22 January 2008

maison21 is totally 80's (on the inside, where it's nostalgic, not on the outside, where it's just icky)

maison21 makes no secret about the fact he is totally 80's- i mean hello!, my blog is named after an adam ant song (see my sidebar if you have no idea what i'm referring to). don't worry- i'm not still rocking big hair and shoulder pads, i'm referring to more of an internal thing - my aesthetics and cultural references were shaped during that era and while much of it looks ridiculous these days (watch a television show from the era like dynasty or growing pains, and you'll see what i mean), but some things from the 80's are still looking remarkably good- at least to this middle aged design queen.

my first apartment was decorated in wannabe memphis, and i'd still kill for an ettore sottsass carlton room divider (image: metropolitan museum) or other my other favorite sottsass designed piece, the mobile giallo cabinet (image via architonic- who listed an estimate of $25,000-30,000 for the cabinet, and this was well before mr. sottsass' recent passing). maison21 couldn't afford a sottsass memphis piece when it was originally released, and he certainly can't afford it now that it's increased so greatly in value, but if he could, he would love to have a piece or two in his current decor (too bad i threw out my 80's memphis knock-off furniture a long time ago- i'd definitely work a few of them again now).
all kinds of other late 70's- early 80's design is looking remarkably fresh to maison21- he is loving a mix of pieces by the likes of sally sirkin lewis, willy rizzo, karl springer (particularly his tesselated stone pieces like the one below from robert masselo, miami, via 1stdibs), and a host of lesser remembered designers, placed alongside traditional antiques (particularly empire, federal and egyptian revival styles as well as maison21's beloved chinois). contemporary pieces are inportant to the mix too, so as not to get all "period" or theme-y. we wouldn't want it to look like alexis and crystal are going to walk in any second- that would be ridiculous!

even more so than with interior design, maison21 is shocked and amazed at how fashion from over 25 years ago is still influencing the styles of today (not all fashion is still being echoed in today's looks, thank god- no one wants harem pants and headbands to be come back anytime soon!).

this last summer, maison21 and two of his closest friends took a road trip to san francisco to see the vivienne westwood retrospective at the de young museum. if you haven't seen the de young since it was redesigned by herzog & de meuron and reopened in 2005, it's worth a visit- a truly stunning building with a starkly beautiful perforated copper skin (image courtesy of thomas mayer_archives). and of course, if for no other reason, san francisco is always worth a visit for the amazing roast chicken at zuni cafe. zuni is a true restaurant classic, still going strong almost 30 years after it's 1979 opening, making it- yes, you guessed it- an 80's classic! their roast chicken is such a culinary classic, maison21 has been ordering the same meal virtually every time he's been to zuni since his first visit over 20 uears ago: oysters on the half shell (with a martini, of course), followed by zuni's classic anchovy-laden caesar salad and then his most favoritist dish in the whole wide world, that amazing roast chicken- i'm tempted to book a flight north right now, just thinking about it!



anyway, back to viv: the exhibition, which originated at the victoria and albert museum in london in 2004, then traveled the world before ending up in san francisco this past summer, was absolutely wonderful. the growth of vivienne westwood as an artist and designer was clearly illustrated by the massive retrospective- from her silk screened tee's and safety pins to later couture gowns, all the while touching on the same recurring themes of subverting historical traditions, and literally revisiting the same tailoring techniques in new ways for 30 years. her designs are a truly works of art, and when collected in one space, the obvious influence she's had on fashion over the same period of time becomes overwhelming. without dame vivienne, we would have no john galliano spectacle, and no rock n roll meets fashion vibe ala versace, et al (whom she influenced in spirit more than in fashion, as versace's actual clothes probably owe more to liberace than the talented ms. westwood). and i mean, heck, who ever thought that bondage pants (a westwood invention) would become a fashion staple available at any american mall in hot topic stores, some 30 years later?

westwood is a true visionary, and a tremendous influence on maison21's own aesthetic. if you weren't able to check out this great exhibition, go visit her website or that of v&a exhihibit via the above links- you be glad you did. maison21 was so moved by the exhibition, he actually got a little choked-up viewing her early 80's collections like "pirates" and "witches", and now that he's discovered that the rug company has a vivienne westwood collection, he's determined to someday design a room around the "squiggle orange" rug, based on the legendary prints used in dame vivienne's landmark 1981 "pirates" collection. see, the 80's are still influencing design today!

this little trip down 80's memory lane was inspired by not so much by maison21's near constant blasting of the 80's hits (loving the lush sounds of work produced by trevor horn such as the lexicon of love by abc or grace jones' slave to the rhythm) but rather by a recent visit to the house of beauty and culture blog. HOBAC had a video clip of of the incredible stylist and performance artist, leigh bowery, and while maison21 had admired leigh's work via photos since the 80's, m21 had never actually seen any of mr. bowery's œuvre on video before and it was a treat. HOBAC summed leigh up thusly, and maison21 couldn't say it better hisownself: "A creative genius beyond compare that never ceased to amaze or to inspire."

