Rudi Gernreich’s name was at the crossroads of a generational split like we have not seen since, that of a youth avid for all things new, confronted with an outraged old guard. It is to him we owe any number of designs, pointed at as if they were scandalous, yet which have never lost that functional aspect which makes them, even today, perfectly contemporary and suitable to be worn. ‘Rudi has always been the first to do anything he did, he has never been a follower’, states Peggy Moffitt, fetish model and soul mate to this agitator of appearances.
‘Grace Coddington always knew how to make the most of things. During this trip to Scotland, we had to stuff everything needed for five people into the space of a Range Rover. I never heard her complain. She would deal quickly with problems, in some other way. She created a knot in a garment, and suddenly this knot became the photo. I think that is what affected her the most in working with Anna Wintour – the fact that her freedom of expression was endlessly dissected and put under a microscope. This is clearly visible in the film The September Issue. In a sense, this went against the incredibly talented way she empathised with everything that happened during a shoot’.
He was never happier than when an artist invited him to stage emptiness, or to validate a statement of intent for an exhibition which would never see the light of day. It is within this perspective that he presented a two phased exhibition with Jean-François Brun and Dominique Pasqualini – from 10am to 9pm Wednesday 30 May 1979, and 7pm to 7.05pm Thursday 31 1979. The first day, the space completely emptied of its contents, allowed visitors the whole day to deliberate on the repercussions of this absence of objects. The following day, on the other hand, they only had five minutes to construct a picture of the works returned to their homes.
‘On était toute une bande — il y avait Vincent Darré, Christian Louboutin, ma soeur Djemila, et on ne se réveillait jamais avant deux heures de l’après midi. On passait tout notre temps à s’inventer des looks, c’est d’ailleurs la seule raison pour laquelle Fabrice Emaer nous laissait entrer, parce que ce n’était pas avec nos consommations qu’il allait faire fortune. Une grosse partie de la mode se créait là-bas. C’est au Palace que Frédérique Lorca, elle aussi dans la même agence de mannequins que moi, a tapé dans l’oeil de Karl Lagerfeld en combinant une veste Chanel, qui était à l’époque le comble du ringard, avec son levis 501. C’était le seul endroit au monde où vous pouviez voir Yves Saint Laurent, alors sur le déclin, fréquenter la même table que Kenzo ou Claude Montana devant lesquels toute ma génération se serait prosternée pour obtenir une babiole’.
‘Aesthetic today, well in our society today, I guess there is a certain need for common cultural community. In a world, which changes in accelerating growing speed, one needs to create an identity, which is flexible but still constant. The entire public and the private sphere is aestizied. The aesthetic dimension appears in fashion, advertisements, homes, music, etc. We create signifiances and communicate through aesthetic creations. This is something human being has always done, but what characterizes the advanced information society is, that performance and significance more and more is overshadowed by aesthetic ‘mise en scène’. One of the reasons for this is increasing individualization. When community, which is being defined as family and work, becomes changing sizes, there is therefore a need for fortifying the single individual’.
‘And so in 1973, when Stutz insisted on an order for almost a hundred pieces, McFadden found herself drafted into the designer business. Throughout her career McFadden has represented a strain of individualism within American fashion; her path is one she has forged alone. Collaborating with artists on jewelery and interiors (she was an early supporter of a young Julian Schnabel) she has left her mark as an artists in her own right. Taking inspiration from antiquity, McFadden found solace in worlds past; from them she pursued a model of perfection unlike anything else: ‘I think the simple things are the most beautiful. The most refined forms were worked over for hundreds of years to achieve their perfection. They’re classic, because we already know they work.’
