Paper cuts: Matisse Cut-Outs at Tate Modern

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If you want a life affirming experience, tear yourself away from the computer and get thee to Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at Tate Modern. Comprising around 120 of Matisse’s fragile paper works, this is the first time this many of the iconic cut-outs have been shown together. The opportunity has not been wasted, with the works displayed in airy rooms that give ample space to these energetic and colourful pieces.

As the story goes, Henri Matisse’s most famous cut-outs were realised in his 70s when, having enjoyed a successful painting career, cancer surgery left him weak and immobile. But the artist had to create so he devised a way to ‘paint’ using paper and scissors, cutting directly into paper that had been coloured by assistants with bright gouache, then pinning and repining on the walls around his bedroom and studio.

However, this was in fact not Matisse’s first experience with cut-outs. As the exhibition’s first room shows, the technique was initially used as a practical planning method, to help figure out the placement of objects in his still life paintings. On display are the earlier pieces and it’s a great opportunity to see them up close, pin holes and all and often with the pins still in place.

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The second and third rooms are dedicated to the famous Dancers and Jazz cut-outs. I particularly love the display cases that show the Jazz works printed in a book beneath the framed original ‘maquettes’.

The pictures were meant to be accompanied by poems but the publisher opted for Matisse’s own illustrative and poetic handwritten notes instead. Running along all four walls of the room, this display of colour, shape and huge, rhythmic script is full of life. Alas, Matisse didn’t like the way that the reproduced versions of his art erased the subtlety of layered paper – god knows what he would feel about his work being discoursed through the medium of the computer screen!

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Of course, the large scale pieces are the best known and they’re here in all their mesmerising glory. These naïve, organic shapes depicting plants, water and birds were a way for Matisse to feel part of nature even when housebound. The simplicity of these shapes belie the process that Matisse and his assistants went through, painstakingly arranging and rearranging until the desired expression was achieved.

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It can’t be denied that we’re in the throes of a Matisse fashion moment right now and this exhibition will be as popular with fashion designers, makeup artists and graphic designers as art students and art lovers (the entrance price is the only downer, a whopping £18). For example, the designs on display that Matisse created for the cover of Verve magazine look as fresh now as they did in 1937 and as for the primary-hued Jazz pieces, well the Celine comparisons have already been made.

Expect the impact to last beyond one season though. This cheering show comes at a time when society’s mood is ready to be lifted. Sixty years after his death, I wonder if these Matisse cut-outs might make a deeper mark on our psyches.

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Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is at Tate Modern until 7th September. It will tour to the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 14th October to 9th February 2015.

From the vaults: Kirsten Owen

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Kirsten Owen in no make-up make-up, smiling and having a cheeky fag on the cover of Vogue Italia. In a plain black jumper. No coverlines. Just fantastic, no? (from September 1997, by Steven Meisel…)

Book report: Seven Sisters Style

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I’m so thrilled for Rebecca C. Tuite who has just published her book, Seven Sisters Style (Rizzoli, £22.50). I stumbled across her site a while ago, when she linked to a blog post I wrote about Vassar Girls. She later emailed to let me know she was working on this very book.

If you loved Take Ivy, you could consider this the female version, but it’s so much more than a photo book. Taking us through the origins and evolution of female preppy style, via the elite ‘Seven Sisters’ American universities, we learn about feminism, sportswomanship, denim etiquette, prom chic and the big business of selling campus style to the masses.

If you’re a fashion scholar, a style enthusiast, or simply a lover of collegiate dressing, this is a beautifully illustrated, thoroughly researched and intellectually nourishing read. As I sat in my turn-up indigo jeans, navy cashmere crew neck, white ankle socks and oxblood Bass Weejuns, I devoured every page…

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THE DRG STYLE INDEX: BARRIE, KILGOUR, HARVEY NICHOLS, A.P.C, MULBERRY

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On this week’s DRG STYLE INDEX, these are the brands that caught my attention…

1. BARRIE TO LAUNCH READY TO WEAR (AND A STORE IS IMMINENT TOO)

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The Made in Scotland ethos is gaining momentum with the launch of a new Barrie RTW collection next month. Designed by Chanel’s Odile Massuger using premium cashmere fibre, we’re promised twenty silhouettes merging clean lines with adventurous motifs and colours – I’m particularly intrigued by the description of handpainted porcelain buttons! Chanel acquired Hawick-based Barrie in 2012 as one of its métiers d’art (if you’e into factory porn, Susie Bubble has a heap of photos here). According to this BBC story, there are also plans to increase the workforce by 100 staff over the next three years, while a Paris store is rumoured for June. Exciting plans indeed…

2. KILGOUR’S RETURN

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Carlo Brandelli is back at Kilgour and planning to re-establish it as an innovator is menswear. For an early look at the new Kilgour direction (concealed fastenings feature), head to Mrporter.com which also has an interview with Brandelli.

