muse elements thrown in. Here, Gisele is not just a gorgeous girl who’s the lust interest of a gorgeous man, but she’s also a working mother. Who knows how to surf like a goddess and has invested in some serious beachfront real estate.

Chanel hosted a party for Baz this week in New York. It being Chanel and it being Baz, though, this was no minor production. They built a sunken cabaret theater in the middle of Chelsea (conveniently enough, two blocks from my apartment), complete with velvet banquets, a stage and every handsome cater waiter in New York City. Baz introduced the film in what was definitely an unscripted but super charming stand up routine in which he heckled his wife and lauded Gisele. Then, he left the glitzed up posse to their own devices. Which for me meant a bad kids table in the corner that meant repeatedly asking waiters for more caviar and tequila, and sneaking cigarettes when they weren’t looking. (What? It’s French company.) I was sat between my New York wifey, Lauren Santo Domingo, and my St Louis sister, Karlie Kloss, and what was a revolving table of our bonkers pals. Lily Allen went behind the bar to make us drinks when the aforementioned handsome wait staff were bogged down. We teased Vladimir for being so eligible and his sister Julia for being the hottest Momma at the table (and lets say there was stiff competition). Poppy was just being Poppy. We dismantled the table decorations and flower bombed other tables. And ultimately the night ended up with us swinging Baz and his wife around until the wee hours.

PS. Mom, if you’re reading this, I promise I was just holding that cigarette for someone else.

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5:20 am

THE SHOWS MUST GO ON: A DIARY FROM PARIS FASHION WEEK

03/10/2014, Fast + Louche

Maybe it’s Global Warming, but we’re sitting here in October and I’m convinced it’s still summer time. Or maybe in addition to the fact that I haven’t unpacked my fur coats yet, a sense of fun and frivolity has trickled well past August. I had a wonderful time this season in Paris. The week started off with our Gagosian show of Peter Lindbergh’s photographs at the gallery on the rue de Ponthieu. Peter had organized a dinner the night before the opening, and the ladies came out in full force: Amber Valetta, Charlotte Rampling, Diane von Furstenberg. Peter has made a career out of making women look – and feel beautiful – and the show is a testament to his influence not just in the world of photography but also how we interpret beauty. (If you do anything today, Google his pictures for Harper’s Bazaar of Amber Valetta as a fallen angel in New York. They’re magical.) The rest of the week was predictably fashionable: Givenchy’s show was one of my favorites, well worth celebrating with Riccardo Tisci and the girls at an empty bar afterwards. We danced till we were sore and as we left had the bright idea to climb a giant horse lamp and pose for a group shot. Karl Lagefeld posed a picket for his Chanel show, which was, as always with him, on trend. (Because, speaking of Global Warming and pickets, did you see my previous blog post on my weekend of political activity?) Another highlight of the week was the convergence of the art world and the fashion industry with the techies: Marc Newson hosted a dinner at Azzedine Alaia’s house for Jony Ive to celebrate the launch of the AppleWatch. This marks the third time I’ve seen this fancy wrist ornament, so I’m starting to feel like I own the thing already. This dinner was fun: Pat McGrath and Cara Delevingne kept on moving our table to combine with others nearby until, by the end of the night when Rossy de Palma and Blanca Li took the stage with Salma Hayek, we had morphed into this disfigured mega table. The bottles of vodka Marc had brought with him helped things. The week ended for me with a DJ set by – get this – Paris Hilton. Paris had played at Carine Roitfeld’s party earlier in the week, but I was late and I missed it. So, the least I could do was stuff myself in a nightclub on my last night in Paris. Left Paris with a bang, and a fist pump.

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10:32 pm

A VERY POLITICAL WEEKEND: A PARADE, A GENDER EQUALITY CONFERENCE AND A MARCH

21/09/2014, Fast + Louche

I must admit on Friday, when I looked at my weekend schedule, it did look like a daunting weekend: Starting on Saturday morning with the 57th Annual German-American parade down Fifth Avenue, then a conference at the United Nations on global gender equality, and then a Sunday morning march to raise awareness on Global Warming and the long list of other assaults humanity has placed on the country. But then, what’s the point of living in New York if you’re not participating in all the things that this town has to offer? Isn’t the point of being in the middle of action is to get some actin?

Anyway, the parade was legitimately unexpected. I was headed on a stroll through Central Park and I suddenly found myself surrounded by men in lederhosen. (Or was it my German ancestors steering me to the mother ship?) But who doesn’t love a few vintage Volkswagen’s, like my mom owned in the 60’s?

