Thursday, September 30, 2010

Naval Savoir Faire

Now that autumn is making a swift apearance for us up here in the Northern Hemisphere, and winter just around the corner, I believe one of the essentials of the male wardrobe is the humble pea coat/jacket.

Although first appearing in the late 19th century and worn by sailors, the jacket has retained the hallmarks and characteristics of its original design so that it has become a classic. Originally designed by Navy men to endure the harsh, cold temperatures that many of the men faced on the seas, they have become a classic.

Pea coats usually navy blue in color are characterized by broad lapels, double-breasted fronts, often large wooden or metal buttons, and vertical or slash pockets and the heavy worsted wools they are constructed from.

I find Navy surplus jackets to be the best and have had the same one for years, alternating buttons, between the original and gold for a more dressy look. I love the original buttons with the recessed anchors. Of course I always (85% of the time) stick to the classic navy blue, however I think other colours work quite well such as beige or grey.

As with any classic piece of clothing the style has been always open to interpretation with the lines being changed, lengths shortened or lengthened and decoration added as in the examples below. However no matter what a designer does to it, it is always a classic, full of savoir faire.

*French Connection

* Sonia Rykiel


*Richard James bespoke

Communist Savoir Faire

Oscar Niemeyer has always been a favourite architect of mine. His buildings and interiors always remind me of a James Bond (Sean Connery) film set, and I am sure this is where Bond’s set designers drew some of their inspiration from.

I, love architecture of all various types and styles from baroque to modern, and this is one building that presses all my buttons for modernist architecture.

Oscar Niemeyer’s stunning headquarters for the French Communist Party in Paris was commissioned in the late 1960s — a time when the Communists enjoyed great popularity in France.
Niemeyer was a committed Communist, and waived his fee for the design of the building. The headquarters building was built in the early 1970s on a site formerly occupied by workers’ housing at Place du Colonel Fabien in the 19th arrondissement, an area known for its Communist sympathies.

A white space age like dome rises from the forecourt of the building in front of a sweeping glass façade. This dome forms roof of the building’s main conference room, a space dominated by hundreds of hanging metal ceiling tiles, which give an ethereal effect that is constantly changing with the light.

What is wonderful is that most of the original furniture still remains in the main foyer and in the conference room. Walls and spaces can appear almost brutal at times however these are broken up by the use of timber shuttering used in the casting of the concrete.

Communism seems to have been rather stylish in Niemeyer’s world. I am just wondering how much his fee was and how much the building was to construct, as this is luxury with an edge!

It was kind of ironic that New York menswear designer Thom Browne chose to show his 2010 collection for men inside one of the meeting rooms with rows of long tables and little French and American flags at each place.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Hoffman Tales

Josef Hoffman Austrian architect and designer of consumer goods was a man ahead of his times. Quite easily the Philippe Starck of his day. With the assistance of other artists and financial backers he helped establish the Wiener Werkstatte which was to last until 1932. He designed many products for the Wiener Werkstätte of which designer chairs, most notably the "Sitzmaschine" Chair, a lamp, and sets of glasses, tea services and such which make up parts of many museums collections on decorative arts.

*Metropolitan New York
Many of his architectural works still survive in Europe; however it is purely in the decorative objects where I think he shines.

His was a purely functional no nonsense approach to design relying on pure form with minimal decoration, where decoration was involved it enhanced the lines and was an integral part of the design with form complementing decoration and vice versa. Before 1910 designs were in the fashionable Art Nouveau style, however with the turn of the century his style radically changed. Geometry took over and objects were now incredibly linear with little decoration and silver predominated.

The “Series B” glassware is one of my all time favourites. This is a prime example of form, and function with decoration complementing it all.

Objects such as cutlery services are strikingly modern considering when they were designed. One can be forgiven for thinking that function was sacrificed over form; however this was not the case. Function and form also complement each other

We can still see the influence that Hoffman has played on consumer design today. How many cheaper versions of the chairs below have we seen!

This was savoir faire ahead of its time!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sinful Savoir Faire!

I just recently came across this wonderful series of illustrations from a French Fashion magazine during the World War II. They are by Remy Hetreau whom I must admit do not know much about, however here I have the incentive to find out more.

Hetreau has illustrated the seven deadly sins by personifying them as women dressed by the leading couturiers of the day. What is interesting is that he has also drawn a character in the same drawing to illustrate the seven Catholic virtues opposite the particular sin involved.

What a novel way approach to illustrating the current fashions of the day with a bit of humour also involved. The illustrations are very French and Almost Cocteau like in their appearance. You have to look closely at the detail of each drawing for the humour involved.

As they were done during World War II I am sure that there are some hidden references to the repressed atmosphere felt in France during the German occupation.

Greed and Generosity dressed by Paquin
Anger and Patience dressed by Fath

Gluttony and Temperance dressed by Mad Carpentier

Envy and Altruism dressed by Marcel Rochas

Sloth and Activity dressed by Madelaine Vramant

Pride and Modesty dressed by Lelong

Lust and Chastity dressed by Gres

Friday, September 24, 2010

Weekend Away in Istanbul

Istanbul is one of my favourite cities in the world. It is a perfect blend of Middle East Exoticism and Western culture. With a long rich history the city has a commanding position on the Bosphorus spanning two continents.

If I just happened to be lucky enough (which I am not) to be jetting off to Istanbul for the weekend there would be no better place to stay than the A’jia Hotel. This luxury boutique hotel of only 16 rooms is housed in a traditional Ottoman Mansion from the 19th century perched on the Asian edge of the Bosphorus.

Blending traditional and modern design the hotel is an oasis from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul, not to mention that the views are stunning. Each room is decorated in a different style which is a welcome relief from the larger hotels. With an emphasis on simplified luxury the modern décor of the hotel is in perfect harmony with the historical exterior.

However I think the crowning glory of the hotel is the terrace of the restaurant, and the outside terrace bar one level above. Who can not imagine themselves sitting there having cocktails or dining whether be it night or day?

So who wants to spend the weekend in Istanbul? I do!
Blog Widget by LinkWithin