Fashion Theory & Criticism

Latin America In Construction—MoMA

Latin America Under Construction

With all this rain in New York today I can’t help but want to stay inside all day and never go out. I truly love hearing the raindrops hit the hard surfaces on the city, and rainy days like this one are more than perfect to sit inside reading a good book—right now Waiting for Sunshine, by William Boyd, although I still don’t know if I love it or hate it—and cuddling with the perfect cup of tea—Earl Grey with a hint of milk, in my case. But rainy days in the city are also the perfect occasion to visit one of the hundreds of museums/galleries you can find in New York, and go calmly through one of their exhibitions.

Latin America Under ConstructionLatin America Under Construction

Latin America Under Construction

I recently visited the MoMA—which I actually hadn’t done in what seems like a very long time—to see their Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980 exhibition, currently on view until July 19. The exhibition celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the exhibition held previously at the museum, Latin American Architecture since 1945, a landmark survey of modern architecture in the region, and revisits the positions, debates, and architectural creativity in the region, from Mexico and Cuba to the Southern Cone between 1955 and the early 1980s.

Latin America Under ConstructionLatin America Under Construction

Latin America Under Construction

According to the exhibition, the period studied was one of exploration and complex political shifts, which saw the emergence of a new Latin America in the global landscape, where the development and culture of the region were slowly starting to emerge as the “Third World.” Latin American architects had the chance of exploring new techniques and create their own sense of aesthetics, responding to the social and political movements occurring in the region, and this is reflected in the large architectural oeuvres built between 1955 and 1980.

Latin America Under ConstructionLatin America Under Construction

Latin America Under Construction

In order to show such a shift, the exhibition showcases architectural drawings and models, vintage photographs and film clips, as well as newly commissioned models and photographs. These pieces intend to show how architects met the structural challenges they faced in the region with formal, urbanistic and programmatic innovation, and include important landmarks such as the library at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, the building complex surrounding the Plaza de Toros in Bogota, and the magnificent campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Latin America Under ConstructionLatin America Under Construction

Latin America Under Construction

The result of this period in Latin American architecture, as the exhibition explains, are the challenging architecture and urban responses to the ongoing issues of modernisation and development in Latin America, which have adapted according to the different economic and political contexts it has faced throughout its recent history.

Latin America Under ConstructionLatin America Under Construction

Latin America Under Construction

Although I would never dare to call Latin American architecture innovative or creative as this exhibition does—but then again I am completely clueless in that matter, so maybe my opinion is not right at all—I really enjoyed seeing it. The videos in the first part reminded me of those endless hours watching documentaries on mid-twentieth century Latin American economic history as part of my coursework in my last year of college, and trying to understand how economic development came in the region and how countries struggled to make the internal economies grow.

Latin America Under ConstructionLatin America Under Construction

Latin America Under Construction

It also made me remember, with a sense of nostalgia, the buildings that I grew up ignoring and somehow hating, wishing we had the palaces I found in Paris or the skycrapers I saw in New York. It made me realise that Latin America, as we know it today, is a young region, and it is still in progress. We have our characteristic buildings and our own architectural history which, I could see in the exhibit, makes a lot of sense in the region. In the end, it has always been a region that has struggled to maintain political and economic stability and, although it is finally reaching that goal in recent years, it still has a long way to go.

Latin America Under ConstructionLatin America Under Construction

Latin America Under Construction

Love,
Laura
Photography: Laura Beltran-Rubio

“Faking It” at the Museum at FIT

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to attend a special tour and talk with Ariele Elia, curator of the Faking It: Originals, Copies and Counterfeits exhibition that is currently being held at the Museum at FIT. The exhibition explores not only the issue of copyright infringement and counterfeits in fashion, but also other ways in which copying—both in authorised and unauthorised ways—has led to dubious authenticity in the fashion industry.

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

The exhibition starts by showing examples of the first well-known fashion copies, which included the copying—sometimes licensed and authorised by the original creators of the clothes—of French designs in America. The exhibition includes the example of a Chanel suit, presenting both the Chanel version and the licensed copy, as well as a licensed copy of Pierre Balmain’s Angel evening dress and a version of Dior’s New Look created by Nettie Carnegie in New York.

