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Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

The name Alexander McQueen holds a powerful and influential weight in the world of fashion.

Alexander McQueen at The V&A
Savage Beauty’, currently on show at The V&A is a detailed and intricate journey into the creative mind of this couture genius. From the first room in the exhibition you can immediately sense that McQueen’s designs were not your usual high-street fashion finds with swathes of fabric on many of the jackets which would have made it almost impossible to wear in everyday life and certainly only fit for models on the runway, but each one had a strong sense of romanticism and drama to them.

Alexander McQueen at The V&A - Display
The second room hits you like a strong drink as you are surrounded by mirrored walls with embellished gold boarders and tall mannequins with fierce looking head-dresses and masks wearing ensembles which can only be descried as ‘Gothic Horror’. The haunting sound design only adds to the nightmarish horrors of the displays around you. As you look around the room, you get the sense that this was where the exhibition name came from – Savage Beauty – leather, studs, sequins, feather, chiffon and silk all in deep black layers and swathes whilst threatening, are all extraordinary works of art. Studded black leather shoes and boots all with six or seven inches of thick high heel only added to the darkness and drama of the collection. One mannequin covered from head to toe in deep black feathers with large wings struck me as being a resemblance to the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart in the classical ballet, Swan Lake.

Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty
It is not all grim and surreal though, as you leave the shadowy ‘world of Hades’ and arrive in a brightly lit room displaying McQueen’s famous wool tartan creations to one side with scarlet dresses fit for a queen on the other. The dress made famous by actress Sarah Jessica-Parker is on display along with a selection of wool tartan, silk, net, lace, tulle and leather creations. Scarlet Disney queen-style dresses are rich with feathers, gold, silk and velvet – the ultimate in luxurious high-end couture. Gold embellished head-dresses add a regal element to this striking display.

Copyright: [RPA]

Copyright: [RPA]

Perhaps the most intense and thrillingdisplay throughout the exhibition is the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’. A room so full of accessories, clothed mannequins and videos showing iconic McQueen catwalk shows, it is impossible not to leave awestruck and inspired. You got the sense that you were inside McQueen’s mind in this room, a world of colour, texture, adventure and cutting-edge fashion. Despite the fact that the room was full of others vying to get the best view of the exhibition, there was definitely an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feeling, in the sense that you felt like you had travelled into another world and were all alone surrounded by weird and wonderful things.

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty is an exciting and thrilling exhibition. As far as couture and cutting-edge fashion goes, this is a perfect example. McQueen was clearly a very talented but troubled man, yet the legacy he has created through his designs means he will forever be considered as one of the leaders in British Fashion Industry.

The exhibition runs until 2nd August 2015.

Laura Stafford-Deitsch

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Women, Fashion, Power At The Design Museum

Fashion retrospectives and exhibitions are ten-a-penny in London at the moment, and with so many high-profile names being bandied about (Alexander McQueen, anyone?) some of the smaller, more intimate exhibitions can get forgotten about. However, there’s one exhibition that we were dying to get to, and that’s the ‘Women Fashion Power’ show which was on at The Design Museum in Shad Thames.

The Design Museum, Shad Thames

Described by it’s curator, Donna Loveday, as a ‘celebration of exceptional women’, Women Fashion Power uses the changing fashions of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries to tell the story of women’s role in society. It looks at how over several decades women were able to smash the proverbial glass ceiling and begin to take public positions of power and influence – but not without a struggle, one which, as we all know, continues today.

Taking over the first floor of the museum, the exhibition space is relatively small in size, yet is able to tell a great deal through carefully selected pieces, many of which have been personally donated by prominent women from the art, political, fashion and business worlds. Interspersed amongst these donations are a variety of stories and accounts given by women from all walks of life on their relationship with fashion, how they use the clothes they wear to project a specific and controlled image of themselves. This is all positioned alongside video content and other relevant artefacts of interest; including influential fashion photography from the past 100 years, copies of important fashion publications – including the very first issue of Harper’s Bazaar, for example –  as well as catalogues, paparazzi photography and even the odd album sleeve.

