Hubert de Givenchy Dead at 91

I have just received the tragic news that another legend has left the planet. Fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy, who opened his eponymous fashion house in 1952, died past Saturday aged 91 as his partner – former haute couture designer – Philippe Venet has announced today. The couple lived in a Renaissance chateau near Paris.

«Balloon Coat», Hubert de Givenchy, 1958

The aristocratic gentleman was known for his sophisticated and ladylike chic in the 1950s and 1960s and famous for having designed much of the personal and professional wardrobe of Audrey Hepburn, as well as clothing for clients such as Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and Grace Kelly.

At the age of seventeen, he moved to Paris where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts. Givenchy’s first designs were done for Jacques Fath in 1945. Later he did designs for Robert Piguet and Lucien Lelong (1946) – working alongside the still-unknown Pierre Balmain and Christian Dior, followed by 5 years working for the avantgarde designer Elsa Schiaparelli before he opened his own design house at the Plaine Monceau in Paris in 1952.

Audrey Hepburn wearing Givenchy in 1954 film «Sabrina».

His style was marked by innovation, contrary to the more conservative designs by Dior. At 25, he was the youngest designer of the progressive Paris fashion scene. His first collections were characterized by the use of rather cheap fabrics for financial reasons, but they always piqued curiosity through their design. Audrey Hepburn, later the most prominent proponent of Givenchy’s fashion, and Givenchy met in 1953 during the shoot of «Sabrina». He went on to design the famous «little black dress» she wore in «Breakfast at Tiffany’s».

In 1961, when Audrey Hepburn got the roll of Holly Golightly, designer Hubert de Givenchy designed the famous black dress which became one of the most iconic clothing items of the 20th century.

He also developed his first perfume collection for her (L’Interdit and Le de Givenchy) and made Audrey Hepburn the face of it. For the very first time a star was the face of a fragrance’s advertising campaign and probably the last time that it was done for free, only by friendship.

At that time, Givenchy also met his idol, Cristóbal Balenciaga. Although a renowned designer, Givenchy not only sought inspiration from the lofty settings of haute couture but also in such avant-garde environments as Limbo, the store in Manhattan’s East Village. In 1954, Givenchy’s prêt-à-porter collection debuted.

1957 Babydoll Dress by Givenchy

The House of Givenchy was split in 1981, with the perfume line going to Veuve Clicquot, while the fashion branch was acquired by LVMH in 1989. As of today, LVMH owns Parfums Givenchy as well.

De Givenchy retired from fashion design in 1995. His successor to head the Givenchy label was John Galliano, followed by a five-year stay from Alexander McQueen and a term from 2001 to 2004 by Julien Macdonald. As we all know, Riccardo Tisci revived the Givenchy brand tremendously from 2005 until 2017. This season, Clare Waight Keller presented her first runway show for Givenchy.

Rest in peace, Hubert de Givenchy and thank you for all those wonderful fashionable moments.
You will never be forgotten!

LoL, Sandra

Photos: Courtesy of Givenchy, Getty Images

Princess Grace – More than an Image

Pringle_of_Scotland_Cover_Grace_Habiller-Une_Image

During Paris Fashion Week, I went to some amazing events that I would like to share with you. Let’s get started with one that was truly outstanding, something that you don’t see every day.

Sandra_Bauknecht_Pringle_Scotland

I was invited to the elegant salons of the association France Ameriques in avenue Franklin Roosvelt, where a very special collaboration, PRINCESS GRACE, MORE THAN AN IMAGE, between Pringle of Scotland and Central Saint Martins was presented.

Pringle_Scotland_3

The collection designed by young talents of the renowned college of arts and design in London features pieces in the finest 100% made in Scotland knitwear, inspired by the wardrobe of H.S.H. Princess Grace of Monaco, who had loved the historical British brand very much and had been frequently seen in it.

kPRINCESS GRACE_INSPIRATION IMAGERY_ALICE BASTIN

Princess_Caroline_Pringle

H.R.H. Carolina of Monaco Princess of Hanover had come all the way from Monaco to attend this intimate event in honour of her late mother. She had also supported the students and had given them access to the palace archives.

