When thinking of Halston and Warhol one thinks of diamond dust. By creating their own celebrity they became globally recognized brands. Reigning down like superheroes of contemporary culture they brought us popism and minimalism. This past year the Andy Warhol Museum and Halston’s niece, Leslie Frowick opened Silver and Suede, an exhibition based on the connection between Halston and Warhol.
For Spring 2015 Renovar presents American Celebrity: a story of two Midwesterners who dared to take a bite out of the big apple. The paths of Halston and Warhol often intersected as they rose from their modest beginnings to become cultural icons. They both launched their careers from department stores, Warhol as a commercial artist and Halston as a milliner. Similarly within their large bodies of work, a new American aesthetic emerged that relied on experimentation and technology. Warhol created high art from the mundane while Halston created luxury with sportswear. In a Disco haze the pair frequented Studio 54 and observed the cult of celebrity. Influencing each other, they shared famous clients like Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli, and Liz Taylor. “You’re only as good as the women you dress,” as Halston would say. Their connection was significant in that they were deeply obsessed with “glamour”: the link between fashion and celebrity. Halston thought, “Everyone should have furs, jewels and Andy Warhol paintings”. He amassed over 400 works of art, mostly Andy’s, and commissioned him to create a series of illustrated ads showing Halston’s range of licensed products. Both businessmen and masters of their craft, they created a new American dream and died before they were 60. Today Halston is a bit more forgotten than Warhol.
Halston began his career selling his hats in the basement salon of the Ambassador Hotel, now Public Chicago; his hats were an instant success and were described as “an enchanting fantasy”. Moving up to head milliner at Bergdorf Goodman’s in New York City he quickly became a star magnet. “He was an absolute magician with his hands” said Diana Vreeland. By the late 60’s he had created his fame and fortune by dressing wealthy clientele with his Made to Order business. Halston’s devotion to service is what seduced his clients and his gift of intuition made women trust him. As a student of the great Charles James, Halston created contemporary clothing inspired by his mentor. Beginning with concepts like James’s Taxi dress, he deleted complex inner structures to create a soft sculpture. He used origami to convey his tube construction; a method that took 118’’ wide fabric cut on the bias with a single seam spiraling the body. These complex yet simple garments were difficult to comprehend. Often his clothes had no closures and few seams with many garments made out of a single piece of fabric. An expert draper, Halston revered the body and its coverings, he understood fabric and the bodies movement beneath it. “Fabric will tell you what it’s going to do,” he would say. His take on movement and simplicity invented a new way of dressing with an uncomplicated formula: minimal by day and extravagant by night. To him the way clothes felt was just as important as how they looked. Halston never stood for trendy fashion with its drastic changes, he was more interested in timeless style; preaching, “slow evolution not seasonal revolution”. He became famous for interchangeable separates and his creative takes on classics, like the shirtdress and twin set. During his career he redefined pajamas, revamped the jumpsuit, revived the sarong, and started the caftan craze. He gave women nudity and brought art to clothes with Pollack drips, Kandinsky prints and Warhol Poppies. Naeem Khan, his assistant at the time, was instructed to research art and turn it into beading and embroidery. He liked taking the essence of something from the past and putting it in a more contemporary context. Before Halston, American designers looked to Europe for direction. In The Battle of Versailles, 1973, Halston was one of five American fashion designers asked to present with five French designers. With Warhol in attendance, the Americans presented an exciting minimal fashion show that brought down the house. This event went down in fashion history as what finally legitimized American fashion and solidified Halston as a designer.
That same year corporate America underwent a conglomerate fever and began buying up the fashion industry. With annual sales over $25 million, the Halston brand was lucrative. True to style, Halston was the first to take the risk of selling his name to a corporation and with the financial backing of Norton Simon, Halston was able to expand his business into a fashion empire. His glass office on the 22nd floor of the Olympic Towers served as a metaphor for the height of his success, there he held 14 fashion shows a year that were attended by celebrities and socialites. At first he was able to maintain control but by the early 80’s fame had become too much for him. The impetus for the end of his career as a designer came when he signed a deal with JCPenney. Although high-end designers creating lines for mass retailers is now widely practiced, in 1982 the idea of Bergdorf Goodman and JCPenney carrying the same name was unthinkable. Norton Simon was then sold to Esmark that was sold to Beatrice Foods and within a year he was managed by three different parent companies. Halston was soon forced out of his own business and he fought to regain his name until he was diagnosed with AIDS in the mid 80’s.
Today fashion is undergoing a new period of minimalism and women are searching for Halston. Although his life reads as a Shakespearian tragedy, it was anything but. His 30-year career yielded the theory from which minimalist fashion was derived. In 1991 the museum at The Fashion Institute of Technology had his first retrospective titled Halston: Absolute Modernism, describing him as a designer of essential form. He is one of the most important American designers of the 20th century. Just as Warhol foretold the rise of social media, Halston predicted the rise of sportswear. Like true visionaries they defined their time and ushered in the new modern spirit. Halston liked to say “You gotta fuck’em up.” and they did.