The trip to the United Nations was a different affair: My friend Emma Watson, the actress and newly minted activist, had told me about her participation with the ‘He For She’ campaign awhile back. What an impressive young woman she has become. At the conference, which was designed to get men more involved in the gender equality movement, Emma made a speech that received a standing ovation – from the United Nations assembly! Woop, woop, go Watson! (You can read Emma’s moving speech HERE, and please do check out the campaign HERE. If you’re a boy, be sure to sign the #heforshe Commitment. I did!)

And then on Sunday, there was the People Climate March, an international effort to raise awareness on environmental issues. A little fun fact: I was born on Earth Day, April 22nd. So I’m a sucker for an environmental cause, and when all my pals had (surprisingly successfully) organized for us to join the march on Central Park West, I was happy to sign up too. There was a great deal of flak about the march, which wasn’t entirely unfounded: Many of my fellow marchers looked like they thought they were headed to Burning Man, not a discussion on climate control, and for an environmental cause there was an awful lot of flyers being passed out. But there is no denying that climate change has become perhaps the biggest issue facing our – and future – generations. So instead of people moaning and leaving nasty comments on my Instagram, we need to look into ways to reduce our harmful effects on the environment. Which I hope this march did in some small way.

 

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5:12 am

A NEW KIND OF NEW YORK FASHION WEEK

12/09/2014, Fast + Louche

It’s hard to believe that we’re already back in the swing of things, welcoming another month of fashion shows. It seems like only yesterday I was in the middle of the Nevada desert for Burning Man. (Or maybe it’s just that the hangover from that experience has only now worn off.) Yet, there I was in the early days of September, figuring out how to be in a dozen different places at the same time. Adding to the already grueling schedule of fashion week this season were two non-fashion sanctioned events. First, on the even of the collections, Rachel Feinstein organized a performance festival in Madison Square Garden. Rachel, one of the most important contemporary artists working today, had erected three site specific public works in the park, and in the closing days of the exhibition was inspired to host an evening of culture and delight. She didn’t disappoint. It was a balmy, beautiful with ballet performers, Jarvis Cocker, Lil Buck and Kalup Linzy, my favorite performance artist. (For more from Rachel on the works in the park, read an interview I did for Gagosian’s NOW here.) My other fashion week diversion this season involved a cross country flight and a morning in Cupertino, California, that could only be described as a religious experience. It was the Apple experience, the launch of the new iPhone 6 and the AppleWatch. It was like going to geek church. The entire room was packed, on the edge of their seats, hanging on every one of Tim Cook’s words. Not that it was all geeks: Proving Apple is still on the cuff of cutting edge technology and design, cultural influencers like Gwen Stefani, Chris Martin, Dr Dre, Will.i.Am and Puff Daddy were all piled into the front row and just as intrigued. In the end, these diversions only reinforced how inspiring fashion week is for me and for the rest of the creative communities. I sometimes find myself wondering what the relevance of fashion week still is, why every six months the industry spends million of dollars on 14 minute shows. And then I realize that these shows are like the laboratories of ideas, one of the many rituals we have as a creative community to influence each other. (Did I tell you Miley Cyrus is an artist now? Scroll down.) The interplay between art, technology and fashion is now to intrinsically linked that it felt right to seamless move between the worlds, from fashion show to art opening to Apple launch. Though, I will say this: Fashion people know are much better when it comes to open bars and goody bags. And that, after all, has always been my favorite part of fashion week.

 

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6:03 pm

WHERE THE DUST BLOWS AND NO ONE KNOWS: BURNING MAN

02/09/2014, Fast + Louche

We’ve all heard the saying that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But no one believes that. What happens in Vegas ends up on security footage to be used against you in a court of law. But, where such a saying could actually apply is Burning Man, an outdoor festival of outward artistic expression that erects in the Nevada desert every summer with the single law that all forms of self expression are legal. People pitch tents and create fantastical artworks — and then after a few days of dancing and merrymaking, burn it all down and pack everything up, leaving only a trace of memories in the white sandy dusts. This was my first time at Burning Man, but immediately I felt it was a sacred place. A place where imaginations run wild and fantasies come true.

 

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8:41 pm

MISSOURI MEMORIES: MILEY CYRUS, LILY ALLEN AND A FEW DAYS ON THE LAKE

14/08/2014, Fast + Louche

Heaven knows I don’t need a reason to go home. This blog has as many pictures of Karlie Kloss at a European fashion week as it does on the Blasberg family farm in Hillsboro, Missouri. (In fact, whenever I need a little peek of life back on the farm, I look at the Polaroids that she took at my 30th birthday. Check them out.) So it was a non-issue when my friend Lily Allen told me that she was opening for Miley Cyrus in St Louis. Yea, I’ll be there.