Pringle_Scotland_Museum_1

In April 2012, the findings were revealed in an exhibition hosted by the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco featuring never before seen material, showcasing Princess Grace’s daily wardrobe in the most relaxed and familial situations, particularly knitwear and Pringle of Scotland archive styles.

Pringle_Scotland-5

Pringle_scotland-4

The students took those aesthetic elements and translated them into this beautiful capsule collection…

Pringle_of_Scotland_Princess_Grace

… under the creative supervision of the famous Professor Louise Wilson O.B.E. (see photo below to the right). Being among the world’s most influential fashion educators, her former students include Christopher Kane, Marios Schwab, Mary Katrantzou, Roksanda Ilincic among many others.

Pringle_Louise_Wilson

Pringle_Scotland_2

Sandra_Bauknecht_Pringle

Princesse_Caroline_de_Monaco

Personally speaking, I found one aspect very moving when H.R.H. Carolina of Monaco Princess of Hanover explained that this project has meant a lot to her: “There have been many exhibitions on my mum, but this is special, when she wore knitwear, it meant we were more informal, it meant happy times.

Pringle_Museum_Students

And as Marie Claude Beaud, Director of the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, put it “Grace Kelly has been a princess, an actress…but above all a woman, a mother”.

kPRINCESS GRACE_INSPIRATION IMAGERY_JAE LEE

With this in mind, the collection truly manages to highlight the most personal, discreet and daily aspects of the Princess without loosing its historical heritage, it looks modern and desirable.

Tilda_Swinton_Central_St-Martins

Pringle of Scotland’s ambassadress Tilda Swinton was leading the conversation.

PRINCESS GRACE_MORE THAN AN IMAGE_5k

Interesting to know is that the title PRINCESS GRACE: MORE THAN AN IMAGE derives from a quote that the Princess gave to Time Magazine in 1955, whilst still the film actress Grace Kelly, “I don’t want to dress up a picture with just my face”. This sense of exploring the person behind the image is evident throughout the project. She will stay in everyone’s imagination forever.

Pringle-of_scotland_kelly-sweaterAnd this fall, it is official, we will not only dream of an Hermès Kelly bag.Pringle of Scotland’s Kelly sweater will be on everyone’s shopping list and it will be definitely more accessible. The capsule collection will hit the shelves in Switzerland in September at Jelmoli.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on the movie “Grace” that will hit the cinemas in the end of the year and enjoy some more impressions of this beautiful event in Paris below.

LoL, Sandra

Tilda_Swinton_Sandra_Bauknecht

Gorgeous Tilda Swinton with me

Pringle_Scotland_Event Paris

Pringle_Scotland_Sandra_Bauknecht-1

Pringle_Scotland-6

Sandra_Bauknecht_Pringle_of_Scotland

Photos: Courtesy of Pringle of Scotland, © Sandra Bauknecht;
Photos of Princess Grace: © Jae Lee, © Alice Bastion

Welcome to the World of Montblanc

Welcome_to_montblanc

Recently, Montblanc invited me to visit their headquarters in Hamburg, Germany. As I told you, I have been working on a very secret  project with them that will be revealed tonight during a special launch event. Let me just tell that there has never been anything else like it.

ABOUT MONTBLANC

The company was first begun in 1906 with a partnership of three men: Claus-Johannes Voss, August Eberstein, and Alfred Nehemias and got its name Montblanc in 1913. Inspired by a trip to the United States where two of them had been fascinated by a new invention: the fountain pen, they had the vision to bring this achievement to Europe. For over a century, Montblanc has been associated with the “Art of Writing” and is famous for its writing instruments of outstanding quality, but its precision craftsmanship can also be seen in its own watchmaking workshop in Le Locle (Jura/Switzerland), in the well-crafted leather goods and the house’s jewelry line. In 2006, Montblanc even unveiled its own diamond cut in the shape of the famous  “White Star”, the so-called “Montblanc Diamond Cut”.