‘Maïme was a kind of Pygmalion’, recalls Gérard Ifert. ‘Perpetually on the look out for what was shaping fashion. Afterwards, she would put the information on a table and managed to inspire ideas in others. Everybody was scared oh her cutting comments: ‘that’s classy’, ‘that isn’t classy’. We stayed because we were fascinated. She worked with photographers, artistic directors, and stylists all without notes. She had a magnificent memory. Right in the middle of a meeting, she could interject on the topic of a fabric: ‘get me an Andolyne, reference 3, colour A’. She took us for living computers. It infuriated her that we could give up’.
‘Kenzo wear Kenzo (homme), practically a classic, blue and grey flannel, and he smokes Gauloises Vertes. For the past seventeen years, he has been one within the other, he is Japanese man from Paris, like there are Russians from Nice. Is he more or less from Japan than Karl Lagerfeld is from Germany, Pierre Cardin from Italy, or Yves Saint Laurent from North Africa ? This last pair, along with the irruption of André Courrèges – Mr Clean – allowed him to breath an air that he has not wanted to leave since. ‘New York ? Yes, for a fortnight, it’s fun, but no longer. Tokyo ? If I don’t go there at least once a year, then I miss it. But I quickly feel as though there is little to be said with my family’.
‘Je n’ai jamais dévié de la chemise blanche et du tee-shirt. En tant que photographe, il vaut mieux disparaître dans un uniforme, mais avant de venir vivre à Paris, j’étais beaucoup plus excentrique. Au début des années 70, quand j’ai travaillé pour le Sunday TIMES, je suis passée de l’autre côté du miroir. Avant Karl Lagerfeld, avant Sonia Rykiel, j’ai été la première à porter du doré jugé à l’époque comme le comble du ringard. J’étais à Londres dans un taxi quand j’ai vu une femme arpenter la rue en bottes or. J’ai eu un flash. Je me suis mise à teindre même mes jeans à la bombe. Juste après, un déluge de doré à fait son apparition sur les podiums. Comme si j’avais inventé quelque chose’.
‘Following the New Look, Robert Piguet hadn’t evolved. He stayed faithful to a black, very straight, very understated dress in crêpe de Chine – ‘no nouveaux riches here’, he was ceaselessly saying. Me, my desires in the seventies were a hundred leagues away from those of the sixties. Each decades, my image of Dior was transformed. I am not in search of lost time’.
‘Dans cette fameuse série ‘paparazzi’ où je cours comme une folle publiée dans le VOGUE, je suis complètement en transe. L’hélicoptère me poursuit, mais je suis comme téléguidée par l’image que Helmut Newton m’a décrite au préalable. J’adorais Hans Feurer, même s’il était parfaitement l’inverse d’Helmut. Vous n’aviez jamais l’impression de le rendre heureux. Les séances duraient des heures, au point que votre ego de modèle commençait à s’étioler. C’est drôle, parce que j’ai travaillé plusieurs fois avec lui. Et à chaque fois, j’ai pensé que c’était la dernière’.
‘I wanted an alternative. Starting from the observation that certain types of clothing exist – such as work clothes – with no other purpose than to be convenient and comfortable to wear. I said to myself ‘these clothes weren’t made in a day, over time many anonymous people have made necessary adjustments : why shouldn’t I try to improve them as well ?’ I took everything that I love, white shirts, t-shirts, jackets, trench coats, and I tried to imperceptibely revitalize their proportions. It was totally anti-fashion, to such an extent that we would see women enter the shop wearing parrot coloured trousers and a red scarf, but who would leave wearing grey, a beige scarf and a denim blue waiter’s jacket, as if they have been cleansed of all the diktats in vogue’.
‘Whenever someone talks about Schiaparelli, there’s always Chanel looming in the background. She was the courtesan who dreamed of a squealy clean bourgeois life. And Schiaparelli was the polar opposite – a great aristocrat who lied, reinvented herself, stirred everything up and got in cahoots with the Surrealists, who gave cachet to her paradoxes. I’ve always believed that you choose this profession to measure yourself to someone you end up resembling. At least that’s why I chose it. I had absolutely no need to make a living. I simply needed to make up my own scenario’.