And so it began. I arrived in my hometown after a tranquil, peaceful few days in Aspen with some friends. In Aspen, the air was crisp and we went mountain biking at the break of dawn and hiked at dusk. (Want to see me in Spandex? Check out my Instagram. But you’ve been warned: I am actually wearing Spandex.) So it was a with a clear head that I turned up in St Louis. Well, it got messy immediately! What? I had to show Lily a good time. We met in the Grove on Manchester, kicked back a few drinks, commandeered a designated driver (safety first, kids) and ended up at a dance club in East St. Louis. Many hours later, I got home just about when my pals in Aspen were getting ready for their morning ride. On a wee bit of sleep I woke up, I fed the chickens (no, really, scroll down for images) and then I met my parents for lunch. That afternoon, my mother made me mow the lawn — never too old for chores in the Blasberg family, apparently — and then my friends Lauren and Erin joined Lily at the Scottrade Center for her performance with Miley. I hadn’t yet seen Miley’s show, so I made the mistake of inviting my ‘rents too. Although we were watching from backstage, I did wonder what was going through my parents’ head out in the audience when Miley came out in dollar bill unitard with a mouth-full of cuss words and riding a giant hot dog. (Me? I loved it.) An extra special thanks to Miley for tossing me a plush toy on stage – where did she get it? She doesn’t know — which now holds a place of honor on my parents’ banister.

What else did Lily and I do? She checked out the University City Loop and did some thrift shopping (her favorite purchase was a child’s ice skating costume, duh) and bought an awful lot of novelty socks from the hemp store. She tried toasted ravioli, which is a St Louis delicacy (not sure why they’re called that because they’re just fried ravioli, nothing toasted about ‘em), Imo’s pizza (my favorite) and I hauled her to Ted Drewe’s, which is the best frozen custard in the entire world. And since you’re never too old to learn new things, she introduced me to Seoul Taco, which was all sorts of cheesy and delicious. And played with Monster, my long lost puppy.

When Lily and Miley left, things resumed to my Missouri normal. I visited my Uncle Fred and Aunt Tina in Hillsboro, and brought my friend Lauren’s little girls with me because I know they like to pick wild flowers. We drove to the Lake of the Ozarks, so I could blow the dust of my water skis and eat my beloved sweet potato fries at the offensively named Big Dick’s Halfway Inn. (Calm down! It’s a small motel that was started by a fat guy called Richard. Promise.) I made a video of my 60-something-year-old aunt doing a baton twirling routine on her back lawn (GO TO MY INSTAGRAM IMMEDIATELY, IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THIS!). My dad showed off some of his news toys: He got a four-door Wrangler, which only irks me because he knows it’s always been my dream car; and a Harley Trike, which is essentially a children’s tricycle on steroids.

On a more somber note, I left St Louis in a conflicted state. Ferguson, MO, is a town on the north side of the city, and what has happened there has been tough to watch. (Google it if you don’t know.) St Louis is spread out, so my hometown community has been spared from the riots and looting in Ferguson. But to see a place that you love deal with so many issues — political, social, even the simple devastating act of a heartbroken family — is tough. Local politics is not my bag. I don’t want to get on a soap box here and be one of these annoying people who think they know how to fix every problem. (Anyone else tired of seeing those videos and talking heads? Sheesh.) But I will say is that I pray and I hope that the conflicts and anger that are plaguing the place I come from come to peaceful resolution soon. St Louis is a special place. Trust me.

 

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9:12 am

CELEBRATING FOUR DECADES OF RICCARDO TISCI!

04/08/2014, Fast + Louche

I first met Riccardo Tisci, Givenchy’s artistic director, the same way many other people in the fashion community did: Through his longtime friend, MariaCarla Boscono. (MariaCarla and I have been friends since I was in college, when I lived in the dorms and she lived in Williamsburg. But that’s another story for another time.) MariaCarla and Riccardo are like siblings for the same Italian family. They tease each other, they love each other, they speak so quickly in so many languages that the only person that can understand them is each other. MariaCarla was a champion of his when he was a struggling designer  of his own namesake collection, and was always an ardent supporter of his talent. Turns out that she had good instinct: When Riccardo took over the house of Givenchy in 2005, he revitalized the fashion house from a sleepy French brand into an international powerhouse. (It wasn’t easy at first, as he readily admits. His early reviews weren’t the best. But today he is one of the most influential designers working in fashion.) Which is all to say that he’s done a lot in his first four decades on this planet. We celebrated his 40th birthday this weekend on the Spanish island of Ibiza. Like his designs, the party was a contradiction: It was rough but still romantic, it was (very) late but still light. Titans of film, fashion and art all turned out for his party, as did his mother, his eight sisters, friends from his childhood, and of course a couple of supermodels. We’re talking about you, Kate and Naomi. It was a special night — and morning — and I wish him another four decades of fun, fashion and wonder.

