Earlier last week I ventured down to Somerset House to see the eagerly anticipated SHOWstudio: Fashion Revolution exhibition which charts this rise of the iconic website from its creation in 2000. This large-scale retrospective of sorts was bursting to the seams with installations of some of the best videos, viagra 100mg podcasts, there interviews and most importantly– live projects. Split over two levels, as I entered I was greeted with a room comprised entirely of mirrors that were designed to make each person entering ‘really’ look at their reflection. After a few moments of looking at myself and feeling rather vain and awkward I felt obliged to move on and make way for the hoards of teenagers waiting to pull pranks on each other and the non-suspecting public.
Image courtesy of Showstudio.com
In the next room I found a giant 3-D sculpture of Naomi Campbell, which was linked to an etch-a-sketch computer where visitors could get involved and draw images which were in turn projected onto Naomi’s imposing frame. Interestingly I discovered after my visit that there were several hidden cameras dotted around the Naomi sculpture to record the best comments made by visitors, so I was very relieved that I had gone alone therefore having no one to talk to.
There were many great fashion moments and highlights peppered throughout this exhibition. I think the best was watching a loop of the project ‘More Beautiful Women’ which pays homage to Andy Warhol’s ‘Thirteen Most Beautiful Women’ screen tests of 1964. It’s based on a simple idea where Nick Knight invited several iconic models from the 1960’s through to the present day and asked them to stand in front of a video camera for two minutes. Models involved were Twiggy, Marie Helvin, Kate Moss, Liberty Ross, Stella Tennant and Gisele to name but a few. The best clip that I saw was that of Stephanie Seymour who looked rather bored throughout and remarked ‘This is the longest two minutes of my life!’ This was sheer brilliance in its subversive undertones both perpetuating and playing upon the underlying opinions most people have of models.
Image courtesy of Showstudio.com
Another project that was popular with all visitors was the 2004 collaboration between Brad Pitt and SHOWstudio titled ‘Freedom of Love’. The short film depicted Pitt frantically painting over an enlarged passport sized photograph of himself adding in captions and blurbs, whilst reciting Breton’s sixty line poem of the same name. Whilst I was there this installation drew the biggest crowd and I believe was so popular due to Brad Pitt’s global fame and heartthrob status rather than everyone’s love of the great poet Breton.
Image courtesy of Showstudio.com
Just when I thought the exhibition was coming to an end I stumbled upon a small section dedicated to Fashion Film, which was comprised of a reel of 16 short films created for SHOWstudio. My favourite was titled ‘Sheena is a Punk Rocker’ which depicted a topless and rather energetic Kate Moss doing a frantic pogo dance which saw her head banging. This was great as I feel it showed much more of her personality than you could possibly gleam from a still image and also had a funny moment near the end where she started ripping the paper background and gets so into it that she suddenly falls to the floor which is the finishing shot.
All fans of SHOWstudio.com would absolutely love this exhibition as it was great to see highlights of the work together in one place, but most importantly it was humbling to see how fashion in general has progressed during this past decade which I feel can partly be credited to Nick Knight and the wealth of contributors who make up the SHOWstudio team. Over the years it has really pushed the boundaries of what is possible and helped guide fashion into the mainstream sphere by applying and manipulating all the modern technologies available to bring it to the masses, whilst looking forward to new and innovative ways to make fashion even more engaging. SHOWstudio: Fashion Revolution is running until 20 December 2009 and costs £5.
Written by Rachael Oku on Tuesday November 10th, 2009 1:40 pm
Since then, Mark has rocked some headlines with his catwalk shows; causing a fashion stir for his use of plus-sized and curvier models such as Crystal Renn and Hayley Morley consistently each season (his first use of plus-sized models allegedly causing members of his team to walk out). At the time, I remember a sudden explosion of people talking about Fast, even friends who never ‘got’ fashion week before knew his name. There are countless designers who create figure-hugging sartorial magic on the catwalk, but a distance is created when you realise that normal women come in all different shapes and sizes, which stops me from seeing a fantastically chic friend or myself in the clothes. I can always appreciate the raw beauty and skill involved in a good catwalk show, as you’d admire a work of art; but don’t always see it as something accessible for this reason. Mark blew all of this out of the water by proving that his knitted dresses could also hug the curve of real hips and flatter the roundness of a fuller bust.
I lined up for the show with endless other fashion editors and buyers for what looked like was going to be a very packed event. Fashion editor and style magpie Anna Dello Russo fluttered by in a shimmer of current season Prada oversized paillette dress and snakeskin boots, which have an incredible curved heel to them, catching my eye despite of my aversion to real snakeskin. Model Liberty Ross, Tallulah Harlech (daughter of modelling legend Lady Amanda Harlech) and modelling pop songstress Eliza Doolittle were in the front row, with Eliza catching a lot of attention from the paparazzi in a very short (presumably Mark Fast) black dress. I had to smile when she pretended to ignore them but continued posing as she caught up with a friend.
