Reinvention is the challenge of a house that dwells in perpetual black and white, growing its codes out of the playfully macabre, and beginning every chapter somewhere between cemetery and street. Dévastée’s Paris spring/summer collection is fresh and dynamically styled, striding along on monochrome tennis shoes.
Calf-length trousers are a collection feature, marked by this season’s mutation of the signature print. A relaxed, contemporary variation of the cigarette pant, each has a different level of fit. Charcoal-on-charcoal, lustrous cartoon personifications poke at their own realised mortality, and shimmer against their matte backdrops.
Transcending seasonal palettes, Dévastée suggests at spring with tessellating florals that jest at the natural world. The effect of extending a static pattern across a matching short and coat ensemble is paradoxically dynamic. Movement is instantly sparked by ingenious manipulation of scale. Sheer blouses and opaque knits are juxtaposed against blazers lined with variations of the same print, generating a visual charge.
Accessories are another of Dévastée’s strengths. Last season, it was all about the embellished glove collaboration with Atelier Causse. This spring/summer, the collection is accented by sheer foulards, solid scarves, and simple rectangular strips loosely hung to add dimension. Layered looks are interspersed with minimalist dresses and separates.
It is as if the quirky French design duo behind Dévastée are writing their own version of pop culture. It’s dark and funny and not bubblegum at all. Perhaps that’s why we’re drawn to it, season after season, as it shifts by degrees, never straying too far from its patriarchal grinning gravestone, but intriguing us with evolving approaches to print, layering, silhouette and style.
Original content produced for Dash Magazine. Video c/o Fashion TV.
A projected apotheosis of Chinese culture, Laurence Xu’s debut Paris couture show tightly wove traditional art with uniquely Western wefts.
Transforming his space into an exposition arena, the Shandong designer vaulted an enormous wooden loom above his runway. And, as artisans labored, seemingly suspended in the sky, six intricately worked couture pieces stood sentry around the room. The energy generated out of curiosity and expectation was palpable.
Entitled ‘Xiuqiu’ (‘Embroidered Ball’), the show’s opening performance focused the buzz, as fêted Chinese artist Li Yugang spun down the runway to personal vocal strains. Sorbet hues billowed into chiffon and were volleyed from garment to face.
Following a cyclical seasonal approach, blue and yellow defined the first quarter of the collection. Velvet and embroidered silks made up the most traditional of the looks - a floor-length, caped gown inlaid with pearl detailing from neck to waist.The designer found strength in his fusion pieces, from a Western ’50s dress with full skirt and open decolletage to a bell-bottomed version of the traditional cheongsam.
Rich gold, copper and black delivered a dramatic second quarter. Curves were hugged tightly. Beading and feathers appeared for an asserted femininity, blended with animalistic overtones that achieved a sharp edge in an obsidian alligator bodice.
A brief flirtation with raised hems was entered into over indigo and aubergine, with an allusion to the ’20s flapper spoken through tiered fringing. Settling firmly back into floor-skimming, heavily worked gowns, the designer finished in wintery white and shades of blue.
Drawing so richly from his own roots and past eras of Western style, Laurence Xu’s celebration was a befitting way to conclude a diverse and frenetic fashion season.
Original written content produced for Dash Magazine. Words by Symonne Torpy from her loft on the 6ème étage. Photographs by Giovanni Giannoni, c/o WWD.
Entitled ‘Premières Chimères’, Julien Fournié’s 2014 winter couture collection emerged out of mythological inspiration into luxury fruition at the Artcurial space, Paris. Moments of lightness woven between the heavily worked, gave complexity to Fournié’s chimeric Greek muse - a fire-breathing femme-beast hybrid that for the designer, garnered power in her unexpected flashes of tenderness.
Animalism was wrought into horned shoulder detailing on zippered golden armour from the very first. Feminine dichotomies were spread across a theme and variations, as horns evolved into a richly ruffled cream bolero and corset, and then, a lightly winged plaid chemise and pencil skirt ensemble.
Cinched waists became a silhouette feature, as hems moved resolutely down, and the latter half of the show rested on dramatic floor-length gowns.
