Irenebrination: Notes on Architecture, Art, Fashion, Fashion Law & Technology

Web Name: Irenebrination: Notes on Architecture, Art, Fashion, Fashion Law & Technology






Welcome! If this is your first visit, please read the Cookie Policy. This site uses cookies and in some cases third-party cookies to provide a better experience and service for users. If you click on 'Close' you accept the use of cookies by this website. Close This has been a very Thayaht week, so let’s close it today with an architectural project by the Italian painter, sculptor, illustrator and fashion designer in collaboration with his brother RAM. In the early 30s Ernesto Michahelles (1893-1959) and Roger Alfred Michahelles (1898-1976) worked together on a modern architectural project for a basic, functional yet striking house. The Brevetto per Casolaria (Casa Razionale Estensibile) [Patent for Casolaria (Rational Extensible House)] was presented to the Italian patent office on 15th December 1931. The patent referred to a very basic and simple house that respected the minimalist and pure lines of rationalism, but was also characterised by spaces such as the balconies and flat roofs on which the household residents could relax and sunbathe (the name Casolaria is a sort of futurist pun, playing with the words casa , house , and sole / solarium , sun / solarium ). The basic structure of the house could be extended in accordance with the needs of the residents, so from its basic model it could become medium-sized when an extra floor was added or even larger. All the main features like the energy and heating systems would remain the same, but the spaces would change adding volumes on a programmed base. There was one element that proved the Michahelles brothers were projected into the future - the garage. When they designed the house there were fewer than 15,000 registered cars in Italy, yet they decided to include in the project a garage, predicting there would have been more vehicles on the roads in future. The Casolaria was never built, but modern projects somehow explored this concept and took it further: Alejandro Aravena s practice Elemental created different projects (that you can download here for free) that take into consideration the possibility of expanding and are based on the principle of incremental construction, such as low-income housing that are only half completed, while the other half can be developed by the residents when they need and can afford to do so. The incremental principle could be reproduced also in fashion with a basic garment (or accessory) that could be gradually changed or modified by adding elements via zips, buttons and fastenings. While this is not a new concept, if you re a fashion designer you can try and take it further, making the expandable/incremental principle the starting point of your weekend project. The Pentagon may release a highly anticipated declassified report on various unidentified aerial phenomena today. UFO enthusiasts and UFO sightings hotspots à la Roswell, New Mexico, where a flying saucer (or a weather balloon?) may have landed in July 1947, are obviously eager to hear about the contents, with some towns made famous by aliens and flying saucers hoping tourists will return to populate them as the Coronavirus pandemic eases. Though hotly anticipated, the Pentagon report on the activities of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) may not reveal anything incredibly secret nor confirm the existence of extraterrestrial life. Still, excitement remains around the event, after all, who doesn t want to hear some kind of incredible news, maybe about faraway galaxies populated by friendly aliens maybe willing to share their advanced knowledge and technologies with us (let’s imagine them as friendly creatures as, after Coronavirus, we couldn t cope with an alien invasion). So, as we wait for the report let s go back in history to rediscover early ufologists with some links with art and fashion. Italian painter, sculptor, illustrator and fashion designer Ernesto Michahelles (1893-1959), better known as Thayaht, had a passion for flying saucers. The inventor of the tuta , T-shaped overalls with a belted waist, developed an interest in astronomy and UFOs in the 40s. In 1954 he founded the C.I.R.N.O.S. (Centro Indipendente Notizie Osservazioni Spaziali – Independent Centre for the Recording of Space Information), a sort of scientific association set to study UFOs that was based in his summer house in Marina di Pietrasanta (near Lucca).Thayaht had heard about UFO sightings in France (many sightings were recorded in the Autumn of 1954) where the engineer Aimé Michel had published the book Lueurs sur les soucoupes volantes (Glimmering lights on flying saucers) in 1954, followed by