Monday, July 2, 2018

The Transformers - Iris van Herpen and Philip Beesley at the ROM

Left: Architect Philip Beesley's installation Noosphere, part of "Transforming Space", which integrates architecture, science and engineering  Right:  dress made of transparent acrylic sheets, tulle and cotton from Iris van Herpen's Capriole (a French word meaning "leap in the air") collection, 2011, part of the "Transforming Fashion" exhibit.  Both currently on view at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

I've been a fan of Iris van Herpen's work since I first saw a photo of one of her 3-D printed pieces so I was very excited when I found out that an exhibit of her designs was coming to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) this summer.  As I had already planned a weekend in Toronto in June, I added a ticket to the exhibit to my itinerary.

The top of the outfit above was created in collaboration with architect Daniel Widrig, and is the first 3-D printed garment ever sent down a runway.

Iris van Herpen, a Dutch fashion designer (and former Alexander McQueen intern) who had her first runway show in 2007, produces two collections each year.  Her designs have been worn by Bjork, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Solange Knowles and Cate Blanchett.  She is best known as the creator of 3-D printed garments; Time Magazine named her 3-D printed dress one of the 50 best inventions of 2011.  Her designs are all about shape, texture, and movement, created with materials that are not generally used in clothing design; acrylic plastic, metal foil, metal gauze, ribs from an umbrella, silicon, and iron filings.  Herpen's inspirations range from science and nature, dance,  how the body relates to the space around it, and ephemeral concepts of conversations and experiences.  While she has shown more wearable pieces in runway presentations, the 40+ pieces on display at the ROM are van Herpen at her most extreme. 

Dress from the Refinery Smoke collection, 2008, inspired by texture and elusive quality of industrial smoke.  The dress is made from metal gauze that is initially silver in colour, but over time, oxidizes to the reddish brown colour seen here.

Collar made from the metal ribs of children's umbrellas, from van Herpen's first major collection in 2008, titled Chemical Crows.  The pieces were crafted entirely by hand and feature shapes that suggest the wings of birds (hence the title).  Herpen has said that she doesn't sketch her designs first, instead, she begins by working with the material itself and shaping it on a mannequin.

"for me, fashion really became a language to express the relationship between the insides and our outsides.  To not only go with the direct millimetre of our skin but also to explore the space next to that."
                                                         Iris van Herpen

Most of van Herpen's creations seem designed for making their maximum impact upon entering a room, as the backs are often more utilitarian than decorative, as seen in the piece from her Synesthesia collection above.  Most likely this is to allow whomever is wearing the dress to sit down, or at the very least, lean against a wall.  The piece is made from leather, gold foil, metal eyelets and cotton.

dress made from transparent black acrylic sheets from the Escapism collection

Another piece from the Synesthesia Collection, made from leather embellished with gold foil.  The base layer of the dresses (usually made of cotton or silk) is often a rather conservative shape - close-fitting, knee length, high neckline - but is is the exquisite detail work in the embellishments that creates the "WOW" factor.

The Mummification collection from 2009 reflects the designer's interest in the ancient Egyptian practice of mummifying their dead. The idea of being "wrapped" or "swaddled", figures prominently in pieces which were handcrafted from treated leather, thousands of eyelets, leather lacing, chain and metal balls.

A dress from the Crystallization collection from 2010.  The transparent plastic collar that imitates a splash of water was created by hand using a hot air gun, a pair of pliers and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).  van Herpen is quoted in an interview stating that she hopes the exhibit "really shows the value of craftsmanship and how much more you can do with craftsmanship rather than only the traditional techniques.....the relationship between craftsmanship and technology is very important to me."

van Herpen is fascinated by the architecture of shoes and has been creating custom shoe designs to go with each of her collections since 2010.  Clockwise from top left:  from the Hacking Infinity collection, laser cut leather, 3-D printed photopolymer and stereolithographic resin;  Wilderness Embodied, from 2013, made of rigid opaque photopolymer;  Crystallization, 2010, metal chain and leather; Magnetic Motion, 2014, the surface is iron filings, shaped with magnets, and coated with polyurethane resin

van Herpen believes it is important to collaborate with artists in other disciplines.  Italian architect Niccolo Casas collaborated with van Herpen to draw the 3-D design for a dress that represented the crystallization of water into ice.  The front and back of the dress snap together, and this detail photo shows how successfully the company who made it (3D Systems) were able to produce a dress (even though they originally told van Herpen that it was not possible to do what she asked) that looks like it's made of ice.