Exposing a golden dermis beneath a strong, gunmetal exterior, dappled sequins painted the muse out of battle. Ninety-eight mink sewn into a base of organza was yet another play on primal strength against feminine delicacy. The finale wedding gown was a pouffe of chiffon, ruffled as a lionesses mane around a fragile form, and leaving audiences with a last embellished kiss of estrogen.
At times, fit and finishing were unable to keep pace with Fournié’s vision. However, the overall effect of a gilded palette explored across fur, skins, chiffon and sequins was just enough to sustain the phrase of luxe creativity that we demand from a regular guest of the Parisian couture calendar.
Original written content produced for Dash Magazine. Words by Symonne Torpy from her loft on the 6ème étage. Photographs care of Le Figaro.
A foray into grandmother’s jewellery box must take an insatiable approach to embellishment, and On Aura Tout Vu's Parisian winter collection was a haute couture trunk that dared to crash nostalgic sensibilities into rainbow futurism.
Hems began distinctly abridged. Eyes were coaxed around exaggerated hourglass shapes up to red lips and slick beehive hairdos, all of which gave the collection a retro bass note. Yellow, green and aqua were splashed in turn over neutral silk. Intermittent plastic visors unified the kitsch element.
Bone-like, plexiglass ornamentation formed focal points around the spine, shoulders, neck and heart - a literal play on one’s inner jewellery-box raiding skeletons emerging to the surface.
The multicolour meditation took a turn into monochrome, with an exploration of shades from charcoal to black. The modern career cat may indeed find space for a strong-shouldered, knee-length dress in her wardrobe, with oversized collar and barbed shoulders bringing new meaning to power dressing.
Less “executive couture”, transparent lace pants made a cameo appearance, and a beaded leotard came styled with #bitchplease leather gloves, red boots and bejeweled skull handbag.
Brightly hued, hand-pleated evening gowns followed. Embellishments continued to grow out of the top of garments, drawing attention to the face and neck - an evolved iteration of traditional jewellery.
Design duo Yassen Samouilov and Livia Stoianova transformed the standard wedding dress finale into a pure plexiglass assault (30 square metres of the material was used). The triumphant white exoskeleton burst forth to frost its wearer.
An interesting exploration of colour and concept, the collection may have benefited from a more subtle approach to plastic-look ornamentation, an editing eye on the heavily draped evening gowns which didn’t seem to hold peace with the rest of the collection, and a soundtrack that felt less lifted from Baz Lurhmann’s 2013 Great Gatsby….Then again, what is grandma’s jewellery box if not a little overkill on the crazy kitsch eclecticism?
It’s not quite an Oscar Wilde opening. I’m waiting in a café on the Boulevard St Germain in Paris, which means icicles, mulled wine and a fast dwindling pack of cigarettes. Pre-midday, I sit plugged into iTunes Verdi, eyes half-closed over some boozy requiem – a pseudoalcoholic and a pseudointellectual. Broad smile and navy Berluti’s, Larry Scott arrives wrapped in a Ralph Lauren shearling coat over a tailored navy blazer. There’s no questioning that he has a nurtured style sensibility. But, despite spending much of his life on the Continent, there’s something distinctly un-European about him. Maybe it’s the lack of cigarette or the tenor of his bright Californian accent so early in the morning. He declines the offer of Espresso and vienoisserie.
Scott has his own proposition – a morning in his studio, discussing his photographs – exploring a career evolution behind the lens. A passionate photographer, he has been attempting to shed the model role that he says with a hint of bitterness, “no longer feels like an artistic pursuit, but a nexus of superficiality”. Yet despite his age, Scott’s modeling legacy and iconic hazel eyes endure. At 47, his demand for shows is high. Classic houses like Smalto and Berluti are contemporarily embracing a more cultivated portrait of the gentleman as part of their heritage-bound brand culture. And Scott not only epitomizes the aesthetic, he’s an industry icon.