Montblanc_MeisterstueckSince its launch in 1924, the Meisterstück – and especially the original fountain pen, the Meisterstück 149 – has become the ultimate “power pen” with cult status, one of 20th century’s design classics with a permanent place in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The nib’s engraving “4810” is recording the height of the Mont Blanc in metres.

Montblanc_HeadquarterMontblanc_Art_Collection

When you arrive at the headquarters, the “Montblanc House”, you are greeted by the outstanding Cutting Edge Art Collection, that the German brand has built up during the last 10 years under the creative supervision of Ingrid Roosen-Trinks, Director at the Montblanc Cultural Foundation (Please click here for a previous post if you are interested to hear more about this project).

Sandra_Bauknecht_Montblanc_nib_ManufactureMontblanc_visiting-The nib_manufacture

The first stop of my visit was the nib manufacture, where Montblanc manufactures the nibs for all its writing instruments. The inhabitants of Hamburg are sometimes considered being chilly, forget this prejudice when you enter the world of Montblanc. I was cordially received and had an amazing tour around the different work stations. All nibs are made of gold. You absolutely need fine sensory motor skills to create such a detailed work and of course, a magnifying glass. Altogether, it needs 35 operational steps to finish the nib.

Nib_Manufacture_montblanc_Works

You can feel the great working atmosphere. Speaking to the employees, I learned that most of them have been with Montblanc for generations. The lady, whose hands can be seen in the collage, told me proudly, that she has worked for the company for over 30 years. The passion the team shares is utterly impressive.

Each employee can split his or her time accordingly to the different steps of production so that they are not doing the same work the whole day. After the whole process is completed, each of the finished fountain pen is tested in a separate quiet room with invisible ink. You can hear the sound the nib makes when touching the paper and suddenly understand Montblanc’s love for perfection in manufacturing.

Montblanc25Montblanc_Art_of_writing

As I love to write, I was eager to try it out myself and explored Montblanc’s Bespoke Nib Service which is available in selected stores worldwide. In keeping with Montblanc’s motto “Your handwriting – as unique as you are”, a signature is the lasting mark of someoneʼs personality, like your fingerprint revealing something special about you.

Therefore it was natural to Montblanc to develop the technology necessary to capture the individuality of human writing to offer the ultimate bespoke service, a personalized nib.
How does it work? I had to write a predefined sentence on a piece of paper that was placed on a special computerized pad. Montblanc than deciphered my distinctive style, the angle and the pressure that I used. By analyzing my form of my writing, it can be emphasized in a bespoke nib. Available for € 1500.-.

A handwritten note has become so rare nowadays in times of e-mails and text messages that it is even more special to the receiver. By keeping this in mind, you will really make a difference.

Montblanc_Star_Appeal

Many politicians and famous businessmen have used the ultimate “power pen” to sign contracts between companies and agreements between nations. On my way to Montblanc’s Star Lounge, where we had lunch with Christian Rauch, Managing Director for Montblanc’s Writing Instruments, I enjoyed looking at all the photos of celebrities that have been spotted with Montblanc writing instruments.

MontblancArtisan_atelier

Later, I visited Montblanc’s Artisan Atelier, that was the most breathtaking part of my tour. Here, the house’s famous Limited Editions, exceptionally rare pieces, range from the annual Writers Edition and Patron of Art pens, restricted in number are created and produced, eagerly awaited by collectors all over the world. In some cases, they are sold out before they hit the shelves. Sabine Bach, Master Goldsmith at the Montblanc Artisan Atelier, introduced me to this exclusive universe and underlined that “some collectors always ask for the same limited edition number.”

The lovely brunette explained to me the process with such joy that I also became inflamed with passion for these amazing products. The environment is light, modern and quiet. The perfect surrounding for the craftsmen to produce such exceptional work. It can take up to two years for an artisan fountain pen to be finished, starting with design sketches, followed by the plastic print model, the so-called mock up, to the final touches. The limited edition number usually relates to the person it is dedicated. Prices range from € 10.000 to € 200.000 and higher.