‘Deep down, this Rothschild, this woman wrinkled like a parchment, obviously immensely rich, skinny like a Giacometti, already correspond to my kind of beauty. She seemed to be perfection because she touched upon something inadmissible, taboo, scandalous, which reflected death. She was a definition of elegance, in a way that I was to later expose in my photographs, my make-up, by constructing images of marvellous dead women’.
‘Fantasy on the screen doesn’t interest me ; i’ve got enough fantasy inside me. To me BLOW UP is a bunch of endless nonsense. Oh, the picture, the picture, look at the picture, what’s in the picture, is anything in the picture ?’ she moaned, scoffing at BLOW UP central sequence. ‘And tennis without balls ! For me, a tennis player ! No balls ? Rather suspect of the movie as a whole, I’d say’.
‘There’s a parallel to be made – somewhat basic, but plausible – between Riccardo Tisci and his reputation. From his early beginnings at Givenchy, Riccardo Tisci has been the sort of designer who provokes those around him into the fors and the against ; some taking pleasure in reiterating his singular ability to renew from top to bottom the somewhat stale aesthetic principals of this iconic Parisian label, whilst others criticise him precisely for the same reasons. He has often been criticised on the funeral atmosphere of his shows, their Gothic darkness, which is in total antithesis to what the history of fashion would want to label as being from the house of Givenchy’.
‘There has never been an ounce of strategy behind the way I have led my career. However, I often put myself in danger. I am sometimes at odds with myself, with a desire to drop everything. I must add that this has become even more violent recently. This feeling of having allowed myself to be taken down a dead end, a cul-de-sac, with the impression of having given my all. My entourage is often disconcerted. Just when everything should be easier, it all seem to be getting harder’.
‘Claude Brouet claimed that, season after season and no matter what the period’s trend, her object had been to capture the independence of a woman strolling within cities, wearing a perfectly proportioned large, flowing overcoat, her hands cheekily stuffed into the pockets of a pair of masculine-cut trousers – ‘From solely a fashion point of view, this was obviously not particularly exciting. But was it really necessary to spend time each morning choosing an outfit according to the ever changing diktats of designers and the magazines who represented them ? Myself, I was in favour of defining a look that was liberated by clothes which made life easier. I always found it more interesting to present items which offered everyday answers, rather than a brooch which was useless’.
‘It was the end of the 80s, a marvellous era for male fashion in Italy. Today, when one says that something is cool, it’s often a synonym of sloppiness. That period’s cool is almost untranslatable. It’s something you have in your genes, an open mind, like walking barefoot in a suit without treating it like a concept’.
‘Who still remembers Geoffrey Beene ? The designer, it’s true, never did anything to help : his ego was always elsewhere. An elsewhere full of dresses which for a handful of fashionistas have become pieces of anthology of fussy perfectionism, a sort of quintessence of sophisticated American style, attaining an extreme simplification. If he does not have the notoriety that he deserves, this designer – who launched his label in 1963 and passed away in 2004 – remains nonetheless an instigator’.
‘He had this extraordinary gift of transforming a piece of fabric, without having to adorn it with bits and bobs, it was almost as if, at least to the eye, he hadn’t even touched it. He was not the type of man to add little pleats so that it hung well. During his entire career at Lanvin, I never once saw him produce an outfit which looked ‘constructed’. Everything happened naturally, you didn’t notice the technical stroke of genius. I remember outfits which gave the impression of being little more than simple pieces of knotted fabric. But if you undid these knots, you would discover that the drape over the hip was in fact secretely intended, thanks to an invisible seam, and that an inconspicuous tuck, allowed what seemed little more than a happy coincidence to be adjusted’ Claude Brouet
‘Fashion is a profession that requires resistance. You can be the sun king one day, and spat out like a foreign body from the machine the next. Me, what saved me, were the people I met. I’ve always thought that was the best school. And when I didn’t know people, I went and knocked the doors. Malcolm McLaren became friend from the day I went to go and see him in his shop in London, where he sold tee-shirt covered in chicken bones. I immediately got the impression that we were part of the same family, him and his recycling from dustbins, and me with my floor cloth garments. Three days after we met, he was on my doorstep with his belongings, ready to move in for two days or two months. I was living in a completely empty 200 square meters apartment. He sat on the floor, unscrewed a bottle of Scotch, and studied the room, then said : ‘there’s enough room here for a Dolls concert’.