so m21 did a little googling and discovered lots more leigh bowery videos on a website dedicated to his memory, leighbowery.com (where all the photos of him used on this post are pulled from). leigh bowery was an artist whose canvas was his body, and like vivienne westwood, his influence on fashion to this day is huge. what's even more amazing, is that leigh is basically just a club kid, who through his own creativity turned his life into something more extraordinary, albeit for very brief period of time, having passed away at 33 in 1994.



i'm sure in england, leigh is still remembered, but here in america, he isn't really even forgotten- more like never known at all. (though, i suppose after the short lived run of the taboo musical on broadway, a few more people might have been exposed to his genius). maison21 strongly suggests that if you don't know who leigh bowery is, you visit his website to acquaint yourself with his body of work. the images there are sometimes amusing, sometimes disturbing but always original and you'll get first-hand visuals on how influential this little known icon was. nowadays, we don't blink an eye at an avant garde fashion designer sending models down the runway with their heads fully covered or in clothes that dramatically distort the shape of their bodies, but look at the work of leigh from 25 years ago and tell m21 where you think those designers are getting these crazy "new" ideas from? without leigh (and viv), i doubt anyone would have ever heard of alexander mcqueen, and leigh's influence is seen by moi in the works of many others over the years, like viktor & rolf or nicholas ghesquiere. color maison21 crazy, but all jennifer connolly needs (wearing ghesquire for balenciaga) is a mask and a german army helmet, and poof!- she's leigh bowery!

now, since the title of this blog is "decorative not serious", we'd like to leave you with a lighter look at style in the 80's via the hysterically dated and funny brenda dickison video "welcome to my home", parts 1 and 2. 20 minutes of pure, unadulterated camp- yes, the 80's were kinda scary sometimes too...

18 comments:

Pigtown-Design said...

I saw the Vivienne Westwood at the V&A. It was simply amazing!

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

M21 - LB was even more amazing in person. A little scary (or a lot scary depending how much one had imbibed, which usually was a lot) and mesmerising at the same time. I miss him, and I miss that London. Have you seen the Fergus Greer book? I love it.

Can't believe Zuni is still going strong!

Thanks for the meander down memory lane!

maison21 said...

wasn't it just, though, pigtown? she's always been a hero of mine, but to see it all put together like that was a transcendent experience...

maison21 said...

glad you enjoyed it, hobac especially since my visit to your blog this weekend inspired the little nostalgic journey. i was just going to do a little thing on sottsass and 80's interior design, but your bowery post got me to thinking about the 80's in a broader context so i added in viv and leigh. fun times, the 80's- what little i remember, that is!

i haven't seen the greer book, but i'm going to now that i know about it- thx for the tip. pretty cool that you knew leigh, tho i must admit, i'm probably glad i didn't- sometimes admiration from afar is safer than up close warts and all intimacy...

and yes, isn't it amazing that zuni has been packing them in for 30 years- every table full on my last visit! i hope they go on forever!

The Peak of Chic said...

Fab post! Love the info on Memphis, Sottsass, Westwood, etc. But truly, can't get over the Brenda Dickinson video. I hadn't thought about her in a million years- not since she was Jill Abbott on Y&R!!!! I adore that lame hat!
(Oh, agree about Zuni and the roast chicken)

maison21 said...

peak- isn't that video the most hi-larious thing? i was laughing out loud (all alone, in the middle of the night, no less) when i first saw it a few months back.

i had never heard of this woman before (we were an all my children household), but i guess she was the stuff in her day. my only question is- couldn't she have at least rehearsed for that thing? it's just so god-awful...

i guess the video is quite popular on youtube, as there is a whole series of parody response videos as well. some are funnier than others, but most are worth watching...

Brilliant Asylum said...

I watched the Leigh Bowery documentary last year and have been feeling boring and beige ever since. What a fantastic character he was!

Have you seen February's Domino Mag? There is a pretty cool room with Westwood's sqiggle design done as wallpaper and upholstery by her daughter-in-law.

maison21 said...

hi asylum-

i guess i'm pretty out of the loop- here i was thinking not so many people knew about leigh bowery, when i guess it was ME that didn't know much about him! you saw a documentary that i didn't even know existed and hobac was actually friends with him!

joke's on me! : )

and yeah, i saw that room in domino and thought about using it for a minute, but in the end, decided i just didn't like the room enough to use it. LOVE the wall paper, and the matching upholstered frenchy-french pieces, (i think that's the way to work with a big bold print like that- pretend it's a neutral, and do everything in it) but i didn't really get why the furniture was all pushed up against the walls of that big old room. it was very court of versailles in it's day to do so, but in the 21st century, we don't need the space for throngs of courtiers to mingle, so how about a grouping in front of the fireplace, using that zebra skin to anchor it?

and much as i loves the animals (when they are alive) i don't really have a problem with walking on ziggy the zebra, since he's vintage, but frankly that alligator/lizard thing flayed against the wall grosses me out something serious! (but if he were shoes, i'd wear him- what can i say, i have weird rules for the use of the dead things).