And of course, you can even have your very own Bespoke Fountain Pen, starting at € 250.000. There is a desk with an installed video camera for the high-end customer to watch the manufacturing of its unique piece live from his or her home.

Each of Montblanc’s Limited Edition artisan fountain pens has its own story that reads like a fairytale. Below are some that I enjoyed the most:

Montblanc-Frida_kahloMontblanc_Frida_Kahlo_limited

Frida Kahlo Limited Edition 70

Dedicated to the famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and inspired by her creative work, the fountain pen’s design features a cobalt blue body reminiscent of her birthplace Casa Azul, or Blue House along with beautiful golden ornaments. The limited edition is comprised of 70 pens, one for each page of her diary, whose famous final entry reads, “I’m happy to be leaving and I hope never to return.”

Limited Edition of 70, € 21.800

Beijing_Opera_mask_montblanc

Beijing Opera Mask Limited Edition 3

The most bejeweled and extraordinary piece I have seen on my tour through the artisan atelier. Focusing primarily on the Chinese market, this fountain pen pays tribute to the famous Beijing Opera, symbolised by the opera mask that is embellished with black sapphires, diamonds and rubies. Only experienced craftsmen can set the gems so smoothly and delicately.

Limited Edition of 3 – € 120.000

RomancingHearts_montblanc

Romancing Hearts Limited Edition 14

Imagine your beloved one surprises you with a poem written with such a beautiful fountain pen, that even goes by the name of Romancing Hearts. I am hopelessly romantic and this ornate 18k white gold fountain pen skeletonised in the shape of hearts, set in pink sapphires and framed with diamonds has definitely caught my eye. A total of 14 were made, referring to February 14, Valentine’s Day.

Limited Edition of 14 – € 72.000

Gaudi_Montblanc_2Gaudi_Montblanc-3

Gaudi Limited Edition 125

Montblanc celebrates Antoni Gaudi‘s legacy with this gorgeous limited edition fountain pen. The skeleton body and is made with 18k gold and inspired by Gaudi’s spectacular architecture. The tower of Sagrada Familia is depicted in fine engraving on the 18k gold nib. As the famous cathedral was for 125 years under construction, the edition is limited to 125 pieces.

Limited Edition of 125 – € 19.500

Montblanc_Charlie_Chaplin_limited

Charlie Chaplin Limited Edition 88

Paying tribute to perhaps the greatest figure of 20th century cinema, Charlie Chaplin, this fountain pen shows Montblanc’s passion for detail in perfection. Intricate cog-wheels stand for the machines featured in Chaplin’s most celebrated film, Modern Times, and each detail recalls a different aspect of the silent actor’s famous persona. The captop for example is based upon his ever-present bowler hat; and the solid gold clip resembles his indispensable walking cane. The 18K rhodium-plated gold nib is engraved with Chaplin’s iconic accoutrements. The 88 stands for the age, Chaplin died at.

Limited Edition of 88 – € 21.800

Montblanc_Prince_rainier_III_2

Prince Rainier III Limited Edition 81

The artistically skeletonised fountain-pen is made of 18k white gold and superbly studded with diamonds and rubies totalling more than 8 carats. This edition is limited to 81, the age at which Prince Rainer III died in 2005.

Limited Edition of 81 – € 200.000 (Half of the sales revenue will be given to the “Fondation Princesse Grace” to continue the cultural commitment lived by Prince Rainier III.)

Montblanc_Jewelry_Susie_otero

One and a half year ago Parisian designer Susie Otero joined Montblanc to vamp up the jewelry line and bring her French flair to the German brand. Otero works from Paris and comes to Hamburg several times a month. I was lucky to meet her personally during my visit. A very elegant, sophisticated lady with great style and charisma.

Montblanc_Jewelry_3Montblanc-Jewelry_2

Her impact on the line has been seen immediate when she developed the Princesse Grace de Monaco Collection as an homage to the late Hollywood actress and Princess of Monaco. Grace Kelly’s favourite flower the rose, a symbol of romance, provided the inspiration for the exquisite designs. She explained me that “each petal is different, has a different movement, is foldable like the petals of a real rose” which makes the pieces not only beautiful but very comfortable to wear.

