Friday, July 10, 2009

Ethical Fashion Show

Ethical fashion' is a subject that has been grabbing the headlines in fashion circuits in recent times. As awareness about the concept is rising, more and more brands are coming up with products that adhere to it, and more and more customers are adopting the same. The 'Ethical Fashion Show' that is being conducted every year since 2004 is a step in the same direction.

The concept of ethical fashion is simple. It refers to fashion that incorporates positive ethical practices such as environment conservation, fair trade and fair wages, healthy and safe working conditions for labourers, limited use of pesticides, use of recyclable material, ensuring no harm to flora and fauna, preservation of traditional skills, etc. The Ethical Fashion Show aims to promote the concept of ethical fashion and spread awareness about it.

This Fashion Show is an attempt to inspire people to give a thought to social and environmental factors before deciding to go for a particular fashion product. It also aims to inculcate among fashionistas a sense of sympathy for everyone and everything directly or indirectly associated with the fashionable products that they use. In other words, it attempts to convey the message - 'Fashion is possible even with high ethical values.'

The Ethical Fashion Show was launched in the year 2004 by Paris-based designer Isabelle Quehe, which was very well accepted by fashion designers all over the globe. The event has consequently been held every year, with enthusiastic participation from designers worldwide. Continuing this tradition, the Ethical Fashion Show has been organized this year at the Carrousel du Louvre, Paris, in the year 2008. It has been scheduled for the period from 9th to 12th October, 2008, of which the first two days have been reserved for trade shows and the next two have been slotted for the general public.

In the year 2007, the event was attended by over 4500 visitors in total, 48% of which were comprised of national and international buyers, 25% of media, 22% general public and 5% other categories. It is anticipated that approximately 100 fashion designers from all over the world would attend the event this year. The best ethical designer would be awarded by a jury, consisting of professionals from the fashion industry.

Apart from ramp shows, the Ethical Fashion Show 2008 will also feature conferences and round table discussions among industry experts on the subject of ethical fashion. The exhibition this year is planned to be on the theme of 'Globe-trotting colour'. Danish fashion designer Leila Hafzi and Betty de Paris, a natural colorist, are scheduled to present their collections as a part of this event. This would be followed by a show by Takashiro Senko, indigo master from Japan, among displays by other experts.

The Brazilian brand Modafusion would be presenting a collection of colourful dresses for women produced by co-operatives from Rio. UK-based designer Ada Zanditon would present her collection of ethically produced garments, accompanied by a display of designs for working women by French designer Cline Faizant. Eliza Gabriel would be showcasing the special kind of cloth produced by her, by the name of 'Petals', which are available in the shape of flowers. This cloth can be used to make various kinds of items, such as purses, hats and belts. She would also be presenting her 'Noir Tropical' collection, which is based on the romantic costumes of Spanish heroines.

Jewellery designer Estrella Bijoux would be presenting her collection of fashion jewellery made from recycled material. This would be accompanied by Marcello Toshi presenting his collection of fashionable shoes.

To commemorate the 5th anniversary of the show, it is planned to launch a special fashion magazine by the name of 'Ethical Fashion'. It will focus on articles, reports as well as photographs on ethical fashion and its adoption all over the world, as well as on adopting sustainable lifestyles.

The event would be a wonderful step in the direction of creating awareness about and increasing the level of involvement of people in a worthy cause - sustainable fashion - a concept most relevant in today's times, with the rising levels of pollution and environmental damage.
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Monday, July 6, 2009

Erte - Fashion And Dance Costumes

In his 1975 autobiography, Things I Remember, Roman Petrovich Tyrtov - who the world knows as Ert - wrote: "I firmly believe that every human being has a duty to make himself as attractive as possible. Not many of us are born beautiful; that is why I have always attached so much importance to clothes. Clothes are a kind of alchemy; they can transform human beings into things of beauty or ugliness... Elegance is an innate quality, it cannot be acquired. A woman of humble background can be elegant by virtue of her appearance, her carriage and movements, her way of speaking and a thousand other details. Chic is elegance within a context of what is currently fashionable; woman can be elegant even it she is dressed in yesterday's fashions, or in a highly personal style."

The height of Ert's career was in the 1930s: His designs, especially dancers and "decadent," luxurious and subtly erotic fashion images, became icons of the "Art Deco" style. A prolific artist and designer, Ert created 240 Harper's Bazaar covers (1917 to 1937), designed sets and costumes for countless theater, cabaret, music hall and film productions, and, later in his career, shifted to seriagraphs, sculpture, and jewelry.

Images created by Ert influenced dance costuming, both directly through his own designs, and indirectly by establishing the silhouettes, the "lines," the "dancerly look." His costume ideas have been emulated and echoed by dancers and dance theaters of all genres and styles -- ballet, modern, bellydancers, Las Vegas showgirls and drag queens.

Ert was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1892. His father Pyotr Ivanovich Tyrtov was an Admiral of the Russian Imperial Fleet and the Director of the Naval Engineering School; he wanted his son to follow in his footsteps and become a marine officer. When Ert was 6 he drew a sketch...of an evening gown. His mother was so impressed with it that she had a seamstress create the gown from the sketch.