As I was shown to my seat, there were a lot of people running around including a production or show manager yelling ‘showing in 5 MINUTES!’ in my ear as I scurried past. There definitely was something in the air before this show, a palpable heated excitement radiating from every person in the presentation space. Suddenly, the press release I was reading through seemed incredibly apt. The collection was inspired by ‘desert mirages and tropical exoticism’ with colours taken from a desert landscape and the movement of a sandstorm providing a starting point for the clothes. I began to feel hotter, as if all the anticipation had brought the desert heat into the show, making me forget all about the blustery autumn weather outside. I was then asked to shuffle over to make room for a lady who turned out to be a very nice Condé Nast street style photographer. She spotted my pens and sketchbook, poised for drawing, and chatted to me about how enchanting it is to watch Vogue creative director extraordinaire Grace Coddington (who I loved in The September Issue) sketch live at catwalk shows. As we talked illustration and photography, the lights began to dim and a sultry summer track mixed with electro beats began to play.
Orange-tinged lights especially set up for this show around the catwalk began to shine and fade in time with the sharp metallic-sounding music, and then settled to glow intermittently as the first model made her way onto the catwalk. An off the shoulder knitted top and skirt in the lightest possible shade of sand with equally light detailing and undone strands that trailed along the arms of the model as she moved made it out along the catwalk. The photographer next to me sighed a little breath of relief and delight along with most of the room. The pale gold colours made me reminisce over the sunlight you get in the summer, while the 1920s finger-waved and bobbed hair gave the clothes a bit of vintage glamour. The shoes, thanks to Mr Christian Louboutin, brought the look back around to the modern day. T-bar wedges and heels with incredibly huge platforms in gold, pink, black and orange to match the clothes also had little details like spiked studs and rubber straps, which reminded me of jelly shoes.
More dresses in the same colours but with a variety of shapes you would normally associate with formal wear such as a fishtail gown (which the model almost fell over in) and a practically see-through floor-length number came along. Cleverly re-worked in a luxe version of macramé-style knotting, the silhouettes held their structure but had a light, summery softness to them. Sheer finer-knit dresses were placed over golden knitted bikinis, subtly showing off their delicate intricacy.
Although the audience was already clearly wowed by the pale gold creations, several pieces came out that made me hold my breath in amazement. The first was a dress with a structured top and then a signature Mark Fast bottom half completely made out of golden loose strands, which moved like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life. Movement on this scale is hard enough to capture in a garment, let alone getting it to a point where it’s flattering. But the weight and lengths of the string-like strands moved perfectly in harmony with the model, never losing her shape but seemingly dancing around her. It was like Mark had actually gone out and captured a little sandstorm of gold, and then attached it to a dress in the most flattering way possible. The model and the others that followed her with similar garments couldn’t help having a little something extra in the way they walked. I began to fantasize about how it must feel to wear something quite so incredible, and luckily was snapped out of it by what came next.
After some acid-yellow and Lucozade-orange dresses with a similar lightness but no less ‘feminine with an edge’ fabulousness, I got a shock that made me want to elbow the photographer next to me in eagerness (luckily I held back, realising that almost knocking the poor girl off the bench in a rush of excitement wouldn’t be the best thing to do).
At first, I thought I was imagining it, but then I remembered the painterly pattern on my show invite and realised that I was indeed seeing the first bit of print in a Mark Fast show. Printed on neoprene, that wetsuit fabric that fashion houses have been using for a while and love for summer, the pattern circled necklines, sleeves and hemlines, gradually fading out. It was completely unexpected and I love the way Mark just gave print a little try, modestly put it on a few dresses but was obviously proud enough to use it for the invitation.
All in all, the show was very relaxed, sultry, modern and seductive while sporadically a little bit younger than before with the cute baby doll type dresses alongside the dramatic-but-comfortable grown-up gowns. There were some black dresses and two-pieces expertly styled with Linda Farrow sunglasses and jewellery from both Pebble and Renee Lindell (stacks of thick bangles looked perfect for summer) as was the rest of the collection. Quite a few garments were like summer versions of his previous winter collections made from heavier wool. It was almost like someone said ‘well I bet that body-con knitted dress business wouldn’t work in summer’ and Mark replied ‘oh yeah?’ by finding an entirely new and light-as-air way of knitting.
On the way out of the show, the cynic in me thought that were was actually a lot of repetition from previous seasons in the necklines, silhouettes and structured knits. However as hot-footed it to another show, I thought about why I expected there to be something so completely different this time around. I admittedly had high expectations of the show, but it was such a standout collection, and little details like structure and shape created by embroidering shimmering petals of sequins into the knitwear didn’t disappoint. I suddenly thought, what is so wrong with sticking with what you’re good at? Mark has now built up a signature style where so much can be developed from, why should he change drastically each season? The promise of prints and ever-developing strides in knitwear are keeping me interested, and if Mark continues to keep his fans I can see his brand following in the steps of Azzedine Alaïa, who practically invented sexy dressing with a twist through his figure-hugging cut-out womenswear in the 1980s and is still going strong. I was genuinely surprised by what this clever designer delivered, and no doubt will be panting in anticipation for the next season with everyone else.
Play the video and watch the show.
Written by Alia Gargum on Wednesday September 21st, 2011 7:20 pm