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What is luxury? A fur coat, a silk Hermes scarf, a vintage Chanel 2.55, or a Guerlain lipstick? Or is luxury time, or even knowledge? Ultimately, everyone has their own version of luxury, but the V&A’s new exhibitionexplores the history of the subject and questions the traditional norms of what is usually thought of as luxurious. By collecting a highly curated selection of objects—from furniture made of human hair, to a classic Hermes saddle—the exhibition investigates the future of luxury through culture, economics, art, fashion and design.

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Below, BAZAAR talks with one of the curators, Leanne Wierzba.

HB: How do you define luxury in terms of fashion?

LW: In terms of fashion, we’re really looking at the motivations of the designer and also thinking about the investment, time and application of skills that’s involved in the production or making of an object. So, it would be difficult to say that any one type of material could be considered universally luxurious. One of the fashion designers we included in the exhibition that we think epitomizes luxury is Carol Christian Poell. He’s Austrian by birth but based in Milan and does menswear, primarily. What’s interesting about Carol is that, unlike most designers who begin with the fabric, he begins with the thread. He spends a lot of time and puts in a lot of research in developing textiles himself. He’s developed a textile that is 15% glass beads—they reflect light in a particular way. Another interesting thing about his work is that he doesn’t use lining. You can actual see all the internal seams. All though there’s a very raw aesthetic, it’s completely precise because the lining typically hides a lot of mistakes or other fabric that hasn’t really been dealt with.

HB: Which fashion objects throughout time have represented luxury?

LW: One of the objects we have in the exhibition is a 17th Venetian lace chasuble, of course used in the church. Another fashion example that we have in the exhibition is Iris Van Herpen’s work. What we think is interesting about her is her compulsion to innovate and collaborate. Most of her work is done collaboratively, people from different fields—architecture, industrial design, or music, and she is bringing in knowledge and expertise and disciplines from other industries and applying them to fashion. We have a Savile Row suit in the exhibition, but it’s actually a military uniform. We thought that was incredible that the object is so heavily codified and it has so much cultural meaning—that’s luxury as well.

Snuffbox, Jean Guillaume George Krueger, Berlin 1775-1780

HB: Can luxury be inexpensive?

LW: One of the increasingly recognized luxuries in busy cities like London is time. Regularly, when we speak to people about luxury they say time is their biggest luxury. Time for yourself, time to spend with loved ones and family, and also time to develop knowledge and to become a connoisseur of luxury.

HB: Does sustainability play into luxury?

LW: One of the resources that will continue to grow will be human hair. In the exhibition, we have a project where they’ve created furniture and accessories using human hair, and resin. They’re quite beautiful, but once you look closely and realize its human hair, people are quite disturbed by that—which is interesting, because there’s a huge global hair trade at the moment. Having it re-contextualized as furniture is a really strong statement.

HB: What does the future of luxury fashion look like?

LW: It’s really tied up in supply chains and thinking of production. That’s really the focus of the exhibition. I think the supply chain will have to be more adapted to resolve ecological and ethical issues related to current fashion models. We agree that the future of fashion, especially pertaining to luxury is about small batch production and imbuing the kind of objects you’re creating with meaning and intention. Something that you would really want to invest in, value and hold on to. Luxury is something you’d want to repair rather than discard and replace.

What is Luxury is on view at the Victoria and Albert Museum from April 25th-September 27thand is in partnership with the Crafts Council and sponsored by Northacre.

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He has never been photographed, is very tall and nobody know what he looks like. But that’s pretty much all we know about the fashion designer Margiela. So how on earth did they make a film about him?

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Still image from The Artist is Absent, documentary about Martin Margiela Photograph: PR

When we heard that filmmaker Alison Chernick had made a biopic about Martin Margiela, launching at the Tribeca film festival and now online, we were excited. The cult designer has never been photographed in public, and never once taken a catwalk bow. No one outside his inner circle knows what he looks like, beyond one grainy and unverified picture on Google Images. Finally, we’d get to see the real Margiela!

Well, actually, we don’t. (The clue is in the title.) Although this documentary was made with the full support of Margiela, he never appears in it. (We do get one nugget: Jean Paul Gaultier, whom Margiela assisted earlier in his career, tells us that “Martin is very tall”.) So, how do you make a biopic about a man who has never appeared on camera?

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You do it the Margiela way, that’s how. Margiela is about fashion and design in its purest form: no glamour, no image, no ego. In an industry where superstar designers are the norm, he insisted on working collaboratively with his teams. He made collections, which became the hot tickets of Paris fashion week, out of plastic carrier bags and wire coat hangers. He never booked celebrity models, and often covered his models’ faces in hoods.

The result is a 12-minute film which may not show us Margiela, but gives a real sense of the man. You get to see his awesome “collaborators”, the coolest talking-heads ever, who wear black and chain-smoke in the rain while talking about how Margiela subverted the media-circus of fashion and “forced you to look at the clothes”. You get to hear Suzy Menkes talking about the “Greta Garbo of fashion”, footage of his packed-out early fashion shows, and of make-up artists obscuring models’ faces backstage with black paint on decorator’s brushes. Apparently Chernick, who had found some early footage of Margiela with Jean Paul Gaultier, was disappointed when this was vetoed. But as fashion historian Olivier Saillard says in the film, Margiela “proved that you could make things out of nothing, and that’s a very comforting idea for the world”. An anonymous biopic: what could be more Margiela than that?