Mystérieux Objets Célestes (About Flying Saucers) in 1958. Michel devised a theory called orthoténie, claiming that UFO sightings were concentrated along straight lines which corresponded to large circles traced and centered on the Earth. Michel s therefore claimed that the sightings occurred according to a clever and ordered pattern. In Italy there were UFO sightings in the 50s, the most famous ones occurred in October 1954 over the Duomo and the Stadium in Florence. Thayaht, who had developed a passion for Futurism in his life, wrote a first report on UFO sightings in 1955, focusing mainly on 120 sightings that had occurred in 82 locations in Italy. He then published a second report, even more detailed than the first one, in 1958. By then sightings in Italy had multiplied as also chronicled by popular Italian weekly La domenica del Corriere that often dedicated to these events its imaginative illustrated covers.Archival photos show Thayaht on the roof of his Casa Bianca (White House) in Marina di Pietrasanta with his friend Ettore Toto, next to the telescope he used for his observations. The artist had also prepared a registration form to facilitate people who witnessed UFO sightings with recording the event. Thayaht had a passion for parapsicological analysis as well and believed in two aspects linked with UFO sightings, the psi and the sigma effect. The former consisted in a telepathic connection between the UFO and the witness of the sighting that prompted the witness to look at the sky and spot the flying saucer. The Sigma effect consisted instead in interferences on the electrical circuits of cars and on compasses. After Thayaht died in 1959, but Alberto Perego continued his studies in Italy, writing books and reports about UFOs, but Thayaht remained the only artist with some great fashion connections to have ever studied UFOs in Italy and in the rest of the world. Strawberries have always been fashionable. A favourite Summer motif, you can often find them printed on all sorts of garments and accessories. I still remember the yellow shorts and skirt with their prints of large fuchsia strawberries I had in the early 80s as a young girl. Bought from an Italian department store - Upim - they were the main staple of my Summer wardrobe, almost a symbol of carefree happy days. Those long and happy strawberry summer days came to mind when I saw JW Anderson s S/S 22 menswear and resort collection. The collections feature indeed giant strawberries in natural colours or in surreal acid shades, replicated on tops, trousers, oversized bags and slide sandals. Bright and fun, youthful and cheerful, these designs lensed by Juergen Teller, do not hide anything conceptual about them. They are just strawberries for fun summer days. Strawberry fields forever. Or maybe not. Soft fruit is indeed at the centre of a fruity saga in the UK. After Brexit happened growers in Britain feared the flow of migrant seasonal workers going to the UK to pick soft fruit such as strawberries, may have been disrupted by new laws and regulations. Most of them usually come from Eastern Europe, in particular from countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. When free movement of migrant farm labour from the EU came to an end, it was replaced by a pilot Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme that allows people to go to the UK for up to six months to do farm work. The scheme started in 2019 with an annual quota of 2,500 workers; in 2020 it was extended to 10,000 workers, while the government launched the Pick for Britain campaign to find domestic workers. As the campaign was a flop (of the people placed on farms by one major agency, fewer than 4% remained on assignment by the end of the season) and it soon became clearer that it was unlikely to find domestic force, in 2021 a new extension made 30,000 visas available for people to work on UK farms. The amount of form-filling, post-Brexit immigration red tape and the Delta Coronavirus variant in the UK started posing serious issues for many seasonal workers who were discouraged, causing applications to fall dramatically (some farmers registered a 90% decrease in applications). But there are other reasons that also discouraged migrant workers: demanding targets set by employers and zero-hour contracts (workers are paid for the amount of fruit they pick rather than by the hour, so if you don’t meet the targets you can be dismissed); besides, under free movement, workers could change jobs freely, but those under the seasonal workers pilot can only change roles with the help of the same agencies that brought them over and are not allowed to seek work in other industries.Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX), a research and policy NGO organisation working towards an end to labour exploitation, reported workers being pushed to do more work, being given inaccurate information about earnings before travelling to the UK, being refused to transfer to other farms and ending up not earning enough to cover living costs and the debts they incurred in before moving to the UK.Horticulture is in a crisis also in other countries and migrant workers are a vital asset to countries such as Italy and Spain: yet quite often these workers are not protected by laws and they are exploited, and obliged to sleep and live in unhealthy environments. The Coronavirus pandemic shed light on racial, healthcare and income disparities, but Brexit in the case of the UK is contributing to reveal the conditions of migrant seasonal workers in the UK. So, yes, let strawberries be forever trending in fashion, but never forget the labor conditions in strawberry fields. Fashion is rebooting with quite a few houses opting for live menswear shows at the moment, albeit with smaller and obviously safely distanced members of the audience. The Pitti trade shows, taking place at the end of June, are also rebooting with special safety regulations that include mask wearing and body temperature scanning, but also special medical facilities and even rapid testing hubs. Yet there are signs that merely returning to the usual shows is not really the future of fashion and there seems to be very different trends and needs for fashion companies. For example, it was recently announced that Ermenegildo Zegna and Prada bought a majority stake in Italian cashmere company Filati Biagioli Modesto SpA together. The Montale (near Pistoia)-based Biagioli Modesto, founded in 1919, is extremely well-known for its high quality cashmere, silk, camel, angora, alpaca, linen, lambswool and extra-fine merino yarns and for humble yet striking presentations at yarn trade fairs, but it is definitely not that usual to see two companies and fashion powerhouses investing together in a yarn company, even a luxury one.The details of the deal remain undisclosed but Prada and Ermenegildo Zegna will each have a 40% stake in the company, while the Biagioli family will retain a 15% stake and the remaining 5% will be owned by Chief Executive Officer Renato Cotto (who has worked for other yarn and textile companies, including Zegna Baruffa, Cariaggi and Loro Piana). Besides, Gildo Zegna, CEO of his family s company, will take on the role of Chairman, while Franca Biagioli and Patrizio Bertelli, CEO of Prada, will join the Board of Directors. It is obvious that, while Zegna and Prada may want to expand their knitwear offer in this way, this move is more about protecting the Italian supply chain, a decision maybe dictated by what happened during the Coronavirus pandemic in other fields. Last year when Italy was in dire need of masks and PPE equipment and the country realised it was impossible to just import these products from China as usual, quite a few Italian companies reconverted their plants to produce them. In March 2020, after receiving a request from the Tuscany region, Prada made 110,000 sanitary masks and 80,000 medical overalls for health-care personnel in Montone (Perugia); nowadays most of the face masks that you find in shops and supermarkets in Italy are made by local companies. With this acquisition Zegna and Prada aren t doing anything extremely revolutionary: a lack of semiconductors drove America to review the supply chains in some key industries such as semiconductor chips and invest domestically; by buying a majority stake in Biagioli Modesto, both the companies will have the possibility of expanding knitwear collections, but will also protect supply chains, think locally, and check quality closely and at every step of the process (it is worth mentioning here that with this agreement Biagioli Modesto will still be able to work for other companies and will not be limited to work only for Zegna and Prada).Both the Zegna Group and Prada started a while back a process of acquisitions similar to Chanel s that, through its Paraffection subsidiary, has been buying throughout the years a variety of maisons producing key parts, yarns and accessories for its own collections. Apart from its Lanificio Zegna, the Zegna Group for example already owns Lanerie Agnona, Tessitura di Novara, Bonotto and Dondi, plus a a controlling stake in Pelle Tessuta, and a majority stake in men s hat brand Cappellificio Cervo, besides, it recently acquired 60% of Tessitura Ubertino.Now, mergers and acquisition are not new in Italy, but these partnerships are maybe showing new directions and the will to collaborate further together to hopefully create a healthier industry and this may have been the result of a change in attitudes introduced by Coronavirus. After