3. HARVEY NICHOLS REVAMPS ECOMMERCE

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It’s been a slow slog but the long-promised redesigned Harvey Nichols ecom site is finally here. The homepage leads with bold, bright editorial and it’s big on multi channel retail, promising an equally efficient mobile and instore experience. And customer service has been ramped up too. You can contact style advisors online for instant advice, or arrange to have potential purchases held instore, alongside additional outfit recommendations. Personally I’m more of a ‘bricks’ than ‘clicks’ shopper so I’ll be interested to see if this changes my approach…

4. A.P.C TO OPEN IN LEXINGTON STREET

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A.P.C stores don’t stay in place for long. The Notting Hill branch was my go-to for years, then they disappeared from the West London scene, opting instead for Redchurch Street in Shoreditch. Then we had a Dover Street store for a while (until being ousted by Jimmy Choo) and now we’re in line for a store on Lexington Street, W1. This is good news for me as the streets around Carnaby Street are where I’m most likely to actually part with cash. I love A.P.C for its timeless products but equally for Jean Toitou’s unfashiony approach to the fashion biz. He also has great instincts so when he chooses a location for a store, that’s news in itself. All eyes on Lexington…

5. MULBERRY’S MIXED BLESSINGS

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I’m really hoping for a positive outcome for Mulberry. Last week we heard that its entry-level bags will be lowered in price by about £100 from June onwards as Godfrey Davis (its interim chairman) looks at ways to return the British brand to profit. I admit Mulberry lost my attention for a few seasons as its bags felt overpriced considering their ubiquity. (If you’re spending £1,000 on a bag, surely you want something special, not the same bag dangling from every socialite’s arm?) That said, I love an underdog, and I’m liking the new calf leather Kensal bag, an understated multi-pocket bag named after my very own neighbourhood. At £1,250, I’d be happy to see it drop in price by £100 – or more.

Quote of the day: Marimekko’s Mika Ihamuotila

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“I often as a CEO say, ‘Let’s not be too commercial and please that segment of the market. Go to your own sensitivities, go to your own art, and do something that you think is relevant at this moment.’”

I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment from Marimekko CEO Mika Ihamuotila, who just hired & Other Stories head of design Anna Teurnell as its new creative director.

[Image via Slow And Steady Wins The Race]

Fornasetti’s secret garden

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The arrival of a new Fornasetti Profumi product is always a big event in my book and the latest, Giardino Segreto is no exception. Unveiled in a ‘secret garden’ bursting with roses, hydrangeas and spring foliage, it evoked the mysterious, dreamlike world of the Fornasetti garden in Milan. Continue reading

Beauty bits: Marc Jacobs Beauty, Allure Youtube, Tom Ford, Lipstick.com, contour mania, the Taviettes, Diptyque, YSL

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MARC JACOBS BEAUTY COMES TO LONDON

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So Marc Jacobs Beauty arrived in London a couple of weeks ago and no one knew. Not even British Beauty Blogger! I stumbled upon the entire range of it in the Marc Jacobs Mount Street store (after a quick recce of Celine – retail heaven). It’s not cheap but the colours are stunning and the lipstick packaging is right up there with Chanel’s push-click cases. The staff are super helpful and encourage you to try the products, but I haven’t yet. I definitely will soon though… Continue reading

Introducing the DRG STYLE INDEX: Celine, Hermes, Harrods, Uniqlo

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Introducing the DRG STYLE INDEX, a ranking of the brands on my radar each week. In order of impact, these are the brands grabbing my attention right now…

1. CELINE’S RETAIL WOW FACTOR

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My first foray into the Mount Street store (above). Um, wow. The smell! The flooring! The merch! The ratio of sales staff to customer (3-1 on my visit)! At the till, mulling over a two-tone luggage Tote, was a Ghanian lady in full Vlisco-print gear, including headwrap. Oh to photograph her printed skirt against the patchwork marble floor tiles… But alas no, I got the feeling it’s a No Photos kind of store… Continue reading

Nike X Liberty 2014 – perfect match

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There’s just no stopping Nike. Or Liberty. And as for the Nike X Liberty collaboration, it’s now in its 9th season and going stronger than ever. At a special presentation in the Liberty store, I was told that managing the demand is quite a feat, a fine balance between creating interest for the product and over hyping it. (I guess they need to try harder, the collection was almost sold out within three days of hitting the shop floor.) Continue reading

Guest post: Mr DRG loves the Kaweco AL Sport fountain pen

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A GUEST POST FROM MR DRG…

DRG was recently gifted a rather fine Kaweco AL Sport fountain pen, ownership of which has rapidly transferred to me…

How I wasn’t aware of these pens I’ve no idea. They’re a design classic that has remained pretty much unchanged since the 1930s and are the absolute embodiment of the minimalist, utilitarian German industrial design that I love. Continue reading

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