Nick Knight’s Flora: No Words, Just Pictures

Actually, a few words.

I’m so frazzled that I absentmindedly tried to drink from a candle this evening – and a lit, lavender-smelling one at that.

With that in mind, I present to you Nick Knight’s Flora series. Photographs of pretty flowers, but not as we know it.

You can find out more over on the SHOWSTUDIO website.

Pictures by Nick Knight via Honestly WTF and Trendland

The Reading List: Antonio Lopez…

…Fashion, Art, Sex and Disco by Roger and Mauricio Padilha.

Brought to you by the brother team behind the Stephen Sprouse book, Antonio Lopez: Fashion, Art, Sex and Disco is heavy on the fashion and art, profligate with the sex and mercifully sparing with any disco tendencies.  As a luxe retrospective of the man who changed fashion illustration into a fairly straightforward representation of clothing into a glamorous, high-burning lifestyle to aspire to, it is comprehensive, but not bleatingly sympathetic.

The book charts Lopez’ work, as it goes from black and white Bridget Riley’esque Op Art illustrations for WWD, to the louche lines and Toulouse-Lautrec inspired saturated colour arrangements of Maxime de la Falaise, to his own hyper-sexualised clean drawings, which would become one of the most obvious signifiers of his era.  His style totally typified the 80’s – stark, one coloured, androgynous faces of many races, most with contrasting slashes of blusher and deep, dark eyeshadow.

The book is not just illustration;  Lopez used his Instamatic without thought for the prohibitive price of film – his photos make the viewer feel voyeuristic, so sexual are they.  The sheer volume of exposed supermodel breast on show makes the reader feel as if they’ve gone through a secret cache of private photos on a famous person’s phone. Such is the power of instant film and the Lopez clique.

With those are many, many photos of Lopez and his partner, Juan Ramos, out and about, enjoying beach holidays with Karl Lagerfeld and horsing around with Jerry Hall.  The mix of biography and retrospective is hardly surprising – The work of Lopez was radically intertwined with all other aspects of his life.  He socialised with his muses (even becoming briefly engaged to Jerry Hall) and stayed with Ramos as an artistic and business partner long after their romantic relationship had waned.

Perhaps the best part of the book is the selection of pages from his diary – mostly sketches, some photos, scraps and a smattering of words.  The breadth of his talent was ever-expansive. Through these diary pages we see a distilled essence of what shines through the whole book – love.  It is pure, unabashed love which powered Lopez’ work –  love of life, of colour, of form, of the fulfillment brought through work and taking advantage of every available opportunity.

Antonio Lopez: Fashion, Art, Sex and Disco, by Roger and Mauricio Padilha, is published by Rizzoli and is out now.

Hallowe’en Appropriate: Salvador Dali for Vogue Paris

Happy Hallowe’en everyone! I hope you’ll be having a spectacularly spooky evening, or at the very least having one that involves eating all the trick or treaters sweeties (I’m on my third funsize box of Smarties).

While not strictly frightening, this 1971 edition of Vogue Paris, edited by Surrealist supremo Salvador Dali, is just jarring enough to give you proper chills…

Vintage Vogue scans via Youthquakers, which is so fantastic I can hardly bear it.

The Reading List: Masters of Fashion Illustration

Antonio Lopez

For those who missed out on buying the hardback edition of David Downton’s Masters of Fashion Illustration, fear not – Laurence King have just released a paperback edition that is ever bit as well-appointed as its predecessor.

Masters of Fashion Illustration is not a comprehensive history or even a comprehensive list of famous fashion illustrators – Rene Gruau is conspicuous in his absence. However, it doesn’t pretend to be one. The selection of illustrators profiled is entirely up to Downton (one of the best contemporary illustrators living today), who selects his personal favourites as opposed to a line up of the usual suspects. The first illustrator profiled is well-known 19th century social portraitist Giovanni Boldini, which will give you an idea of Downton’s inclination to colour outside of the lines (sorry, bad pun) when it comes to selecting his Masters.

Monvel and Brissaud

Not that this is a bad thing, of course. Delve through the book and you’ll see that Downton has impeccable, elegant taste. His selection is a mix of the well-known and relatively obscure – many of the images have been reproduced here for the first time since their original publication. There are some lovely pictures of Andy Warhol’s whimsical, feminine illustrations of shoes and Schiaparelli perfume (why do we always forget that before Warhol was an artist he was an illustrator?) and Bob Peak’s work is the stuff that Mad Men art directors dream of.