 

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8:38 am

From Gagosian’s NOW: A Q+A with Rachel Feinstein on her new public works, midlife crises and the time the dog ate her art work

04/08/2014, From Elsewhere

So, what am I working on NOW? Happy you asked. Earlier this year, I started collaborating with the Gagosian on original texts about our artists, shows and upcoming exhibitions. This week, we released one of my favorite interviews yet: Rachel Feinstein. The Miami-born artist has played muse to many (including her husband, painter John Currin; and the designer, Marc Jacobs, for whom she has both designed fashion show sets and appeared in his campaign), and it’s clear in this interview why.

feinstein folly

A pirate’s ship zooming through the sky. A cartoon house balancing precariously on the edge of a cliff. A squat rococo hut. These three structures by Rachel Feinstein, together titled Folly, debuted this month in New York City’s Madison Square Park. 

Derek Blasberg: I looked up the word “folly” in the dictionary and it gave me five definitions: the state of being foolish, an absurdity, a costly undertaking, a theatrical review, and a whimsical structure built as a conversation piece. Which definition do you think best sums up your new works?

Rachel Feinstein: All of them! I like all of those things. The word “absurd” is good because, for me, a folly doesn’t serve any real purpose. It’s not as though someone is going to live in these houses, or that this ship will go into water. All art is basically absurd, in that its only purpose is to enrich life and to give pleasure—not to do practical things like feed or clothe. The concept of Folly has its origins in mania and excess, in the times when kings and queens built ornate fantasy structures, like Egyptian pyramids or Roman temples, which were intended primarily as decorative objects.

DB: Do you believe that modern society retains those elements of folly?

RF: When I look at those fantastical structures I sometimes wonder, “Are we at that point today?” That’s what I liked about having these baroque, rococo sculptures in Madison Square Park. They add whimsical pleasure to the city. There aren’t a lot of true pleasures left in New York. This town is about capitalism, making money, pushing oneself, striving for the next challenge. But in Madison Square Park, I see people enjoying life and being happy. I wanted to do something that would make people smile. Sure, there are deeper meanings to my work and to my inspirations, and if people see them that’s great. If my work causes people to reflect on childhood or on mortality, that’s wonderful. But if they just want to look at something pretty while they’re eating lunch, that’s cool too.

DB: The baroque aesthetic has been a longtime influence for you.

RF: It really began in 2000, when I took a trip through Bavaria, Germany, and I saw the real thing for the first time, as opposed to the Florida version of baroque that I saw when I was growing up. Let me tell you, Liberace and America’s version of rococo is totally not what it’s about. It’s not gold yucky “elegance.” Baroque is meant to show you so much decadence that it reveals the presence of death at every turn. It’s frightening. The highest and most frightening forms of rococo and baroque still exist in palaces and hunting lodges around Bavaria.

DB: Like King Ludwig’s palace, which I remember so well because it was the basis of the Disneyland castle.

RF: Yes, but King Ludwig’s palace was in itself a Disney version of real Baroque palaces like the Nymphenburg Palace. Growing up in Florida, I was familiar with the façade. I saw Disneyworld as a magical and amazing place from far away, but I also saw what it looked like up close, and I saw what was behind the façade. I remember thinking, at a young age, “This is all bullshit. This is all fake, and I don’t believe it.” You see that in my work too, there’s a front and back, and that’s purposeful. When I was in college, I was obsessed with duality in fairy tales, and how good and evil exist in opposition, like old and young; the yin and yang of life. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about Carl Jung. He said that when you hit middle age—which is where I am, and I’m freaking out about it—you have to rebirth the second half of your life, and live in the opposite sex to that in which you lived for the first half.

DB: Does that mean you would live the rest of your life as a man?

RF: It’s interesting. In my home life, I am very girly, and my husband [the painter John Currin] is very masculine. But in both of our professional lives, the roles are different: I’m a sculptor, which is more masculine, and I use tools and saws and fiberglass resins. John is more feminine; he uses soft brushes and pretty paints. So, according to Jung, I have to become more masculine at home and then more feminine at work. He says that in order to continue life and not look back, a person has to change how they live by moving forward differently into the second half of your life. Which makes sense.

DB: Do you think there’s something feminine about the follies?

