Tuesday, March 15, 2011

country style, germany

Well known character actor, Michael Altmann spends as much time as possible in his country home near the Mosel, where he and his brother, Ulrich Altmann have vineyards.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

germany: the knit without boundaries

above: Claudia Skoda metallic knit

Knits are a large component of the German fashion scene and have been for 25 years. A major innovator, Claudia Skoda, originally worked out of a loft in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. Her studio, Fabrikneu or brand new, was shared by artists and friends, and her first runway presentation, 1977, featured a catwalk of photos made by Martin Kippenberger. Cohort of Iggy Pop and David Bowie, Skoda first captured the imagination of the punk art scene.
In an interview with ecomodista, Skoda discussed how her work evolved, experimenting with  any and all materials and techniques, especially technical innovations for machine knits. A member of the early punk pack that included David Bowie, Skoda experimented with knitwear.  She moved to America in the early 1980’s, she opened a boutique in SoHo, although production remained in Berlin. The dramatic political events, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, compelled Skoda returned as Soviet domination and the DDR imploded. Subsequent unification of East and West Germany and the designation of Berlin as a unified Germany’s capitol once again, symbolized the the new Reichstag’s transparent dome designed by British architect Norman Foster, compelled numerous Germans to repatriate. These, the wealthy, and artists who were suddenly drawn to Berlin, patronized Skoda’s chic boutique on Ku’damm designed by Australian Marc Newson. 

An expanding German economy and a commitment to revitalizing the moribund former East Berlin, but which ecomodista found appealingly uncommercial, encouraged businesses to move to these neighborhoods. Skoda opened a boutique at Alte Schönhauser Straße 35 in Berlin’s Bezirk Mitte, near Alexanderplatz, once the heart of the DDR, now the neighborhood is filled with hip hotels like motel one, various designer’s boutiques and innumerable cafes where students and artists hang out. Vivienne Westwood, who spends a great deal of time in Berlin, Comme des Garçons and other designers also occupy this neighborhood.

Considered an essential accessory by numerous students, Skoda’s now classic slouchy beret even adorns Cate Blanchett and Milla Jovovich. The first knitwear designer to conceive of producing men’s trousers, Skoda’s concept captured the patronage of men who covet comfort. Using featherweight yarns, and an array of pale colors, these trousers are a perennial favorite.
In an interview with ecomodista, Skoda discusses her career, “I am interested in combining fabric with knit. I don’t remember how I learned, but I’m essentially self taught, learning by doing.” She muses, “Perhaps my occupation came out from a need to have some special clothes, one had so few choices then, unlike today, so i just knit. My grandfather and father were tailors, my grandfather had a business, bespoke suits--maybe it’s in the genes.” 
Sustainability is a serious issue in Germany, and the government supports major projects towards this goal. A major effort is underway to be independent of foreign oil and gas, and already almost one fifth of Germany’s energy is renewable. Wind turbines stalk the North Sea coastline, and surround major cities such as Hamburg and Lubeck and Germans are staunchly anti-nuclear, at least the populace, of course the industry is attempting to direct the political future of nuclear energy in that country. Resolutely chopping wood from renewed forests for energy efficient stoves, many families rely on layers of hand knits to stay warm. 

below: Marie Louise Vogt experiments with various sustainable techniques, from knitting with recycled textiles to this cape, a perfect concept for left over colors, although in this case, the design and colors were preconceived.

Minimalism, sustainable in and of itself, manifests this style in hotels, think The Pure in Frankfurt, 25 Hours in Hamburg, and the Motel Ones where the lobby’s dual function bar/cafe and reception, offers companionship or an internet hot spot. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

black swan & stripes

In addition to Calvin Klein, the US has produced Rodarte, the sister sister team so EU in their intellectual approach to design, no wonder, since Kate and Laura Mulleavy attended UC Berkeley Shockingly, Rodarte was not even nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for their wonderfully inventive costumes for Black Swan. Black Swan is definitely a knitters’s movie, in addition to exploring the murky depths of creative ambition and ambiguity.
Colleen Atwood’s designs for Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton, scooped the award for costume design. ecomodista wasn't the only one who felt Rodarte's designs for Black Swan were brilliant and should have garnered an award. Interviewing the sisters for W Editor’s Blog, the Rodarte team discussed the concepts of stories and duality, “We looked at its [ballet’s] historical relevance and the socio-political developments of ballet and the female body over the years. Also, we really thought about how the subject of voyeurism would be explored in the film through the cinematography and story telling and thus wanted to focus on playing with viewership in the designs. We drew from an internal understanding and personal fascination with the idea of duality.” Unfortunately, there has been some disagreement regarding their contribution, although given the dominance of knitwear, the conflation of the feathers as a fringed scarf worn by the protagonist off stage and the graphite body paint, there is little doubt of their involvement. Apparently the Rodarte's agent did not negotiate proper credit rights. What could be easier for a knitter than stripes? Or what about Christopher Kane’s enlarged crochet granny square skirts and loose short sleeve sweaters? Stunningly designed and incorporating Rodarte trademarks, the Black Swan costumes  are exciting manifestations of the importance of knit on the fashion scene today. Having given additional thought to YSL, and having just finished knitting a turtleneck, ecomodista perused the trends of the moment, some of which are classics recycled, especially stripes. Miucia Prada, Dolce & Gabana, and designer for Moschino, Rossella Jardini  mix stripes with floral skirts.
below: Natalie Portman in Black Swan; photo Niko Tavernise