28 July 2014

Making a fashion statement in Italian style

The Glamour of Italian Fashion exhibition takes us through the impact of Italian fashion from 1945-2014. I felt privileged to attend the press preview representing CreateVoice and witnessing how Italy became one of the leading countries in fashion design during this period. Not only does the V&A exhibition showcase a collection of over ninety glamorous garments, but we are given an educational trip about how to rule the fashion industry, Italian style.

When there is bad news, make it good news

The Second World War has just ended, Italy is stricken with poverty, and the world is seeking something new and exciting for Fashion after Dior’s New Look from 1947. Italy used fashion as a means of recovery during this period, climbing to the top of the trend setting ladder and becoming one of the most influential countries in regards to style worldwide.

It’s ok to start small

It’s hard to believe Italy’s fashion empire began with Giovanni Battista Giorgini’s first fashion show in Florence, 1951. He held the show in his own home and convinced designers across Italy to showcase their pieces alongside his own, with all parties benefiting by contributing to this new emerging culture. Designers involved who made a name of themselves included The Fashion House Vanna, who were known for their tailored women’s suits; Capucci, who became known for his inventive sculpture style and Germana Marucelli who became known as the ‘cerebral seamstress’.

Connect and Network

Giorgini started to receive attention from the US and across Europe including Paris, London and Berlin but this attention did not happen overnight. Giorgini was a true believer in what we would now call marketing, he wanted the world to know what Italy could do. The exhibition captured the value of hard work to Giorgini, displaying letters which he sent, including one to journalist Irene Brin and a letter to a department store notifying them of his events. He also formed personal relationships with clients, organising parties and events to create a name for himself prior to his fashion shows.

Reach the World

It was only a matter of time before Giorgini’s fashion shows attracted global audiences. Carmel Snow, editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Irene Brin, the American fashion magazine’s Rome Editor brought Italian fashion into a larger readership by featuring the work of Italian designers in their well read publication.

Some of Hollywood’s biggest films from this period were also shot in Italy, and the costumes were made by Italian designers. Loyal clients from this time included Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner and Maria Callas. It seemed Italy could not escape the public eye.

Another significant event from this period, was American author, Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball, where many of the outfits worn were made by Italy’s couturiers. Mila Schön, who created garments for this event, has two of her pieces exhibited. These are precisely decorated with sequins and beading which gave an elegant evening look.

A Mila Schön 1966 gown at the V&A’s The Glamour Of Italian Fashion (Picture: V&A Museum)

Leave a Legacy

Today Italy is known for its manufacture of top quality fabrics and material; including wools, leathers and silks. Made in Italy has become a stamp for quality fashion. Italy continued to leave prints on designers, influencing even today’s top fashion houses including Armani, Mani, MiuMiu and ­­­­Cavalli. As a whole this exhibition demonstrates the making of a legacy.

More on this Exhibition:

Words by: Piarvé Wetshi 

13 June 2014

Prix Pictet: In Conversation

Prix Pictet display 2014 © Victoria and Albert Museum

Prix Pictet is an annual photography and sustainability prize funded by the Swiss Banking firm; Pictet Group. The award is in its tenth year and for the first time this year it was hosted at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The exhibition includes the work of Michael Schmidt -this year’s winner for his “Lebensmittel” as well as the ten shortlisted finalists; Adam Bartos, Motoyuki Daifu, Rineke Dijkstra, Hong Hao, Mishka Henner, Juan Fernando Herran, Boris Mikhailov, Abrham Oghobase, Allan Sekula, Laurie Simmons.

Prix Pictet: In Conversation was a panel discussion at the Museum on the 22nd May, which enabled the public to gain an understanding of the prize’s objectives and the poignancy of this year’s theme “consumption”. Each of the shortlisted artists had approached this theme so differently that the panel discussion really highlighted the many ways in which photography can be used as a medium and the diverse interpretations of this year’s theme.

The panel included Professor Sir David King, Chair of the Prix Pictet Consumption Jury, Hong Hao, shortlisted for the Prix Pictet Consumption for “My Things”, Mishka Henner, shortlisted for the Prix Pictet Consumption for “Beef and Oil” and Bergit Arends, a contemporary art curator.