In American Celebrity, Renovar rebrands Halston and Warhol as “Super Money”, returning them to the spotlight with modern silhouettes mixed with Warholian prints. The formula for day is pure action clothes, like the new shirtdress, gauze caftans and all-day pajamas. For evening it’s Studio 54 hedonism with plunging necklines, metallic mouths and banana prints. The collection channels the glamour of Bianca Jagger in intoxicatingly fearless capes and fly away dresses suggesting it’s time to become superheroes.
Give'em What They Never Knew They Wanted"
April 26 - 8pm
If Vogue is the fashion bible then Diana Vreeland is the high priestess. She preached style as a way of life and the importance of living beautifully, she said “a new dress doesn’t get you anywhere; it’s the life you’re living in the dress.”
The divinely quotable Vreeland was a magazine editor, fashion curator and life enthusiast. She was fashion advisor and lifetime friend to first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Truman Capote described her “as one of the great Americans who had, more than anyone, improved the level of taste in American women” and former assistant Andre Leon Talley regards her as one of the most important women in his entire life.
Her impeccable appearance and grand manner was bewitching to all who knew her. Diana's was from a world of regalia, custom shoes, and fittings at courtier houses. This was a woman whose elegance extended to having the soles of her shoes polished and her dollar bills pressed.
Today, her signature epigrammatic style, her strong art direction, and attention to detail continues to inspire. At a time when costume was regarded by academics as too frivolous for serious examination, Vreeland said “Fashion is part of the daily air and it changes all the time, with all the events. You can even see the approaching of a revolution in clothes. You can see and feel everything in clothes.” Diana, recalling a Balenciaga show in the early 1960s: “One simply fainted. It was possible to blow up and die.” Although she was known to embellish, mixing truth with fiction, a term she coined as “faction.” The world she created was one of fantasy and splendor.
She wasn't a typical beauty but in the 1930's her style caught the attention of Carmel Snow, the editor and chief of Harpers Bazaar, beginning Vreeland's 26 year tenure at the magazine. She wrote a column, “Why Don’t You…” featuring style and fashion suggestions for the rich. The column was a personal credo: Why don't you be original? By the 60's, Diana would become editor and chief of Vogue, bringing the magazine to the fashion powerhouse it is today. Famous for her memos to models and photographers shooting on location, she directed fashion into fantasy to fill the pages of Vogue. She reigned there for almost a decade until she was fired in 1971, accused of being out of touch and having too expensive of an editorial style. At age 69, Vreeland began the most successful act of her career as a Special Consultant at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum. She curated 15 costume exhibitions including The World of Balenciaga, The 10's The 20's and The 30's, and Hollywood Costume. Her openings attracted celebrities, with lines out the door and turning the MET into a scene out of Studio 54.
“Give'em What They Never Knew They Wanted” tells the inspiring story of Diana Vreeland. Beyond the lacquered exterior and perfectly manicured talons lies the power to channel personal style and own it. The collection reflects Diana's love for Chanel, Balenciaga and Halston in luxury sportswear and exaggerated silhouettes. Presenting articulate clothes with alluring personality, Renovar captures Diana's sense of adventure with wildly chic animal prints, theatrical snuggies and a over-the-top kaftan jumpsuit that thrill to pure madness.
Wild Dream: Re-imagining the Ballet Russes
December 7th at 8pm
"We are witnesses of the greatest moment of summing up in history, in the name of a new and unknown culture, which will be created by us, and which will also sweep us away"
The Ballet Russes was the impresario Serge Diaghilev's wildest dream. He created an art enterprise that manufactured excitement and celebrated modernism. His theatrical spectacles combined traditional narrative with emerging art, enabling him to promote his taste and making him reputable to his collaborators. He was neither a composer or artist, yet he managed to assert an unprecedented influence on art in the early 20th century.
Serge Diaghilev started his career as an art exhibitor, curating a show of 4000 works in St. Petersburg. He later was part of a collective that created the art journal Mir Iskusstva (World of Art) and held art lectures and discussions. Later he applied his curatorial eye to the ballet, in association with the migration of artists and nobility that fled Russia from the Bolshevik revolution, Diaghilev exported Russian culture and artists to Paris. In 1909 his Ballet Russes was a instant sensation, beginning his legendary collaborations with artists, composers, choreographers and fashion designers. Among his collaborators were Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Joan Miro, Leon Bakst, Sonia Delaunay, Jean Cocteau, Coco Chanel, Vaslav Nijinsky and Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. The Ballet Russes unification of all mediums made it much more than the ballet, with Picasso's cubism applied to set design and Chanel's simplicity to costume, it gained international fame. With glory also came controversy. Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring", inspired by Pagan rituals to spring, met with outrage for it's primitive dance and jolting score that ignited the infamous riot in 1912.
