Monday, February 7, 2011

For Your Eyes Only

We all know that James Bond and his creator Ian Fleming were the ultimate in Savoir Faire when we delved into the world of spies and such. Bond has become the definitive spy and his past and future adventures continue to inspire movies, books and the way we dress.

Where fictional characters are involved I am always interested to see how, when it comes to illustrating these characters and stories what direction the artists take in doing so. Growing up and even now I am intrigued by a series of Bond covers done for Pan Paperbacks in the mid to late 60’s.

The incredibly graphic and singular approach was once described as having "a stark elegance... consistently menacing and memorable. Each has a single photographic image on a plain or textured background. Blurb is dispensed with. It’s the visual equivalent of a cruel, sardonic smile”

The continuity of style over the series was a great exercise in brand recognition and management. These are instantly memorable, and the fact that the artist/designer made the words JAMES BOND twice the size of those for the titles of the books and of their author Ian Fleming, a whole new marketing approach was anticipated.

So of course Savoir Faire wanted to know who was behind these fantastic covers that he loved so much. Only one of the titles was ever credited with the artist and that was Thunderball. “Its cover is the best of an outstanding set of images and the acknowledgement of the designer suggests the publisher thought so too."

For Thunderball, the artist fills the cover with a close-up of a man’s naked back, perforated by two bullet holes. These are actual holes, die-cut into the card. Surrounding each is a torn-paper effect. It’s not the man who has been shot, it’s the book – and, as proof, the bullets can be found inside, depicted on the opening page. Bond’s life is so dangerous, this cover tells us, and even books about him aren’t safe. Read on if you dare”

So the artist, who was behind this wonderful marketing strategy, was one Raymond Hawkey. A gentleman, who was as equally suave as the man whose exploits he was illustrating and a trend setting graphic designer, who designed newspapers, magazines and book covers, he revolutionised British design at the height of the Cold War.

Whereas previous Bond covers had been rather illustrative covers in the Pulp Fiction genre nicely painted, but not exactly stylish, Hawkey’s covers were a radical departure. Neither hero nor villain is pictured. A minimalist aesthetic was used shared with close cropped, photographically based single elements of the story illustrated.

Take for example the cover for “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”; a wedding ring rests in some blood spattered snow. This is just a hint of what was to become when Bond finds himself on duty in the Swiss Alps.

The cover for Dr. No is again striking in its simplicity with the title “Dr. No” taking the form of a spider at the centre of its web, highlighting the sinister form of the title character.

One of my favourites was the cover for “The Man with the Golden Gun” highlighting the BOAC boarding pass. Being an airline nut, this one particularly catches my attention. I am sure that BOAC (now British Airways) hastened to agree to the use of their logo recognising a bit of free advertising when they saw it.

Widely regarded this set of visually striking covers is the most successful series of republished James Bond novels, and it seems that Mr. Hawkey himself had just as much Savoir Faire as Mr. Bond.

No Piguet No Dior?

Many refer to the period immediately after World War II right through the 1950’s as Couture’s Golden Age, with Christian Dior even proclaiming in 1948 that “A new Golden Age is dawning”

Houses in Paris, such as Dior, Balenciaga Fath, Balmain, and Givenchy were at the forefront of this golden age capturing worldwide attention with their elegance and glamour. One name that is very rarely mentioned during this golden age is that of Robert Piguet. If it was not for him we might not have had the likes of Dior, Balmain and Givenchy as they all worked for him at some stage in their careers.

Born in Switzerland and at the age of 17 leaving for Paris (after much Parental opposition) to gain his fortune, Piguet learned the trade from Redfern and Poiret. Both houses were at the top of the couture radar in Paris and the world when Piguet arrived. Both were fashionable and influential however they held completely different design aesthetics, which was to influence Piguet when he created his own house in 1933. Piguet combined the imagination and awareness of Poiret at his peak with the quality and stability of Redfern.

Taking inspiration from Poiret, Piguet had an astute understanding between the links between high fashion and art, with collections reflecting his sensitivity to the cultural movements of the times.

With his own couture house Piguet became known for the delicacy of his style especially in morning and afternoon dresses, the certain flamboyance of color in clothes for evening and for the perfect cut of his thin grey flannel suits…every collection a reflection of his infallible eye, refined simplicity and the quality that most defined Piguet: elegance. Constantly acknowledged by his peers, the women he dressed and the press as “the most Parisian of couturiers”.

There was a lot more behind the Piguet style or design aesthetic than just Piguet himself. It could be said that the most lasting contribution and prominent effect that Piguet had on Haute Couture was on the actual designers whom he hired to design his collections for him. Piguet was most notably a stylist who chose designs from a series of contributors, made the final adjustments and then showed under his own name. Piguet's wisdom in choosing able designers, however, was more than matched by his skill in maintaining the identity of his house and collections, no matter who produced the actual sketches.

Pierre Balmain, Marc Bohan and Hubert de Givenchy all trained at the hands of this master as did Christian Dior who said “Robert Piguet taught me the virtues of simplicity through which true elegance must come.” Another who benefited from his three-month internship at the House of Piguet was James Galanos, one of the greats of American designers. All of these men were later on to become major forces behind the Parisian world of Haute Couture

Let’s not forget that Piguet was the house behind some of the greatest perfumes of the era, including the ultimate single floral, Fracas. Piguet’s perfumes Bandit, Fracas and Baghari and others, “have a particular feel, very characteristic of his trademarks: strict adherence to good taste, true luxury, a horror of the commonplace and an innate sense of seduction”

In short in light of his success one would think that Piguet was an extremely well trained couturier, however I think that his success lies in the fact that he was an extremely profound and influential mentor to some of the great names of the Golden Age of Couture.

Closing in 1951 and due to ill health and passing away in 1953, we seem to forget the lasting and enormous contribution that Piguet made to haute couture

Upon Piguet’s death, Jean Cocteau, a dear and trusted friend, as was Colette and the actor / director, Jean Marais, wrote of Piguet “he loved, he invented, he gave…a generous and vibrant member of our team.”

Lunar Eclipse with Savoir Faire!

I know there is not a lunar eclipse eminent however Savoir Faire just loves the below sideboard by Sotirios Papadopoulos.

In a limited edition of 24 pieces. The “moon” on the furniture’s surface is a very special luminous and ecological paint which creates a wonderful luminous effect in the dark.

Gives a whole new meaning to lunar eclipse don’t you think?
Blog Widget by LinkWithin