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

It is also possible to see some moments in fashion where inspiration has been taking from art throughout the years. Examples of this, in the exhibition, include the very well-known Mondrian art—and the Yves Saint Laurent dress, among the multiple garments that emerged from the artist’s work—as well as Andy Warhol’s art for Campbell soups. This part was particularly interesting to me because, although I have seen the use of recognised artwork in fashion more than once, for some reason—and even though it is pretty obvious—I had never thought of it as a problem for authenticity. But it, of course, contributes to it!

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

The exhibition then goes to explore the case of counterfeits, which is probably the most recognised example of fashion copyright infringement. The most interesting part is not seeing the different counterfeits showcased in the exhibition, but the several videos explaining the differences between originals and copies. I’ve always appreciated the art of fashion involved in the creation of high-end garments and accessories, and this part of the exhibition definitely shows that!

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

Finally, the exhibition shows some examples of parody in fashion. According to Ariele, the problem with parody comes when it is not clear and the consumers might get confused with the meaning of it. For example, Brian Lichtenberg’s “Homiés” ensemble seems to be clearly making fun of the Hermès logo in his designs. However, Yohji Yamamoto’s “YY” logo, which he debuted at his fall 2007 runway show, seemed to be too similar to the Louis Vuitton monogram, which has been used by the house for ages, making the designer probably cross the lines of copyright infringement.

"Faking It" - Museum at FIT"Faking It" - Museum at FIT

I must accept I am truly a lover of fashion exhibitions in museums but mainly only because I like to see pretty dresses and garments. I am by no ways a critic of such exhibitions and I know there is a very long path for them to go through and develop both a more academic standpoint and a way of including the social phenomena that shape fashion at determined points in time. And although this is also true for the Faking It exhibition at MFIT, I really did enjoy being able to attend the talk with the curator and learn from her. She was wonderful not only in transmitting insights about the exhibition but also in sharing some funny anecdotes that made our time with her a unique and fun experience!

Love,
Laura
Photography: Laura Beltran-Rubio

Christmas at Saks Fifth Avenue

Christmas at Saks 5th Ave

Christmas at Saks 5th Ave

Christmas at Saks 5th Ave

Christmas at Saks 5th Ave

Christmas at Saks 5th Ave

Christmas at Saks 5th Ave

Christmas at Saks 5th Ave

Christmas at Saks 5th Ave

Christmas at Saks 5th Ave

Christmas at Saks 5th Ave

Christmas at Saks 5th Ave

Christmas at Saks 5th Ave

Christmas at Saks 5th Ave

Christmas at Saks 5th Ave

We all know I love window displays, and I adore wandering around New York looking at them. I took pictures of the Christmas windows in Bergdorf Goodman quite a while ago, but I hadn’t been able to do the same in Saks Fifth Ave, cause I’m not having a very good relationship with tourists tight now… But I finally managed to force myself to embrace the crowds yesterday, and it was totally worth it!

I loved the displays, but I must confess I sort of loved the pictures I took a little more––I mean, those colours… And I also love feeling the Christmas mood everywhere! I feel like a kid, counting the days until Santa comes visit. So you’ll probably only see Christmas-related pictures for the next 10 days here… Hope you’ll share the joy with me!

Love,

Photography: Laura Beltran-Rubio

Christmas in Bergdorf Goodman

Christmas in Bergdorf GoodmanChristmas in Bergdorf Goodman

Christmas in Bergdorf Goodman

Christmas in Bergdorf Goodman

Christmas in Bergdorf Goodman

Christmas in Bergdorf Goodman

Christmas in Bergdorf Goodman

Christmas in Bergdorf Goodman

Christmas in Bergdorf Goodman

Christmas in Bergdorf Goodman

Christmas in Bergdorf Goodman

Christmas in Bergdorf Goodman

Christmas in Bergdorf Goodman

We all know how much I love Bergdorf Goodman—mostly their window displays—so of course I had to go and take pictures of their wonderfully-decorated Christmas windows. I really, really love the theme they chose for this year’s displays—the arts—and I absolutely adored the result. My photos really don’t do justice to the beauty of the displays, so if you happen to be in New York this season, you should totally go see them yourself—and do some shopping as well, naturally!

