Friday, April 30, 2010

Consider the Lilies-of-the-Valley

Spring 1992 Gianfranco Ferré for Christian Dior, oversize 9" corsage/pin spray of silk lilies-of-the-valley from Paris made by the Lemarié atelier, purchased at Creed’s of Toronto

The First of May is an important day throughout Europe. In France, 'le premier Mai' is characterized by the centuries old custom of sidewalk vendors selling charming little bouquets of lilies-of-the-valley.

The earliest May Day festivities were pre-Christian, and related to Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers. Countless legends in many cultures, religions, and historic periods are based on the fanciful origins of lilies of the-valley, convallaria majalis. In Christian legends, it has been called, ‘Our Lady’s Tears.’ In Christian iconography, it is representative of modesty or humility. In the language of flowers it means good luck, and the return of happiness.

The lily-of-the-valley is an old fashioned flower seldomly encountered nowadays. In Victorian and Edwardian times one could buy it at florists. In France, it is still commonly sold at florists in May, but in North America, selections at flower shops are usually limited to tulips, roses, mums and the now ubiquitous potted phalaenopsis orchid.

At one time, 'muguet' was a common motif in the decorative arts, and was visible on textiles, metalwork, silverware,porcelain, postcards and jewellery. But for our brash, in-your-face, Lady Gaga times, it is just too shy, polite, retiring, and elegant.

If a personality could be matched to the flower, it might be Princess Grace of Monaco, who had a wedding bouquet of 'muguet de bonheur.' Throughout her lifetime, she was photographed many times holding a bouquet of lilies-of-the-valley, a flower she also writes of in her 1980 work, 'My Book of Flowers.' The lovely muguet is a flower that evokes English and European, rather than new world, legends and charm. wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier, Monaco in April, 1956, dress designed byMGM wardrobe designer Helen Rose early 1970s charity fundraising event; Princess Grace with a bouquet of muguet

Christian Dior, arguably the world’s most famous fashion designer, used the lily-of-the-valley as his emblem throughout his brief but meteoric career. Muguet de Bois was the inspiration of his spring 1954 collection and his masterpiece signature perfume, created by the Monet of perfume, Edmund Roudnistka. Still in production after more than 50 years, ‘Diorissimo,’ is an olfactory impression of this exquisite flower.

In early May, don’t overlook this delightful little plant. The season is very brief, and the flowers are discreet enough to be passed by. detail from a delightful screen printed vintage linen tablecloth by the venerable Avenue Montaigne house of D. Porthault

1970s Christian Dior bedding with "muguet' motif, licensed American product

detail of floral motif of above bedlinens by Christian Dior

the angelic Diorissimo lily-of-the-valley perfume; circa 1955 Christian Dior enamel brooch

Christian Dior hat, early 1960s, Ian Drummond Collection, Toront0
vintage Limoges porcelain by Christian Dior Paris

...the invasive, perennial lilies-of-the-valley in my garden, ready for their May performance…I overestimated and they’re everywhere…do you need a clump?

circa 1910 German made chromolithography postcards

lily-of-the-valley motif on a Lalique plate

images and text copyright of Square With Flair; photos of Grace Kelly from 'Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco' by Tevor Hall, Crown Publishing, 1983

Friday, April 2, 2010

Lucian Matis, the Hit of Toronto Fashion Week

an enthusiastic Lucian Matis answers questions after his very well received collection

The hit of Toronto LG Fashionweek was unquestionably the Lucian Matis show on the afternoon of Thursday, April 1st. Lucian’s clothes and presentation were unique and beautiful.

The new Fashion week venue at the newly restored, historic Art Deco Automotive Building (now rebranded the Allstream Centre) on the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition is very spacious and is ideal for fashion shows. The central location and a very generous lounge and bar area, spacious areas for hairdressing, makeup, wardrobe, dressing, media, interviews, socializing, and wide corridors make this facility much more suitable than previous locations.

feverish activity in the ranks of creative hair and make-up artists

The show began with the passionate singing of Rona Hartner accompanied by stirring violin that was layered with an urban beat. It set the distinctly east European mood before the models had emerged. The models were carefully selected for an eastern European look; they had Erno Laszlo complexions, high cheekbones, and strong noses. The hair was teased into large sculptural "buns" that were adorned with a black fabric headpiece that was neither bow nor hat, but a most creative and becoming creation somewhere between.

exquisite millinery reminiscent of a large, romantically wilted fleur-de-mal

The palette was disciplined and cohesive. Black featured prominently in the collection and was used mostly as accents in accessories, although a few outfits were entirely black. Black headdresses, eyes heavily accented with kohl, black jewellery, and most striking of all, long tight black gloves and equally tight black leggings gave a new and interesting aspect to dresses, coats, jackets and skirts. Colour schemes were: all black, black with gunmetal grey, black with gold, black with cream, all cream, or all grey. Matte, shiny, and textured materials brought interest to the richly detailed collection.

The inspiration for the collection was the folkloric looks of eastern Europe, specifically the designer's homeland, Romania. In historic collections of the past decades, both Coco Chanel and Yves Saint-Laurent showed east European peasant inspired collections, however Lucian’s look was sophisticated, modern, and avoided costume effects by the measured use of black, and unobtrusive touches of modernism such as shoulder and hip emphasis on some garments. The introductory clothes were those most clearly inspired by ethnic looks; later pieces were linked to the collection by the use of black and similarly styled and accessorized models.

two very different looks, both accessorized with black and a sophisticated demeanor

a signature look from the fashion show invitation; note the very unique "lantern" skirt

European charm meets 21st century urban sophistication

Jewellery added great distinction to the looks, especially the large pieces that were black jet, or with amber coloured stones, a look that is specifically identified with eastern European taste and style since antiquity. In true, classic couture taste, the jewellery pieces by the talented Karen McFarlane were massive and overscale, boldly making a statement in a way that precious jewellery often does not.

The audience viewing this collection was clearly impressed, and reactions were very favourable. As the audience exited the large hall, they seemed rather dazzled and overwhelmed by the beauty, and it seemed that one would experience culture shock by returning to reality. Conversations overheard after the show were nothing but praiseworthy.

classic black used in an original and new manner

How long Lucian will remain in Toronto before being lured to New York or Paris is uncertain, but you can be sure that he as achieved a level of taste, creativity, and technical skill that would permit one to utter his name in the same breath as Galliano or McQueen. Really, you had to be there.

A video of the Lucian Matis collection can be viewed at

original prints, glamorous silhouettes, innovative cuts, folkloric inspiration, numerous accents of black

text and photos © 2010 Square With Flair™