The focus of the discussion was an exploration of the theme “consumption” and the contexts in which it can be viewed. Professor Sir David King spoke of “the devastation of our world due to the consumer’s desires” and praised this year’s winner, Michael Schmidt for his ability to produce familiar images yet present them in such a way to make them appear extraordinary. King discussed the work of Schmidt explaining that “Lebensmittel is an epic and hugely topical investigation into the ways in which we feed ourselves,” as Schmidt’s imagery challenges the viewers to think about their own physical consumption - through both its process and origins.

Hong Hao described his entry to this year’s prize, “My Things,” explaining how it derived from an observation of the social constraint in his life caused by both people and objects. By scanning images he made a collage which he referred to as a “timeline of his life in pictures.” Through the technique of scanning he established a way to break free from traditional methods of photography, explaining how scanning provided him with “objectivity” because one can see everything in a scanned image. By creating a 2D image via scanning, the depth of the image seen in traditional photography is also lost. The use of scanning can enable clear lines to emerge within the composition, as objects are not blurred or pixelated like they can be with traditional photographs.

Mishka Henner went onto discuss the paradoxical elements of his submission for this year’s prize. He explained how making pictures had created a skepticism within him – yet despite this he continues to believe in the power of one image. Henner also breaks free from traditional photography methods in his work, using google maps to take multiple zoomed in screen shots. This process has allowed Henner to start to see larger systems for living and dying within his work, which in turn made him consider the bigger cultural issues attached such as agricultural gagging laws (which prevent people from taking photographs in order to protect industries.)

The work of both of these artists and more can be seen at the Prix Pictet display at the V&A until the end of Saturday 14 June. The exhibition free and no booking is required.  

Grace attended the Prix Pictet: In Conversation panel discussion as a member of CreateVoice. To find out more about the opportunities with the V&A youth collective email create@vam.ac.uk

Words by: Grace Radford

13 May 2014

CreateVoice goes contemporary

Living in London can often make one overlook other cities – I know I am often guilty of this myself. 

It is easy to become so engrossed with London that one forgets there are many other culturally significant cities and towns throughout the UK. 

Margate is certainly one of them.

Situated in the district of Thanet, East Kent, Margate is so much more than a seaside-town. Originally it was known as a retreat for Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) where he produced many principal works throughout his career including, Margate from the Sea, Whiting Fishing (1822), Margate (c.1832) and A Rough Sea Beating against Margate Jetty with Margate Pier Beyond (c.1840). It was later recognized for being the birth place of contemporary artist Tracey Emin CBE, RA (b.1963). With its colourful artistic history, Margate was also infamous for gang violence between mods and rockers in the 1960’s and mods and skinheads in the 1980s. Today, it is perhaps best known due to the recently established Turner Contemporary (2010) a gallery aiming to provide “world-class exhibitions of contemporary and historical art”.

CreateVoice spent a sunny March Saturday at the Turner Contemporary exhibition, Making Painting: Helen Frankenthaler and JMW Turner. After being taken on a tour by Gallery Navigator Nova Marshall, CreateVoice were split into groups to complete some arty icebreaker activities which asked us to “to look at colour emotively” by categorizing colours as hot, cold and isolated. We were given cards with paintings on them and asked to put the cards in order from hot to cold.

After much colour debate we viewed the exhibition. What made the exhibition so unique and engaging was the fact that the two artists from such diverse schooling, Turner being a 19th Century Romantic Land and Seascape painter and Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) being a 20th Century painter known for her involvement in the Abstract Expressionist and Colour Field Painting movements, could have so many similarities.

Despite Turner and Frankenthaler painting almost a century apart, there are many “visual correspondences and similarities” - (Sarah Martin Head of Exhibitions, Turner Contemporary) within their bodies of work. Throughout the exhibition it is clearly demonstrated how passionate about colours and the representation of the natural world both artists were.

Works such as Turner’s The Evening Star (1856) and Frankenthaler’s Barometer (1992) can be viewed in conjunction due to the energetic methods of paint application and use of misty whites and grey tones. 

Turner’s later work has often been characterized by critics as a fore-runner for abstract movements. Turner had not intended to exhibit his The Falls of the Clyde (1840) it was created solely as an experimental investigation of light against nature. This piece works so well with Frankenthaler’s Overture (1992) due to the colour contrast and her utilization of heavily spread paint.