Over a hundred years later the cultural phenomenon of the Ballet Russes continues to intrigue with exhibitions popping up all over the world. Recent exhibitions included, When Art danced with Music at the National Museum in Washington D.C 2013, Elegance in Exile:Between Fashion and Costume, the Diaghilev Era at the Palazzo Moceniza Museum in Venice 2011, Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet Russes 1909-1929 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London 2010, and Ballet Russes Art of Costume at The National Gallery in Australia 2010, all showcasing the elaborate costumes and visuals from the rich history of The Ballet Russes.
Wild Dream, Renovar's Spring 2014 collection gives in to the daydream of becoming a modern ballerina, inspired by the explosive and kinetic costumes of The Ballet Russes. While maintaining a contemporary context, Renovar pairs sumptuous blasts of color with whimsical styles to recreate spectacle. The costumes are both thrilling and shocking with bold geometry and dripping pearl accessories.
RENOVAR FALL 2013--RERENAISSANCE
After a trip to Italy awarded by the Italian Expo, Renovar debuts a new collection inspired by art of the Italian Renaissance. The most noteworthy influence on the classical rebirth was the loyal art patronage of the Medici family. Lorenzo Medici founded the first school of arts in Florence, and brought Michelangelo his legendary prestige, granting him the title "Lorenzo the Magnificent." The Fall 2013 show, "Rerenaissance," explores parallels between contemporary culture and that of Florence during this period, such as apocalyptic paranoia and the return of diptych art.
The word “renaissance” was first used in the mid 19th century, signifying a “spiritual rebirth” or a revival of learning. The art of an empirical renewal is often the clearest expression of a sacred awakening. The artist, then, is a form of disciple, and their work a form of reliquary. The Renaissance was the first period in which the artist was recognized as a creative genius appointed by God. Art patrons of Florence caused a collective conception of art as spiritual practice.
A cultural movement is often designated long after a period comes to an end. "Rerenaissance" is a title for the present aesthetic. The show calls attention to contemporary art evangelism, relating it directly to the zeitgeist of the Renaissance. The collection draws from the opulence of the Medici aristocracy, to Papal silhouettes and biblical drapery. The new renaissance woman is both distinctive and demure, expressing a dichotomy of vain adornment combined with the iconographic purity of the Madonna.
On The Origin of Species
Renovar Spring 2013
November 3rd, 2012
"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”
On the origin of species examines new ideas of god as creative power and art as evidence for creation, while seeking reconciliation between Darwinian evolution and human creation. The show examines the duality of a natural world and a human created world modeled after nature with altered concepts of evolution as creation over time and natural selection and heredity as a mechanism for creative power. The work explores transformations after billions of years, from cell to plant to animal, to conscious beings, claiming man as lineal descendants of creation and pure consciousness. It investigates principles of inheritance, created potential and the human imagination that lead to hereditary modifications engineering mankind to create art and construct meaning. The idea that art mimics creation is manifest in man’s fulfillment in the creative ritual and this act of creation as a sacred act of worship.
Based on the work of Naturalist Charles Darwin, who sought to uncover the mysteries of the earth with his theory of natural selection in which the environment acts as a sieve through which only certain variations can pass, he was left to wonder why natural selection’s unerring power should choose preservation of favorable variation and the question of heredity. He revolutionized biology proposing that all species have a common ancestor, disproving the biblical story of separate creation. Today Darwin is seen as a symbol for atheism however he was not a crusader against religion but rather a lover of science. In 1859 when Origin of species was published he was a theist, then later he became an agnostic but never an atheist.
This season life blossoms from a variety of pattern on pattern, with bold floral, 80's abstract and animal prints. The show highlights Darwin's five year voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle where he found luxurious vegetation and a wide variety of species. The Collection includes blouses with printed illustrations of species taken from from Darwin's books and reconstructed vintage silk clothing, where a 80's silk printed skirt evolves into a blouse and 90's silk dress into a skirt. Nature selects simplistic cuts in saturated color and rudimentary animal tails on beautiful woman.
"When you put together things that other people have thrown out, you’re really bringing them to life – a spiritual life that surpasses the life for which they were originally created."
Model Assemblages a collection inspired by American sculptor and New Yorker Louise Nevelson. Her work spans from the 1940's till her death in the 1980's. Her abstract expressionist "walls" “crates” or "assemblages" were made of recycled wood. She was one of the first artist to transform space into installation art. Much of her work was done in black but she also made a white, gold and a lucite series.
Renovar revives the Nevelson aesthetic to transforms past objects into hats, neck pieces and clothes.