Montblanc_Jewelry6

The bangle from Montblanc’s Infiniment Vôtre Collection in warm skin flattering pink gold is held in the soft shape of the infinity motif. A diamond set in the Montblanc setting gives this precious piece a discreet signature. I love it.

Montblanc Earrings

But on top of my wish list are those beauties: The 4810 Collection hoop earrings in rose gold with pave set diamonds. I have completely fallen in love with their sparkle.

My visit to Hamburg was truly special, a wonderful experience. I have rarely seen a company with so many passionate and enthusiastic employees that absolutely seem to enjoy their work. Culture, quality, craftsmanship and continuity – these are the core values which Montblanc carries proudly into the 21st century, already writing another chapter in its history and I am very proud to be a little part of it!

LoL, Sandra

Photos: © Sandra Bauknecht

Next Stop: The Gucci Museo in Florence

Gucci Museo Welcome

After we had visited the Gucci manufacture, we went to the Gucci Museo in the center of Florence (Piazza della Signoria, 10), which had opened its doors in September 2011.
For photos of the opening party, please click here.

Now, I would like to walk you through the museum and give you some information on the brand’s iconic looks and signature pieces. Enjoy!

Travel

Ground floor: TRAVEL

History tells how, as a teenager, Guccio Gucci worked as a lift boy at the Savoy Hotel in London where he was fascinated by the elegance of the upper class guests at the turn of the 20th century. On his return to Italy, the young Guccio opened a workshop specializing in the production of travelware and accessories. The first cases and trunks to be produced in Florence bore the inscription: G. Gucci, Articles for Travel, Florence. Defining the brand in English highlighted its founder’s international vision, which was aimed from the outset at modern travelers of the time across the globe. Impeccably high quality crafted goods, then as now.

Leonardo Gucci PrintTravel set “Leonardo” print, 1950’s

IMG_0671Trunk, pigskin, 1930’s

Travelling in style:

1979 Gucci cadillacIMG_0678

 

Precious

1st floor: PRECIOUS

A selection of jewelry and items showcasing Gucci’s creativity in finding unique ways to combine practicality and beauty. Crystal-studded minaudières, powder compacts, buckles and all sorts of jewelry pieces are all tiny but timeless treasures.

Jewelry„Tiger head“ necklace and bracelet, enamelled silver, early 1970’s

Brooch GucciBrooch, enamelled gold, 1980’s
This piece reminds me a lot of my Bague Diorette, don’t you agree?!
But Gucci was obviously first…


Flora World

1st floor: FLORA WORLD

The story began in Milan in 1966, when Prince Ranier of Monaco brought his wife to the Gucci boutique. Roldolfo Gucci insisted that Princess Grace choose a gift to accompany the bamboo bag she had purchased. The Princess requested a scarf. Rodolfo felt that the House lacked one sufficiently beautiful for the royal style icon and so he commissioned illustrator Vittorio Accornero to create the most beautiful print he could imagine. Accornero returned with his painting: the “Flora”, a sumptuos, multi-hued, flowered template destined to become a design classic.

Flora WorldIMG_0734

When Giannini revived Flora on printed canvas bags in summer 2005, a new generation succumbed to its charms. In 2006, it appeared re-scaled, re-coloured and abstracted onto Forties-style print dresses, jewellery and evening bags.

IMG_0738IMG_1008

I was over the moon to see that my own closet has got some museum pieces.
How cool is that?!

 

Bags

1st floor: HANDBAGS

Bags are Gucci’s signature and therefore the museum dedicated one part of the exhibition to the house’s rich creative heritage of various models. Continuously evolving over the years, with creation of iconic models such as the Bamboo Bag, the Jackie and those immediately recognizable by Gucci symbols including the horsebit and green-red-green web (Web is the name for the iconic Gucci stripes).