The studio is one he’s borrowed for the week. He’s housesitting, but there isn’t a cat to feed, just the heady fragrance of vanilla incense hovering in the pages of books that fill the walls, closed windows, and a neon sign above the computer that says “OPIUM”. There’s a large bed – not the customary Parisian futon. And the light in the room constantly flickers, provided by the glow of the computer screen and the languid movement of the word “OPIUM” as it moves from left to right. He takes a seat, takes a hit of marijuana. The supermodel doesn’t smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or eat gluten. It’s the legacy of a youth defined by dedication to sport, followed by a lifetime in a hyperaware beauty industry; he’s even co-founder of New York based SweetGemsNYC, which he describes as “a small, artisan, gluten free, vegan baking company”. Once-a-week weed is a comfortable vice. He revels in his freedom to enjoy it in a real apartment, detesting the hotel lifestyle that has come to mark his travels.
In Paris, when he’s not squatting with friends, Scott takes a single room at the Hôtel La Louisiane in St-Germain. It’s simple, but was once the meeting place of the most celebrated jazzmen, and favoured by Charlie Parker, Jim Morrison and Pink Floyd. He’s nostalgic, and tied to his music; he gives me a card for the hotel, and puts on an old Miles Davis track. “I love the greats. You know I’ve met the imposters. So many of those guys in the ‘80s hung around me for the weed. But the real musicians, they make me feel like home”. Scott clings to the effect. He’s an involuntary nomad – shuttling between New York, Milan, Tokyo, Paris and London – he’s fluent in Italian and well versed in Japanese. It’s a good thing that the wanderer isn’t family aspirational “I don’t want kids. I don’t want to bring another being into the world when I’d probably screw them up”. Bleak. Yet, he speaks with an intense self-awareness – stories are laced with names to impress and tales that beg for sympathy. It’s jarring; he’s beautiful, talented enough to rest on his own aesthetic laurels. Perhaps his conversational style is a product of the industry, perhaps it’s awareness that this is an interview, albeit lacking the conventional formalities. Artists, photographers and friends wander in and out during the afternoon. They use the printer, borrow books from the extensive fashion library, smoke and chat. One is the assistant of the celebrated photographer Ali Madhavi, whose exposition ‘Double Je’ opens tonight at Hôtel W, Paris Opera. He invites us both to the event, adding that Dita Von Teese will be there. “I’ll go tomorrow, then”, Larry responds, “She’s too clingy… all she wants from me is sex, and I can’t stand it.” He relaxes onto the bed, tilting his thin nose up to the light, a vision of Dorian Gray. The moment reflects the colours that will thread themselves through the interview – the dual faces of Larry Scott, one that seeks organic, humble roots, sermonizing against a superficial industry, one that’s tinged with darkness, craving artistic largess, luxury and perfection.
In the moments we’re alone, Scott speaks about his childhood. Born in 1966 in Tacoma, Washington, he lived with his mother after his parents divorce in ’69. It’s a city known for it’s roughness, and he remembers “We were the only white family in a black ghetto.” At 10, he moved to Greenhaven, Sacramento with his father, a real estate agent, but also a cocaine dealer by trade. Larry waxes lyrical about his dad’s fashion sensibilities – “furs, colour, tailored suits – a musical and beautiful style” – codes of hustler nurture. He’s named after his dad (so he’s a “Larry Jnr.”), which he detests, but you can tell that despite any coarseness underpinning his childhood, he regards his father with a great deal of warmth. Likewise, Larry Snr. adores his son. A 2007 profile on the model conducted by his hometown press, Sactown Magazine, reveals ‘He carries his son’s Acqua ad folded up in his back pocket and has been known to go up to the Armani beauty counters at department stores announcing, “That’s my son!”’
Scott’s teens were defined by cycling and athletics. Urged by his father to pursue a strict exercise regimen, it was his escape from what he described to Sactown Magazine as years of “self-ostracization”; John F. Kennedy High yearbook ironically describes him as ‘camera shy’. Motivated by the pursuit of a girl, Scott briefly studied business at American River College, but dropped out when the relationship broke down, and decided to move to San Francisco. We debate the value of American universities. He doesn’t believe in the system; thinks that debt and poor teaching and bad government policy are pervasive. I tell him he’s lucky he was able to model. He replies that if he hadn’t done modeling, he would have run away to become an artist or a photographer or a hippy. Now, he’s a hippy with a chronograph.