It is, however, the donated pieces and their accompanying stories that dominate the exhibition. Luminaries such as Shami Chakrabati, Princess Diana, Camila Batmanghelidjh, Anna Jones, Lady Gaga and Angela Merkel – to name just a few – all donated items from their wardrobes and wrote about their own relationship with fashion, and how much (or how little) it mattered to them. Simple dresses from high-street stores are shown alongside clean, utilitarian suits and juxtaposed against flamboyant and mind-boggling pieces from designers such as Gareth Pugh – all highlighting the uniqueness and variety of the women who wear them.

Women Fashion Power at The Design Museum

Some have argued that the exhibition itself is patronising to women – reducing the discourse on women’s emancipation to an exploration of the artifice that surrounds them – and the inclusion of certain women in the exhibition has caused controversy. HSH Charlene of Monaco’s donation within the gallery of dresses caused some consternation – with many questioning whether this minor royal has any real role apart from a ‘decorative one’, thus demeaning the concept of the exhibition. Furthermore, the inclusion of one of Margaret Thatcher’s suits is accompanied by a video of the former Prime Minister being interviewed about the importance of her navy blue outfits – one has to wonder whether David Cameron’s wardrobe would be subject to the same scrutiny as hers.

Problematic as these examples are, they simply remind the visitor to question their notions of what power really is, and especially how it relates to women. Yes – women aren’t pushed and bound into the suffocating Victorian corsets that one is confronted with at the start of the exhibition – but perhaps the true emancipation of female power is still being constrained and contorted in far more subtle ways, by demeaning and patronising attitudes that fail to see a world where femininity and authority can coexist. Furthermore, the exhibition as a whole further proves how we use design – in all it’s myriad forms – to tell stories about ourselves, who we are, and who we want to be.

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Latest News: ‘Then and Now’ – Celebrating 50 Years of the London College of Furniture

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To celebrate 50 years since the opening of the London College of Furniture, The Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design have opened their doors and are welcoming the public to view their treasured design archive.

We popped along to explore the collection of not only beautifully crafted furniture, but musical instruments, toys and furnishing fabrics designed by both student and lecturer alumni, including the infamous Robin Day, Ernest Race and William Warren. 

William Warren Chair

The exhibition gives an exclusive view into the rarely seen Frederik Parker Archive, including an intricate sign from the original Frederik Parker & Sons shop. An alumni of the college, Frederik Park went on to co- found renowned furniture company Parker Knoll in 1869.

Signage from the original Frederik Parker & Sons shop

Frederik Parker Chair Archive

Frederik Parker Chair Archive

Frederik Parker Chair Archive 

With chairs lining the walls from floor to ceiling, we were encouraged to walk amongst the collections of tools, archive documents and photographs dotted throughout the room, showing us an insight into the hugely talented students who have studied at the college over the past 50 years.

Archive Documents

There’s still time to visit! The exhibition runs until the 23rd January with free entry at The Cass, London Metropolitan University, 42 – 47 Commercial Road, London, E1 1LA.

Opening hours: 10am – 6pm (Mon – Fri) 11am – 4pm (Sat)

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Grayson Perry – Who Are You?

comfort blanket section_topLogoNational-Portrait-Gallery

Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry has curved his direction and turned his attention to portraiture and British identity at his current show of new works.

We were directed to meander the first floor, seeking out the fourteen portraits displaying a variety of personalities, groups and families. All installed in the National Portrait Gallery’s nineteenth and twentieth century rooms, these works of art include a young female-to-male transsexual, Northern Ireland Loyalist marchers, politician Chris Huhne and 2012 X-Factor contestant Rylan Clark – quite the assortment of characters!

Presented in a variety of mediums, the fourteen pieces focus on the themes of personality and identity in modern day Britain. Not straying from his best known medium, a number of the pieces were fashioned in ceramics, a craft Perry has perfected over the last 30 years. The remaining portraits were bought to life through bold tapestries and statement sculptures.

Comfort Blanket Tapestry

The tapestry, entitled Comfort Blanket, is portrait of Britain to “wrap yourself up in”. A giant banknote full of things we love and also love to hate, the arrangement is based on a British £10 note with the Queen reigning over the image, illustrated as if she were “your auntie”, says Perry.

“Comfort Blanket inspiration….

‘A friend whose family had walked out of Hungary fleeing the Soviets in 1956 said her mother referred to Britain as her ‘security blanket’. As their plane came in to land in the UK the tanoy relayed a message from the Queen saying ‘Welcome to Britain you are now in a safe country’.