One of van Herpen's 3-D printed garments from her Hybrid Holism collection, showing the side hinges which allows the piece to enclose the wearer.  The collection was inspired by Philip Beesley's work, Hyzolic Ground.  Hylozolism is the ancient believe that all matter is in some sense alive.

van Herpen's connection with architect Philip Beesley began when she saw Beesley's project for the 2010 Venice Biennale of Architecture, which then inspired one of her collections, Hybrid Holism.  Beesley saw her designs online and an amazing collaborative relationship was formed.  Both are fascinated with the intersection of technology and the organic, and imagine designs that react to the energies of their environment.  They have developed 3-D fabrics that respond to the wearer's body movements through dynamic vibration.  van Herpen explores this in her Voltage Collection, with which she attempts to portray the unpredictable movement and power of electricity.

Detail of Voltage dress, created in collaboration with Philip Beesley, made of laser-cut transparent acrylic, silicone chevrons and microfibre.  Beesley has collaborated with van Herpen on 10 collections since 2012.

Philip Beesley's architecture studio, Living Architecture Systems, incorporates similar forms made of laser-cut 3-D polyester and acrylic forms in his installation, Aegis.  The canopy contains clear vessels filled with liquid, lights, and mechanisms that makes it react to visitor's touch and presence, and appear to "breathe".

detail of the Noosphere, the other installation in Transforming Space

"the delicate steel and acrylic skeletal mesh of the spherical volumes comprising Noosphere house vessels containing prototype cells that display certain life-like properties. Combinations of oil, inorganic chemicals, and water-based solutions stimulated by LED lights, create chemical skins within these cells that might lead to new kinds of self-renewing skins for future buildings. The structural mesh of the sculpture uses overlapping strands within conical stem-shaped cells that possess extraordinary strength using minimal amounts of material"

source: Philip Beesley Architect Inc. website

more detail from Noosphere

The Dome Dress, Beesley's and van Herpen's 11th collaboration, is an original commission for the ROM.  The dress is comprised of over 300 rosette-shaped, zinc-coated steel laser-cut forms which were hand-molded into three dimensional "domes" and is inspired by the idea of harnessing air and light around the body.

The Royal Ontario Museum is the last stop (and the only Canadian venue) on a two-year tour of this exhibit.  If you are curious as to where the future of fashion and architecture is headed, don't miss this exhibit, on until October 8th, 2018.

* The photos for this post were all shot on my new Huawei P20 Pro smart phone.  It was a test to see if a camera phone could do as good a job capturing sharp detail in low light conditions as my "real" camera, and I'm both happy, and a little sad, to say that it did.  If you're in the market for a new phone, and you want the one with the best possible camera currently available, this is the one.  This is not a sponsored post, I'm mentioning this because I'm truly impressed.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Me Time

We all need to take some "me time" once in a while - time when the focus is on what you want to do; what gives you pleasure and feeds your soul.   As I'm a single woman with no children, one could argue that most of my life, outside of my job, consists of "me time", and they wouldn't be wrong, but in order to feel inspired and energized, I need to spend time away from the city I live in, surrounded by unfamiliar sights, and immersed in arts and culture.   And last weekend, I did just that.


Victoria's Mansion

I booked a room at a guest house in Toronto called Victoria's Mansion, which is a short walk to the corner of Yonge and Dundas in the centre of downtown.  Built in the 1880's, the house is located on a quiet residential street and rooms have their own bathroom, air conditioner (which was important as the temperatures hovered around 35 degrees celsius when I was there), fridge, microwave, coffeemaker, wifi, and TV.  

 my little hideaway

Personally, I loved my little nook on the third floor (there are no elevators, so if you have a lot of luggage that may be an issue).  The rooms are all different, and I noticed that some guests commented on travel sites that their bed was uncomfortable.  I didn't have that problem, but then, it depends on your expectations.  I have stayed in rooms in people's apartments in New York, so I can be satisfied with accommodations that are less than luxurious.

I loved the tile in the shower, but if I had been drinking the night before, I may not have felt the same way about it if I had to face it while hungover in the morning.  The angled ceiling could be dangerous for someone who was taller than I am (5' 8").

window art installation on Church Street

Victoria's Mansion is in the area of Church and Wellesley, which is the heart of Toronto's gay village so there were lots of restaurants and bars close by, and rainbow flags were everywhere.

a happy pup on the streetcar

So, what did I do on my little adventure?

Every year I purchased tickets to at least one event during the Luminato Festival  in Toronto, which is an annual arts festival featuring music, dance, theatre, film, talks and more.  There are always more things I want to see than I can get to, and often the performances/performers are unknown to me, so I randomly pick things that sound interesting.  This year I had a ticket for a performance entitled The Fever, by an experimental theatre company from New York called 600 Highwaymen, which incorporated the audience into a collaborative experience.   I enjoyed it, it pushed me out of my comfort zone, and left me feeling connected to the other audience members surrounding me.

