Coco Chanel: a woman who reads

Coco Gabrielle Chanel. One couldn’t doubt the significance that this name holds not only for the fashion world, but also for the whole landscape of the XXth century. A myriad of different books, films, exhibitions have been devoted to her. Her life has been discussed an analyzed through different angles: childhood’s struggles, intriguing (and sad) relationships with influential men, challenges that formed her audacious character, an awe-inspiring creativity (Coco’s unmistakable signature), from which she made a powerful tool to constantly challenge the style norms and contribute to the emancipation of women. All of this has been precisely documented. Is there anything we haven’t already heard or read about her?

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However, Coco’s legacy is so much more than just tweed, pearls or black color. Thousands of women (and even men) are inspired by her self-confidence (or arrogance, as it’s often called), which translated not only in her style, but also in her ideas and actions. It’s not surprising that her quotes constantly provide a source for new articles. A collection of her thoughts could be an impressive manual of a very particular life philosophy… Even though this singular attitude cannot be easily imitated, her legacy does the job: Chanel clothes and accessories help women to feel self-assured, beautiful and confident. We know Chanel as woman, designer, innovator but the newest exhibition at the International Gallery of Modern Art Ca’Pesaro in Venice presents Coco as a woman with a strong cultural background. First and foremost, she was a woman who reads.

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This exhibition is part of a far bigger project entitled as “Culture Chanel” whose principal intention is to tell the exceptional story of Coco’s life by exploring unique, previously unrevealed themes. Books, albums, letters and relations with the greatest minds of the XXth century (such as Jean Cocteau or Pablo Picasso) – all of these things had an immense impact on her creations. Reading served as a shelter for a woman who often felt so lonely. It gave her answers to haunting questions and provided a greatest source of inspiration while dreaming about the future and the kind of life Coco wished to live. Books helped her discover a universal language, which resonated with her inner world, language of creation. As the curators emphasize, books “nourished her imagination and responded to her mystical quest for the invisible”. With such a symbolic charge the books held for her, it’s not surprising that the exhibition takes place in Venice, a city where she arrived in 1920, heartbroken and devastated after the death of her lover Arthur “Boy” Capel and where she searched for consolation. Just like books, Venice was a source of strength for a woman who was never destined to lead a simple life.

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The collection combines different elements that illuminate Coco’s relationship with art and culture: copies of the books by such authors as Plato, Homer, Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Marcel Proust, Emily Bronte and others rub shoulders with handwritten letters – remaining proof of the correspondence she kept with people whose work marked the most important moments of the last century. Manifestos of Futurists and Dadaists, publications of influential art critics (such as Guillaume Apollinaire), notes of Igor Stravinsky, drawings and paintings by Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali… All of these things are also displayed under glassy surfaces and each one of them is worth a distinct chapter in Coco’s life.

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The last stop in this meticulously curated and impeccably elegant journey is a hall where a dialogue between the past and the present takes place. Here we find clothes by a current Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, flacons of Chanel perfumes, albums which shed new light on the way Chanel’s creations pass through the decades by juxtaposing pictures from the last century and images from recent editorials , examples of watches and objects which held a special significance for Coco… Anyone who’s ever peeked into the designer’s life or read at least one biography about her will understand why small lion statues and astrological maps are also placed here. Threads of mystery and symbolism are woven into Gabrielle’s life, so this exhibition is an attempt to decrypt at least a little bit of her secrets.

The exhibition continues up to 8th of January, so hurry up if you still haven’t seen it!

L’Officiel Lithuania: Opera issue

L'Officiel Lithuania

I’ve always dreamt of making an interview, which would be bigger than just one conversation – I was thinking in particular about a series of interviews in different periods of time or a conversation with many people on the same subject. Isn’t this a dream of every journalist? Well, yesterday this dream finally took its shape.

