Monday, 31 August 2015

Beautiful Brighton

I think Brighton will always have a little piece of my heart. Although I now live over 100 miles away, I try and stop by as often as I can. There's just something about the city that makes me feel more myself. It's filled with memories of teenage angst, nights out, shopping with friends, vintage fairs, people watching. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to spent a month volunteering in the Brighton Museum, which is a beautiful building sitting just across the road from the Brighton Pavilion. I spent many happy hours cataloging and sifting through acquisitions books, marveling at their extensive collections of costume and decorative arts. The have a great permanent exhibition of ceramics and tea sets as well as chairs and furniture through the ages. It's all well worth a look.

It was wonderful to go back this Bank holiday weekend and potter around the same streets. We wandered through the North Lanes, stopping for a massive slice of carrot cake, rooting through the second hand bookshops and visiting my absolute favourite vintage shop 'Hope & Harlequin'. Perhaps one day I will have saved up enough pennies to treat myself to one of their fabulous dresses.

I also spotted some new (to me at least) graffiti art on one of the walls near the museum (see photo above). I love that it shows sketches of what looks like two sisters sitting together, as it's been lovely hanging out with my own sister the last couple of days. I hope you're having a relaxing Bank holiday and I will be back very soon with more posts on all good things like fashion, books and museums.

"I've never changed. It's like those sticks of rock: bite all the way down, you'll still read Brighton."
Graham Greene - Brighton Rock

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Poetry in motion: Sonia Delaunay

Summer exhibitions at the Tate are always a treat, but I wasn't quite prepared for just how inspiring the Sonia Delaunay exhibition would be. To be quite honest, I hadn't previously heard much about her as an artist, but I decided to go in with an open mind, and I'm so glad I did.

On entering the first room, we were welcomed by Delaunay's incredible paintings. Each painting is divided into segments of vivid colours which fit together to create a whole. We learnt that Delaunay was heavily inspired by music and dance and was part of what was known as simultanism: a group of artists inspired by different art forms coming together. One of my favourite paintings was the image below of a young girl lying across a couch. I love Delaunay's focus on women as pensive and introspective, completely absorbed in their own worlds. Look closely and the young girl is made up of a range of hues, from sickly greens and yellows to bright reds, colour combinations that seem so unusual, but create such an otherworldly atmosphere.

What I found so wonderful about Sonia Delaunay as an artist was the sheer extent of her creative output. I found it incredibly inspiring that an artist explored so many different mediums so effectively to create her own complete world that was so distinctively hers. For a female artist at that time to have such creative freedom over every aspect of her work is inspiring and motivating, even today.

Aside from her work in abstract art and portraiture, Delaunay was also a successful fashion and textiles designer, creating dresses, shoes and beachwear, as well as working on textile commissions for department stores such as Liberty (see images below). Although part of a set of Parisian bohemians, she was not averse to more commercial enterprises, and fashioned designs for the forward-thinking modern women to wear. Delaunay is also known for her work on the costumes for the 1918 Ballet Russes production of Cleopatra, which were also on display. It was wonderful to see these pieces of ballet history, still intact nearly 100 years later.

Sonia Delaunay was also fascinated by the relationship between clothing and literature. Her idea for a 'poem dress' is something I found absolutely incredible. Delaunay collaborated with some of her poet friends to create dresses embellished with poetry, created movable figments of art. She also worked on a short story which she designed to be printed onto a long scarf so that with each fold, a new chapter could be read in small fragments. I completely fell in love with this idea of clothing and fiction complimenting each other and forming part of the same piece of art. I wish more designers would employ some poetry into their work.

My experience of Sonia Delaunay at the Tate was such an overwhelming but inspiring one. Delaunay was such a powerhouse of creativity and I defy anyone to not become motivated and filled with new ideas when visiting her work. I'd love to know what you thought of the exhibition if you managed to make it? Have a lovely weekend! Xx

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Fashion on Film: Iris

Bug-eyed spectacles, bright red lips, and a shock of white hair. These are the components that make up the distinctive Iris Apfel. A fashion stylist, interior designer, costume collector and all-round tastemaker, Iris is the subject of a new documentary by Albert Maysles, creator of the fabulous 'Grey Gardens'.

As the film opens we see Iris, 93, in her natural habitat: the thift store. Her eyes light up as she picks beaded bangles and rhinestone encrusted bracelets, threading them onto her arms as high as her elbows. She talks of her favourite hobby, shopping, as an addiction, admitting she is always after the next fix. And it's the bartering, the thrill of the chase, the joking and the people that make the experience what it is.

The phrase 'like a kid in a candy store' couldn't be more apt here. Iris is drawn to cherry-coloured beads and bright amber necklaces, layering them up to create a look that is is completely unique. "I don't have any rules because I would only be breaking them so it's a waste of time" she tells the camera, and it's true. Iris lives out her style advice in full technicolour. 

It's not about the lavish designer pieces (although she owns more than a few of these), it's the process of seeking out treasures, be it from market stalls, thrift shops, or department stores, and building each piece up to create the full outfit. Colours, textures and shapes come together to allow for maximum visual impact. For Iris, getting dressed is the main event. You can feel her excitement as she examines the printed lining of a jacket or admires a work of embroidery. Her look is carefully layered to present a story to the to the world.

But it's her personality and pure zest for life that is most enchanting. For Iris, the world is a playground. She seizes opportunities as they present themselves. From interior design work, to collecting costume jewellery, to putting on her own exhibition at the Met, and of course this documentary: nothing is too planned in advance. There are no five year plans, checklists or the endless quest for money or approval. In fact she continues to be endlessly surprised at all the attention she receives. It seems that Iris is most happy bouncing around the house with her husband, who at the grand age of 100 still allows Iris to dress him in a studded snap back. They seem most content cracking jokes, messing around and telling fantastic stories.

As she says herself: "It's better to be happy than well dressed." And I couldn't agree more.