Cool art and cyclists just off Queen Street West

After a post performance cocktail and salad on the patio at the Drake Hotel, I headed to the Elgin Theatre for my second event of the day - a performance by the Malpaso Dance Company from Cuba.

The Elgin is a beautiful space dripping with gilt and red velvet
The Elgin Theatre is half of a pair of stacked theatres built in 1913 in Toronto.  The Elgin is the lower level theatre while the Winter Garden Theatre is located 7 floors above.  They are the last surviving Edwardian stacked theatres in the world.

The grand staircase leading to the Winter Garden Theatre

I wanted to wear something a bit fancy since it was a special occasion but as I had to wear it all day, it had to be comfortable for walking around in the heat.  I had purchased this dress at Cora Couture in Stratford several months ago and had yet to find the right occasion for its debut.   It's made of a thin, shiny, almost parachute-type nylon with an attached ruffle that can be unzipped.  It was comfortable and survived the bus trip to Toronto without turning into a wrinkled mess.

The Malpaso Dance Company, established in 2012, had performed to a sold-out audience at Luminato in 2015.  The company is committed to working with international choreographers and the evening's performance began with a work titled "Dreaming of Lions", choreographed by Osnel Delgado and set to music that was performed live by Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.  The piece is based on Ernest Hemingway's "Old Man and the Sea" and if you are a fan of contemporary dance, you can watch the piece on YouTube via the link above.  The 11 dancers in the company alternate between strong and sensuous,  fierce and fluid, and precise and passionate and it was a thrilling evening of exceptional dance.


Sunday was Father's Day, and crowds of Dads and their families gathered to gawk at the expensive automobiles on display at the Yorkville Exotic Car Show.

On Sunday I had a ticket to see two new exhibits at the Royal Ontario MuseumIris Van Herpen: Transforming Fashion and Philip Beesley: Transforming Space

The above photo shows one of Architect Philip Beesley's installations, Aegis, and the Aeriform Dress, a collaboration with designer Iris van Herpen.  This is just a teaser until I get my post about the exhibit up later this week.  Trust me, it's mind-blowing.

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Month of Outfits

We finally got Spring, but then fast-forwarded to Summer in the space of a couple of weeks (too soon, Mother Nature, too soon!!).  The air conditioning has been on the fritz at work since the beginning of May (we haven't had any hot water either), so dressing for work is proving to be a real challenge in 30+ degree temperatures (that's celsius, or in the 90's for you fahrenheit people).  I have nothing exciting to report, so here are some outfits I wore this month. 

All the photos below were taken on my phone, which accounts for the slight blur and the crappy colours on the ones taken indoors.

giant cotton dress from From Mars

This dress is actually blue and white, not sure why the stripes on the front look grey.  I blame the crappy camera on my phone.  Anyway, it was sooo comfortable to wear, and I took every opportunity to put my hands in my pockets and swish from side to side to show off the volume of the dress. 

layers of linen all purchased at From Mars

This was what I wore earlier in the week, at the start of the heat wave.  I realized that most of my summer wardrobe consists of oversized linen pieces in black, grey or blue.  They are very comfortable to wear, but after a few hours of sitting, I look like I slept in my clothes (and I look like I'm just waking up from a nap).  I love linen, just not the wrinkles.

t-shirt dress over cotton skirt, both thrifted from Talize

Another "baby, it's hot inside" outfit which inspired a 20's flapper feeling because of the shape.  Shoes are Fly London.

cropped sweatshirt and textured skirt thrifted from Talize, "sleeves" made from a pair of knee socks and leggings from The Purple Puddle

This is one of my favourite outfits I wore this month, back when it was cooler.  I like the mix of black and white patterns, and the sweatshirt is actually a light blue, with puffed sleeves.

silver pants from the sale rack at H&M, sparkle tunic from From Mars

An outfit from the start of the month, when it was starting to warm up, and we saw the sun for several days in a row.  I went to an opening of an art exhibit with a friend and took a moment to take in some rays.

no post is complete without a gratuitous cat photo

This long and lithe kitty often visits my porch in the summer and this was the first time he was over this year.  My Sylvester is not cat-friendly, and despite the best efforts of this guy to try to make friends through the window, Sylvester (who is just out of sight on the other side of the glass) was not having any of it.  He even balanced on the back of my porch rocking chair in an attempt to get closer to the window.  A+ for effort!