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...