I actually do walk past BG quite a lot, and every single time I see their window displays it’s as if it was the first time. Maybe I just become a 5-year-old at this time of the year… And I think this is actually fun. It makes me enjoy the holidays more than if I was trying to be a serious adult. And it makes me happy!

"Helena Rubinstein: Beauty is Power" at the Jewish Museum

Helena Rubinstein at the Jewish Museum

I went yesterday to the Jewish Museum to see the exhibition Helena Rubinstein: Beauty is Power. Although it showed a wonderful array of the artwork collected by Rubinstein throughout her life––including some beautiful portraits of her by the most relevant artists of her time, amazing sculptures from Gabon, and a few of her miniature rooms, which I totally want to have in my home—I must say that the exhibition was far less than I expected.

I arrived to the exhibition because I have to write a review about it as part of my Fashion History coursework… So I did expect some fashion. And although the exhibition contained a wonderful Bolero jacket by Elsa Schiaparelli—which is probably one of my favourite garments from the designer, only because I am obsessed with elephants—that was pretty much it. No fashion at all…

But what is even more surprising is the lack of talk about beauty. Being Rubinstein the absolute beauty master, I really expected to see more beauty-related content, and not just a few seconds of her advertising videos at the end, and less than a dozen samples of her beauty products. Although the curator did seem to admire Rubinstein for being a genius marketer and challenging the stigma associated with makeup in the early twentieth century, these issues were left mostly untouched, and nothing other than her art collections was shown.

I’ve experienced this kind of bias—showing Jewish “heroes” without elaborating on the reasons for their importance—in the past at the Jewish Museum, it hit me harder this time. As much as I value Jewish pride—or any type of pride, to be honest—I also like arguments with a basis. And I like going to museums to learn and be informed… Something I feel lacked this time.

I did enjoy seeing the beautiful portraits, though… And the art, especially when artworks from Picasso, Kahlo and Miro were juxtaposed to tribal sculptures from Nepal, Gabon and Ivory Coast. Oh, and the beautiful creations that Rubinstein’s collection of miniature rooms are—trust me, they are breathtaking! I really recommend paying a visit to the museum if you’re interested in any of these… But if you want to learn about this genius of the beauty industry, I wouldn’t say this is the place to go.

Empire State Of Mind

New York, March 2014

I finally made it to New York. New York! I’ve been dreaming of this for so long, that I wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly when it all started. But here I am, freshly landed, with my two bags—that are just about to explode—and a heart full of unimaginable dreams. It hasn’t been an easy process, and I don’t think it will start becoming easier soon. As one of my friends recently told me: to make your dreams come true, you have to work very hard. But that’s definitely a risk I’m willing to take. If I hadn’t taken some risks and worked hard from the beginning, I probably wouldn’t be here, in my temporary Upper West Side home, writing about finally living in New York.

Although it was my hard work on college—very relevant here because I’m a grad student now—and all the enthusiasm I put in my application to both school and my scholarship program that brought me here, there are also some small things that I’m pretty sure helped a lot.

I would say the most important one was having in mind what I wanted to do from the beginning. I realised today when I went shopping for an agenda for the semester how picky I am with such a small thing. I spent hours searching and visited more than one place to actually find one that screamed my name when I saw it.

This whole process made me remember it was exactly the same last year. I was starting my last year in college, and the only agenda that seemed to satisfy my needs—which I guess go far beyond writing my homework and to-do lists—was one of New York. And I realised that seeing New York—and having it metaphorically in my hands—every day made me understand how important it was to me to make the move.

Then came the applications and all that stuff. But I’m absolutely certain that the most important part was to understand what I wanted and just go for it, no matter if people around me thought I was crazy or wrong. I had faith in making my dreams come true and moving to New York. And faith—as I recently read—by nature, is persistent. Persistence, by nature, is single-minded. Single-mindedness, by nature, achieves the end it seeks.

Now that I achieved my first objective—arriving in New York—I have to start following the next. It is now my responsibility to show myself what I’m capable of and start making all of my wildest dreams come true. The first one would be finding the perfect home. And then comes finding the perfect research position. I’ll keep you updated on how that goes.