"My mother was extremely beautiful, " wrote Ert in his memoir, "with blue-black hair worn in a smooth chignon which contrasted with her white skin. I shall always remember one night when I was quite young; she had come to my room to give me a goodnight kiss before going to a ball. She wore a dress of black chantilly lace over pink taffeta; around her decolletage was a garland of real roses. Perhaps this was the beginning of my love for all things connected with beautiful clothes and elegance."

Even though his design debut occurred in his own family, Ert's conservative aristocratic parents perceived his art career as a disgrace, and as the artist turned 20, he moved to Paris (1912) and assumed the pseudonym "Ert" (Russian/French pronunciation of his initials "RT") to make sure that his life in the bohemian and gay demimonde did not compromise his family. His real name is also often spelled in a French manner, "Romain de Tirtoff."

In Paris Ert fell in love with fashion and costuming design, and signed a contract with the famous Parisian couturier Paul Poiret who drew inspiration from Leon Bakst's designs for Diaghilev's Ballets Russe. Some of Erte's earliest costume designs were created in 1913 for 'Le Minaret' featuring one of the earliest "belly dancer" showgirls - Mata Hari. It was common in that era for fashion houses to outfit stars of theater and opera. The Mata Hari costumes brought Ert notoriety and helped to establish his career.

Ert's theatrical costume designs reflected the spirit of lavish spectacle and indulgence in escapism typical of the era of "decadence." Interestingly, Ert actually wore his own designs. "I am very fond of masked balls," he admitted, "and I love dressing myself in costumes created by me and for myself, personally."

Despite the air of exuberant spectacle conveyed by Ert's work, he was not addicted to social life nor to reaping the fruits of fame. "Being alone is vitally important for me and my work., " he said. "I am a solitary person, and this may explain why I have such a great love of cats. Cats and I are very much alike. The cat is a solitary animal, independent and quiet by nature. Like cats who hide themselves away when ill, I dislike people visiting me when I am indisposed. I want to be left alone."

And contrary to the images of decadence he created, Ert adhered to a strict personal discipline of work and moderate physical esercise which certainly contributed to his incredible productivity and longevity. In his words, "I get up late in the morning. When I wake up I exercise for fifteen minutes before breakfast. Sometimes I supplement my morning workout with an additional five minutes before dinner. I have never deviated from this routine, even when I am traveling. "

Ert designed dance costumes for the Ballets Russes, and like many artists of that era pursued exotic silhouettes, rich saturated textures and colors to create his highly-stylized work. He borrowed from the European Orientalist art, Russian icons, Byzantine mosaics, Greek vase paintings, images of Indian and Egyptian art, although when asked about the sources of his inpiration he admitted only to loving the Persian and Indian miniatures and Greek vases he saw at the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, as a child. It was these miniatures, he wrote, that were "my introduction to the kind of exotic feminine eyes with ascending eyebrows, "des yeux des biche" (the eyes of the doe), as they were called in France, that have always fascinated me. The technical virtuosity and perfection of those miniatures had a tremendous impact on me. Contrary to what many critics later maintained, it was they, rather than the work of Aubrey Beardsley, that profoundly influenced my ultimate style. I did not discover Beardsley until when I had already been in Paris for a year. "

Ert's first illustration to appear on the "Harper's Bazaar" cover was Orientalist in spirit: "Scheherazade."

In 1925, Ert was invited by Louis B. Mayer to MGM Studios in Hollywood to create film costumes. He worked on a number of films throughout his career, including La Bohme (1926) and Ben Hur (1959).

In the mid-1930s Ert suffered a personal loss through the tragic death of Prince Nicholas Ourousoff. Ert and Price Ourousoff lived together in Monte Carlo from 1914 to 1923. Ourousoff worked as Ert's business manager and helped to launch and establish the designer's spectacular career. At the outbreak of war, Ert focused on the US market, and even through in the post-World War II era interest for Ert's work declined, it exploded anew in the 70s and 80s during the Art Deco revival in the US. In 1967, Grosvenor Gallery exhibited Erte prints in their galleries in New York and London, all pieces were acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, and Erte's fame was back full force. Ert's seriagraphs, limited-edition sculpture and jewelry flooded the market. Ert was actually 82 when he started designing jewelry, emulating the style and spirit of the Art Deco. His only previous venture into jewelry design was in 1922, when he had made designs for armlets inspired by the jewelry worn by Sarah Bernhardt as Cleopatra. Jewelry designer Natalie Kane O'Keiff of Santa Fe, New Mexico was employed to implement Erte's designs, the jewelry pieces bear Erte's signarure.

Erte loved the idea of prints because it made his art very widely accessible - "Lithography is a means," he wrote, "whereby many people of limited means, who can not afford originals, are able to buy one or several prints." In 1974, Erte signed a contract with lithograph publisher Jack Solomon of Circle Fine Art Corp. to produce serigraphs, lithographs and etchings of his earlier designs and illustrations.
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