The final part of the book is a 36 page portfolio of Downton’s work, accompanied by an interview conducted by Tony Glenville. The interview isn’t as much about Downton’s career (although he does talk about it) as much as it’s about the selection process for what goes in the book – which is extra interesting, if you’re a publishing nerd like me. Downton’s work is pretty mermerising and masterful – some lines are really Impressionistic but others are so sure and deft that they are almost photoreal – it’s astounding that he doesn’t do his work digitally.

David Downton

If you’re looking for a comprehensive overview of fashion illustration, you may be better off buying 100 Years of Fashion Illustration by Cally Blackman, which is more timeline based. However, if you want to be reintroduced to some old faces and become acquainted with the new master, then this beautifully laid out book is worth buying.


Masters of Fashion Illustration (paperback) by David Downton is published by Laurence King and is out now.

Licentiate Column 09/08/12: The King of All Colours

I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries lately.  I’ve also been watching a lot of 30 Rock, but that’s probably not relevant to this week’s column.  I’ll stop right there and not talk about Liz Lemon’s lack of sartorial nous.

One of these documentaries has been the History of Art in Three Colours series on BBC4.  Presented by the easy-on-the-eyes Dr James Fox (who somehow manages to wear the same black suit jacket/white shirt combo while scrambling though ancient tombs as well as strolling through the Tate), it’s an exploration of the world through the colours gold, blue and white.

James Fox chills out in Egypt and tells us about gold, yo.

Although the series has just ended, I highly recommend that you watch it online if you have any interest in art, history or indeed, fashion. It is a very stylish program.  If the majority of television is chewing gum for the eyes, A History of Art in Three Colours is a plate of petit fours; beautiful, light, easy to digest and not substantial enough to be totally satisfying.

The history of fashion can also be told through colour.  However, which colour jostles for precedence in the pecking order?  Colours come and go, as the wearers are led by trends that are both ephemeral and temporal.  Taste, circumstance and the dictates of higher-ups make the importance of colours fluctuate like an Olympic league table.

For my money, I think that the most important colour (or at least, the most important colour for the past few thousand years anyway) is purple.  Not just any purple.  A kind of blue-tinged burgundy most recently seen on devotees of MAC’s Cyber lipstick, a baroque punk shade that is redolent of both privilege and rebellion.  It is called Tyrian purple.

Also known as imperial purple, Tyrian purple was worth its weight in silver and was highly prized.  Unlike other dyes, weathering and sunlight only makes it stronger.  It’s either an irony or a sublime coincidence that the dye came from predatory mid-sized sea snails and ended up being worn by royalty and politicians – although that might just be a mix of cynicism and historic revisionism shining through.

Tyrian purple – not just for Jesus.

Tyrian purple was so important that it was subsidised by the Byzantine court.  Once a man became a Roman senator, this robes were run through with one stripe of pure Tyrian purple.  The ancient method of processing this dye has long been lost, along with all the principled Roman senators, but we do know from writings that it was, apparently, incredibly smelly.

It is such a unique hue that it cannot be represented on a computer screen.  Indeed, the most accurate versions of the colour, a colour so special and unique that it cannot be fully replicated ever again, can be seen on the walls of millennia-old basilicas – not on the catwalk.

It’s like the old order of gods, kings and the idealistic politician – it’s gone, all gone.  What is left of it and of Tyrian purple is nothing but a bland pastiche, weak imitation and blatant bastardisation. That’s worth a documentary.

The Wizard of Oz is In Vogue

Following on from yesterday’s review of Everything Oz, I thought I’d post this photoshoot from the Christmas issue of American Vogue from 2005. The December issues of Vogue are always very special – there’s always a fairytale/pantomime/dreamscape shoot with a cast of unusual suspects. This time it’s Keira Knightley and a roster of American contemporary artists; the puckish Jeff Koons as a winged monkey, Tim Currin as the Tin Man, Chuck Close as Oz, the Great and Powerful, Jasper Johns as the Cowardly Lion and Kara Walker as Glinda, the Good Witch – amongst others.

Shot by Annie Liebovitz, styled by Grace Coddington.




Inspiration: French Women

Is it just me or is November a little, well, flumpish?  You know, it gets dark at six and it’s cold and rainy and it seems that nothing is very inspiring.

I bet French women don’t have that problem.

Lou Doillon

Francoise Hardy

Sonia Rykiel

Francoise Sagan

Emmanuelle Seigner

All illustrations by Isaac Bonan for Milk Magazine.