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The Artist is Absent Photograph: screengrab

The Artist is Absent is the first documentary produced by Yoox Group, the internet shopping portal that in March announced its merger with Net a Porter.

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Gizmag met with the company at Baselworld to take a look at the luxury bracelet (Image: Ch...

Gizmag met with the company at Baselworld to take a look at the luxury bracelet (Image: Chris Wood/Gizmag)

Christophe & Co’s high-end Armills are luxury jewelry pieces that offer optional built-in technology, running for a year or more on a single charge. The highest-end model, the Apollo, retails for a US$149,000, making it just about the priciest wearable around. We got the chance to check out the bracelet at Baselworld 2015.

While describing the entry price for the bracelet as “steep” would be a vast understatement, Christophe & Co’s Aleksandr Bernhard was keen to point out that the bracelet should be viewed as a high-end jewelry piece first, wearable tech product second. Discussing the piece at Baselworld, where six-figure watches and jewelry items are comparatively commonplace, provided perhaps the best context for this.

However, while the company might not want us to view the product as a technology piece first and foremost, it’s difficult to get past the sky-high price tag when discussing the tech on board.

The box that the piece comes in is designed to mirror the product itself, constructed from...

Optional technology

The wearable tech side of the Armill is entirely optional, and takes the form of an upgradable module, allowing it to stay technologically relevant as time goes on. It makes use of NFC and Bluetooth LE, and features a kinetic energy generation system that recharges the battery using the motion of the user’s arm, allowing for a year or more between charges.

“We decided to take a watch movement similar to an auto quartz, but create a lot more electricity and actually charge the electronics.” said Bernhard. “This is something that, when I had the idea, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to do it, because nobody had done it with wearable tech before.”

What’s interesting about the technology side of the Christophe & Co Armills is that the company is willing to tailor its abilities to the specific requirements of the client. For example, if the customer wants the bracelet to, for example, unlock their car or work as a contactless payment method, then the company will work to develop the module to make those desires a reality, even if it takes months of development.

The wearable tech side of the Armill is entirely optional, and takes the form of an upgrad...

The company is in the process of creating a network of partners around the world, who hold prestigious events – such as Formula One races – where the Armill will act as a physical entry key using the built in NFC technology. Users can also set up the device to message a specific contact, such as a personal assistant, by tapping a combination on the built-in capacitive sensor.

A luxury construction

All three versions of the Armill – the Apollo, Orion and Virtus – have ceramic shields that the company claims exhibit a level of complexity and precision never before seen. The manufacturing process involves calculating the exact degree of shrinkage that will occur during the sinteringprocess – something that’s made extremely difficult due to the small-scale, precise dimensions of the product.

The Apollo Armill that we saw at Baselworld features more than 1,500 micropavé set GVS dia...

“From a manufacturing perspective, nobody has ever done a piece of ceramics like this.” Bernhard told Gizmag. “People in the ceramics industry have told us ‘you can’t do that, it’s impossible’, and we did it. The ceramics are more expensive than anything else on the piece.”

The Apollo Armill that we saw at Baselworld features more than 1,500 micro pavé set GVS diamonds. All the gems are fair trade, and each and every one is set by hand under a microscope. The engraving is carried out by UK artist Maryam Golubeva, with three different designs available, each tailored to different markets.

The bracelet features a kinetic energy generation system that recharges the battery using ...

Despite the delicate nature of its construction, the Apollo Armill feels solid and substantial in the hand. It has a reassuring weight to it and features a custom-made clasp that’s designed to ensure the pricey wearable won’t slip off your wrist.

Designed in conjunction with Pininfarina, the piece exhibits the same quality of finish you’d expect from a luxury sports car. The opulent design certainly won’t appeal to all tastes, but the construction feels every bit as high-end as its creators insists, with the engraving, hand-set gems and glossy ceramic finish giving it a luxurious feel. Given the price point, we wouldn’t expect anything less.

The Armills – and the Apollo in particular – are targeted at the same audience that would usually be interested in ultra high-end watches and jewelry pieces, with each bracelet selling for US$149,000. The majority of the smart features are similarly tailored towards ultra wealthy clientele, and would be of less value to your average consumer, not to mention that they could mostly be handled by wearables costing a tiny fraction of the Armill’s asking price.

Reiterating a jewelry-first perspective on the product, Bernhard stated, “This is built to a standard, and to an ideal, and the price is the price. It’s not for everybody, it’s very specific, very small volumes, it’s made in the UK so it’s extremely expensive to make, but it’s made at the very top level.”

Only 25 of the Apollo variant will be constructed, while the Orion and Virtus models will sell for $93,000 and $75,000, limited to 100 and 300 units worldwide.

Source: Christophe & Co