People still come to our country for its stability, safety and rule of law. We should be proud of that.” – Grayson Perry

Britain is Best

Line of Departure

A Map of Days

Melanie, Georgina & Sarah

The Ashford Hijab

The Deaf

The Earl of Essex

Idealised Hetrosexual Couple

I Am A Man

The pieces were created during the making of Grayson Perry: Who Are You? – A recent Channel 4 documentary series that shadows Perry as he spends time with all sorts of different people who are struggling to find their own identity.

There’s still time to visit this must see exhibition! Grayson Perry’s Who Are You? Continues until 15 March 2015 at the National Portrait Gallery.

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LDF 2014 | Riba Regent Street Windows Project

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Riba Regent Street, Hillgate PRSurely the aim of any shop window is to stand out? To entice, inspire and ultimately make the passer by look twice. Who better then, to achieve this than some of Britain’s most cutting edge architects?

This is the idea behind the Riba Regent Street Windows Project, now in its fifth year and this September showcasing some of the projects most stunning concepts yet. The Royal Institute of British Architects once again matched 15 leading architects with 15 of London’s most iconic stores, to create a three week installation in collaboration with London Design Festival.

Reaching across London’s Regent Street, Heddon Street and Brewer Street, involving prestigious retailers such as Topshop, Aquascutum and Longchamp, and architects such as Squire and Partners and vPPR Architects, the installation was a breathtaking display of how retail and architecture are so closely intertwined in today’s society, where the visual message is of utmost importance to any brand.

Of course it was a display that we couldn’t afford to miss here at Hillgate PR and below are some snapshots from our favourite window designs. To see all of the windows in one, head over to our Instagram account for a Flipagram of the experience.

Riba Regent Street Project 2014, Hillgate PRGant

Brooks brothers LDF, Hillgate PRBrooks Brothers

Folli Follie LDF 2014, Hillgate PRFolli Follie

Regent Street LDF Project, Hillgate PRPenhaligons

Aquascutum LDF Window Display, Hillgate PRAquascutum

Longchamp LDF Window, Hillgate PRLongchamp

Riba Regent Street Karen Millen, Hillgate PRKaren Millen

Which display is your favourite?

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LDF 2014 | A Placed Called Home

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Home by Airbnb, Hillgate PRWhat makes a house become a home? This was the question proposed to four highly acclaimed designers as part of the ‘A Place Called Home’ installation in London’s Trafalgar Square, and the interpretive answers they came up with were both intriguing and surprising.

Sponsored by AirBnB, this creative project saw designers; Jasper Morrison, Ilse Crawford, Patternity and Raw Edges take on the challenge of transforming a simple surface structure in London’s busiest square, into somewhere a person could truly belong.

From Jasper Morrison’s “House of a Pigeon Fancier; because who else would choose to live in Trafalgar Square?” to Patternity’s “Home in a much wider sense – the collective home we all share: earth” the four designs couldn’t have been more different, and said as much about the individual tastes of each designer as they did about the overall human ability to personalise the spaces we inhabit.

Here’s a closer look at the four designs.

Jasper Morrison's Home, LDF, Hillgate PRJasper Morrison

Jasper Morrison cited the important factors of any home to be quality of light and space, atmosphere, location and human content, so it’s fitting that his house creation was an ambient tranquil setting which struck just the right balance between utilising the space effectively, and allowing for a natural atmosphere to come through from the design.

Raw Edges for LDF 2014, Hillgate PRRaw Edges

Husband and wife designer duo Raw Edges set about creating a space that could switch and alter to the changing needs of a family. As self-confessed “nomads; in the past ten years we have lived in 11 different places” they wanted a home that could react to a person’s actions, rooms that could shrink and expand by sliding doors and walls that could change position. A design which would be “collapsible, foldable, shrinkable and movable”.

Patternity for LDF 2014, Hillgate PRHome by Airbnb, LDF 2014Patternity

Pattern experts and queens of thinking outside of the box, it was no surprise that design team Patternity chose to interpret home in an unusual way. Incorporating “the patterns that have and always will shape the world around us, they took patterns from all four corners of the world to create an interactive kaleidoscope of imagery, one which constantly moved and evolved to create new forms. In their words; “from the mundane to the magnificent, the macro to the micro”.