IMG_0745Leather, „riding crop“, shoulder strap in horn, early 1970’s

IMG_0749Short handle bags in raffia, leather, pigskin, late 1950’s and early 1960’s


Evening

1st floor: EVENING

Gucci’s evening wear is designed to be worn on the red carpet and the most exclusive events on the international stage, from Cannes to Los Angeles and New York to Paris. The house’s couture label is called Gucci Première.

HilaryIMG_0793

Here you can see some of the distinguished moments in the history of fashion and haute couture, celebrated through gowns worn by Hilary Swank and Naomi Watts.

Naomi4IMG_0784

 

Logomania

2nd floor: LOGOMANIA

The GG is the most significant symbol in Gucci’s long history. The initials of founder Guccio Gucci first featured on the clasps of his bags in the early 1960’s, finding new interpretations over the years: recreated in gold and silver, on precious leather, velvet and silk.

IMG_0810Shirt and skirt, jersey with „horsebit“ print, suede, early 1970’s
Dress, silk with „horsebit and horseshoe print, mid 1970’s

Gucci 12Shoulder bags and moccasin, „horsebit print fabric“, mid 1970’s

 

Lifestyle GucciGucci Lampshade

2nd floor: LIFESTYLE

From fashion to items dedicated to leisure and recreational activities, Gucci’s style is reflected in every moment of daily life. From the opening of the first store in Florence in 1921, Guccio Gucci offered his distinguished clients giftware and souvenirs, a creative progress which has continued through the years, transforming his products into cult items: thermos holders and picnic sets, parlor games, table lamps, and sets of glasses and, more recently, even an electric guitar. Home or away, these are the items which complete the Gucci lifestyle.

IMG_0822

IMG_0831

 

Sport Gucci

2nd floor: SPORT

From horseback riding to golf, Guccio Gucci always found inspiration in the various sporting disciplines practiced by his most sophisticated clientele. Gucci logos and symbols customized technically competitive sport items which all had their own original style. Golf club bags, tennis racket bags, surfboards, flippers and masks are some of the latest items in the range, which showcase Gucci’s craftsmanship applied to products that complement the wardrobes of sports professionals and sports fans alike. More recently, Guccissima Leather has been used to cover items from bicycle seats and snow sleds to saddles and a whole host of riding accessories, reflecting the sport’s continuing influence in the House’s collections.

On display is also the outfit from Gucci’s second equestrian collection designed exclusively for Charlotte Casiraghi by Creative Director Frida Giannini that the equestrian heiress wore throughout her participation in the 2011 Global Champions Tour.

IMG_0855

IMG_0863

IMG_0874

I hope that you have enjoyed your museum’s tour.

LoL, Sandra

Photos: © Sandra Bauknecht, Celebrities: Courtesy of Gucci

Beautiful Charlotte Casiraghi

Cover Vogue FR

Princess Caroline of Monaco‘s daughter Charlotte Casiraghi graces the September 2011 issue of Vogue Paris. Photographed by Mario Testino, the twenty-page editorial features the stunning brunette in the must-have F/W 2011 pieces by the likes of Gucci, Balmain, Isabel Marant, Dior, Chanel, YSL, Versace and more. I have loved the photos so much that I wanted to share them with you. Isn’t she beautiful like her late grandmother Grace Kelly?

LoL, Sandra

Charlotte 1

Charlotte 5

Charlotte 6

CharlottePhotos: Mario Testino for Vogue Paris

Elliott Erwitt – A Photography Legend

Elliott erwitt

„To me, photography is an art of observation…
It is about finding something interesting in an ordinary place.“
-Elliott Erwitt

Recently I was invited by the Swiss private bank Clariden Leu to attend a very special soirée to celebrate the one year renovation of their headquarter on Bahnhofstrasse 32 in Zurich with the amazing exhibition A World of Pictures“ by Elliott Erwitt. The photography legend had been flown in especially for the evening and it was a real honour to meet him.

IMG_5060

Clariden Leu’s ‘Leuenhof’ was built in Neo-Gothic style between 1914 and 1915 and its impressive art gallery is the ideal venue for art exhibitions.

