Mondrian & Baroque
Introduction by Emily M. Kochanek
By Kyle Northrop
Stylistically, Mondrian and Baroque are incomparable. Mondrian boasts of early twentieth-century modernism. Its lines are straight and precise and its colors are the most basic of all: red, yellow, and blue. The style embodies a specific, mathematical geometry, beautifully crafted by the artist the style is named after, Piet Mondrian. Baroque, however, is the regality of the mid-seventeenth century. For hundreds of years it has adorned palaces and churches, gilded into walls and furniture. Handcrafted and gold, the style is extravagant. Yet as different as the two styles are, both have been seen on the Fall/Winter 2012 runways, cohesive and elegant. The two artistries have been crafted together to create beautiful couture for the modern masses.
The Lines of Design: Mondrian Revitalized
Piet Mondrian, esteemed twentieth-century artist, once stated, “Art is not made for anybody and is, at the same time, for everybody.” Likewise, fashion is also for the people. For the Fall/Winter 2012 season, Mondrian’s words have vitalized the runways, as the eye-popping blocks of line and color are featured in various collections this year.
While no collection this season portrays Mondrian as obviously as Yves St. Laurent did in his Fall 1965 line of inspired dresses, the color-blocked lines of Celine and Marni make a bold statement for the bleak winter season. Whereas Laurent’s collection was praised for its use of fitted knit jersey while retaining the artistic integrity of the boxiness of a Mondrian painting, these modern collections transcend the simple painting and transform it into an individualized work of art.
The artistic influence of Mondrian is part of a larger trend. Minimalism and clean-cut lines of the fall’s designs fully embody modernism. Today’s fashion lives in a postmodern world; the term modern describes the period between the turn of the nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century. Mondrian’s work falls under the subgenre of modernism called Bauhaus, a German 1920s movement that emphasized the stratified lines in the era’s painting, architecture, and sculpture. The inspiration behind the creation of Bauhaus is derived from the nineteenth century. Anxieties concerning the soullessness of newly developed manufacturing and its products correlated with the fear of losing art’s purpose in society. A chasm was created between creativity and manufacturing, and the Bauhaus movement aimed to reunite them to rejuvenate design within everyday life. While the United States was basking in the extravagance of art deco, Eastern Europe was fitted with clean lines, easily beautiful in their simple design.
In contrast to some of the more grandiose collections this year from McQueen, Lavin, and Valentino, Celine’s ready-to-wear line follows the Mondrian and Bauhaus trend, as well as contrasting simplicity and bold design. Many of the garments feature the crisp lines of both Mondrian and his Bauhaus contemporaries with their own twenty-first century aesthetic. Celine’s garments defy the literal gridlock of Mondrian’s vertical and horizontal constrictions. The collection reveals bold diagonals in many of the scarves and over- coats. While some of the pieces do not blatantly follow the structuralism of the Bauhaus style, minuscule detailing includes belting and the vertical zippers across the transverse planes of the pressed pants that are consistent with the inspiration of the collection.
Marni’s Fall/Winter 2012 ready-to-wear line exemplifies the cur- rent pop-art trend. Its reliance on color blocking is reminiscent of Mondrian’s linearity. The use of horizontal lines, including belts, cuffs, and the parallel intersection of garments, provides a glimmer of Mondrian while still expressing a clear distinction between the influential work and Marni’s own aesthetic.
While Marni’s allusions are not as distinguishable as those in Celine’s line, the positioning of solid cuffs in alignment with the geometric torso of some of the more modernist dresses is a subtle portrayal of the modernist style. However, the use of vertical lines within a garment to conceptually splice the garment in half is yet another subtle way to portray modernism. Marni contrasts plum with muted primary colored blocks, done inconspicuously, through the interplay of layered garments. Many of the pieces feature the juxtaposition of bold colors running upright against an intersecting belt with a contrasting hue. Marni found a muse in Mondrian, who said, “Every true artist has been inspired more by the beauty of lines and color and the relationships between them than by the concrete subject of the picture.” With brazen repudiation of curves, Marni’s collection sets a wildly rectangular tone for the season.
The Mondrian and Bauhaus trend will continue to provide inspiration for designers in upcoming seasons. Kate Spade’s ready-to-wear Spring/Summer 2013 line comprises pastel Mondrian jersey dresses, monotonously reminiscent of the original Yves Saint Laurent collection.
Breaking the Boroque-en Record
Glitz and glamour have been a perpetual component of the fashion industry. Extravagance is king, and the populace kneels as its loyal subjects. Opulence and luxury will forever be the keystone of haute couture but will be endlessly refashioned throughout the decades.
This fall’s baroque trend embodies an extravagant rendition of elements of seventeenth-century architecture, most notably in Dolce and Gabana and Etro’s collections.
The English word baroque derives from the Italian barocco, meaning bizarre. The architecture of the Baroque Period is a divergence form the Greco-Roman Revival of the High Renaissance, and the designs of the season reflect the period’s world of luxury. The collections often rely heavily on the
use of gold embellishments as a focal point of the garment, as well as royal geometric prints such as the fleur-de-lis or paisley.
Dolce and Gabana’s fall line epitomizes the affluence of the Italian baroque movement. All of the pieces are embellished and accessorized in gold. The contrast of gold and black in the collection is an allusion to the dark-lit churches of the century and the magnificence of the gold that gilded the sanctuaries.
The cherub motif is also used to allude to the frescoes painted on many of the basilica ceilings of that period. The cultural prints will become a staple in mainstream wear.
More impressively, however, is the use of flowers within the garments; both knit and printed, they provide a historical context and a handcrafted look to the line. The floral imagery serves as a foil to the gold adornments on most of the garments. While the collection awes with its exorbitant use of gold, it fails to reinvent the baroque ideas and is a mere representation of the tenets of the time period.
Etro’s line, however, provides a more nuanced adaptation of the trend. While it does not have the glitz and glamour of D&G’s line, it still features many facets of baroque. The prints feature the lavishness of glamour, yet with a different tone. The collection can actually be classified as neo-baroque. Its use of complex paisley prints is reminiscent of the period’s famous tapestries. The bold colors like maroon, burnt orange, and black display a fiery color palette characteristic of the neo-baroque movement. The colors are prominent within the fashion community, a darker trend for the season.
However, there has been misconception about the emergence of the Baroque trend that has misidentified what Baroque is. The season has centered around various styles of regality, ranging from the pretensions of high English civility in Ralph Lauren’s collection to the beautifully crafted line of Balmain, based on the elegance of Faberge Eggs. An untrained eye can misconstrue certain pieces in both collections. They possess the ritz of the Baroque Period, but the concepts could hardly be considered seventeenth- century high society. Labeling certain garments of a line as baroque takes them out of context, losing cohesiveness within the collection and misrepresenting authentic baroque style to the public.