all there have been further signs of solidarity in these last few months: in April 2021, after a fire burnt down a Valentino manufacturing plant in Tuscany, Bertelli made one of Prada s nearby factories available to a number of Valentino s employees to make sure they could keep on working in rather difficult times for the fashion industry. Besides, different fashion groups have so far contributed to the vaccination campaign. Gucci, Prada and Armani opened their headquarters to vaccinate their employees; Renzo Rosso s OTB also contributed to set up a vaccination hub in Bassano Del Grappa for the local population; the OVS Group offered its spaces in Mestre, to vaccinate employees in the Veneto region, but also families of its employees and locals.The Solomeo-based king of cashmere Brunello Cucinelli has been busy vaccinating his 1,174 employees against COVID-19 (for the time being Cucinelli has asked no vax employees to stay at home with a paid leave for six months, but ideally he would like everybody to be vaccinated). The vaccination hub he established in the Solomeo-headquarters through his fashion company and the Brunello and Federica Cucinelli Foundation, is also open to locals (it was also visited by general Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, Extraordinary Commissioner for the Implementation of Health Measures to Contain the COVID-19 pandemic) and Cucinelli pays for the salaries of the 16 individuals in charge of administering the vaccinations. In a nutshell, maybe gone are the days when fashion was just about hanging around the front row with impossibly hip people, who knows, we may be making way for another and healthier (rather than merely trendier...) fashion scene. In the 1956 film Totò, Peppino e i fuorilegge (Totò, Peppino and the outlaws) directed by Camillo Mastrocinque, Italian comedian and actor Totò plays the role of a man married to a rich lady, Teresa (the indomitable Titina De Filippo), who happens to be a bit of a cheapskate. One day he asks for a fresh shirts and she gives him a bib-like shirt and a pair of cuffs. When he complains she explains that it s unnecessary to have a whole shirt made, after all, most of the shirt gets covered by the jacket. In this way only the parts that can be seen are actually made, saving money and fabric.Luckily, our wardrobes aren t dictatorially regulated by anybody as stingy as Teresa in this film, but Coronavirus has changed our habits. All the Zoom meetings, classes and events we had in the last past months prompted us to focus our attention on the parts of our outfits that were visible on the computer, smartphone and tablet screens, so we often opted to wear a nice top, while we neglected the bottom half. As we gradually go back to normality, it is only natural to wonder why a few fashion houses opted to include in their menswear collections for the next season designs that may still be described as Zoom looks styled by Teresa out of Totò, Peppino e i fuorilegge . Prada included in its S/S 22 menswear collection three rib-knit cardigan bibs: yet, rather than be donned like sweaters underneath a jacket (Totò style...), these designs are supposed to be worn on top of jackets as if they were scarves. Fendi went further creating for the same season cropped double-breasted boxy jackets with short sleeves dangerously reminiscent of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Brüno s half suit seen in the 2009 eponymous film about the reckless fashion obsessed Austrian reporter (View this photo). While the designs didn t look that bad when layered on other garments, by themselves they seemed to spoil the serene mood of the collection with its pleasant pastels, going from lemon yellow to lilac and arty abstract prints, and featuring a series of versatile accessories including bucket hat-shaped bags and mini Baguette bags in Plexiglas.The supposedly fun cropped jackets were maybe meant to add a touch of youthful frivolity to the collection, but the more you looked at them, the more you thought about nightmarish Zoom meetings in the time of Coronavirus combined with that hilarious moment Teresa gives Totò his brand new yet incomplete shirt in Totò, Peppino e i fuorilegge . While some fashion houses in Milan opted for real-life shows, others are still presenting their new collections via lookbooks and films, continuing to toe to the Coronavirus regulations that we have followed for more than a year now. Prada is among the latter and showed its S/S 22 menswear collection with a film (that some journalists and critics actually watched live at the Fondazione Prada in Milan, an event followed by a preview of the actual clothes that you can explore in a 360° digital format here).There was a sense of doom followed by hope in the film: models