Monday, March 17, 2008

After a Fashion

Happy St. Patrick's day! It seemed appropriate to focus on Irish talent today, it being our national day and all.

Helen Cody is one of my favourite Irish fashion designers. So when I read a little column in the social (events) pages of The Gloss magazine (Feb 08) saying that she had designed eight dresses inspired by paintings by Irish artists I wanted to know more. The couture dresses were designed based on pieces from the Important Irish Art auction (way back in November) by Whytes auctioneers. Unfortunately, surprisingly little seems to have been written or published about what I think is an very exciting project. (On the other hand, I have two full magazine pages of photos of random people who attended the auction!) So I did a little detective work and uncovered some beautiful treasures.

Four of the eight dresses were auctioned alongside the works that inspired them. Although it seems from what I could find that only two of them was sold. I'm just guessing the people at the auction that night were looking for art to hang on their walls and not in their wardrobes because the dresses are truly exquisite.

After John Shinnors sold for €2100. According to the auction catalogue it is made of "boiled vanilla cashmere and wool" with Swarowski jet crystal beading. The underskirt is boned and covered with black and grey ostrich feathers. The beading around the waist is vintage covered buttons. The dress was inspired by Evening Study at Window II by John Shinnors. I really like the interpretation of light and shadow and the touch of gold at the waistband echoing the evening sunlight.

After Camille Souter is a knee length silk ivory dress with a ‘tangled’ ribbon appliqué and Swarovski jet beading. It is easy to the see where the inspiration came from when you look at Achill Rocks and Reflections I by Camille Souter. I found it interesting that while the subject of the the painting is not very unusual, the materials Camille has used definately are. She added to her usual oil paints with enamel and aluminium paints available at the local hardware store. And she painted on 'common' brown kraft paper. This worked really well to show the reflections and light on the water. Apt then that Helen Cody uses the more domestic 'tangled ribbon' applique as embellishment on the couture silk dress.

To be honest After Louis LeBrocquy (sold for €1400) is the dress I find the least interesting and appealing. A brown dress just doesn't say Louis LeBrocquy to me, even if it is actually "camel cashmere with hand dyed silk velvet padded flowers embedded with Swarovski chandelier crystals, lined in pure silk" . But as I've mentioned before I have a few issues with the colour brown and I'm sure the rest of you will appreciate it without prejudice! To be fair to the designer,she was responding specifically to the painting Reconstructed Head of a Young Woman (1968) (and it is a fairly brown painting!) And I do love the way the chandelier crystals form the centre of the flowers indicating the preciousness of the young womans head.

After Gerard Dillon is probably my favourite dress of the collection and it wasn't sold...I wonder if that means there's still a chance of me owning it?! (Doubt it with a guide price of €2500 - €3000) Described by the catalogue as "lime crushed velvet strapless ruched and boned dress with gold metallic beaded embroidery, peacock feather tails, beige multilayered underskirt and hand dyed silk lining". To be honest I wasn't entirely sure which Gerard Dillon painting this was inspired by because there were a few by him in the auction but I took an educated guess at Young Couple. I can see the lime greens, the gold and the blues of the peacock feathers. And the shapes of the shadowy figures in the sky even seem to be echoed by the shapes of the peacock feathers.

The last four dresses were not up for auction so there is even less information available about them. This beautiful pink and gold delicacy I guess would be called After John Philip Murray and was inspired by the delicate colours in Defined States by John Philip Murray.

The layers of textures and detailing in this misty grey dress, After Helen Comerford, were inspired by the layers and texture in the encaustic painting Three Aspects with Yellow Moon by Helen Comerford.

After Alice Maher is a simple white dress with an exaggerated silhouette and black mohair embroidery inspired by Coma Berenices, a large charcoal drawing of a woman's hair by Alice Maher.

And finally, After Sean Scully is inspired by Sean Scully's Seven Mirrors series of prints, although its nice to see that Helen Cody has put her own design aesthetics into the dress. This dress could easily have lifted its pattern straight from one of the prints but Helen turns the horizontal stripe to a create a vertical line down half the body (very flattering of course, darling!) and keeps the horizontal stripe to one side of the skirt. She also plays with the 3-dimensions of the fabric stripe, twisting and folding it in contrast to the flat 2D stripes of the Scully prints.

So thats it...8 dresses, one fashion designer, 8 important Irish artists and not a shamrock in sight! Sorry about the quality of the images, they are patched together from various screen caps and images from the catalogue, but as I said before, I had to do a bit of digging to get this info. There is a nice
slideshow of some of the dresses on Helen Cody's website, which is definately worth a visit.


Rowley_J said...

Happy St Patrick's Day to you!

What a fascinating post, the relationship between the fashion & artwork is wonderful & a most creative & inspired interpretation.

LeWak said...

a very original and informative post

JuliAM said...

that peacock dress is STUNNING..but admittedly i have a bit of a feather obsession right now so i WOULD say that

Anonymous said...

Oh my golly gosh I LOVE the eye makeup!

Anonymous said...