RF: Maybe. The concept did come from doing a set for a women’s fashion show. In 2012, I did the set for a Marc Jacobs show. He called out of the blue and asked if I wanted to do it, but said I only had two weeks. So, I just started googling things I liked. Since I was supposed to make a set, I researched Picasso’s work for the Ballets Russes. Dalí did some sets too, so I found pictures of those. At the time I was also working on a show for the Gagosian in Rome, and the inspiration for that was Roman ruins. Marc had said, “Do whatever you want, I just don’t want fairy tales.” He wanted sad and melancholy. No princesses. Then, that’s where Folly began. I had been drawing objects, cutting the drawing up, and then gluing it back together. In creating the work, I could realize these small paper objects as large metal structures for the first time.

DB: Is creating the miniatures your favorite part of the process?

RF: The history of miniatures is interesting. “Follies” began when certain kings and queens would commission renowned architects to make incredible dollhouses. It happened to coincide with the crumbling of the aristocratic world. For example, Marie Antoinette would relax by becoming a shepherdess in Petit Trianon. I think people can escape into miniatures. I’m a bit like that. Whenever things start to get funky in my life, I’m like, “I’ll just sit here and make a little house out of white paper.”

DB: Were you like that as a child?

RF: Every artist is influenced by their childhood, whether they’re embracing it or denying it. Everything comes from that formative period. To be honest, I always think that artists have no new ideas after they enter adulthood, and they spend the rest of their lives making what they subconsciously discovered as a child. When I was little, I would sit in a little closet in my parents’ house in Miami building things. I was always a sculptor, always using cardboard and hot glue, and being messy and cutting things. On the other hand, John always loved paint and the sensuality of painting. Your personality is really formed in your childhood. In fact, that reminds me, I won an award when I was ten for making a sculpture out of tennis shoes. I had found all these old ’70s sneakers and I arranged them into this big tower, and my school entered it into a statewide competition at a youth fair. I won first prize. It was a real honor and it was going to get sent to the national competition, which was in Washington, D.C., and the winner would get to meet the president, Ronald Reagan at the time. So, I took it home and put it by the door—and my dog ate it! Devastating. I didn’t have time to make a new one and I never entered the contest.

DB: And you never got meet Reagan?

RF: No. Unfortunately!

DB: What drew you to Madison Square Park? I like the idea of grandeur and imagination living in a small green patch in a concrete jungle.

RF: John has a studio near there, and after I was asked by the Madison Square Park Conservancy to come up with a proposal I would sit there and just watch people. I need to live with something for a while to get the best ideas. When I saw an aerial map of the park, I was inspired. All of the paths are curved, there are no straight paths in the park. They look so whimsical, like some rococo pattern that reminded me of the porcelain table setting from an eighteenth-century wedding.

DB: Were there any hurdles in the realization?

RF: Yes, with a public work you have to work with engineers, and there are rules and regulations about sharp edges and low ceilings. Could people hurt themselves? Is this safe? I thought a lot about Alexander Calder because he was an engineer and a sculptor, and he didn’t have to put up with people telling him what and how to do things. He’s the genius of geniuses when it comes to public art and keeping the work within his own vernacular. He did it all. He even did the welding himself.

DB: I live in Chelsea, and my office is on the Upper East Side, which means I have to walk through Madison Square Park to get to the subway. I want to tell you that these sculptures have aesthetically enriched this journey.

RF: I love standing in the park and listening to what people say about them, and what they see in them. That’s the best thing in the world and it makes being an artist the best thing in the world. I would never want to be a celebrity. No way. When your work can speak for you, when you can be a silent and anonymous person on the street while something you created provokes a response from a compete stranger? There’s nothing as good as that.

DB: So, you go to the park and do a little eavesdropping.

RF: Yes, and I love it. I especially like it because it’s not a typical art gallery crowd. I’ve heard construction workers review them, and I just love when kids say “Look, it’s a pirate ship!” or they’ll run over and try and turn the wheel in the little house. That’s the cool stuff that I was hoping for. I also want to figure out how to stage live performances within the sculptures. I’m not a performance artist and that’s not what I do, but wouldn’t it be great if there could be a sort of open mike night, where people come and perform, inspired by the piece? My kids call Rococo Hut the Puppet House, so wouldn’t it be great to do a puppet show in there?

DB: Would you want it to be a children’s show, or a show of all kinds of artists? For example, could you imagine incorporating performance work from Kembra Pfahler or Marina Abramovic?

RF: I want it all, I want the crazy naked people and maybe some balloon makers. Animal party costumes? Sure, why not?

DB: When I look at your work, I sometimes think of this stupid art joke: “If it’s not baroque, don’t fix it.”