walked along a claustrophobic red tunnel (installed in a warehouse at the Fondazione Prada in Milan), but they emerged on a rocky and beautiful beach in Sardinia (where Prada supports the MEDSEA Foundation in its project to restore marine ecosystems with the reforestation of Posidonia oceanica meadows in the Marine Protected Area of Capo Carbonara).Here some of the models walked along the beach, others danced or sat on red platforms floating on the sea or immersed themselves in crystalline waters. The metaphor wasn t hard to understand: because of the pandemic we have all been navigating through a terrible year, but there is light at the end of the tunnel as proved by this simple transition from the inside to the outside, we all feel a need for the simple joys of everyday life, for reconnecting with the natural elements that we have missed. Maybe there was also a need for Prada to do something the house had never done before, that is letting its models roam in an open space, abandoning the highly conceptual spaces created season after season for its runways, and in doing so abandoning more technological inspirations to reconnect with the essence of human life. Clothes and accessories also pointed at the possibility of wandering in open spaces: we may have abandoned the tracksuits that marked the long lockdown months, but we are not in the mood to wear any proper suits yet, so Miuccia Prada and co-designer Raf Simons are suggesting us another option - the short jumpsuit with turned-up short hems, or to be more precise the short version of the tuta (overalls) by Italian painter and sculptor Ernesto Michahelles, better known as Thayaht. Prada has actually been a consistent Thayaht fan throughout the seasons. The geometrical patterns of the skorts (a combination of shorts and skirt) also pointed at the patterns of Thayaht s ancali (hip-shorts) and the tank-tops evoked his toraco (a thorax vest). The squared necklines of the tanks matched with relaxed pants, also had a late 1920s mood, in the same way as the squarish shapes of the sandals in this collection pointed at designs created by Thayaht for the Summer of 1929.Bizarrelly, also the shapes of the bucket hats with an elongated brim at the back with a triangular logo pocket or with slits in the front to allocate sunglasses, seemed to echo the shapes of the hats for Thayaht s 1928 straw hat campaign. The collection also bore elements of previous Prada collections such as the nautical tattoo-like prints of octopuses, sea monsters, anchors and sirens, reminiscent of Prada s A/W 2016 with further nautical moods injected in a boat-neck sweater with crisscross detail and in an updated version of a classic yellow fisherman s raincoat (evoked also by a yolk-yellow biker jacket) with a matching hat.Some of the other prints may have come from a Prada collection from around 1996, while the emphasis on shorts was more recent (see the S/S 19 collection) and the thick terry hoodies and bucket bags in cracked leather evoked vintage moods lost between the end of the 60s and the early 70s.So, in a way that re-emergence into the open air was also a return to the past, almost a quest for a lost innocence on the beach that at times trapped Prada s models in a suspended grey area between boyhood and manhood.Some elements in the looks of the models showed indeed a desire to be back in the office, possibly in powerful positions, but the rompers matched with derby shoes sprouting surreal sea anemones seemed to pigeonhole the models into childhood.Apart from being trapped into this suspended world, the models also looked a bit lifeless despite the key sentences accompanying the collection - tunnel to joy , urgency of feelings and utopia of normality - pointed at a rebirth of happiness. You wish that at least one model had left behind the classic conceptual miserabilism that belongs to the runway and smiled to express that sense of ebullient joy at being on a beautiful beach in a post-pandemic world.Sadly, that didn t happen and, unfortunately, there was no recorded chat between co-creative directors Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons (the norm for the last few seasons) that may have shed some light on Simons role, as at the moment he seems to have been in awe of the Prada archive and too busy pillaging it. Yet the beach and the crystalline waters of Capo Carbonara looked paradisiacal, that s undeniable, can we have more of that and forget fashion? Lonely figures, identifiable and unidentifiable faces; empty eyes, blank expressions; young women and mysterious individuals, their faces almost erased to symbolise a sort of shared identity or, who knows, maybe an attempt at writing them out of history. These enigmatic characters populate the spaces at Tiwani