In the city of the Golden Gate, Scott fell into a job in a jewellery store, growingly aware of the power of his appearance when it came to making sales. It was in the jewellery store that he was discovered – a story cloaked in mystique – there are several online fan forums dedicated to the question. He doesn’t wish to name the photographer that discovered him, simply framing it in the context of rags to riches, beginning in the ‘80s. In 2005, he told Vogue Hommes International, “I had just six dollars in my pocket when I arrived in Milan. In week two, I was doing the Versace ad campaign and had $5,000 up front.”
Scott’s meteoric rise was accompanied by a malaise, fueled by constant sexual propositions from gay designers and agents, and windfalls of cash. ‘Six feet tall, with a waist of 31 inches, a size 37 collar, with a 46.5 shoe size, brown hair and blue-green eyes’, he talks about his modeling agencies variably, some with fondness, some with chagrin. He’s been represented by top international organizations including Ford Models, Sight Management Studio, Scoop Models Mega Model Agency, Next London, MGM and Wilhelmina.
Scott shot his first campaigns for Dolce & Gabbana, and walked the runways for Donna Karan and Calvin Klein in New York, Paris and Milan. An early career memory comes from Alessandro Calascibetta, a stylist for Scott’s 1988 Mondo Uomo shoot. “Larry came from Paris, where he was living at the time and he had one arm in plaster. He didn’t even bother to inform anyone, (obviously in that case he would have been replaced). Anyhow, he was such a likeable guy and that saved him from being kicked off the set, any other model probably wouldn’t have been as lucky. Giovanni (Gastel), had to shoot 8 different poses, hiding that arm in plaster: one close-up, one holding a raincoat, one profile pose from the other side and so on.” This sense of likeability pervaded the majority of Scott’s interactions with photographers, designers and reporters. The ostracized schoolboy had been shed for a charming iteration – dazzling and dazzled, and always willing to take direction. In 1994, Christa Worthington from the Independent, was enchanted, “He turns to reveal a huge gaffer’s clamp pinning his designer jacket more tightly to his body. ‘We’re low maintenance,’ he explains, treating me to a grin.”
In 1996, Scott was personally selected by photographer Herb Ritts to launch Armani’s new men’s’ fragrance Aqua di Gio. He found himself on the beaches of Malibu for the shoot; as he recounted to Sactown Magazine, “We get there to the beach, and I just lay down…Herb was like, ‘Scrim!’ Ba-ba-boom. And that was that—we shot it in twenty minutes.” That twenty minutes translated to ten years as the face of the fragrance, before he was officially replaced by Lars Burmeister. Scott’s classic image is still in commercial circulation for the brand.
The supermodel tells me that his lack of diva attitude and healthy lifestyle philosophy were what generated such strong demand for him in the ‘90s. In 2005, he told Vogue Hommes International, “I didn’t live it up – no drinking or partying. I was the good male model – I could dance, pose nude and make sure they always got the good photo. Where I did have problems was away from the camera. There’s less control once you’re outside the studio.”
It was a period of personal turmoil that took him off the books between 1999 and 2001, but he returned with great success, appearing, amongst many commercial campaigns, in a Saks Fifth Avenue spread in Vanity Fair.
It was in 2005 that Karl Lagerfeld saw the darkness behind the perfectly chiseled face, when he chose Scott to realise his vision of the classic Oscar Wilde novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. A photographic interpretation, the plot is twisted by Lagerfeld fantasy, splashed with couture, captured by photographer Pierre-François Letue and re-titled A Portrait of Dorian Gray. Scott admiringly remembers Lagerfeld as a perfectionist, but also a sensitive listener, “And then he asked me if I liked it [the photo] and I said “not really”, and he stood there right in front of everyone and tore it in half. Everyone was terrified”.
