Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Erwin Blumenfeld at Somerset House


I managed to squeeze in another 'artsy' adventure today! This time it was the Erwin Blumenfeld exhibition at Somerset House in London. Blumenfeld was a Berlin born photographer who emigrated to New York in the 1940s. Whilst forever believing himself to be an outsider to the American lifestyle, his fashion portraits were responsible for creating and embracing the signature look of the New York woman. Polished, glossy and almost too perfect, his covers for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar depict beautiful women as the utmost objects of desire. 

Perhaps Blumenfeld's most famous image is one featured on the cover of Vogue which depicts the disembodied features of a woman's face - it is instantly recognisable. His simple use of colour still seems fresh today and there is always something Surreal and a little bit different about his photos. Accompanying the exhibition were some examples of the magazines in which he was printed as well as a short film which went into more detail about his life and work. This was fascinating - it seems that despite his idolisation of 'perfect' women in his commercial work, his own self-portraits which are distorted and unidentifiable, showing someone deeply concerned with and constantly exploring the idea of his own identity. I highly recommend popping in to see this display if you can. Blumenfeld's photos are so iconic and made a huge impact fashion photography.

The exhibition is free and finishes on 1st September.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Laura Ashley: The Romantic Heroine

Last week I was lucky enough to catch the Laura Ashley exhibition at Bath's Fashion Museum. Aptly titled 'The Romantic Heroine' the exhibit displays 100 of Laura Ashley's classic 1970s dresses. 

Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the label this was ruffles galore! High neck collars, flounces and florals featured prominently. The Museum sits in the middle of Bennett street and it's not too hard to imagine one of Jane Austen's Bennett sisters sporting a not-too-dissimilar style gown back in the 1800s.

Laura Ashley's designs were heavily influenced by nostalgic ideas of country living, as well as being inspired by the historic dress of some of her favourite romantic heroines. Think Cathy from Wuthering Heights, or the Regency style of Austen's women. It's hard to believe that amid the scores of mini skirts and PVC boots of the 60s and 70s, die hard Laura Ashley fans were going against the grain by reaching for full length cotton dresses and voluminous smocks.

A fascinating part of the design process was Ashley's use of print and colour. From typical ditsy prints to graphic art deco shapes, the fabrics were both pretty and unusual, with some garments featuring swans and dogs. The dying process was also a little bit different, with the dying vats apparently not being fully emptied before adding new dyes, resulting in the mismatched colours of the fabrics.

Whilst the exhibition itself was fascinating, I would have liked to have seen some more examples of women wearing the outfits in real life. Perhaps some photos of magazine editorial, adverts or family photos would have added a personal touch, but otherwise, the display was beautifully done.

Frilly, feminine and unashamedly nostalgic Laura Ashley's designs paved the way for a new style of dressing; a romantic movement where you can quite literally wear your heart on your sleeve.
"People love the idea of dressing up in the sort of clothes you might find in an old trunk." 
- Laura Ashley, 1975.

all photos my own