Contemporary, London, for Alicia Henry s first UK solo exhibition, To Whom It May Concern (until 3rd July 2021). For this exhibition the American artist and Professor of Art at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, moved from a wide range of inspirations going from African masks to American minstrel shows, a form of racist entertainment from the 19th century in which while people in blackface performed comic skits and variety acts. The mixed media figures on the walls of the galleries are conceived more as flat sculptures than as canvases: they are indeed not trapped by frames nor limited by the canvas boundaries, but, standing like paper dolls, they seem to be free to roam the space. In this way Henry breaks away from the Western ideas of portraiture.This is the main reason why viewers enter the gallery space and first they are confronted by the figures, but then they are involved in what is going on, becoming part of a show enacted by the artworks.Before making her figures, usually Henry starts drawing in her home studio in Nashville, then she moves onto other materials, using cotton, felt, leather, canvas, wool, linen or plastic, at times staining, dyeing and boiling these materials to make them look more unique. Henry employs swatches of textiles and leftover fabrics to create the clothes or the hair of her figures. She then adds the final touches with other techniques, such as painting, collage and needlework. The latter is often used to highlight and outline the contours of a figure with thread and yarn. The evocatively enigmatic, but also spectral figures resulting from these painstakingly long processes hide metaphorical meanings: they invite visitors to step into their world and consider physical pain and psychological trauma, or ponder about contrasting concepts, juxtapositions such as visibility and invisibility; the human figure in isolation and interacting with society, as part of a communal body; identity and loss of identity; family and community. As most of Henry s figures represent women and girls, her works could also be interpreted as a comment on the female body and the concept of beauty. Last but not least, Henry s artworks seem to beg visitors to try and make visible that which goes unseen and those voices and existences - in particular black voices and existences - who, obliterated by history, gender and social differences, are too often silenced and go unheard.Want to discover more about Alicia Henry s works and the main themes behind them? Don t miss the online Zoom conversation scheduled for 30th June (6pm BST, 1pm EST and 10am PST; please register here) that will feature the American artist, Gaëtane Verna, Director and Artistic Director of The Power Plant, Toronto, Canada, and Dr Christine Checinska, Curator of African and African Diaspora Fashion at the Victoria Albert Museum, London. Image credits for this postAll images copyright Alicia HenryAlicia HenryUntitled, 2019-2020Mixed media (acrylic, dye, cotton, linen, thread and dye)250 x 110 cmAlicia HenryUntitled, 2019-2020Mixed media (acrylic, felt, cotton, linen, thread, and dye)128 x 41 cmAlicia HenryUntitled, 2019-2020Mixed media (acrylic, dye, linen, thread, yarn, dye and cotton)97 x 40 cmAlicia HenryUntitled, 2019-2020Mixed media (acrylic, dye, linen, thread, yarn, dye and cotton)91 x 34 cmAlicia HenryUntitled, 2017-2020Mixed media (wool, thread, dye and yarn)27 x 21 cmAlicia HenryUntitled, 2019-2020Mixed media (acrylic, felt, cotton, linen, paper, thread and yarn)18 x 13 cmAlicia HenryUntitled, 2019-2020Mixed media (acrylic, felt, cotton, linen, paper, thread and yarn)18 x 13 cmAlicia HenryUntitled, 2019-2020Mixed media (acrylic, felt, cotton, linen, paper, thread and yarn)18 x 13 cm In yesterday s post we mentioned Juneteenth - 19th June, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in America - in connection with artworks that can inspire and prompt us to question history. Let s continue the thread, by looking back at the link between slavery, textiles and dyes. We can start our exploration from the painting Cotton Pickers (1876) by Winslow Homer. His paintings were usually characterised by realism as the artist depicted the life of rural African Americans. Cotton Pickers presents two female field laborers portrayed with respect, this is clear from the low vantage point from which the figures are depicted. The painting is also aspirational as the figure on the right gazes into the distance, almost hinting at the future. Homer was the first American who painted African Americans with sympathy and positivity: the two figures in this painting are not fatigued but they stand erect with strong bodies against the sky. The one looking in the distance wears a red shirt that makes us wonder if that garment was made