Missoni Art Colour!


London’s Fashion and Textile Museum is currently hosting a rather interesting show celebrating the relationship between Italian textile titan, Missoni and modern art.  Missoni Art Colour runs until 4 September so if you find yourself in London before then, be sure to check it out.

What makes it interesting?  First there is the industrial concept here.  Italy prides itself on its manufacturing quality and artistry, especially in the fashion industry.  Missoni’s founders, Ottavio and Rosita Missoni worked very much in that tradition, creating textiles inspired by 20th century fine art, whilst also being deeply rooted in Italy’s industrial heritage. The result was the creation of a highly individualistic label, immediately recognisable and distinctive to anyone in world of international fashion.

It is also interesting to see the textiles and the clothes displayed alongside the art.  I had never before appreciated the relationship between a Missoni zig-zag knit piece and abstract art of the mid-twentieth century but in this show, the connection is clear.   See below left, artwork by Ottavio Missoni, ‘Untitled’ 1973 and right, Missoni textile sample.

It boasts fashion over a period of 60 years, from 1953 to the present, with paintings by Sonia Delaunay, Lucio Fontana and Gino Severini, as well as textile studies, paintings and Arazzi by Ottavio Missoni.  Some of the art has come from the Missoni collection and some from the MA*GA Art Museum, Gallarate and from private collections in Italy.  Most have never before been exhibited in the UK.

The very best fashion exhibitions cause you to stop short and find a new perspective on a designer or piece of clothing.  This show certainly did that for me and I’ll be seeing Missoni, both new but especially vintage, in a new and highly artistic light.  See this at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum before 4 September.

Making a silk flower


Ever wanted to try your hand at the couture flower-making techniques displayed by the legendary French ateliers, Lemarie or Guillet?  London’s Atelier Millinery gives the curious a rare opportunity to try their hand at silk flower-making and it is not only great fun but a very rewarding experience.  Learning these skills also gives one a renewed respect for the  professional artisan.  My flower occupied three-and-a-half hours of fun, relaxed work.  Producing these under pressure and to exacting standards and standardisation must be intensely hard and frustrating work.  ‘Chapeau’ indeed to those artisans.  There’s nothing like going along to one of these workshops and trying your hand but here’s a small taster of what we did.

We were using silk dupion which possesses a lovely shimmer that changes with the light source.  It is flimsy material so it needed stiffening in order to hold a shape.  After pressing the silk we folded it in half, sandwiching a sheet of ‘bondaweb’ in the centre then pressed it again.  Take care not to iron direct onto the bondaweb – it will disintegrate and make a sticky mess of your iron.20160723_112129

We prepared the stem, threading a pearl onto a length of covered wire and then twisting the two ends together.

Next we cut-out the pattern and, as with dress-making, we laid out our silk and positioned the paper pattern shapes on top, then traced around them with tailor’s chalk before cutting them out.


The petals need shaping to look more natural so we returned to the iron, and after pressing the petal to heat it, gently rolled it and curved it into a ‘lip’ to emulate a real petal.  This is quite absorbing work and it is quite possible to feel oneself getting a tiny bit obsessive about the petal-ness of the petals.


Now they were ready for threading onto the stem.  We made small holes in each piece where the centre of the flower would be and then, one by one, in the order shown on the patter pieces, threaded each onto the stem, sewing each one into place with a few stitches.  The great thing about this stitching is that it need not be perfect – the stitches are hidden within the flower so will never be seen.


The final piece was applied with a tiny touch from the glue gun and we were finished.  I may not be ready to join the ranks of petits mains at Lemarie, but it was a highly rewarding way to spend a Saturday, learning a skill I can apply not only to millinery, but jewellery, homewares and even gift-wrapping (it is perfectly possible to make these flowers out of fairly stiff paper).  If you find yourself in London, I highly recommend an Atelier Millinery course.  Perhaps you might even discover the latent talent to join the ranks of the couture artisan?


Making a Bow


Every year Chanel shows off the genius artisanship of its couture workshops with its Metiers d’Art collection.  Whilst the innate talent and years acquiring skills is owned only by a small group of artisans, it is possible to experience a little of what is involved in making some of these marvels.