’Boy Capel was illegitimate ; the Duke of Westminster had lost his father early, and Dimitri had a tragic past. There’s always the same lack, the same need in Chanel lovers. She made her models in her own image, they all looked like each other. Her narcissism was her fashion, her body, her story. It wasn’t us she was dressing, it was herself.’
‘At the time this was very original. In those days people didn’t know what to think of it, the fashion press certainly didn’t know. They thought it was either home-sewing or genius and they always took the home-sewing side. They couldn’t figure them out’.
‘I wanted to remove myself from the limits of fashion. I had in mind those very individualistic women, hudled within threadbare jackets and old pullovers, who preferred well worn clothes than anything brand new.’
‘It’s complicated to talk about individuality on a catwalk. A logic has to be found. This summer, the entire collection is built upon a puzzle principle, and we were really pulling our hair out to make sure that all of the looks can be disassembled and reassembled like a mathematical calculation. Anything can happen – I am not entirely in control of the programme’s parameters’.
‘On était un peu des stakhanovistes du vêtement sans coutures, sans pinces, quasiment sans rien. Bon, aujourd’hui, je crois que ça ne passerait plus. Mais à l’époque, les gens étaient intrigués. Les années 80 avaient dépassé le seuil de l’overdose. Tout le monde était à la recherche de plus de simplicité. Et donc, on nous a tout de suite positionnés dans la catégorie des doux dingues du dégré zéro’.
‘Rei Kawakubo universe remained somewhat radical enough to be immediately considered an imperative. Prior to her, nobody had seen a shirt worn fully buttoned to the top, paraded without a tie. Similarly, a pair of trousers, without a crease, was something that had not yet been identified, unless it was a pair of blue jeans. Rei Kawakubo was going against the suit, defined as the protocol of fashion for a man with impermeable emotions’.
‘At Zoran commercial zenith, in 1983, when he was a steady best-seller at such New York outlets as Saks Fith Avenue and Bergdof’s, he summarily pulled out of most major stores, partly because he believed they were copying his clothing for they own private labels, ‘so my image became damaged’. It is a moment he remembers with extreme satisfaction. ‘I made a phone call the same evening for everybody at the same time. They said, ‘We do that’. THEY DECIDE. I said, ‘Well, is different time. I DECIDE’. And cut off a million-dollar income, which they did not believe’.
‘I feel like a fashion activist. It has become very important for me to take a stand with what I do. The industry I am a part of has become a great villain when it comes to our world and our ideals. I can’t just go with the flow of it. What I produce should have worth’.
‘Trust your instinct and wear what feels good. And remember there’s a difference between liking something and looking good in it, that’s what I’ve learned from Japan. You can change all the time according to trends but it just look silly if it’s not you. You won’t feel good in it and it will look really bad in pictures a couple of years later’.
‘A stylist once showed me how to wear men’s clothes so that it still look feminine. It’s mainly about how you actually wear it. The same clothes can look really nice and really bad. If you wear men’s clothes and don’t like it, if you feel shy wearing it, it will look like you’re hiding yourself again’.
‘What you represent in your clothes is your values – what you think is nice, what you think is beautiful, where you’d like to be at. Your hair can be wrong, but if your clothes are saying that, you will be saying that. It’s like a disguise isn’t it – but it’s more than that. It’s a complete statement about where you stand in the materialist world’.