From 2006-2012, Scott continued to book print spreads, a favourite face in GQ Magazine editorials, but also enjoying commercial success (particularly in Milan). He has continued to feature in campaigns for Ermenegildo Zegna, Intimissi, Angelo Nardelli, Corneliani and Brunello Cucinelli.We talk about the nature of age in the industry, and Scott reels off a list of older female models who are diversifying into different areas of the profession – the usual suspects – Kate Moss (who he had a chance to photograph, candidly many years ago), Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Cindy Crawford. It’s different in the world of male modeling – the definition of supermodel doesn’t garner as much fame outside of the insular world, and salaries aren’t in the same league. In 2009, Hedi Slimane shot Scott and several of his counterparts for a Vogue Hommes International Spring/Summer spotlight on this very subject, exploring the changing face of male models in the fashion industry.
Evening arrives before we sit in front of Scott’s large Macbook screen to look at his photographs. His subjects are street performers, hustlers, people in clubs; sometimes he shoots self-portraits. He tells me about a girl he met on the train on the way to a club in Berlin, a seventeen-year-old prostitute in the Ukraine and an old jazz musician he shot busking on the street. He doesn’t do any post-camera editing, preferring to capture natural lighting and hone in on in-the-moment details. Then he splices his human compositions against landscapes and images of nature, selecting three photographs to place side-by-side in narrative form. He has an understanding of beauty and grit, favouring the still rather than film. His vision is dependent on printing them large enough to cover whole walls: palm trees against cityscapes and flying machines that carry lines towards and away from his human subjects. There’s always something of an aesthetic story – a vector connection or a colour connection first, subsequently allowing responders to read into the thematic value.
It’s a Sunday when we meet for a follow up interview. Snowing in Paris, the white flakes disappear onto Scott’s grey Yamamoto coat and he’s donned boots for the short trek across the Seine to Paris Opéra. It’s an industrial aesthetic, and the rugged beginnings of a beard declare his liberation from the obligatory grooming of Paris Men’s Fashion Week. He promises an afternoon at his favourite Japanese unagi place, explaining how he walked past the restaurant for years before he chanced a cup of miso soup and met the owners – a Japanese family with a traditional approach. It’s closed and he’s pretty devastated. Perhaps a reaction to the lack of stability in his life, Scott is uncharacteristically set in his ways, a trait explored years before in Sactown magazine, when he admitted to keeping the same dentist since the age of 12, “I don’t trust anyone else to touch my teeth.” We shuffle through streets packed with Japanese establishments, and then a chance meeting with Art Director Marc Ascoli lends magical fate to the afternoon. The two discuss Scott’s future photography plans. They’d lost touch, and they swap email addresses. Ascoli winks at me, “This boy, he is so sensitive, so brilliant.”
Finally settling on a restaurant, Scott orders liberally from the menu, and we begin to talk about the future. In two weeks, he will be off to London to visit a representative from Leica camera head office, attempting to secure a sponsorship, or perhaps some free equipment. He says it’s difficult to get the support he needs to make large-scale photography worthwhile.
We stop at the studio before I take my leave. He sits comfortably chatting at his computer screen, Googling places to buy Levi jeans in Paris, spinning around in his seat to show me the IWC Schaffhausenchronograph he hopes to purchase, and tapping his hand to the syncopated bassline emanating from his old Macbook. A man constantly documented, ever captured, Larry Scott will remain rooted in these moments, and perhaps no one shall ever see the complete portrait in the attic… just a few simple insights into the man, from inside a borrowed artist’s studio.
Photographs (from top): Gieves & Hawkes Spring-Summer 2013; GQ Style Germany 2010; Façonnable Fall-Winter 2009; Gieves & Hawkes Spring-Summer 2013; Giorgio Armani Aqua di Gio 1997; Karl Lagerfeld A Portrait of Dorian Gray 2004; Hedi Slimanne for Vogue Hommes 2009; Larry Scott original photograph trio; Ermenegildo Zegna Fall-Winter 2008; Gieves & Hawkes Spring-Summer 2013.