with Turkey Red dye. We have seen in a previous post how this colour was made from the root of the Rubia tinctorum ( dyer s madder ) plant following a complex process that included several steps, from saturating the fabric in rancid olive oil and sheep dung to mordanting the cloth or yarn with alum, then dyeing the cloth in vats containing madder extract and bullock s blood and cleaning and brightening the cloth by boiling it in a solution of tin chloride. The dye was first employed in Holland and France and, arond the 1780s, arrived in Manchester and Glasgow. Unfortunately, Turkey Red also had connections with the transatlantic slave trade: this bright shade was very resistant and slow to fade, it was therefore favoured for clothes and accessories in hotter climates such as the British colonies, as Rebecca Quinton, Research Manager at Glasgow Museums collections, highlights in a research. Initially only cotton yarn could be dyed using this process, which was then woven to create striped and checked gingham cloths, but in the early 1800s it became possible to dye woven cloth rather than just the yarn and make large handkerchiefs or bandannas usually worn tied around the head or neck (like the one illustrating this post in white plain weave cotton printed in Turkey Red).Scottish businessman Henry Monteith started producing bandannas in 1802; by 1823 his company produced 224 every 10 minutes and this style of handkerchief was initially known as Monteiths.Many early Turkey Red textiles were exported from Greenock and Port Glasgow to north America and the West Indies. Here they were worn by enslaved men, women and children, and we have evidence of this trend in the paintings portraying West Indian plantations and showing an idealized life that didn t really exist, by the Italian artist Agostino Brunias who travelled to Dominica in 1770.Like many industries developing in and around Glasgow in the 1800s the money behind these Turkey Red companies came from the profits made from Scottish-run plantations in the Caribbean or from Glasgow-based merchants involved in the transatlantic trade of tobacco and sugar. Yesterday US President Joe Biden signed a bill into law that officially recognises Juneteenth (19th June) as a federal holiday. Known as Juneteenth National Independence Day and historically known as Jubilee Day, Black Independence Day and Emancipation Day, this holiday commemorates the end of slavery in America.The last remaining slaves on a plantation in Galveston, Texas, were indeed informed on June 19th, 1865, that they were free by the Union army major general Gordon Granger who read out Abraham Lincoln s emancipation proclamation. Though the president had signed the proclamation more than two years earlier, many African Americans were actually still held as slaves in Confederate territory. By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day, and learn from our history, and celebrate progress, and grapple with the distance we’ve come but the distance we have to travel, President Biden stated, while Texas Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, the sponsor of the Juneteenth legislation, stated in an interview with NBC News that the bill passage indicated that the original sin of this nation was acknowledged and that America can begin to talk about it in a unified manner . While this is a step forward, it is definitely not enough to eradicate racism and hatred. Juneteenth is now an official American federal holiday, but it should be a moment to stop and think for the rest of the world and for Europe to consider the key role it played in the slavery trade. In previous posts we looked for example at the connection between slavery, textiles and cotton, considering the documents, items and articles documenting the links for example between Scotland and products supplied by slave societies, from tobacco and sugar to rum, coffee, cotton and indigo.Checking museum archives and collections, we will easily discover that the prosperity of many Europen cities in the 1800s depended from slaves. Art can help us looking at history from those times with very different eyes: in Kimathi Donkor s UK Diaspora (2007) series the London-based contemporary Black British artist of Ghanaian, Anglo-Jewish and Jamaican family heritage, makes an investigation into transatlantic slavery using portraits. In these works Donkor reminds us that behind grand works of art and portraits that we often see hanging in our museums there was forced labor and slavery as the white people portrayed as the embodiments of Christian beliefs and civilized culture, were often directly or indirectly involved in these atrocities. Quite often the works of art were commissioned to artists paid with the profits of slave trading so that the