Chanel Mobile Art Container by Zaha Hadid Opens in Central Park

October 20, 2008

“Mobile Art”, a slick UFO-like exhibition space designed by architect Zaha Hadid and commissioned by Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel, has arrived at Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield (off Fifth Avenue and 69th Street). The traveling container for about 20 Chanel-inspired projects (very kindly misbilled as contemporary art installations — don’t be fooled: it’s corporate branding) by a rotating list of international producers will be open to the public from October 20 to November 9.

The promotional-spectacle-disguised-as-art container is on a two-year worldwide tour. Launched in Hong Kong in February 2008, it traveled to Tokyo before arriving in New York. In November, it continues onto London, then Moscow, and finally Paris in 2010. (These stops probably represent the fashion house’s most lucrative markets, yes?)

Adrian Benepe, NY’s Parks & Recreation Commissioner, is ever-eager to further the corporate takeover of public space, aka public-private partnerships:

Our partnership with Chanel continues the great tradition of bringing world class cultural offerings to New York City’s parks… Zaha Hadid’s traveling pavilion will place a futuristic work of architecture and outstanding works of contemporary art in an historic setting in the heart of Central Park. The contrast will be fantastic, melding the vision of one of the world’s most important fashion houses with the beauty of one of the world’s most significant works of landscape design.

Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s Fashion President, is ever-eager to equate the company’s products with art:

Mobile Art was conceived as a project that examines the relationship between contemporary art, fashion and architecture. The project pushes the boundaries of the Chanel aesthetic by joining these mediums and creating an innovative artistic experience. As envisioned by Karl Lagerfeld, the project explores the role fashion plays in the everyday life of women through symbolic evocations of the Chanel quilted handbag.

ACK. In the midst of today’s economy, this recalls Marie-Antoinette’s response when she was told that the French had no bread to eat: “Let Them Eat Cake!”

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Fashion King Yves Saint Laurent Died Last Night

June 2, 2008

French fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent died of a brain tumor in Paris last night at the age of 71. Born in Algeria in 1936 (when it was still a French colony), Saint Laurent got his big break when he began designing for the house of Dior, then was appointed head designer when Christian Dior died of a stroke in 1957. Because Dior was responsible for almost 50% of France’s fashion exports at the time, then 21-year-old Saint Laurent’s success became crucial for the economy. He would play a pivotal role in making Paris the capital of an international fashion industry.

Saint Laurent opened his own couture house in 1961 after leaving Dior to complete his military service. Over the course of his 50-year career, he revolutionized women’s clothing by breaking down the distinction between masculine and feminine.

Perhaps best known for introducing the “Le Smoking”, a tuxedo for women, in 1966, Saint Laurent considered himself an advocate for women’s power. In 1968, this caused a scandal in Manhattan when New York socialite Nan Kempner wore the tuxedo to dinner at La Cote Basque restaurant. The maitre d’ told her she couldn’t dine in a pair of trousers and Kempner promptly dropped the pants and proceeded to dine in the jacket, which had instantly become a very short dress.

He would later open his pret-a-porter or ready-to-wear line which brought pantsuits and gender-neutral jackets and pants to everyday lives of women. This major shift in fashion coincided significantly with the changing socioeconomic role of women as millions began entering the workforce in the late 1960s and 70s. The change was so revolutionary that most women in Western cultures today don’t even think twice about wearing jackets and pants.

yslA full retrospective of his work opened at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts just last Thursday. It will be on view through September 28.

A farewell tip of the hat to a magical man.