Clariden

Olivier Jaquet, CEO Clariden Leu, gave an introductory speech and Birgit Filzmaier, owner of the gallery “19th & 20th Century Fine Art Photography” (the place to go if you are interested in Elliott Erwitts’s work) the laudation.

Elliott Erwitt with Mike Baur, Clariden Leu's new Head Private Banking Switzerland Elliott Erwitt with Mike Baur, Clariden Leu’s new Head Private Banking Switzerland

“Elliott Erwitt’s Best Picture? The Next One.”

Elliott Erwitt was born in France of Russian émigré parents in 1928. His formative years were spent in Italy. At the age of 10 he moved with his family to France afterward immigrating to the United States in 1939.

 

IMG_5048Grace Kelly, New York City 1955.

„It was pure luck. Luck is essential in photography.”

-Elliott Erwitt

Distinguished as both a documentary and commercial photographer, Erwitt has taken some of the most memorable photos of the 20th century, including portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy and Grace Kelly, as well as astonishing scenes of everyday life, filled with poetry, wit and a special sense of humor. Famous for capturing absurd split-second moments and subtle glances, Erwitt’s work is truly masterful. He likes children and dogs.

Elliott_Erwitt_Photo_Jacqueline_Kennedy_Arlington_1963_JFK_FuneralJacqueline Kennedy, at the funeral of JFK, Arlington 1963

elliot-erwitt1Dog Legs, New York City 1974

In 1953 freshly decommissioned from military service, Elliott Erwitt was invited to join Magnum Photos as a member by its founder Robert Capa. To date he continues to be an active member and one of the leading figures in the competitive field of photography.


Interview Elliott Erwitt

Elliott Erwitt is said not to like talking about his photos as they talk for themselves. In the conversation between him and Ettore Gualtiero Robbiani, Clariden Leu’s art specialist and curator of the in-house private art collection, Elliott Erwitt’s evident sense of humour showed in his very witty answers and made him perennially quotable. Enjoy!

Elliott Erwitt, welcome to Zurich. How are you?

Most of the parts are working!

I have to confess I am really fascinated by you. What is this egg about?

Everybody has a tag here and I felt lonesome having no tag.

You are an eyewitness to history and a dreamer with a camera. You took some of the most memorable photos of the century. Where do you see your cultural roots?

Photographers don’t need to have roots.

Do you ask for permission taking somebody’s photos?

You never ask for permission. You shoot first and hope that they don’t realise. In Japan, it is very easy to be a photographer because everybody is. In Muslim countries it is hard as nobody likes their picture to be taken. In France, they have privacy laws, if people see themselves in the magazine, they can sue you if you don’t have a permission.

EE2Couple Kissing, Santa Monica, California 1955

 

Have you been sued ?

I was sued by people who thought that they were in the picture but they weren’t.

How did your interest in photography raise?

Because of family circumstances, I was on my own since the age of 16 and I had to make a living. Taken photographs was a good way. You don’t have a boss. My only permanent job that I ever had was with the US military army. Everything else has been freelance.

Did you like the army?

I didn’t mind it.

Did you have your camera with you?

Always. I took some of my best pictures when I was in the army.

What is today your favourite camera?

I don’t have a favourite camera. I divide between my professional and personal work. For clients, you have to use the tools you need to achieve the results that your clients expect. For my own personal work, I walk around with a small camera, my Leica usually and that is quite seperate. One thing is for business, one thing is for hobby.

IMG_5052Miami Beach, 1962

 

And talking about influences? What were your early influences in photography?

My early influences were Italian films after the war, neo-realist films of Fellini, Rosselini, people like that. That was my main influence and apart from that the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson which are the gold standards in my view of photography.

When it comes to being influenced you named Edward Steichen as a mentor. How did he influence you?

He didn’t influence me, he was just very helpful at that time. I was very young and I could use some help. He got me my first job by calling somebody up. He could do that, he was a very powerful man. My influences were as I mentioned before.

You once said that photography is a craft that everybody with normal intelligence could learn? But to take it beyond the craft is when the magic comes in? How do you actually approach your magic moments in a photo? Is it all staging, set-ups?

