BIRD’S EYE VIEW- birds in fashion

BIRD’S EYE VIEW

 Alexander McQueen Fall 2006 RTW, photos by Don Ashby/Style.com

Alexander McQueen Fall 2006 RTW, photos by Don Ashby/Style.com

Birds live all over the world, and have been around for millions of years. We go birding, pick up on their songs, they meet us somewhere on a hike, they pop by our house and hang out in our trees, they nest like us, live near or on the water, some hunt, dive, some feed on seeds, nectar, meat or fish. They soar, hide, lurk in the depths we most fear. Their razor sharp eyesight and sonar intelligence make them a remarkable part of the animal kingdom on this earth. And while we continue to learn about the diversity of species and their adaptive systems what impresses me most of all is that they know the skies like no other animal, or human. They are our link to a larger universe dark or bright.

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Alexander McQueen

Let’s take flight for a sec…

In terms of adaptive systems, the owl’s feathering allows them to camouflage in their environments for catching prey. In image of the dress of owl feathers, the models braided hair and light skin tones would camouflage similarly against the bark of trees. ‘Dress’ acts an intermediary between human and animal.

So why am I connecting fashion with birds? Because fashion reflects human desires, and the longing for a meaningful identity. Some of us turn to religion for example to meet a larger truth of that meaning we so desperately crave, while some turn to Nature for similar understanding and connection to a larger whole of who we are. To my mind birds by nature have a ‘birds eye view’ and fly around that ‘whole’ we seek. They mediate between earth and the unknown of the sky. Fashion designers and artists alike think deeply and act on that connectivity humans need for individual security. The imagery I have chosen to share here is visibly about ‘dress’  but dress that connects us to something larger than ourselves.

Owl illustration

Extinct birds wearing fashions from the year they went extinct- Laughing Owl, 1914, Brian Williams

I am not a fan of anthropomorphism because humans often fail to see animals as they are, we imbue them with aspects of ourselves rather than seeing the animal kingdom composed of distinct species of equal valuable to us. Sometimes we don’t get the message of atrocities like ‘extinction’ unless we imagine being in the same shoes as the defeated like in this illustration above. Is extinction a natural cause in evolution? The image is wonderfully ambiguous with multiple meanings. Is the owl living in our apparel or are we sporting an owl ‘head’ a marker of acute awareness?  Perhaps ‘Empathy gap’ between bird and human might be another way to put it, but the intention I think is to connect humans to a palpable loss of freedom and the constraints of living. The paradox between freedom (the symbolic nature of a bird ) and order (wearing a suit) is indeed standing proudly here.  Oh, too often human needs impose order of many kinds dictating our precedence over the impressive beauty such as the species of ‘Laughing Owl’ and that which surrounds us.

Bird's Eye View

Bizarre Bird- fashion editorial. The dead has plumage

For fashion designers the clothes carry the narrative, the story is in the clothes, and could go something like this: A dark princess went out hunting one day and comes face to face with the death of a bird. “Is she equipped?” and “what would you do in the same scenario?”. “Would its death have any impact on you? how so?”

owl headwear

owl taxidermy

This image is priceless. Taxidermy on the head. Me thinks she is hooting.

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The photo above pertains to some of my research as art director for an OWLMAN design I am creating for a movie called Joan in Owl Land. The film is directed by Martin Castaneda https://www.facebook.com/martincastanedayabar?fref=ts with cinematographer Carlos Diaz www.crd.carbonmade.net. Feathers, long black hairy furs, dark leathers, and barks are some of my materials to inspire me.

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Woman in Photography- unknown photographer

Birds connect us to the heavens, however the following designs show a subtler current in Nature and one that revolves around human’s affliction with our psychological underworld. Our feathered friends act as messengers between our unconscious and conscious selves. Nature and humans are inextricably linked.

 

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Clothing that circulates and expands into web and trap.

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Alexander McQueen

Self-destruction

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Anglomania at the Met- John Galliano

Birds that take us into mourning

 

Alexander-McQueen

Alexander McQueen- Birds of Paradise

Feathers that keep us protected, cool and detached.

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Alexander McQueen – Savage Beauty

And feathers that make us bleed in our wounds.

To an ancient Chinese proverb:

          A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.

 


FASHION CRACK

FASHION CRACK

 

 The Bride Stripped By Her Bachelor's, Even

Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelor’s, Even, 1915-23

Elizabeth Hawes was a fashion designer and critic of the 30’s, 40’s and well into the 20th century who wrote a book called “Why is a Dress?” and is known for a particular quote that reads

“It is impossible to be completely abstract about clothes because they have no life unless they are worn. They must fit onto a body or they do not exist.” 