RF: That’s a good one. That reminds me of Ingmar Bergman’s movie Fanny and Alexander (1982), which John and I always talk about. The movie is about a brother and a sister who live in a beautiful gold, chintzy, ridiculously baroque house, where the fire is always roaring and a governess with an enormous bosom takes care of the children. The father dies unexpectedly of a stroke, and the mother is afraid of being alone, so she marries the local bishop and moves the family to his austere home, where he lives with his whole family. The kids are freaked out and no one gives them any love, and the whole mood of their new house and their new life is very minimal and cold. John and I joke that that’s how we feel in the art world. There is so much minimalism and frigidity, and then there’s us. We’re the opposite.

DB: So, a better bad joke for you is: “I’d rather be baroque than rich.”

RF: But the real baroque. Not the Liberace baroque. Give me the Nymphenburg Palace and I’d feel pretty good.

Rachel Feinstein’s Folly, which includes the pieces Flying ShipRococo Hut, and Cliff House is on view daily until September 7, 2014, in Madison Square Park at 23rd Street and Broadway.

For more from NOW, go to www.gagosian.com/NOW

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1:02 pm

WET, WILD AND UTTERLY INSPIRED: A WEEK OF COUTURE SHOWS AND ART OPENINGS IN PARIS

15/07/2014, Fast + Louche

Paris hosted the of haute couture shows again last week. And, as in seasons before, the holes left by the various couture labels whose high fashion business has dwindled in these less-than-stellar economic times have been filled by a long list of other chic and fabulous happenings. Like what? Miu Miu presented their resort collection (one of my favorite of the season, very mod, very girly, lots of navy blue) and then hosted a lavish dinner and private Jack White concert. Nearly all of my girlfriends hosted parties for their various fashionable enterprises: Eugenie Niarchos had a cocktail party for her line, Venyx; Noor Fares had a party for her eponymous jewelry collection; Bianca Brandolini and Alexia Niedzielski collaborated on a bikini collection. French Vogue hosted a dinner and dance party – Cecile Cassel lead the charge, and was fabulous – that may well become Paris’ version of the Met ball.

Of course, there were the shows too. Dior’s show was held in a specially constructed bubble of walls made of white orchids (Diorchids, we wondered?) and started with elegant, voluminous gowns before moving onto decadent fur coats and long, minimalistic evening jackets. I won’t soon forget Giambattista Valli’s show, especially the long, oversized evening dresses at the end. And this was one of my favorite Chanel shows in recent years. In a preview with Karl Lagerfeld, he showed that the materials were actually a specially created form of concrete embroidery. Only he can combine concrete and couture, and finish the show with a pregnant bride that looks as chic as ever.

Not that anyone needed an excuse to come to Paris in the summer, but the girls were out this season. I’ll never forget Jennifer Lopez marching into the Versace show in her all-white one-legged evening dress. Or, should I say glowing in? Emma Watson looked fabulous at her couture appearances, mixing ladylike lace at the Valentino show with androgynous tailoring when she joined us at the Givenchy table for the French Vogue party. I fell hard for Dakota Johnson too, the future star of the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, who was in town for the Chanel show. (So was Jared Leto, hubba hubba.) Dakota was staying at an apartment near me, and the two of us bonded with our mutual buddy Emily Ward over the eating and drinking habits of the locals. But perhaps the most unexpectedly wonderful mashup was me, Alexa Chung and Mos Def, tablemates at the Prada dinner. Thanks, Miuccia!

Another cultural delight is visitin the art shows in Paris. The Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit at the Grand Palais was astounding. It closed the week we were there, and the art gods were smiling on me that I managed to see it in its final days. As I paced the galleries, I thought how impressive it was that he managed to find pieces of heaven in what may have looked like hell to everyone else. The Gagosian’s Le Bourget venue, which is just outside Paris, has a fabulous show called ‘An American in Paris’ on, the centerpiece of which is Jeff Koons’ Balloon Swan (Red), which my friends stared at for a few hours wondering if it was playful or sexually graphic.