Viewing the body of work in the context of Margate is particularly significant as much of Frankenthaler’s work considers seascapes. Yet it is especially meaningful due to being situated in the physical scenery of the place which Turner artistically explored.

After experiencing such an insightful and thoughtful exhibition I urge everyone who can to venture to Margate to view Making Painting: Helen Frankenthaler and JMW Turner, before it closes on 11th May 2014. It is a fantastic opportunity to see a comparative retrospective of two undeniably influential artists. So please don’t deny yourself of such an occasion!

Words by: Grace Radford  Photographs by Daria Zhivaykina

04 May 2014

CreateInsights: Being a Fashion Designer

Fashion Design today is often associated with slim models, bossy directors and perfection. It is easy to forget that pattern cutting is at the heart of designing a garment. Before a garment gets to the catwalk, it doesn't simply jump off the paper. A lot of skill and precision is needed to make it as close to the image as the designer envisioned it (believe me I know as I have been experimenting with fabrics and my mannequin for years). It was refreshing to have an insight from Juliana Sissons, former Resident Artist at the V&A on 22 November 2013.

Juliana is not only a Fashion Designer, but also a pattern cutter and has worked with the late Alexander McQueen, Shelly Fox and the BBC. She describes pattern cutting as a process which is not always straight forward. It is easy to assume that creating a garment comes straight from the paper, but she explained that experimenting with the fabric and sometimes redesigning a pattern is also part of the process, giving flexibility a creative flow to pattern cutting. The process does also vary depending on the designer and type of garment. 

She explained how in the 80s she and a bunch of friends would stay up all night for a next day deadline (I'm sure any student can relate to this). The main difference between those times and today  is that there is now more of a structure as to who does what and when. Fashion back then seemed to be a way of life and a source of fun and has now developed a more professional and corporate approach.

I loved the passion with which Juliana expressed herself as she reminisced about the chaotic fashion industry in the 80s, when she started out as a pattern cutter.  I loved listening to her stories about the community of designers and artists she was a part of, how everyone knew each other. As costs were a primary factor, it was about who could do what and who could help whom. Often Juliana and her friends would collectively work on projects as a solution.

In the 80s expressing yourself through clothing was what people did, creating a spectrum of different looks including androgyny, punk and oriental Asia. Juliana explained that everyone had their own look, distinct from one another, and originality was greatly favoured. 

From what she narrated it seemed like they dressed completely different to how we do today. Wearing dark wedding dresses was considered normal, and instead of the Essex girl tan, they would have painted their faces white (with cosmetics of course), with the biggest inspiration being the oriental doll look.

Juliana brought fashion back to what it was about rather than what it has become: if  for some fashion is a means to make money, to others it is an art that uses the creation of a look as a means of expression.

The talk with Juliana was inspiring and made me think of how fashion constantly recycles itself in new ways. As Juliana has been in the industry for years, she has seen styles that she saw in her early days coming back in emerging designers' portfolios. This shows the legacy which clothing can leave behind for generations. 

Words by: Piarvé Wetshi 

18 February 2014

From Vision to Exhibition

Ever looked at an exhibition and wonder who makes it happen? The V&A has been home to some unique and inspiring exhibitions - Tomorrow, Club to Catwalk and Memory Palace, just to name last years personal favourites - and I'm left wondering how the initial idea for these exhibitions became a physical reality.

January’s CreateInsights session welcomed Dana Andrews who gave us a peek into her role as the Exhibition Coordinator at the V&A. Every exhibition starts out as an initial proposal (generally from a curator), Dana explains how her job is to help make that concept become a reality, giving us examples from two successful exhibitions she has worked on at the V&A: including the fastest selling ‘David Bowie Is…’ and the Xu Bing installation ‘Travelling to the Wonderland’ currently on display in the V&A garden. Dana took us through some of the truths and myths surrounding her role, making it clear that her job is to work with a large and varied team to plan and deliver the exhibition within a certain time frame. She admits her job involves deadlines, lots of liaising, decision making and travelling.