Ilse Crawford for Airbnb, Hillgate PRIlse Crawford

Studioilse, the design company from designer Ilse Crawford chose to create a space which could challenge our everyday ideals of what makes a home. Is it the familiarity of the surroundings? The smells and sounds? Or by referencing daily home rituals which may be familiar to anyone, can the feeling of home be recreated? An immersive experience using a range of different media, this home house focused on the everyday tasks that we carry out, using the sounds of a microwave ping and the essence of what home smells like to elevate the mundane yet comforting aspects of home life. “It doesn’t matter if you live in a palace or a squat, we all perform the same daily rituals behind closed doors”.

 Suddenly the idea of living in the middle of Trafalgar square doesn’t seem so bad! Which home do you prefer?

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LDF 2014 | Exploring the V&A

V&A Museum, Hillgate PRthe carousel, Hillgate PRProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

V&A Museum, Hillgate PRThe V&A is always one of the main hubs of London Design Festival with an assortment of installations, displays and projects created by some top names in the design and architecture business. This year was no different and some of the more notable projects, such as the Double Space for BMW designed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby were created to live amongst the existing art and architecture of the eponymous museum.

We hunted down some of the most creative projects on display and below is our round up of those not to be missed.

Double Space for BMW, Hillgate PRV&A Double Space for BMW, Hillgate PRDouble Space for BMW – Precision in Motion

Barber and Osgerby (the design duo behind the Olympic and Paralympic torches for 2012) have once again aligned their names with innovative, thought provoking industrial design through this immersive sculpture housed in the grand Raphael gallery within the V&A.

The kinetic sculpture, created in conjunction with BMW aims to distort the viewer’s sense of perspective while taking in the cartoon paintings within the space. Two mirrored structures revolve at different paces, sometimes in conjunction with each other, sometimes against each other, to create a series of reflections of everything and everyone in the room. “The visitor becomes part of the room for a fleeting moment” say the duo, “inviting the viewer and the gallery to be part of the performance.”. Want to see the installation in motion? Take a look at our short video of the structures movement.

V&A Candela, Hillgate PRCandela

A collaborative project between product designer Felix De Pass, graphic designer Michael Montgomery and ceramicist Ian McIntyre, this light display brings illumination and illusion to one of the V&A’s darkest spaces, the tapestry gallery. The installation comprises of a large rotary machine which sits in the centre of the room. As the machine revolves it passes through a light source that charges its surface, in turn emitting this energy as after-glow and creating a continual ebb and flow of light, allowing a green hue to bounce around the empty room. See our hyperlapse of the experience, over on Instagram.

V&A Carousel Wall, Hillgate PRV&A Carousel Wall, Hillgate PRThe Carousel Wall

If you visit the V&A through the tunnel entrance from the underground station (and we recommend you do simply to see this) you’ll pass this collaboration between print and design Studio, David David and British manufacturer Johnson Tiles. The mural design, made up of tiled ceramic panels in a bold geometric pattern greets visitors as they enter the Museum and creates a colourful start to the bounds of creative design inside the V&A’s walls.

V&A Wishlist, Hillgate PRThe V&A Wishlist, Hillgate PRV&A Wishlist Desk, Hillgate PRThe Wish List

10 top designer names, 10 emerging talents. The Wish List offers an exciting collaboration between renowned design experience and fresh young craftsmanship. Each well-known designer has nominated and challenged an emerging artist to create that special something that they’ve ‘always wanted in their home, but never been able to find’. From a comfortable wooden seat, to a desk that can be hidden away and a seat with which to perch on and take in the view, these pieces are an amazing display of what happens when two creative minds at different stages in their career come together.

Crest by Zaha Hadid, Hillgate PRV&A CrestCrest

Before you leave the gallery, be sure to take in the tranquil setting of the John Madejski gardens and the beautiful curves of the Crest, a structure designed by Zaha Hadid specifically for the London Design Festival. We could have quite happily pitched up here with our laptops and made an outdoor office for the day, so relaxed was the atmosphere.

What did you think of the V&A exhibits during London Design Festival?

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Matisse Exhibition, Tate Modern, April – September 2014

The Snail 1953 by Henri Matisse 1869-1954Matisse at the Tate poster1Henri Matisse - The Parakeet and the Mermaid 1952

The Cut-Outs exhibition at the Tate Modern explores Henri Matisse as a pillar of modern art and alternative design.