I’m very thankful for L’Officiel Lithuania for trusting me and giving me a possibility to create an interview series which is my longest article yet to date – the experience was incredible and so enriching it almost feels surreal! During past several weeks, I was talking with some of the most famous and talented Lithuanian opera artists, working in the most prestigious theaters all over the world – Edgaras Montvidas, Laimonas Pautienius, Justina Gringyte, Jovita Vaskeviciute, Kostas Smoriginas, Jurgita Adamonyte and Sandra Janusaite. And of course, with the director Dalia Ibelhauptaite… My main focus was to understand what it means to be an opera artist right now, how does it feel to finally sing the dream roles and what do these roles bring to their own lives, question the reality of opera in different countries, trace the most important stages in their personal and professional evolution. The experience was very sincere and intime. Mysterious or open, reserved or openly joyful, ambitious, striving for perfection, sophisticated  – all of them have distinct characters that leave no doubts why they’re so successful. I just want to say thank you for my wonderful interviewees.

These are intriguing conversations with people, who have dedicated their lives for decrypting mysteries of the opera. For my Lithuanian readers: find the whole story in the newest issue of L’Officiel out right now!

Herb Ritts: ode to ferocious beauty

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Once when Madonna was asked about working with Herb Ritts, she called him a “real geek”. It was her first impression of an artist whom she met on the set of Desperately Seeking Susan, a comedy-drama film released in 1985. But, as later turned out, the “real geek” had something of a pure genius in the way he worked and approached people. Herb Ritts, a fashion photographer who has already become a legend on his own, is now at the center of attention at Maison européenne de la photographie in Paris, which holds a retrospective of his most notable works.

Herb was born in 1952 in Los Angeles, in a family of a businessman and an interior designer. Consequently, the photographer studied economics and art history in New York and took his first steps in the professional world working for his parents. But Herb was never destined to be a small cog in the pragmatical business machine. Herb Ritts that we know is an exceptional artist who devoted his life for creating miracle-worthy compositions where a human body, standing still as a Greek god or immersed in a movement, which even more emphasizes its divine qualities, plays the leading role. His photos are fuss-free, characterized by fearlessness, acute contrasts of black/white and impeccable aesthetics.

The only texture Herb was interested in was that of a human body. He searched to portray the way the body finds harmony with nature and various its forms (sun, sand, water), and, of course, with clothes: perfectly trained and muscled figures possess ferocious qualities of savage animals, but these are also the same bodies who can embrace the softest of the fabrics, looking fragile and monumental at the same time. Calm and vast landscapes, such as deserts or picturesque beaches are used as a backdrop for the personages in order to create a sentiment of grandeur.

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Herb’s photographs are undeniably glamorous, but they are never vain. This could be one of the reasons why the celebrities enjoyed his company and were never afraid to unveil their most unexpected features: Nicole Kidman is provocatively sensual, but also possesses an aura of mysticality, Madonna is unashamedly audacious, Jack Nicholson is playfully wicked. Richard Gere posing by the car just with the right amount of machismo is an emblematic figure of Herb Ritt’s works. It was one of his first pictures, after all, which assured his newly acquired photographer status. Back in the time, Richard was only an aspiring actor, dreaming of international success and he was also incredibly shy, reluctant to pose for Herb (who could have believed?). Thanks to Richard’s publicist, the picture later found its way to fashion magazines (Vogue, Esquire and others). Herb didn’t even consider himself as a photographer when offers to take pictures of famous people began flowing. Of course, salesman-turned-photographer didn’t decline them. But it was probably the famous photograph of Stephanie Seymour, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz and Naomi Campbell which placed Herb in the fashion history. There is literally nothing in this meticulously arranged minimalistic photograph but these five extraordinary women, belonging to the times famously referred to as the supermodels’ era, looking at posing attentively.

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Herb created modern mythology from people who embody the spirit of the late XXth century: Michael Jackson, Helmut Newton, David Bowie, Tina Turner, Sylvester Stallone, Julia Roberts, Antonio Banderas. He managed to produce unique photographs of celebrities, who were being photographed everyday and whose faces were the most recognizable on the whole planet. Photography aside, Herb Ritts also directed music videos. “Wicked game” by Chris Isaak is probably one of the most spectacular examples, which shows how Herb’s sensuality could be translated to another medium.

Herb Ritts: en pleine lumière / Maison européenne de la photographie/ 07.09.2016-30.10.2016