‘Because I am tall, the kind of shoes I like the most are flats. In fact, I can go crazy for all sorts of flats. That the only weakness I have regarding the practicality of my look. Last summer, I went to the slippers covered with real fur by Céline. My husband considered them hideous’.
‘It is him we owe any number of designs, pointed at as if they were scandalous, yet which have never lost that functional aspect which make them, even today, perfectly contemporary and suitable to be worn. ‘Rudi has always been the first to do anything he did, he has never been a follower’ states Peggy Moffitt, fetish model and soul mate to this agitator of appearances’.
‘Afterwards – style is a question of orchestration, like a conductor who perfect his arrangement. How is it that one can listen to Alban Berg and Bizet without leaving at the interval : these are the same weapons that Marc Jacobs wields. He has understood that now is the time for all out spectacle. And, that fashion is the least spared of all disciplines’.
‘I always live a double life. There is my real life, and then there is the one I would like to live. I am never in my real life only. I am always also in my dreams, or hopes, or thinking about somebody’.
‘Ne plus accrocher aucune œuvre me semblait en parfaite adéquation avec ma volonté d’éliminer tout superflu. J’avais décidé que ma collection prendrait la forme de tout ce qui a trait à mes activités d’agent d’art – archives, articles, communiqués, conférences, éditions, expertise, expositions, interviews, publicité. Ainsi, lorsque l’on s’étonnait de ne pas voir d’art sur mes murs, je répondais en ouvrant les portes de ma bibliothèque. Je pensais alors, et pense d’ailleurs toujours, que son contenu est à la fois le point de jonction et la métaforme de ma tentative de désacraliser l’art avec un grand A’.
‘As a kid, I litterally idolised Pat Cleveland and the way in which he had created her. It was crazy, but he only had to present me to Karl Lagerfeld for people’s perception of me to instantly change. Antonio taught me everything. How to hold myself and what to do with my hands. But above all, to give others the impression that I was the most glamorous and the most sexy girl they have ever seen’. Marpessa Hennink
‘I have to say, I made a re-made of an early work of Art & Language consisting of a mirror mounted on canvas. Besides re-titling the work, I reduced the original dimensions by scaling the length down to the size of my own body height. I guess my visual language might be affected by biographical facts’.
‘Serge Lutens m’a montré comment ne pas souffler la fumée d’un coup. Ce qui est amusant, c’est qu’à l’époque, j’avais toujours une cigarette aux lèvres. Alors que Serge, lui, n’a jamais fumé. Il excellait à mimer l’acte de fumer comme s’il avait fait ça toute sa vie. Et donc, il s’est mis à m’expliquer comment garder mes paupières mi-closes, comment bouger ma tête et mes doigts en les maintenant presque indépendants du visage. Ce qu’on voit à l’écran, c’est simplement moi qui l’imite’.
‘The rigor and integrity with which she edited MARIE CLAIRE, and later, the first Hermès ready-to-wear collections, have their roots in the way she tackle a dish, or the question of which rosebush to plant. Don’t do it until you’re ready to do it right. If never, then so be it. It can be an arduous process, but the agony is always Claude’s, and the ecstasy always ours. Taking the easy way out would equal capitulation., and that is not why we’re here’.
‘Women expect everything from their couturier, deep down, they know nothing. Of course, we propose and they dispose. But, once they’ve picked whose side they are on, it’s no longer possible to flirt from one to another. Just look at the exclusive relationship Audrey Hepburn had with Givenchy. Years go by, yet it is still perfection’.
‘Having my own shop completely changed the way I designed my collections. All of a sudden, you cannot hide yourself behind designing. I started right in the middle of that ‘créateur’ period, at a time when the basic premise was to push back boundaries and go off the beaten track. Thus a woman’s desire to wear Martine Sitbon was not really my priority’.
