Couldn’t help but notice all the press on the latest Gucci menswear show in Milan over the weekend. Apparently creative director Frida Giannini had been abruptly dismissed a week or so ago, and the head of accessory design stepped in with a whole new collection. And a new aesthetic. It’s androgynous–chiffon shirts tied at the neck with romantic bows–and it’s very different from the retro-sleek style Giannini embraced for the decade she designed for Gucci. Some said the white blouse and necktie look and the bleue, blanc, rouge color palette were a tribute to French cultural figures in light of the recent attacks in Paris. Certainly the berets, silk poet’s blouses, and fur-lined capes alluded to a kind of bohemian, Gallic cool. Overall, I like Gucci’s new direction. It’s definitely quirky, but it feels more in tune with what’s happening on other runways and more responsive to larger cultural themes.
While browsing through photos of the pre-fall collections the other day, several looks from Michael Kors jumped out at me. They looked so familiar and for a moment I couldn’t place them. Then it me: something in the slouchy chic of Kors’ classic pea coat and bright red tuxedo pants or the simplicity of a black suit instantly recalled the crisp, clean, all-American style of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy. But more than just the clothes themselves, it was the attitude in these images that reminded me of the late style icon. The writer Dani Shapiro wrote a blog post recently about this kind of attitude as it relates to writing and creativity and, well, life. Shapiro quoted Buddhist thought when she identified this attitude as the effortless effort, this idea of serendipity or risk or an openness to life’s possibilities. It’s a definition you could apply to style too, particularly this brand of seemingly effortless style.
Wouldn’t it be nice to look at this view all day? A few weeks ago I was in Los Angeles visiting the showroom of Thomas Lavin who introduced me to Trove, a company that sells digitally printed wall paper. It sounds kind of tacky, but the images are incredible, especially this one of a French garden–Jardin à La Française. Check it out at Trove.
Rachel Lambert Mellon’s collection of fine art and decorative objects and furniture is on view this week at Sotheby’s (the sale begins on Friday) and it is topic “A” at Manhattan cocktail parties. I’ve even received a few emails today peppered with sign offs like “…I’m running up to Sotheby’s to see the Bunny Mellon collection,” or “I’ll meet you after I see the Bunny Mellon collection.”The other night over dinner with some sophisticated French friends we got talking about the idea of taste and personal collecting in reference to the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We were trying to define what makes a personal collection so unique and decided it comes down to an individual’s clarity of vision, the ability to “go there” as one of my friends put it, to build a collection–a story, really–around one aesthetic ideal. This may sound incredibly snobbish, but very few people have this kind of vision. Call it taste. Taste is discipline, the ability to say “yes” to one thing and “no” to another. (Ms. Mellon’s aesthetic has as much to do with her taste in art as it does with her idiosyncratic style, the pluck of hanging a Van Gogh over the bathtub, or an unframed Pissarro over the fireplace). The best collections express a depth of passion and a nimble instinct. You can tell, for example, just looking at a real collection, that the individual picked one piece not only because it was superior in some way to the rest, but because it spoke to them in a way that other pieces did not. I’ve overheard people discussing their impressions of the Bunny Mellon preview exhibit–all ten floors of stuff–at Sotheby’s and it’s funny how the same observation is repeated over and over: the art is incredible, but the decorative pieces, on their own, don’t seem that unique or significant. How could they? Each piece is unique only as it relates to the whole. On it’s own a basket is just a basket. (Still, wouldn’t it be cool to bid on one of the baskets in her collection pictured above?) I suspect the reason so many people are running up to Sotheby’s to get a gander at the ensemble, has less to do with owning a piece of it and more to do with holding onto the last vestige of an old world, a world where this level of taste and kind of lifestyle was the norm. It’s gone now, we won’t see the likes of Bunny Mellon again anytime soon. We won’t hear or read about people who live with art and style the way she did. Here is a link to the Sotheby’s catalogue.
If you love hand-printed fabrics and process stories, you will enjoy a quick peek inside Kathryn Ireland’s printing shop in her Culver City, Los Angeles showroom. Recently I wrote about her three-day design boot camp for the Wall Street Journal and got to watch her printers pull rich shades of pink and green ink across fifteen yards of linen to create her colorful designs. It’s fascinating to see how precise they can get with each screen and color. Read more about Kathryn’s design boot camp here: WSJ.