But my favorite part of couture week was doing what I love to do in Paris: Being a tourist. Like going on the ferris wheels and the swings at the carnival in the Tuilleries, strolling the streets of Paris, shopping the soldes, drinking hot chocolate at Cafe Flore, and sweating out the hot chocolate while dancing at tiny, most likely unsafe dance halls. It’s my favorite city and my favorite week of the year.
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Captions, from top: A stroll in the Tuilleries; Karlie Kloss at the French Vogue dinner; me and Jared Leto at the Chanel show; looks at the Dior show; Grace Coddington and Marc Jacobs at the Miu Miu show; me with Mos Def and Alexa Chung at the Miu Miu party; even the puddles in Paris are chic; fanning out with Emily and Dakota at Le Montana; Jennifer Lopez making her grand entrance; Kendall Jenner, Harry and Peter Brant, Jamie Bochert, Kim Kardashian and myself at the French Vogue party; Joan Smalls and Anja Rubik; Jourdan Dunne on the Versace runway; Daria and me at Kaspia; Alice Dellal and Poppy Delevingne at the Chanel show; the view from the Grand Palais on a summer’s day; Jean Paul Goude and Glenda Bailey at the JPG show; the scene at French Vogue’s dinner; me, Joan and Karlie posing off; Miles and Lily at Silencio; the Brant boys; Jamie at the Givenchy table; Cecile Cassel killing it; Vanessa Traina and Alexander Wang; Natasha Poly giving me a cold shoulder and a sexy back; Jeff Koons’ Balloon Swan (Red) at the Gagosian Gallery in Le Bourget; a detail of the Koons piece; a wall of portraits by Robert Mapplethorpe at the Grand Palais; Mapplethorpe’s self portrait; having English breakfast tea on a rainy Paris afternoon; Bianca and Carine at the Miu Miu party; Dior’s wall of white orchids; Douglas Booth at the Prada party; Isla Fischer and Sunrise Ruffalo; Jack White performing; Gemma Atherton; Kristina O’Neill at Kaspia; Daria and Kristina having a laugh in the Marais; backstage at Giambattista Valli; Franca Sozzani with Eugenie; Noor Fares; Kendall Jenner and Marjorie Gubelmann at the Chanel show; Jamie and her friend Sofia; Uma Thurman and Miuccia Prada; exiting from the Dior show; an unexpected air show at Le Bourget; Langley Fox, Daria Strokous and Leigh Lezark at Silencio; fun at the fair; wishing Patti Wilson a happy birthday; a night with the boys, Paul, Alessandro, Riccaro, Dani, Kevin and Seb; me and Paul Aziz on the swings; me and Miuccia Prada; Caroline and Dakota

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4:10 am

EILEEN FORD CHANGED FASHION WITH A STEELY RESERVE AND A HEART OF GOLD

11/07/2014, From Elsewhere

It was a somber finale here at the haute couture shows in Paris. As I was recovering from four days of fabulous fashion and fetes, word came from Morristown, New Jersey, that Eileen Ford, the founder of Ford models, had passed away at the age of 92. To say that Ms. Ford, with her husband Jerry, changed the face of fashion is an understatement. Their modeling agency, Ford, was founded in the 1940s and revolutionizing the industry. Cosmetics contracts, cancelation fees, the word supermodel: The Fords did it all. Six years ago, I met with Eileen and Jerry at the University Club in Manhattan for a story in V magazine. (Jerry passed away in 2008.) By then, she could have passed as anyone’s sweet, sassy grannie. But I could still see the steely reserve that made her an icon in the industry behind the twinkle in her eye. Here is that story. 

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Time magazine once said that Eileen Ford, the iron-fisted matron of the modern modeling agency, ‘was part pit bull, part den mother – and all business.’ Today, at a spritely 86-years-old, the founder of Ford likes to think of herself more maternal than canine (“I don’t like pitbulls anyway,” she says when reminded of the quote. “Couldn’t I have been a bijon with a bite?”). Delicately sat on a couch in Manhattan’s University Club – which she prefers as it’s, “across the street from my hair dresser, down the street from Escada and around the corner from Michael’s” – Mrs. Ford is perfectly coiffed and buttoned up in grey slacks and a navy cardigan with white knit piping; always within arm’s length is Jerry Ford, her husband of nearly 7 decades, business partner, protector and person she calls “the other half of my life.” These two people, both now frail yet fervent, changed the face of fashion. Literally. This industry has a habit of lauding its major players – so and so redirected fashion with a new cut or a fancy coat – but Jerry and Eileen Ford completely overhauled their industry, and the porcelain and lean features from which fashion hangs. Cancelation fees, collecting payment from the client and the model, weather permits fees and fitting fees – all of these were Ford initiatives. “Girls used to have to try on endless dressing for nothing,” Ford says in horror. The way Ford treated her models blurred the line between mother and manager. She redefined what it was to be an agent. As Time magazine put it, “She takes sugar and space and everything nice, and turns it into cold hard cash.”

DB: I’m told you modeled as a young woman, Mrs. Ford.

EF: Yes, for one month of the summer, for two years, when I was in college.

DB: I imagine its changed since then.

EF: Yes, today a model is paid. A lot! I got $5 an hour, which my father thought was a terrible sum of money for a girl, outside of being naughty. We carried hatboxes with our makeup and things. One was so proud to have a hatbox with an agency’s name on it.