Suzy said...

I will never tire of 80's music (except when you hear a remix that 20-somethings are loving and looking at me wondering how I know such a "new" song). And Springer furniture will NEVER date!

maison21 said...

suzy-

you are so right on both counts! a woman after my own heart!

Anonymous said...

Nice to see you back M21!
Funny, thanks to the 80s fever that's struck lately I was recently thinking about Memphis: "Well that's one trend that didn't hold up." Then again it wasn't meant to. Sottsass said, "It is no coincidence that the people who work for Memphis don’t pursue a metaphysic aesthetic idea or an absolute of any kind, much less eternity. Today everything one does is consumed. It is dedicated to life, not to eternity." As you may have guessed, I hated Memphis. Flashy (garish actually) and superficial, it was design-as-shock-therapy. And the prices! Of course it wasn't really about furniture. I think it's safe to say that Memphis was really an art movement. As such, I can definitely appreciate it. As "furniture" I cannot. But thanks for the trip down memory lane!



ps Judy Rodgers was a protege of Alice Waters, so it's no surprise Zuni soldiers on. There's a Zuni Cafe cookbook in case you ever want to enjoy that chicken at home.

katiedid said...

I was just a the De Young last Sunday trying to force a little culture down my kids' throats (seriously there is not much forcing involved, they do love to do this sort of stuff). It reminded me of the Vivienne Westwood exhibit I had seen when it was there. Ahh...such inspiration! The Zuni! I have not been in ages, but it's good to know it is still there. I used to work in SF and we would go alot back in the day. Yes, I am a product of the 80's too.

Thanks for the intro to Leigh. I, ahem, was unfamiliar. I am off to check out the website.

maison21 said...

hey anon- my absence wasn't THAT long, but i'm glad to know i was missed...
seriously tho', sometimes it's hard to find the time to read blogs, let alone write one... especially for moi, being quite typing-challenged. in high school, i took a typing class (thats "keyboarding" for you kids), and over the course of a quarter, my skills improved nada. the teacher gave me a "b-" even though my testing scores were more like a c, or maybe even a d. the teacher said she didn't want to ruin my grade point average for getting into college since i was really trying and "obviously had some sort of hand-eye coordination problem". : (

i agree that memphis was almost more an art movement than a design movement, and while the sottsass piecees could indeed be brilliant, in less talented hands, the results were not so hot. the red/yellow/blue circle/square/triangle constructions of some designers turned me off then, and i still don't like them much. waaaayy too simplistic.

as for cooking from the zuni cookbook- it'll never happen... the culinary arts are something maison21 appreciates greatly when performed by others, but has zero interest in attempting himself! in other words- that's why god invented restaurants! ;-)

maison21 said...

katie-

you are lucky that your kids love museums. i was in new york a few years back with my sister's family and trying to get them to enjoy the met was like pulling teeth. all they really wanted to do was get hot dogs from a cart and and buy counterfeit shit from sidewalk sellers!
(oh yeah, the big goal was the TRL studios on times square)

youth...

Topsy Turvy said...

I'm not sure WHAT I was doing during the 80s, ok I know but I'm not going to admit it, but I have never heard of Leigh Bowery. You're really educating me, m21, between that and c. jere. (Although ever since you blogged about c.jere, I'm seeing it everywhere!)
And your comparison of Jennifer Connolly to LB had me laughing out loud. Still does.

maison21 said...

topsy-

so glad you thought the lb/jennifer connolly comparison was funny. i swear i saw that picture of leigh and instantly though of those foam-backed ghesquiere dresses!

Topsy Turvy said...

Ohhhhhh, so the secret is foam, huh? See, I'm learning something else new from you!

All Things Bright and Beautiful... said...

Maison - this is THE ugliest post ( the middle bit with the bondage gear etc) I have ever seen in the polite world of interiors ......

but I am laughing my head off!!!


You and only YOU would get away with this AND get 17 comments to boot!

You nutter!!

I love it!!

Now hurry up and get Mona to post her tags post - DY keeps making look at your blog to see if Mona's posted or not and DY is lonely in the dog house!!!

( DY doesnt understand how long it takes to get a post done - especially when trying to translate form doggie language!!!)

Sorry!!!

We wont bug you again today!!!