I’m gonna tell you something you don’t want to hear
I’m gonna show you where it’s dark, but have no fear.
– Kavinsky – Nightcall
I really wanted to write about the Savage Beauty exhibit at the V&A for a while now. It was equally important for me to honour the museum’s requirement for no photography. Considering the amount of people watching the Alexander McQueen exhibition, I don’t actually think it would be possible to make any good-angled photos in any case. Still, all the thoughts and feelings started to hoard in my head – a release was vitally necessary.
A few years ago, a good friend of mine gave me a fantastic book on the late designer – Alexander McQueen: Genius of the Generation by Kristin Knox. Coincidentally the book carries the same sentiment as the Savage Beauty exhibit, so combining the two was in the stars. I call it emotional fashion. McQueen’s designs provoke you to feel. It’s you and Lee against the world, the rest does not matter. The fact that the rest doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter either.
McQueen’s designs emphasised an art-or-die aesthetic and that’s what I’ve always loved about his work. Theatre, fine arts, literature as well as historic, traditional craft and metalwork – all of it has a home in McQueen’s creations. It’s art that touches the soul and fashion that makes one honoured to be the owner of a piece by Alexander McQueen. It’s an emotional whirlwind and you are no bystander, not even a mere participant. You are at the epicentre of it all, the culmination point, the reason. You, the viewer, not even the wearer, play the hugest role in McQueen’s fashion.
Some designers design clothes to wear, McQueen created clothes to watch. With our mouths open and without uttering a word. The fear of beauty. Savage, captivating, all-conquering, mind-enslaving beauty.
We place so much expectation on a wedding dress. It has to be the “one”, “the” dress, the “most important dress a woman will wear in her life”. Sounds very stressful, if you ask me. Since we’re on the topic of questioning the system, here’s another thing I can’t figure out: Most important, eh… Says who?
Who said that one’s wedding dress has to be all of the above? With a tank full of questions, I opened the tome on wedding attire – Couture Wedding Gowns by Marie Bariller. This book is no laughing matter and I can afford no sarcasm, in fact I can’t afford anything at all – this is a catalogue of the most expensive dresses in the world. It doesn’t go above the prices of the creations listed here.
From Alberta Ferretti, Chanel through Jean Paul Gaultier to Zuhair Murad, this book has the biggest wedding dress masterminds profiled, quoted and their brilliant creations exhibited. There were a few names I expected to see but didn’t. One was Bruce Oldfield, the other Catherine Walker. I felt at least one traditional British couture house had to be in – but not on this occasion.
That doesn’t take away from the wedding lalaland that this book easily makes any bride (or not yet bride) escape to. If you didn’t know what dress was for you, after opening this book you will. You just will. Even if it’s not published in this bridal bible.
What made it interesting for me is that this book reveals what it feels for the designer him or herself to sketch, conceptualise and make a wedding gown. For these types of commissions fashion and trends take the backseat while personality and emotions are the Anna Wintours on the front row. Designing a wedding dress is an intimate affair for everyone involved.
I still find it mind-blowing that the couturier’s task is to summarise a woman as a dress, a white one. Sounds like an extraordinarily strict brief, but this is what separates the boys from the men of wedding couture: one white dress, not any two alike. That well may be the reason why it is “the” dress – it is an extension of the woman. Without her it is nothing and on her, everything.
Thank you Abrams and Chronicle for my copy. You can buy yours directly from the publisher too.
When I was a teen, I remember hating watches. I thought they were just plain ugly pieces that one was supposed to wear when he was older. I now know why I felt this way – I had no good examples to look at. Piaget was not a word in my vocabulary. Thank goodness for growing older and growing wiser. Thank goodness for this book.
The truth is this tome (and it is certainly a tome as it is heavier than my monthly grocery shop) is not necessarily for jewellery lovers. If you consider yourself one, you will delight in looking at the pretty pictures and the vintage Piaget ads here and there. You will be limited to this though.
To truly soak in the glory of this book, you must be willing to immerse yourself in the world of jewellery, from the meticulous process of making it, marketing the goods, through to understanding a brand with historical significance. All of these aspects are covered in Piaget, so to really enjoy this book in a maximalist sense, being a jewellery lover is simply not enough – you must have a healthy obsession with fine jewellery and watchmaking.
Lest we forget that Piaget is the brand that invented jewellery that tells time. That is a radically different way of looking at traditional watchmaking, that is known to be rather rigid and almost exclusively masculine. This is the moment when you picture a man (à la David Gandy) in a a sharp suit looking to his right, a golden Rolex around his wrist nonchalantly shining in the morning sun. Piaget thought, yes, let’s have that. But let’s also make watches sexy and exaggerated. So add a particularly feminine lady in front of our David Gandy lookalike wearing stacks of fine jewels and no watches. After all it’s her timeless jewellery that tells time. Genius.
From 1874 to this day Piaget has stayed within the confines of its own motto: Always do better than necessary. Because of that as time goes by, Piaget’s jewellery keeps on ticking as the brand’s diamonds and emeralds continue shining on. Get this book to find out just how brightly.
This book is written by Florence Müller. Photographs are by Philippe Garcia and Steve Hiett. Get a copy via Abrams and Chronicle. Thank you for my copy!