Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Kenneth Salon : A Billy Baldwin Blowout

An artists rendering of Kenneth's Salon.
Exotic elegance.
Being a guy, my Salon experiences have been limited to waiting in the lobby of Marcia's Country Lady (the Salon my Mom went to) when I was 8 and doing my homework.  It was papered in a blue and white stripe with little flower garlands, the sofas were a matching Federal blue, and the occassional tables were oak with cabriole legs and leaded glass insets in the top.  There were prints of country cottages, Battenburg valances, and the receptionist operated out of an oak roll top desk.   It was very comfortable and homey, not especially striking or overwhelmingly dramatic, but it was memorable.  If anything, Salons have become all but anonymous today, with slick, severe, minimalist interiors and a concern for turn over rather than comfort or even glamour.  While they may provide a great cut or color, many leave something to be desired when it comes to high style.

An artist rendering of the Manicure and Hairdryer stations.
Campaigne stools!  Leopard covered Rattan!  Turkish footstools!
The chandelier and tented ceiling and walls, a Baldwin hallmark,
caps off the decadent fantasy.

Imagine, if you will, the smile that bloomed across my face when in my readings I happened upon the Kenneth Salon in New York, which was decorated by the incomprable Billy Baldwin; decorator to Babe Paley, Jackie O., and Diana Vreeland, to name a few.  Kenneth, hair dresser to Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe ( you can bet the bookings were carefully monitored there) opened his own salon in 1963 in a townhouse on 54th Street that was previously owned by the Vanderbilts, after winning the Coty award for his work in the industry.

Parquet flooring, an opulent tufted velvet pouf, bamboo chairs & vanities,
tasseled cornices, trellis papered walls and ceiling and some very modern
drum pendants creates an exotic oasis in the city.

Baldwin created a stunning Salon inspired by Brighton Pavillion, a Regency era confection.  Striped awnings, wrought iron doors, exotic furnishings, exuberant color, and pattern upon pattern filled the space.  To the devoted Kenneth clientele, this must have appeared as a temple of beauty, somewhere to spend an afternoon being pampered with your closest friends, somewhere you'd never want to leave.  Salons today should take note, and then call a Decorator.  Hint.  Hint.

- Ian 

Great Design is in the details.  Here we see the combinations
of patterns withBamboo trellis paper contrasting in scale and mood
with a scattered floral garland paper.  The vanities are also a masterpiece
of design done in ivory and orange lacquer with coordinating orange mirrors.
The buffet lamps in a Palm tree style are just plain elegant.

The building Kenneth occupied was Renaissance Revival, and it's
Calssical details are seen in this vestibule.  Roman arches, Corinthian Coumnls, etc.
I am in love with the opulence of those chairs.  Nestled up to the dome dryers,
they are infinitely more elegant than the typical Naugahyde chairs.  How could a person,
whether staff member or client, not feel like a million bucks in this interior?
Beautiful spaces really do shape our mood and mindset.

A sconce from the Salon.  How incredibly elegant!  I love the way the
Rococo arms compliment the curves in the Paisley wallpaper.
Baldwin was a huge advocate of wallpaper; Baldwin and his close friend Woodson Taulbee,
founded Woodson Wallpapers when Baldwin was dissatisfied with the papers
he was seeing in the market. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Allure of Couture - McQueen for Givenchy

McQueen for Givenchy, Autumn/Winter 1999.
In my youth, I wanted to be a Fashion Designer.  But I realized in time that it was a hard road to travel, filled with vampires and monsters that would bleed you dry and tear you to ribbons, leaving little guarantee of your dream becoming a reality.  In my eyes, a Fashion Designer needs to be a genius, straddling time and space, giving an audience what they crave, what they can not have, and what they hate.  In a way, it's a quest for immortality; your art, ideas and craft all having the potential to be preserved in any number of ways for generations to come.  I don't think I could ever be all of those things, or, depending on whom you ask, any of those things.

As an Interior Designer, I look to Fashion, with a capitol 'F', for inspiration, because nothing else continually reinvents itself with an almost manic need for currency, and little else is as close to the human condition as what we choose to armor ourselves in.  Among the pantheon of image makers, few inspire me more that McQueen, with his use of color, drama, sensuality, and history. 

A gold coin gown with belted fur stole.
Image of the presentation.

Kate Moss in McQueen's Givenchy.
I remember seeing this collection, which will come at the end of this ramble, when it was presented on a network television special hosted by Isabella Rossellini.  The title remains a blurred memory for me, but the purpose of the hour long program was to show the American audience the power, art, and history of Haute Couture in Paris. 

America has always been the home of Sportswear purchased from Department Stores, while Paris has been the proud home of Haute Couture and the Designers Atelier.  These worlds on opposite ends of the ocean couldn't be further apart in theory or execution.  Mass production versus hand craft, thousands of options in multiple sizes versus one piece of art made just for you.  It's a dichotomy that seems to call into question the exact benefits of democracy in fashion; it's great to have a level playing field, but do we really like to look like our neighbor?  Wouldn't we rather wear a bold plumage that is exclusively ours? 

A McQueen for Givenchy Haute Couture emsemble
as seen in InStyle Magazine.
When this program aired, the exclusive world of Couture was shrinking, much like it is today (recently, Valentino retired, LaCroix closed his house), but new blood was also being brought into the old houses.  McQueen took the reigns of Givenchy (with what I think were staggering results), and John Galliano took over Dior from Gianfranco Ferre.  Of course we know the tragic end of McQueen's tale, and the scandalous end of Galliano's, but we can't deny the artistry and legends that were created.

So, here is a three part video presentation of McQueen's collection for Givenchy Haute Couture for Autumn/Winter 1999, courtesy of the wonderful world of Youtube, to enjoy this first Sunday of October.  It's a wonderful use of a free half hour.

McQueen's reinterpretation of the past is amazing (part Tudor Court, part Knights of the Crusades, part Scottish Highlander, part Dandy), his textiles and tailoring jaw dropping, and his presentation concept is nothing short of genius.  Side stepping the traditional use of live models, he creates awe and drama with static mannequins that rise and descend through trap doors, their heads glowing like stars in the darkness until the lights come up, revealing the sort of decadent wares that built empires and made histories. 

- Ian