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Features

Legendary Collaboration:
Merce Cunningham & Rei Kawakubo

06 March 2015 | 1 Comment | LASTLOOK Team
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In the contemporary fashion vocabulary, “collaboration” is a term typically used as a marketing catch phrase by retail giants such as Target and H & M. However there are countless other collaborations that are far less commercial, and entail cross-disciplinary projects between designers and artists of other mediums that result in films, art books, objet d’art, and performances. One of the best examples of such a collaboration is an extraordinary project entitled Scenario that renowned choreographer Merce Cunningham created with fashion designer Rei Kawakubo in 1997.

Both Cunningham and Kawakubo created groundbreaking work and were leaders of their respective fields. Kawakubo, founder of Comme des Garcons, began designing in Tokyo in the late 1960s, and was immediately touted as one of the most important members of the sartorial avant-garde. Her perpetually evolving designs were based on pushing boundaries and questioning aesthetic standards. Cunningham was, similarly, at the forefront of his metier, choreographing works for over 50 years that changed the face of contemporary dance and performance.

Fashion was very boring, and I was very angry. I wanted to do something extremely strong. It was a reaction. – Rei Kawakubo

Collaborations were elemental to Cunningham’s practice, and he invited Kawakubo to design the costumes, set and lighting for Scenario. 1997 saw the debut of Comme des Garcons’ notorious spring/summer collection entitled “Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body” (later referred to as the “lumps and bumps” show), and it was this body of work that inspired her designs for the collaboration. The now-iconic collection featured bulging, almost grotesque shapes that protruded from the body around the hips, chest, and stomach, made of down padding. Kawakubo has explained that her inspiration for the collection was a reaction to the fashion system: “Fashion was very boring, and I was very angry. I wanted to do something extremely strong. It was a reaction. The feeling was to design the body.”

Comme des Garcons Spring/Summer 1997.

Comme des Garcons Spring/Summer 1997.

Cunningham was known for his chance-driven choreography that focused on the juxtaposition and movement of dancers’ body parts, interacting in a seemingly autonomous way, free of expectations or typical patterns and rules of dance. His aim was to reimagine the shapes a dancer’s body could adopt. As a result, his choreography took on an aesthetic many described as “deformed,” with shapes and movements that twisted the body into unnatural, or at least unprecedented, formations. What better designer to collaborate with, then, than the boundary-pushing fashion maven whose work had drawn very similar interpretations?

The collaboration was especially remarkable because Cunningham and Kawakubo worked independently of one another up until the actual performance, when at last the choreography and designs interacted with each other. The emphasis was, once again, on the idea of leaving things up to chance, and not relying on previously conceived instructions for how things would turn out. The costumes were correspondingly not customized to fit the movements of the dancers, which radically altered their movements by upsetting their sense of proportion and balance. One dancer stated that her costume was like a “hot and bulky parka” and that it interrupted her view of the other dancers, while another noted that she had to adapt her dancing to fit the garment. This was the essence of the collaboration, to create a situation in which the action of the dancers was ultimately left up to chance, depending on how the costumes would effect the dancers ability to carry out the choreography.

Merce Cunningham rehearses with his dance group in 1957.

Merce Cunningham rehearses with his dance group in 1957.

The performance was a stunning mixture of the two iconoclasts’ visions. The performance placed fashion within a context that it normally doesn’t inhabit, and future collaborators would do well to remember the mutually beneficial space offered to fashion by dance. The most effective collaborations are those in which each participant brings their unique approach to the piece, and Scenario fulfilled this better than most.



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Interviews

Real Time with Diane Pernet

25 February 2015 | No Comments | LASTLOOK Team
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Diane Pernet knows the fashion industry inside and out. She spent years running her own label and working as a costume designer before changing course in 2005 and founding one of the first fashion blogs, A Shaded View on Fashion. In 2008, she expanded the ASVOF brand with A Shaded View on Fashion Film, a film festival that has since been held in Paris, Rome, Tokyo and recently made its American debut in New York City. Never seen without her iconic style, she recently emailed us from Paris to talk about her unique position in the world of fashion, the effect the internet has had on the industry and her abiding passion for film.

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5 Questions

5 Questions for
Fashion Designer & Creative Consultant,
Geren Lockhart

28 October 2014 | No Comments | LASTLOOK Team
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Fashion designer and creative consultant Geren Lockhart answers LASTBLOG’s 5 Questions, discussing the nature of creation and collaboration.


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5 Questions

5 Questions for Fashion Stylist, Wendy McNett

26 September 2014 | 1 Comment | LASTLOOK Team
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For our 5 Questions series, we ask creative professionals five questions about the nature of creation and collaboration. This week we spoke with freelance fashion stylist Wendy McNett. Based out of New York, Wendy has worked as a stylist for 18 years, mixing the glamorous with the experimental to develop a highly unique style. With work that has graced the pages of publications such as the foreign editions of Harper’s Bazaar, Wendy recently wrote to us from her home office in New York to talk about some of her previous projects, her views on collaboration, and some photographers and subjects she would love to work with.

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5 Questions

5 Questions for Fashion Designer, Susan Hengst

26 August 2014 | No Comments | LASTLOOK Team
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For our 5 Questions series, we ask creative professionals five questions about the nature of creation and collaboration. This week we spoke with fashion designer Susan Hengst, owner of Hengstboutique in Manhattan’s East Village, and the designer for her own label, HengstNYC.


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Interviews

The Storyteller

Fashion Stylist Christine de Lassus Tells Stories Through Clothing

19 August 2014 | 4 Comments | LASTLOOK Team
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When fashion stylist Christine de Lassus looks at clothes, the first thing she sees is a story. The cut, the drape, the history behind the piece; everything about it mixes with her knowledge of the industry, to create narratives that bring the fashion world to life.


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Interviews

The Fixer

A Conversation with Fashion Designer Lynne Hiriak

01 July 2014 | 1 Comment | LASTLOOK Team
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Lynne Hiriak owns more sweaters than anyone you know. Being forced to wear sweaters almost every day during her formative years, it’s no surprise her personal collection currently hovers around 200. Throughout her professional career, Hiriak has become something of an expert on the garment, honing her specialty during her time as a knitwear director at Michael Kors, and sharing that knowledge as a consultant to labels like Derek Lam and Ralph Rucci. Outside of her consulting work, Hiriak runs Cardigan New York, her own boutique label specializing in knitwear and ready to wear pieces. A long time resident of New York City, she recently spoke with LASTBLOG about her love of sweaters, her experiences collaborating with major fashion labels and her evolving relationship with the city she calls home.

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Interviews

Interview: Writer Diane Pernet

03 June 2014 | No Comments | LASTLOOK Team
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Diane Pernet knows the fashion industry inside and out. She spent years running her own label and working as a costume designer before changing course in 2005 and founding one of the first fashion blogs, A Shaded View on Fashion. In 2008, she expanded the ASVOF brand with A Shaded View on Fashion Film, a film festival that has since been held in Paris, Rome, Tokyo and recently made its American debut in New York City. Never seen without her iconic style, she recently emailed us from Paris to talk about her unique position in the world of fashion, the effect the internet has had on the industry and her abiding passion for film.

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