Runway Review: The Art of Being is the new label for Elizabeth Emanuel and is is Be-Utiful! Julie Anne Rhodes interviews the designer.
FocusOnStyle asked Julie Anne Rhodes, the former model, actress, award-winning personal chef, and author of the blog “Jewels” from The Roving Stove (from VIP entrances in Versace to service entrances in my apron) to interview her longtime friend, fashion designer Elizabeth Emanuel. Here, Julie Anne shares her chat with the designer famously knwn for for creating Princess Diana's, well very Princess-like, wedding dress.— S.H.
After ten years away from the catwalk, Elizabeth Emanuel's spring/summer 2011 collection dedicated to the Little Black Dress went down a storm in London, and the catwalk was packed tight with famous faces. Sonique sang throughout the classic but edgy show with an emphasis on bias cut and interesting silhouettes.
Fabrics in the ready-to-wear range appeared in varied shades of black and include silk moss crepe – chosen for its beautiful stretch and drape, and a black loop theme ran through both the dresses and the accessories.
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The special edition range featured silk moss crepe, duchess satin and Chantilly lace with a strong emphasis on texture and layering, incorporating a raggie dress style.
Two things went through my mind as I watched the show.
First I couldn't help imagining “I wonder if Princess Diana would be wearing these incredibly sexy, slinky dresses if she were still here today?” If the off the shoulder black dress that just sold in auction caused such a stir, these would surely cause a riot!
Then by the end of the show I was overwhelmed with emotion. After three decades in the business – Elizabeth still has the razor sharp edginess of the hippest of young designers, the vision of a creative genius, and the precision of a master in pulling the entire look together. I think my ever-so eloquent summary was, “WOW!” Once I recovered, it was “I'll have one of each, please!”
EM: We knew our lives would be changed forever.
JA: What commission came first? Did you already know about the wedding dress when you made the black dress that the newly engaged Diana wore? It caused such a stir, and turned the 19 year old from Shy Di into a fashion icon overnight!
EM: The black dress was a sample that was already made and hanging on the rail. By the time Diana wore the dress we had already been asked to make her wedding dress.
JA: Do you ever feel an attachment to specific pieces you've created? Did you harbor a secret desire to bid on the black dress that went for a whopping $276,000.00 in auction last May?
EM: The original black dress had been lost for many years and anyway we had never intended to put it back together. After 30 years David and I decided it was time to let go of our Royal Wedding Dress Archive collection and luckily found the black dress so that we could also put it in the auction. I'm glad it went to such a good home.
JA: Forgive my rudeness in asking, because divorce is never pleasant, but for you it also meant splitting up a very successful collaborative partnership. Was it difficult in the beginning to redefine your design perspective solo?
EM: I was responsible for most of the designs at Emanuel so I just carried on doing what I love to do!
JA: The list of celebrities and dignitaries you have dressed is as diverse as it is extensive. What do you think the secret is to your versatility and ability to design for every size, shape, social background, and event?
EM: I see every design as a challenge and put emphasis on the best features of the wearer so that they feel wonderful wearing my designs.
JA: You made a lifetime dream come true for me when I got to wear some of your exquisite period costumes. Was it driven as much for you by a little girl's desire to play dress up?
EM: As a little girl I used to love dressing up my Sindy doll and especially loved raiding my mothers wardrobe and trying on her shoes and dresses. I also loved painting and costume design and was especially inspired by the colors and textures found in costumes from the ballet.
JA: You've obviously been in massive demand for wedding dresses, couture gowns, period costumes for films television and pop videos – even the Royal Ballet Company, plus you have designed uniforms for Virgin Airlines in addition to your high fashion collections. Is there a medium that you prefer to the rest, or do they inspire and feed off of each other?
EM: I love design challenges and each challenge inspires another.
JA: One of the things I love most about your work is your modern twist on various periods throughout history. If there were a time machine that could transport you to another era, where would you like to travel and why?
EM: I love fashion from the 18th and early 19th century. I love the fact that everything was made by hand and the extraordinary details and beautiful hand dyed colors found in clothing from the period. Also that the dresses were so feminine and flattering.
JA: Tell me a little about how your new line the “Art of Being” came about, and what has inspired the little black dress collection?
EM: I lost the use of my name many years ago, but five years ago I was able to set up again under a new label Art of Being. I love creating textures using fabric and embroidery in the same way as an artist uses paint. It's a technique I learnt when I designed costumes for the Royal Ballet. In a sense a woman's body becomes the canvas for my art – hence the name of my label, Art of Being. The business was initially couture but I had the opportunity to design ready to wear for the first time this season and the theme of the Little Black Dress seemed perfect since everyone needs one in their wardrobe.
JA: I'm intrigued by your ability to design the epitome of billowing romance to provocative, burgeoning on risqué, yet classy enough to pull it off. Which end of the spectrum is most prevalent in your own closet?
EM: I'm afraid my own wardrobe is quite boring. All my creativity goes into designing for others. I love to wear black and because I am only 5ft tall I tend to wear very simple styles.
JA: I have to ask, do you design ALL of your own clothes, or is it sometimes the case of the cobblers' children going to school barefoot?
EM: I try to only wear clothes I have designed myself but my designs tend to be more for evening or dressing up. For day time I mostly wear leggings and I love layering of knits and cotton jersey tops.
JA: What is next for the Art of Being, and what is next for you? Is there a frontier you've yet to conquer?
EM: I'd like to bring in investment so I can develop Art of Being into a major international luxury brand. — Julie Anne Rhodes