Sunday, September 24, 2017

Fashion meets Art: Anne Ten Donkelaar

A single flower bloom can hold so much meaning. Love, loss, friendship...there is a language of flowers that has the power to extend beyond mere words. Each petal comes together with color, shape and scent to form a thing of beauty and meaning. A blossom can become so much more when paired with other flowers, foliage and found objects. Artist Anne Ten Donkelaar brings together these items to create landscapes, tell stories and inspire curiosity.
Flower Construction #86 (above) and Detail (below)
Blooms mingle with one another, bringing forth a myriad of colors, textures and potential meanings.
The delicacy, color palette and whimsy found in many of Dankelaar's works were also present in the Fall 2017 Valentino couture collection
Flower Construction #70 (above) and Detail (below)

 Like the artist's floral constructions, the couture creations display delicate petals with a color palette inspired by nature. Deep greens are paired with shades of yellow, gray and brown. 

Underwater Ballet Scene 4 (above) and Detail (below)
The Underwater Ballet series brings an increase in the sense of delicacy beyond the Flower Constructions series. There is a fragility in the scenes as blooms hang in the balance among twigs, water and cloud-like forms. 
To mimic the delicacy of the floral ballet scenes, the Valentino gowns feature sheer fabrics that move with the grace of water. The fabric flutters with the movement of walking, similar to how a flower's petals might move with the kiss of a soft breeze. 
Underwater Ballet Scene 11 (above) and Detail (below)
The soft femininity of a pink rose blooms on the runway. The natural intricacy of layered petals comes to life with sheer layers and woven details. The dress floats across the floor much like the flowers in Underwater Ballet Scene 13 (below). 
The story in this intriguing dance between blooms continues with the introduction of cool blues in Scene 8. 

 The varying shades of blue fabrics on the runway creates the tonal effect of rippling water, like what is seen at the base or stage of scene 8's delicate dance shown above. 
Donkelaar invites us into moments of a world made of flowers, vines and beauty. There is an untold history in the blooms, a story not fully written but waiting to be told by each person that encounters the art. Like her captivating scenes, the gowns of Valentino suggest a life to be lived. Each embroidered bloom, delicate ruffle and graceful line of the gowns invites the wearer to give life to the details and write her story while wearing couture. 

Runway Images:
Art Images:

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Byzantine Beauties

Sisterly love is a bond that cannot break as it is born of blood and legacy. In the case of Zoe and Theodora though, it is a bond they attempted to sever through intrigue, lies and strategic alliances. 
Empress Irene in Basilica di Sofia
 Living on the public stage of politics thousands of years ago in the Byzantine era, the story of these sisters played out like a modern-day soap opera set in the Byzantine empire around 1000AD. Their lives began as any royal's would, living in the palace as heirs to titles and fortune. But all this would change when a power hungry uncle sent the girls to live hidden in a monastery so he could keep the throne for himself. 

Years later, the sisters emerged from their lives of confinement to re-enter the royal realm. However, Zoe had some plans of her own. Jealousy had taken root during their time in hiding dating back to their days as young princesses. Taking revenge, Zoe framed Theodora for an illegal conspiracy and sent her back to a monastery as punishment. 
Mosaic from St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral 
Left to rule as the Empress, Zoe's reign was marked with strategic marriages, love affairs and mysterious deaths. It wouldn't be until after a public uprising that her sister Theodora would be pulled from the shadows to rule alongside Zoe to help ensure stability. The sisters shared the throne in an environment of political upheaval, distrust and secrets. 
Mosaic of Justinian and Theodora
Though few artworks survived of the sisters, we can imagine them looking much like the mosaics and art from the reign of Justinian and Theodora, dating around the 565AD since Byzantine fashion was solidified during this period. Centuries later, elements of the era have found their way onto the couture runway of Guo Pei's Spring 2017 collection.
The Byzantine age was marked by religious changes, and thus religious symbolism often found its way into their wardrobes. Crosses were key symbols featured as accessories and the fabrics were often draped in ways that mirrored styles worn by religious figures within the church. The mosaics of the leaders often showcased a halo effect around the head, in addition to their crowns, demonstrating the union between church and state.
Empress Irene 
Like the medieval mosaics, the dresses from Guo Pei heavily features symbolic accessories with crosses and papal inspired designs. 
Byzantine fashion focused on dresses heavily encrusted with jewels. Women like Zoe and Theodora used silks arriving from the East, which were then stiffened with metallic embroidery and jewels. The use of heavy jewels and richly designed embroidery flattened the fabrics while also making the figures look like living mosaics. 
Detail of Theodora from mosaic with Justinian
With shimmering fabrics, twinkling jewels and and crowns fit for an Empress, the couture designs bring Byzantine history back to life for a modern era.  

Runway photos from
Read more about the sisters and the fashion history with these links.

Monday, September 4, 2017

In the Poppy Field

Buried in the earth for as many as 80 years, the little poppy seed can begin to grow with the touch of sunshine. What was once dormant is suddenly brought to life as the soil gets disturbed and the sun is given access to the seeds.

"Wild Poppies Near Argenteuil" by Claude Monet, 1875 

This amazing phenomenon took place during World War I across the countryside of Europe as troops marched, dug trenches and tore up the soil with bullets and bombs. The harsh activities of war, like those in the famous Flanders Fields, stood in stark contrast to the delicate beauty of the poppies dotting the landscape. Because of the epic war time blooming, the flower is often used a symbol of war and remembrance. 

The flower did not go without symbolism prior to the 20th century war associations. They have also been used as a symbol of sleep and death because the opium in the flower can act as a sedative. The Greeks and Romans even used the poppy as an offering to the dead because of the eternal sleep the flower could offer.

Artists like Van Gogh and Georgia O’Keefe immortalized the poppy in paintings dating back to the late 19th century and early 20th centuries. O'Keefe's "Oriental Poppies" shown above from 1928 illustrates the vibrancy and delicacy of the petals, while Van Gogh's depiction showcases the ornamental nature of the blooms in a vase. 
"Poppy Flowers" by Vincent Van Gogh, 1887
The Fendi Fall 2017 couture runway bloomed with the classic red corn poppy, as well as shades of blue, yellow, black, white and beige. 

The rainbow of poppies adorned the dresses, adding color and texture. The embroidery and embellishments removed any need for jewelry since they served as an automatic form of adornment.     

"Vase with Red Poppies" by Vincent Van Gogh, 1886
The beauty of the flowers on these runway designs is undeniable. The mix of colors even lends itself to a carefree mood. 

But with the poppy’s long history as an opiate and symbol of war and death, there is a perhaps an underlying message to these designs. As turmoil and threats of war continually pop up in global headlines, now may be the opportune time to pay homage to historic war losses by using poppies. 
Though beautiful, the blooms are laced with a warning of eternal sleep that comes from the numbing power of its opiates...and from death. And so the blood red poppies give way to white, a symbol of peace and rest. 

Hidden among the delicate petals of these poppies comes the reminder of mankind's fragility, but also the promise of rest. In the confines of the dark soil and circumstances, just a dash of sunshine can bring a seed to life with the opportunity for new blooms and peace.   

Runway Photos: 
Poppy History:
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