Major exhibitions can involve hundreds of exclusive artworks on loan from multiple locations and Dana and her team find and arrange for the best examples to suit the exhibitions theme, which includes some research. The team have to consider which items are relevant in order to create an engaging story without simply stating the obvious.

With the David Bowie Is… exhibition, the team worked with Bowie's agents to bring together the best pieces, much of it from his private collection. In the end they used over 300 items for the exhibition, including clothing, song lyrics, footage and photography.  As expected a large team is required to set up an exhibition, and as the Exhibitions Coordinator, communicating with all these people is a major part of your role.

John Madejski Garden installation 'Travelling to the Wonderland' by Xu Bing 2013© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Designers, Technicians and the Curatorial Team are just a few groups which are involved. Although there is a set team of familiar faces, external workers with specialist skills are also required, so Dana emphasised that great people skills are necessary for her role.

With so many people and often so little time, maintaining a positive attitude is vital, and working under pressure and multitasking must come as second nature (let’s not forget Exhibition Coordinator’s will often work on more than one project at a time). Interestingly there are more women than men currently involved in the Exhibitions Department. Although not a bad thing, Dana admitted it would be nice to see more of a gender balance within her team.

Clearly as so much work goes into creating a successful exhibition, hard work equals great rewards. Dana gave us a look at some of the places her job allowed her to travel to, including a project in India and China

David Bowie is exhibition, 2013. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The job involves lots of travelling to exciting places across the world (as well as within the UK itself). Plus surprises are always around the corner, especially since the themes of exhibitions you work on can vary hugely. Nonetheless Dana did express her personal love for working on Fashion exhibitions.

Seeing the journey of an exhibition from an initial idea into the final show is an achievement in itself. However, if you’re a glory hogger, this role may not be for you, Dana jokes. But if you are happy to be presented with a concept (without the pressure of creating it from scratch) then this is a role which allows you to be an integral part of a fantastic journey without being shoved in the limelight.

Words by: Piarvé Wetshi  Photographs from the Victoria and Albert Museum

06 December 2013

Made it Happen!

Making it Happen was a recent project we undertook which involved debates on Google hangout with CreateVoice, Oi Kabum!, Made By Young People.

One of the current biggest topics related to young people is unemployment. Yes we know, over a million young people are unemployed (in London alone) but what is actually being done about it? 

After sharing ideas over a video conference call with a group of young people from Rio de Janeiro and Birmingham as part of a project with CreateVoice, I must say I realised the difference I could make. The themes of this video conference was

- creating agents of change in underprivileged backgrounds
- how to make the most of your idea

Oi Kabum, an Art & Design college from Rio, look at young people as channels for change in the local community, by giving them a chance to express themselves through design and becoming part of a project designed to spread across young people in an area. 

Oi Kabum students work with other young people from favelas, many of them are exposed to issues such as sex, drugs and poverty. They presented several projects and the one which was closer to me was the fanzine one. This project created an opportunity for authors to self-publish their own work, by putting them in touch with other writers and creating a community to network.

Made By Young People is a youth social enterprise who teach underprivileged young people entrepreneurial skills, which they then put into practice by becoming part of the operations of the organisation. The young people on the other side of the screen probably did not pronounce every T and P, or wear Armani suites, but one thing they all said was 'I'm a business owner'. Pretty impressive, they all made me want to have a business then and there (or at least work on it). Plus, I must say I definitely wanted one of their mugs for myself, with each design being personal to the designer. 

Made By Young People has created film makers, designers and sales people. Proving that the gap between corporate and creative is not an issue and also that, when given a chance and a step in the right direction, a dedicated young person is willing to work hard and achieve.

It was uplifting to see young people making such a massive difference despite the fact that they had been placed in what some people would say an impossible situation (which is just life really). One thing they made me value was the power of team work. It is easy to forget there is probably a million people sharing the same dream, and a few down the road from you, who would be happy to connect ideas together and make a difference if they knew what you were thinking. So share the joy and follow your dream.

If you want look out for more resources for young people in the arts, click here.

Words by: Piarvé Wetshi 

19 November 2013

Making it: Careers in Art & Design

For the last couple of months, CreateVoice have been working on a new event for young people interested in careers within the creative industries.
Now it's nearly here! Click HERE for the full programme.