‘I place no personal vanity herein. Fashion is a pithos of Danaides. The difference between Coco Chanel and me, is that she is a woman who designs for women, whereas I take advantage of the distance that exists because I am a man who design for women. It is no more complicated than that’. KARL LAGERFELD
‘I want this to be a revolution. With clothes, you have the power to affect society. I see other designers ad campaigns, and I think, is this a philosophy ? Is it a philosophy to show a girl on her knees before a man ? Is this intellectual ? Sex isn’t exciting anymore. Designers need to show people how to see the world again’.
‘When one zooms in on his collection, one can only be stunned at Matthew Ames’s desire to establish a list of priorities and to make do with just that. His jackets stops within a millimetre of the pocket on the trousers : no creases, no feeling of an office shabbiness exposed at working lunch. Coats fits in everywhere, as a result of extensive refinement, and the asphalt grey matches perfectly with the camel and black leather tones of this neutral wardrobe’.
‘I recently discovered that I have taken 13000 photographs of Courrèges. I had this impression that photographing his clothes was not just a matter of fashion, that it was more a question of offering key information upon a sociological and political look, which concerned women and their relationship with the present, and this is a sentiment I have never felt since. That is what interested me, until, inevitably, it swung to the other extreme with Jean Bouquin. In 1968, when I saw him turn up on television wearing a hippy smock and peasants’ clogs, accompanied by a model wearing a provençal boutis nightgown, I knew that I was going to be terribly unhappy’.
‘Our visit among this jumble continues with a double page in a 1969 edition of PARIS MATCH where he is posing in Neil Armstrong’s space suit. Then, there’s that famous volume of ELLE, consisting of fifty-two pages entirely devoted to him : ‘one of Hélène Lazareff’s whims, which no magazine would allow today’. He stops in front of a portrait of Cocteau – ‘do you see, I’ve had it all. I had the fortune to meets my idols, Cocteau, Bérard, Visconti, Balenciaga. I knew them all’.
‘On a réalisé mon premier défilé presque sans un rond, avec Françoise Lacroix dirigeant la cabine des mannequins, et Christian qui retournait la cassette sur la face B quand la musique s’arrêtait. De façon inattendue, ce défilé a été un tabac. Pourtant, rétrospectivement, je trouve amusant de repenser aux ratages qui se sont révélés être de gros succès. Par exemple un pantalon avec une jambe plus longue que l’autre. Ce n’était pas fait exprès, nous n’avions simplement plus de tissu.’
‘Perry owned a modest bungalow on a deserted island which overlooked the ocean. Twice a year, he chartered his private plane, and I would go with my Leica and a small bag. Never an assistant. Perry had complete confidence in me, but he was uncompromising on what colour the water should be. Not too turquoise, nor too pretty. This was always a part of the shoot which caused me grief : there was no Photoshop at that time. Furthermore, I had to constantly keep consulting his sketches before firing the shutter. He litterally flooded them with notes – ‘jacket buttoned ALWAYS’, ‘hands ALWAYS in pockets’. By Erica Lennard
‘I performed every night at the theatre, and my work hours at Yves Saint Laurent were organised according to my rehearsals and performances. Some time later, Helmut Newton was due to photograph an advert, and he couldn’t agree with Yves on the choice of model. For Helmut, it was more of a walkyrie, and for Yves more of a Parisian super chic. All of a sudden, Gabrielle Buchaert the attaché de presse exclaimed : ‘of course, there’s the actress !’ And so Helmut came down to the changing room and saw me in white coat, my tight and my heels, painting my nails while chatting with the other girls. From one day to the next, I was catapulted to the top. I did all the shows and campaigns’.
‘Wally Salner and Johannes Schweiger were both born and work in Vienna and are children of Freud for good reason. The celebrated psychoanalyst would not have been immune to the fact that their clothes are all unisex. Nor is there any doubt that he would have diagnosed their obsessional naming of their pieces ‘basic’ – ‘basic shirt 100% cotton’ being one of their generic and most sought after items – as a method of repressing any narcissism associated with fashion’.