What happens when you team up two well- known, well-respected and talented souls (a fashion designer and an architect), who have become major design forces known for their minimalist aesthetic? At last evening’s ‘A Conversation with Narciso Rodriguez and Deborah Berke’, hosted by the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, and held at the Tishman Auditorium, 66 east 12th street, they were both on stage to talk about their mutual love affair with minimalism, their obvious respect for each other’s work (Deborah was even clad in a black and white pared down outfit made for her by Narciso), and the way in which architecture and fashion relate to one another in “an omnipresent way.” As Narciso put it, “Architecture inspires me.”
The event, billed as “An Investigation of Modernism” was a love fest and obvious mutual admiration society, as the duo sat on stage to dish about their passions and inspirations, mixing off the cuff conversation, detailed lists, personal thoughts, all helped with the aid of visuals – a slide show – which illustrated certain points far clearer than words.
Highlights included Narciso’s admission that he hates “girlie” (for him, it’s not about overt sexuality); “it’s not about ornamentation but construction” (“construction makes it ornamental”), and surprisingly, that he is not a fan of the word ‘minimalism’ (“purist is more beautiful than minimalist”).
Who are his “touchstones of inspiration” (his “heroes” and “masters”)? : 1- Madame Vionnet- because of her “architecture and femininity”, and the “linear yet sensuous designs that mixed form and fluidity that were “pure yet detailed”; 2- Cristobal Balenciaga- for his “purity and architecture” and the fact that he “never lost sight of the fact that he was dressing a woman”. His work was defined by “cut, seam, form and shape” and was “always graceful”; 3- Geoffrey Beene- “he’s a thinker” whose work is defined by “creating, detailing, cutting.” “Geoffrey is always finding new ways”, and he has always “wanted to create beauty”. Each of the three aforementioned legends cited were accompanied by a slide show illustrating one of their most definitive designs selected by Narciso.
Ms. Berke talked about visiting Narciso’s design studio and the way he begins each season with a blank wall, which is his “look wall” for lack of a better word. There was a slide show of his last “look wall” for the fall/winter 2004 collection, which was shown in February. Narciso admitted that he was inspired by “graphic elements of sports and uniforms” as well as the idea of “motion and movement”. Interestingly, though most of the images on the wall were not of fashion items per se, there was a picture of Kate Moss (who seems to inspire everyone) and one of a linen ruffled rumba dress from a shop in Cuba.
So- what is on the designer’s current wall? (After all, he is currently working on the spring summer collection, which will be shown in September). According to Ms. Berke, only two things at the moment (well, it is early): the graphic black and white number 104, and the picture of an Eero Saarinen (the famed Finnish architect) staircase. Narciso admitted he is obsessed with numbers and the number 104 in particular, but could not easily articulate why. Narciso also admitted he has always loved the “lucky” number 7, and then introduced Fern Mallis (as in, ‘7th on Sixth’- get it?), just back from India, who took her place on stage to personally ask the team some questions and then field a brief question and answer period during which she invited the audience to participate.
Posted by Marilyn Kirschner