London’s Atelier Millinery (above) offers workshops to the curious on some of the skills of couture millinery, including making bows and silk flowers.  As an added bonus you can meet the milliners themselves- we met Georgina Blyth, maker of the rather stunning black capeline with lilac flower in this picture – a true heroine of modern millinery.  Check out her work here.

Until experiencing the Bow Library workshop, I had no idea of the work involved in constructing a ‘couture’ bow or that I would ever be capable of constructing something at least approximating to one myself.


I have written before about Atelier Millinery’s workshops (making your own Downton Abbey cloche or emulating Bette Davis in a couture capeline) but the bow-making class is entirely different from the experience of making a hat.  This really gives one a sense of what it must be like to work as a petit main in a couture atelier.  The work is intricate, precise, complicated – by turns infuriating but equally intensely rewarding.20160709_122004

Best of all, I emerged with a rainbow of highly versatile petersham bows that I had made myself, ready to be attached to millinery, clothing, hairclips – whatever the heart desires.  This is a brilliant way to spend a morning and the expert tuition of resident milliner, Tina, was patience personified.  If you find yourself in London, make sure you check out these classes.

Who wears what? Musee Galliera has the answer



© Eric Poitevin / ADAGP 2016


Who wears what? This is the title of Paris’ Musee Galliera’s latest exhibition and it is as much of a feast for the eyes as it is for the brain.  Curator, Olivier Saillard is not one to shy away from a challenge and with this exhibition he showcases jewels of the Galliera’s collection spanning 300 years but what could so easily have been a dry run through history, has been presented to make us think about how and why we wear clothes (apart from the obvious).

So, yes, you can see Marie Antoinette’s tiny-waisted Boucher-blue silk corset; a marvellous selection of Audrey Hepburn’s Givenchy Couture; Daisy Fellowes’s iridescent sequinned column by Balenciaga (see above); and a beautiful selection of couture hats by Givenchy and Christian Dior (who knew the French had so many specific terms for different types of toppers: trotteur, toque, casque, capeline, cache-chignon?).  But that’s not the point, at least for M Saillard.  He wants to make you think as well as marvel at the beauty on show.

Each room presents a different perspective on the way that our clothes define us.  So Marie Antoinette’s corset (below) can be seen as a relic – a physical manifestation of memory and all the more interesting and poignant for its imperfections showing signs of use.  Another room lines up couture gems alongside aprons, overalls, patched denim and workshop clothing.  There is the juxtaposition of client and artisan, as well as the question of what workwear actually means for different people.  For lucky Audrey Hepburn, workwear was haute couture Givenchy.


© Eric Poitevin / ADAGP 2016

M Saillard delves deeper into the role of the muse in two other rooms.  One is dedicated to the role of artists in promoting and displaying exceptional craftsmanship in clothing.  The other examines the role of the muse in modern day fashion, from Tilda Swinton’s connection with Haider Ackermann to Francoise Lacroix’s display of her husband’s genius on the red carpet (a truly stunning pink and lime green taffeta evening gown, short in front, long behind).

Finally there are the prototypes: the pieces that are really too eccentric for wearing anywhere but the catwalk itself.  Here we find a tangerine velvet ruched dress by Jean Paul Gaultier with some rather extreme conical breasts (AW 1984); a Maison Martin Margiela hair coat – literally a mullet haircut made into a coat (SS 2009); and a white flower-strewn dress by Comme des Garcons that completely encases its wearer in flowers (SS 2012).

20160624_131057[1]M Saillard’s genius curation always delivers a fresh perspective on fashion and on the clothes we put on our back every day.  However serious my intentions though, I can’t quite resist the impulse to choose something I’d like to walk away with, given the chance.  I’m still dreaming about a stunning Jean Patou black velvet evening coat – a marvel of 1930s couture with a sleekly wrapped body invisibly fastened offset beautifully with a wide shawl collar and bell-like kimono sleeves with the largest cuffs I’ve ever seen.  There is a reason that French haute couture leads the world – this show tells you why.  See it before 23 October.