I don’t get up in the morning and expect to do magic. I think that magic is in the eye in the beholder. You don’t plan things. Good photography is not planned unless it is work which is planned. Photography which is interesting to me is simply an art of observation, organising elements, making fine prints.

MMMarilyn Monroe, New York City 1956

 

Coming to magic moments. In your career, you portraited Marilyn Monroe. I tend to say that you showed her in a different way than we know her. How was Marilyn as a person?

I was afraid that you asked that. I am always asked that question. She was very nice, very photogenic. She looked better in pictures than in real life. Also she looked pretty good in real life as well. She was a sensitive person, a little bit nuts. She was very kind to me.

Whom of the famous persons that you met was meaningful to you?

Famous people are ordinary people that became famous. President Kennedy, Fidel Castro, of course that is interesting. Those people are very historic figures. And the problem of taking a picture of those famous people is exactly the same than taking it of ordinary people.

When you mentor young photographers what are looking for in their work?

Visual sense, application, a kind of burning ambition because it is very difficult to succeed in photography. Digital photography makes it easy to become a photographer but hard to become a good one. So you look for energy, for perserverance, and as I said most importantly for visual sense.

EEMetropolitan Museum, New York City, 1988

 

What about ego? Do you need a strong ego?

A strong ego gets generally in the way of things. People don’t react very well to people with a strong ego. If you have it, keep it private.

Who is your favourite photographer living or dead?

The ones that are in my agency Magnum. Henri Cartier-Bresson is the champion of them. There are some that are very promising. Photographers who work for the passion, those are the interesting ones. The ones only on assignment are not the interesting ones, they are just earning a living.

Do you collect yourself?

I am not a collector. But I have exchanged with some of my friends.

EE357th Street Gallery, New York City, 1963

 

This year, you received the Infinity Award 2011 for Lifetime Achievement from the International Center of Photography. Can you please describe what it is like to receive that honour? It is the lifetime Oscar  of photography.

It is a little bit embarrasing. It seems like your life is over. You get a nice dinner, a little statue, people think that you are okay. But it really shouldn’t influence you that much.

You son Misha is a photographer as well. When he told you about his future plans, how did you react? What advice did you give him?

Get a dayjob! But here is an amusing anecdote: When my father retired, he decided to become a photographer because he wanted to follow in his son’s footsteps which I thought was very sweet.

Thank you Mr Erwitt for coming!

Thank you all for showing up! I couldn’t imagine that I am that interesting.

IMG_5031What an honour: Elliott Erwitt with me.

LoL, Sandra

Kate – A New Grace Kelly

Kate

Finally we definitely know who is the designer behind Kate Middleton’s wedding gown. It’s Sarah Burton, the McQueen designer. I was right with my speculation a few weeks ago.

Kate 2

Kate, who is now Princess Catherine, or Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, stunned the crowd in an English and French Chantilly lace gown worn with a 2.70m long train and a silk tulle veil. The ivory duchesse satin shoes were also handmade by the McQueen team.

The look reminded of Princess Grace’s wedding dress in 1956. Sarah Burton captured Kate’s style in the right way, very classy and kind of simple for the house of McQueen. Only the draping at the back side of the dress seemed like a reference to the late designer. The Cartier tiara was lent to the bride by the queen.

Kate carried a secret love message by including „sweet william“ flowers in her bridal bouquet.

Kate 3

Here are some quotes of famous designers concerning the bridal look:

“She is very elegant,” Karl Lagerfeld said. “The dress is classic and goes very well in the Westminster decor. I love the modest veil with the Queen Mother’s Thirties scroll tiara and balanced volume of the whole gown. She’s radiant; She never was so beautiful.”

“Kate’s dress was beautiful,” Donatella Versace said. “She looked very regal.”

Designer Elie Saab added: “It was a very elegant dress, subtly refined and discreet, in keeping with her style. I would have liked it even more with a little extra volume and a longer train.”

Oh what a royal wedding – congrats to the newly wed couple!

LoL, Sandra