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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at The Met: Stella McCartney Interview Sponsored by Donna Ricco

“For years, the word ‘dress’ was something girls associated with their mothers and grandmothers. Now I have people coming up to me and saying ‘Wow, Donna! What a great idea, a dress company.’ I just laugh. I’ve been wearing dresses since I opened the company 20 years ago. But I think it’s so great – not just that women like me are loving the idea of wearing dresses again, but that a whole new generation is discovering them, too. I mean, the dress is totally new to them. But suddenly, it makes such perfect sense…”

A conversation with Donna Ricco at her New York studio (a studio that, far from corporate, hums with the quiet chatter of assistants and the sounds of sewing machines) reveals that there is a great deal about the woman herself that also makes perfect sense. “I think growing up in the Midwest has helped keep me grounded,” she says, dodging a dressmaker’s dummy before sitting down. “I’m focused. My values haven’t changed. They’re still about keeping things straightforward and simple.” Defining herself as an “optimist,” and a woman for whom the design process remains “intensely personal,” she adds, “I have students coming into my studio who think that my life is like some episode of Project Runway. It isn’t, of course. When I first taught myself to sew as a teenager, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a fashion designer. I wasn’t making clothes for my Barbie at age 3 or reading Vogue or anything. I did it for my own pleasure and because I was good at it.”

After three years spent pursuing a Fine Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Ricco moved to the fashion department of a small liberal arts college nearby, Mount Mary College. “I didn’t know if I wanted to be a commercial artist or a teacher,” she says. “And I wasn’t sure I could support myself as an artist. But I had been sewing all those years and experimenting. Just being creative.” Her hands-on experience with some of the more technical aspects of design such as draping, pattern-making and illustration transformed the teenage pleasures of sewing into the passion that would shape her career. “I finally subscribed to Women’s Wear Daily, the bible of fashion, and would page through it every week at home. It seemed so exciting, the amazing stories about New York. It really did inspire me.” For some, her decision to “drop everything and move to New York” with her husband and partner-to-be might seem reckless or impulsive. For her, it was “just common sense. We were both ready to do something different and he knew I had some talent. So we went.”

Three children and 20-odd years later, Donna Ricco is as committed and alive as ever to the challenges of running a successful dress design company. “I am my customer,” she explains. “And I’m doing this to make women feel good about themselves. After all this time, I’ve learned that if I know what works for me, if I can wear it and feel great in it, my customer will, too.” As for the world’s recent love affair with the dress? Ricco believes that it has more to do with women than with the ins and outs of fashion. “Women are re-thinking their lives and how they want to present themselves. They exercise and take care of their skin. They work at it and they’re feeling confident about who they are. Wearing a dress is a natural expression of that confidence.” Pausing for a moment, she laughs. “It’s also part of keeping things 
straightforward and simple, you know?”

This Whom You Know video is brought to you by Donna Ricco.
The spring 2011 Costume Institute exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, will be on view May 4 through July 31 (preceded on May 2 by The Costume Institute Gala Benefit). The exhibition will celebrate the late Mr. McQueen's extraordinary contributions to fashion. From his Central Saint Martins postgraduate collection in 1992 to his final runway presentation, which took place after his death in February 2010, Mr. McQueen challenged and expanded our understanding of fashion beyond utility to a conceptual expression of culture, politics, and identity.
The exhibition is made possible by Alexander McQueen™.
Additional support is provided in partnership with American Express and Condé Nast.
"Alexander McQueen's iconic designs constitute the work of an artist whose medium of expression was fashion," said Thomas P. Campbell, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "This landmark exhibition continues the Museum's tradition of celebrating designers who changed the course of history and culture by creating new possibilities."
To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, the Museum's Costume Institute Benefit will take place on Monday, May 2, 2011. The evening's Honorary Chairs are François-Henri Pinault and Salma Hayek, and the Co-Chairs are Colin Firth, Stella McCartney, and Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue. This fundraising event is The Costume Institute's main source of annual funding for exhibitions, acquisitions, and capital improvements.
"Alexander McQueen was best known for his astonishing and extravagant runway presentations, which were given dramatic scenarios and narrative structures that suggested avant-garde installation and performance art," said Andrew Bolton, Curator, The Costume Institute. "His fashions were an outlet for his emotions, an expression of the deepest, often darkest, aspects of his imagination. He was a true romantic in the Byronic sense of the word – he channeled the sublime."

Exhibition Overview
The exhibition, in the Metropolitan Museum's second-floor Cantor Galleries, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and 70 accessories from Mr. McQueen's prolific 19-year career. Drawn primarily from the Alexander McQueen Archive in London, with some pieces from the Givenchy Archive in Paris as well as private collections, signature designs including the bumster trouser, the kimono jacket, and the three-point "origami" frock coat will be on view. McQueen's fashions often referenced the exaggerated silhouettes of the 1860s, 1880s, 1890s, and 1950s, but his technical ingenuity always imbued his designs with an innovative sensibility that kept him at the vanguard.
Galleries will showcase recurring themes and concepts in McQueen's work. "The Romantic Mind" will examine his technical ingenuity, which combined the precision of tailoring and patternmaking with the spontaneity of draping and dressmaking. "Romantic Gothic" will highlight McQueen's historicism, particularly his engagement with the Victorian Gothic and opposites such as life and death, darkness and light. "Romantic Nationalism" will look at McQueen's patriotic impulses, including his reflections on his Scottish heritage, his narrative approach to fashion, and his fascination with British history. "Romantic Exoticism" will explore influences from other cultures on the designer's imagination, especially China and Japan. "Romantic Primitivism" will capture McQueen's engagement with the ideal of the "noble savage," while "Romantic Naturalism" will consider his enduring interest in the forms and raw materials of nature.
Six McQueen collections that explore his engagement with the Romantic sublime and the dialectics of beauty and horror will be featured as groupings in the galleries – Highland Rape (autumn/winter 1995-96), Number 13 (spring/ summer 1999), VOSS (spring/summer 2001), Irere (spring/summer 2003), Plato's Atlantis (spring/summer 2010), and Angels and Demons (autumn/winter 2010-11). "Cabinet of Curiosities" will include various atavistic and fetishized accessories produced in collaboration with the milliners Dai Rees and Philip Treacy, and the jewelers Shaun Leane, Erik Halley, and Sarah Harmarnee. The Cabinet will also display video highlights from ten of McQueen's renowned runway presentations, including Joan (autumn/winter 1998–99), What a Merry-Go-Round(autumn/winter 2001–02), and They Shoot Horses Don't They? (spring/summer 2004).

Credits and Related Programs
The exhibition is organized by Andrew Bolton, Curator, with the support of Harold Koda, Curator in Charge, both of the Met's Costume Institute. Sam Gainsbury and Joseph Bennett, the production designers for Alexander McQueen's fashion shows, will serve as the exhibition's creative director and production designer, respectively. All head treatments and masks will be designed by Guido.
The design for the 2011 Costume Institute Gala Benefit will be created by Sam Gainsbury and Joseph Bennett with Raul Avila.

A book, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty by Andrew Bolton, will accompany the exhibition.  It will feature a thematic overview of Mr. McQueen's career, with an introduction by Susannah Frankel, fashion editor of The Independent, and an interview by Tim Blanks with Sarah Burton, creative director for Alexander McQueen, who worked closely with the designer for 14 years.  It will be printed in a special edition featuring new photographs by Sølve Sundsbø, with a lenticular image on the cover.  The book ($45 for a hardcover) will be published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed worldwide by Yale University Press.

The Museum's website at, will feature the exhibition.

Alexander McQueen™ is a trademark of Autumnpaper Limited.

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