 I thought I would respond with showing you fashion designer Lee McQueen creating a wedding dress through a process of deconstruction in his signature style while Nick Knight films him. Contrasts abound of the sinister in white. Materials get stripped down to a lonely affair of imprisonment and loss. Very powerful, darkly poetic, removed from typical wearable constructs and expressive through and through. The title of Lee’s piece The Bridegroom Stripped Bare is in reference to Marcel Duchamp’s the hard- to- decipher The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelor’s, Even done between 1915-23 which can be analyzed in the category of  male and female sexual conflicts. (see first image above)

 

Dark or light the power of deconstruction in design can inform the artist on how to construct new design. It is a very useful strategy for shaping and arranging form towards innovation.

Stay tuned for more on “Why is a dress?”


Expressions of ‘WATER’ -fashionable indeed

Nova Scotia beach line

Crescent Beach in Lahave, Nova Scotia

Crescent Beach in LaHave, Nova Scotia is a hefty stretch of sand and seaweed tides in the early and later parts of the day. With family this summer I resided quietly at a beach house not far from this pause of land and because I research into natural and cultural relationships, I felt inspired to find expressions of ‘water’ in a fashion world hell bent on artifice. As always some nuggets of interest surfaced.

water-wave

wave of water

 

When you are on a coastline you can’t help but appreciate how powerful water is. Agreed? I find water arouses as much sublime terror as beautiful swimmable serenity. Remove water from its natural heritage or from seeing it as a precious global resource and we are ensconced in its particularities.  It fills and waves in a bathtub, it can drop slow to fast from a faucet, it is transparent and reflects color, it can drip to timeless insanity, it can freeze, bubble, boil, we can taste and wash with it, it trickles in melodious soundbites, and to witness one pearl of water is as golden as a rainbow in the sky. A babbling brook, pond, waterfall, ocean, or river manifests water’s changeability and its flexibility. Pretty remarkable indeed.  My ode to water is everlasting.

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Many artists have recorded the power of water. Alexander McQueen saw relevance in using it to influence global issues in a fashion collection. The following images show his fondness for sea life and how he fused that inspiration with textile fabrication and couture.

fashion of Alexander Mcqueen

sea creature fashion of Alexander Mcqueen

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alien shoes

I happen to wear these shoes everyday to work. Super comfortable for long distances. Seriously fantastic, boggles my mind in every warped dimension, omg! love them. Even tho we lost a great designer, Sarah Burton takes brand McQueen to incredible heights.

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 What do you think of when you see this headwear?

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Fabrics are skins, protecting, imitating and revealing.

 We can see the last collection of  Alexander McQueen here.

McQueen’s sea collection

The Great Wave of Kanagawa

Hokusai’s The Great Wave of Kanagawa, 1830’s

This is a very famous painting from ‘Images of the floating world’ of Ukiyo-e prints by Hokusai. Here he depicts  nature as menacing and relentless with its claw like wave against the vulnerability of human life. Life can feel like a constant struggle in opposition to larger uncontrollable forces.

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 A drop of water in a real moment of time like we see above could hardly be repeated or captured in the exact same way again in another moment in time.

 water imagery

WATER  between late day and early night

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Some designers prefer to leave Nature in the ground, which often springs some inventive means of expressing the ‘natural’ in artificial ways. Here water has playfully assumed a crystallized state in the fashion of Iris Van Herpen, 2010. To imitate water we have only the powers to deceive, nature is nature, done by nature. We can hope for an aesthetic effect when we imitate nature but so far no human endeavor I can think of will ever match Nature’s naturalness. Even tho we do a great job in destroying profound beauty all around us, she on the other hand can do away with us in no time at all. But this isn’t the point, I believe we have to get on board to seeing ourselves as part of an evolutionary process on this globe which is what artists, scientists, environmentalists, designers, and architects etc so often try to interpret and share.

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Water dress- fashion designer Iris Van Herpen, 2013

natural waterfall

garden and waterfall

Another of Alexander McQueen that reminds me of a waterfall, draping white drops off the cliff as we turn around the corner bed of mountainous rocks and wooden debris.

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We are interconnected to the elements, we are nature,  naturally perfect in all our shapes and sizes, perhaps to remind ourselves of this we need to dress up as them as well.