DB: How did you get switch to the booking side? I read it started as a hobby for two girlfriends of yours.

EF: It was no hobby – it was a full time job. I needed money! Jerry was away in the Navy during the war, and when he came home he could go on a football scholarship to Notre Dame or play professional football for the Los Angeles Rams. However, I upset all those plans by getting pregnant. The agencies then were ridiculous, just terrible. No one got to the right place at the right time, and if you asked for a blonde you were sure to get a brunette. If going to college did one thing for me it got me organized. We had no money – he was 20 when we got married, and we were living with my mother and father.  So I started booking two models, each paying me $65 a month. It was 1946, so that was a sum of money. And then more models asked to come on board. Jerry, who had never booked in his life, started when I was pregnant. In those days you were supposed to stay in the hospital for 10 days after you have a child, but I was kicked out after five cause I tied up the nurses’ switch board booking girls from bed.

DB: Did you have any idea you would spend the rest of your life doing that?

EF: How could you? When you’re young you never look at the future. But everyone was unhappy with their agencies, so everyone came to us. We’d sit in the garden of my father’s business, at Lexington and 29th Street, with two phones. Daddy finally got fed up with us tying up his lines too, so we found our own offices on 2nd Avenue. We sold our car to pay the rent.

DB: Ford famously became a family affair. Were the models looking for a den mother?

EF: Sort of. They wanted a manager too. Some of them didn’t like it; like Naomi Campbell, who left us – four times. Christy Brinkley told us recently when she stayed with us she would come down in her pajamas and say she was doing laundry. When she’d get to the kitchen she’d change into her night clothes, put her pajamas in the oven, and know we’d be asleep when she got home. The models ate with us, they stayed with us, I would teach them manners if I needed to. We would go to the Met Museum and lectures, and to the country on the weekends. We were the same age at the beginning, don’t forget. We’d eat together, drink together, stay out all night together. We had a great time – but we’d average 4 hours of sleep a night!

DB: Surely there was at least one wild girl. Was Gia ever with you?

EF: Once, for about four days. Dick Avedon called us; we told him we didn’t want her, but he promised she was totally reformed. The first thing she did was not show to a booking, so I told her not to come back. She told me that she was in a car giving her dogs a ride or something – I have no sense of humor about that sort of thing.

DB: Indeed, you had little patience for misbehavior. You were mom, manager and booker.

EF: And their friend. If a girl found herself in trouble, I helped them, got them into rehab or off whatever they were on. I just found a letter from a model which said she never thanked me for saving her life. She had overdosed, and when I couldn’t get her on the phone I had the superintendent break her door down and shove her into rehab.

DB: Were you an active scouter?

EF: I’m still an active scouter. If I see someone today I’ll speak to them.

DB: You had a theory: “bones and body, body and bones.”

EF: I said that a long time ago. It’s still true, but now I want to amend it to include one other thing: she just has to be born to do it. It’s instinct. Jerry says, “God made models. But he made very few good ones.”

DB: What about personality?

EF: Let me ask you one question about that: Naomi Campbell?

DB: Hey, she definitely has a personality!

EF: She has had a few personalities. She could be a sweet as pie on minute — but you put up with so much more now than I could. I’ve always said we’ve raised a lot of people’s children.

DB: Do you think you defined generations of beauty?

EF: I think I verbalized it. I didn’t make a new look – Christian Dior made a New Look. But I have a good sense of fashion; I could put people together.

DB: Some of your competitors, notably John Casablancas, criticized your tenacity.

EF: Oh, if he said something unkind about me I said a lot more unkind things about him. More than he could think of. It’s such a different mentality, that French-anything-goes view. I loathed that, and I made no secret of it.

DB: Who are some of the photographers you loved to work with?

EF: Dick Avedon. When he used my girls it was a dream come true.

DB: And your favorite girls?

EF: From the beginning: Mary Jane Russell, we adored Suzy Parker; Jean Patchett was our Babe Ruth, the first one to hit it out of the park. And I liked other people in fashion too – editors Eugenia Shephard and Sally Kirkland.

DB: Do you know the girls working today? Do you know Gisele?

EF: We’re going to see Gisele next week, but I’m talking about the ballet. That’s as close as we’ve gotten. The only one I’ve met is Chanel Iman, and I think she’s a darling girl. We’re really out of it.

DB: Maybe you deserve a break.

EF: Don’t forget, I’m 86. But we’re still interested in the industry. I still check in and send my bookers presents. This has been mine and Jerry’s lives. Actually, it’s been our life. Cause we’ve only had one together. And it was this.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES OBITUARY ON EILEEN FORD

 

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