This momentous show takes you through the final chapter of his career in where deteriorating health led him down a new creative path of ‘carving into colour’. From this, his series of remarkable cut-outs was born; a decision that arguably ensured his legacy became a household name and his style a triumph in modern design.

Blue Nude

Brief History
In his late sixties, when illness prevented Matisse from painting, he began to cut into painted paper using scissors. As time passed, and popularity for his new work increased, Matisse chose to work with these innovative cut-outs instead of painting: he had invented a new form of modern art. Initially conceived as a unified whole, London celebrates the first time in 50 years that the works have been united.

The Show
Showcasing a stunning array of 120 works made between 1936 and 1954, the exhibition allows you to get lost in his thoughts and methodology. Featuring footage of the master at work, the show illustrates each piece in detail. Daring and energetic, the cut-outs combine a simple concept with a fascinating idea. This exhibition marks an historic moment where these glorious pieces from around the world can be seen side by side.

Footage of Matisse at work

The exhibition is cleverly arranged to complement his work; The Snail 1953 is shown alongside its sister work Memory of Oceania 1953 and the exhibition boasts the largest number of Matisse’s famous Blue Nudes ever exhibited together.

Memory of Oceania 1953

     The Snail 1953

Hosted in the iconic Tate Modern, London will exhibit the collection before it travels to New York in September to the Museum of Modern Art. After this, these fabulous works will be returned to galleries and their private owners from around the world.

 

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RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014

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Chelsea Flower Show has taken place every year (bar a few during the World Wars) since 1913 and on Friday we were lucky enough to visit this prestigious and world famous event. Battling our way through the crowds we managed to make our way around the magnificent show gardens and also experience the wonderfully vibrant displays on offer in the Great Pavilion.  Below are a few of our favourites.

On entry we were immediately struck by The M&G Garden, designed by Clive West, with its contemporary take of a paradise garden.  We are informed this is a space that uses water, shade and planting for sanctuary and contemplation and was in invented by the Persians more than 2,000 years ago.  It is certainly a place we would like to escape to!

Simplicity and relaxation were also top of the agenda for the Telegraph Garden with their take on an Italian garden.  We loved the clean straight lines of the grassed area, contrasting against the curves of the hedges and angular chairs.

We were then drawn to the jewelled colours of the delicate flowers and stone sculpture of the Himalayan Rock Garden.

Many of the gardens incorporated water features within their designs and one that grabbed our attention was the semi-circular water sculptures in the Positively Stoke-on-Trent garden. We also loved the clean lines and high tech materials used.

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Designs of the Year 2014

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Each year the Design Museum unveils its nominations for the Designs of the Year – showcasing exceptional international design which ranges from fashion and furniture to digital and graphic innovation. We couldn’t wait to head down and see the cutting-edge talent on show this year.

This year 76 nominees were chosen to present their designs. The diversity between each is astounding and truly represents the best in global creativity. Nominees include world-renowned designers as well as start-ups and university students; the diverse range of designs include ‘The Dumb Ways to Die’ app which encourages rail safety to sustainable floating schools. Some of our other favourite entries include:

The PET Lamp Project, designed by Alvaro Catalan de Ocon, makes use of discarded plastic bottles that have been washed down the Amazon River and are then weaved into lampshades.

Shoes designed by Tracey Neuls aim to be casual, dress shoes and sports shoes all in one. They are made with a piece of reflective material which turns them from classic day and work shoes into an additional safety tool for cyclists.

The Totemic Collection, designed by textile graduate Sadie Williams, consists of an array of stiff A-line dresses that are made out of a textile that she developed, known as ‘Jumbo-lurex’. Williams transformed the normally flimsy lurex by heating, printing and embossing the material.

The Lego Calendar is a wall-mounted time planner intended for a studio. Designed by Adrian Westaway, Clara Gaggero, Duncan Fitzsimons and Simon Emberton, the idea is that the colour-coded bricks represent time spent on projects. The calendar can also be programmed through smartphones to sync to online planners.

The Designs of the Year 2014 exhibition runs from 26th March through to 25th August. Category winners will be announced next month and then the overall winner chosen in May. With the immense diversity of innovative, forward-thinking design we certainly would not like to be the ones to choose a winner!

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