17 April 2014

Bruce Weber's Porkies

The Garden Museum in London was host to a 'fashion panel' the other night which was impossible to resist: Amanda Harlech (muse); Sam McKnight (legendary hairdresser) and Tim Walker (fantastical photographer). There was also an erudite professor of fashion from Central St Martins called Alistair O'Neill.

Sam McKnight came to gardening later in life but has always been infuenced by flowers. He showed us slides of 70s-style "dandelion frizz looks" as well as "twiggy, branchy looks" which reminded me of the picture of Penelope Tree got up like a tree, with her long hair teased into a birds nest with eggs in it.*

McKnight uses flower shapes and flower colours. But he would never have left Tree's nest as neat as it is: he likes to destroy a hair style as much as he can before it is photographed. So it is with flowers:
"There's something about the decaying of flowers that I find most interesting of all."

Fawn-like Tim Walker started off by showing us a photograph that had been formative for him, from the book Appearances by Martin Harrison.** It was a Bruce Weber shot: a silk frock on what should be a mannequin but without head or arms. It is a collapsing dress with a bunch of roses for a head (except it doesn't look as though it's collapsing: I've always thought it was a model wearing a silk cape with a high collar and roses as a hat). Legend has it that this is a Charles James dress and that the shoot took place at Sissinghurst (home to all the roses shown here).

It is referencing a well-known Beaton shot which is synonymous with 50s Vogue: debs taking tea in pastel shades of silk in a large guilded salon. Dresses by Charles James.

Tim said he'd been asking the editor on that shoot earlier about the provenance of the dress and how Weber managed to track it down. Also, why he shot it at Sissinghurst. Patrick Kinmonth said that actually, it wasn't a Charles James dress but something by Victor Edelstein. "Bruce Weber is very naughty to have said that the photograph was taken at Sissinghurst," said Patrick. "It was shot in my mum's garden."

Tim ended by saying: "It's important that photographers lie."

*Photographed by Clive Arrowsmith
**An excellent book