white Western art systems of patronage that gave life to European portraiture can in some parts be considered as the result of slavery.Using symbolisms and allegories, Donkor created therefore a series - UK Diaspora , acquired by Liverpool s International Slavery Museum for its permanent collection - consisting in multi-faceted and multi-layered portraits that look like assemblages of objects, surrounded not by a beautiful gold frame, but by frames of nails and chains. In these revised portraits Donkor attempts to honour Black lives and make justice to them by inviting viewers to question historical figures such as Queen Elizabeth I, Elizabethan mariner Sir John Hawkins and George Washington. Often banknotes and coins and dollars in particular are integrated in these works, and Donkor uses them to encourage people to think how this historical figure considered as the embodiment of trust was an active slave holder for 56 years. Donkor s works also remind us that there may be no more slave ships, but there are new forms of slavery often awaiting migrants fleeing poverty, escaping Africa on wooden boats and rubber dinghies. If we do not address racism, inequality and inhumanity, rather than celebrating the end of slavery and leave it behind in the past, we will take this horrific practice into the future. Season after season it is not rare to spot a specific garment or accessory being replicated on different runways: at times it may be a coat with a peculiar silhouette, a pair of shoes or a bag maybe. In different colours and materials, that design then starts trending, becoming really popular and desirable. The item for the next season is a pair of thick-soled heavy-duty and safety Wellington boots. So far they have appeared on multiple runways: for example, Demna Gvasalia combined Crocs with safety Wellington boots or stilettos for Balenciaga s Spring 2022 collection. The latter mainly features Crocs-cum-boots in grass green, dark dove gray and black. In the last few seasons Crocs have scarely mutated like Coronavirus, generating new and more frightening variants, going from comfy footwear ideal for long lockdown months to abattoir boots and hybrid stilettos (definitely the scariest mutation so far, View this photo). Bottega Veneta also opted for black and green, shamrock, royal blue and egg yolk yellow rubber boots for its Pre-Fall 2021 collection. The fashion house added a supposedly elegant twist with a gold glitter version of the boot. In this case the abattoir-meets-nuclear plant look gets injected with a healthy and much needed dose of circus glamour.Bottega Veneta also dared pushing things further with a clutch that looks like the result of a terrible accident at the boot making factory occurred when two boots just melted together and somebody from the fashion house had an eureka moment thinking this was clever, super surreal and painfully cool/hip (unfortunately it s not, it still looks like the result of a terrible accident at the boot factory...). Proenza Schouler s Resort 2022 collection also features heavy tread boots in black or white. Now, before wondering why everybody seems to have jumped on the heavy duty Wellington boot bandwagon, stop and think: we have seen a lot of these boots on reportages about Coronavirus with health workers in full PPE or with people in protective suits spraying cities to control COVID-19. Probably these images turned into an inspiration for some designers. Maybe for this reason some of us may find these boots a little bit offensive like those Vêtements DHL shirts sold at $330 and worn by people who have never worked as couriers. These boots evoke indeed the attire of workers in the fish and meat processing and packaging industries, in nuclear plants or in the sanitation industry. So, what to do with this trend? Well, you may just succumb, get the luxury designs and look trendy, or simply cheat, and invest in proper heavy duty Wellington boots like the safety polyurethane one by Dunlop, usually sold at a fraction of the price, and try and make them look cool. In both cases, remember, you can still reuse both the luxury or the original safety boots should you decide to go and work in a slaughterhouse or a nuclear plant (but, if you re lucky enough, they may even win you a role as an extra in a nuclear disaster/pandemic/dystopic film). Being lightweight, thermo-insulating and with tremendous wear-and-tear resistance, maybe originaly safety boots would be a better choice as they would probably be more durable than the trendy ones. Yes, they may not look terribly cool, but longevity is guaranteed and, who knows, they may turn useful should you opt for an adventurous career change.

TAGS:on Architecture Irenebrination 

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