Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Still September

Well, let's pretend, shall we? It's Fashion Week, for Spring 2011, and it's the opening night party for The Bard Graduate Center show, Hats: an Anthology by Stephen Jones. It's also the night that Malan Breton is showing at Lincoln Center, runway, and guess who agreed to do the hats? So, we have to be at two places at once. As usual.
The Stephen Jones group will more than understand if I skip out early for the show at Mercedez-Benz Fashion Week. Stephen Jones IS runway in Paris and London, with more and more shows in New York, as well. So we won't be rude, since there's so very many people who want to schmooze with him. Time enough to introduce myself in person, sneak in a quick picture with our God of Hats, and dash to the tents.
Malan Breton is the darling of the media. He is a graduate cum laude from Project Runway, and somehow manages to get the spotlight on himself , produce a runway show, and survive, season after season. Not an easy thing. We've always been honored to participate in his shows, and this will be our third or fourth season with him.
For this Tour de Force, it's "Fantome": always musically oriented, always celeb attended, always press , press and more press. There have been seasons when Alex McCord, sans handsome hub, Simon VanKempen (he sat it out in the audience), walked the runway for Malan. And seasons when ballerinas were the focal point. Or string orchestras. Malan always brings it. With our history together, its not hard to hone in on what he likes for a look. In preparing for FW, for those of you who have never been subjected to this blitz, you make yourself available for spontaneous meeting with the designer, and his stylists. You pray for model headsizes. Hope for materials. Angst for magic extra time to appear before curtain. Did I say "pray", oh, yes, pray.
Backstage, for my second time that day (I had to oversee the delivery of the hats in person), and checking the outfits, sequence, drape, fit. Where's that box? Why are some of the hats missing? where's that box again? Get out of the way for the interns to do their last minute pressing, steaming, accessorizing. And get those hats out on the racks. Each ensemble is hung with care on a rack, with all of the accessories listed per outfit. Each outfit has a dresser, and that person is key. They control getting the model into the next outfit, and keep watch over the accessories. Can you imagine backstage? It's so much fun! Energy, vibe, excitement, and nerves, in the make-up room and beyond. Love being backstage. Backstage is why I do what I do. I woke up one morning and realized it wasn't the boy I missed (it had been a terribly dreadful break-up with a drummer), but the "smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd"! Oh, to find your place in life. It's such an exhilarating moment. Eureka, I'm home, so to speak.
Back to Malan: dressing the models in their outfits, and overseeing the placement of the hats, last minute changes (a certain recording star won't be walking since her limo can't get here in time) . In short, organized chaos.
And then the show. Well, as it happens, Malan manages to get the jump on this season's hottest trend: transparency. How I did hats in the same vein is always a mystery of the gods. But it happens sometime, that you just nail it.
So this is the hat that launched more than a few shoots in editorials, and ideas for other collections. As seen here, in Sandy Ramirez' ingenious beauty shot, in Malan Breton's S/S 2011 runway show.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Back to September 2011

Seems like a million miles away, last September. Last September the show: "Hats: an Anthology by Stephen Jones" opened at the Bard Graduate Center. Wotta show it is. Still going on through April 15, so if you haven't seen it, please take advantage of having this wondrous installation still here in NYC.
A Prelude.
Much to my surprise, I got a PM on FB from Rod Keenan. Those of us in the industry/metier who are in NYC certainly have come across Rod or his hats at some point. I was luck to be on a panel with a friend of his a while ago, and that, I believe, was our first meeting. the message from Mr. Keenan said something like: I've recommended you for the show (oh, yes, I knew which show he meant), so expect to receive a phone call or an email shortly. From the curator. As it turned out, shortly was enough of a lapse for me to have let it sit on a back burner. But lo and behold, one Saturday morning, as I was in the studio early, and alone, the phone rang. "Hello, Stephen Jones here."
WTF, as they say in the street. We all get wacky phone calls, but this one took the cake.
"Hello" again.
"Stephen Jones calling."
Well , with that I just had to say something. And what should come out of my mouth but a typical Ellen-ism: "Get the ef out of here!" No, I'm not kidding. I thought it was one of the wacky stylists I work with kidding me. But no, it was truly Mr. Jones, and he wanted a hat from me for his show. "Only one?" says she, as realistically as ever. "Yes, just one. Difficult, I know, but one that would be totally you."
Well, what a gig. How to dream up just one hat? Oh, the conversation was a tad longer, but the gist was that I would design a few things and send them to Oriole Cullen, the curator. And then we'd see. Because I'm well known for my 1920's pieces, and beadwork, I thought one of the piece would have to be a cloche. And to torture my entire crew, we'd bead it completely in different beads from our archival collection. And the other piece would be one of my feather dusters. Headpieces, that is, plumed, birded, in flight.
As it happened, Mr. Jones himself decided on the beaded cloche, when it was only partially completed. Oriole and Mr. Jones loved the prep work we had done on the cloche, that would be named "La Marianne", and decided to add it half-finished to the show. But, oops, but the time that message reached me, we had completed the beadwork on the rest of the piece. And so, it's covered in every bead I loved from the 1920's, or earlier.
Our concept:
As a modern day "flapper", more like an independent modern young lady, this customer lives well in the future, and has a yen for drama. think of it as a cross between the Great Gatsby, The French Revolution, and Mad Max. Some of the beads are from the early part of the 20th Century, made in Czechoslovakia, as most good glass beads were, and coated with an irridescent finish. Bits of broken jewelry and Swarovski crystals cut a swath across the crown of the headpiece, as a sort of dynamic tiara. Look closely and you will see a dress clip from the 1930's, and bits of neckaces from the 1950's in there , too. We love our found /recycled/repurposed art at Ellen Christine.
Please say hello to our headpiece when you're at the Bard, and say "Thank you" to Stephen Jones and the Victoria and Albert Museum for making it all happen.

The photograph of the lovely Faye Brandt wearing La Marianne was taken by Sandy Ramirez.

Something for The New Year

Who can remember just when Will from W Magazine asked me to make this hat? This vinyl hat has been part of our collection for ages...since we work on Spring so far in advance. this particular hat, not that you can tell from this beautifully stylized picture, is transparent. Transparency was the lead story for this Spring, so I guess you could say that because of Will and his directives, we were ahead of the game. Way ahead. And what an adventure this little hat has had. It lived at W for a while, and somehow wound up requested by Lady Gaga's stylist for an appearance. The run at W didn't get used, and Gaga didn't wear it, but we did it again for Malan Breton's runway show at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Along with the rest of the collection we designed for him, again, transparency was the theme.
Back again in the studio, but only for a visit, because Edward Enninful requested it for another story he was preparing for W . This time, with a nod to Erte, as shot by Nick Knight, the hat finally ran!
And here it is: conceptual, and how incredible is this composition? Edward used it as an idea, and sometimes hats are just that: just an idea. Without imposing itself into the shot, this hat became a halo of light around the model's head. In the photographer's capable hands, a hat made of vinyl became part of an Art piece.
Now, it's once again at W, and we'll see what happens next. Thank you, Will, for the original push, and Edward Enninful for the concept, and Nick Knight for the interpretation.