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The Secrets of Murano Glass

The Exquisite Alchemy of a Timeless Craft.
Apr 19, 2021

The true zeniths of human artistry and creativity have manifested themselves at various points throughout the ages. There is little argument about the fact that, with its combination of alchemical practices, intensely secretive production methods and practices, and striking visual beauty, Murano glass is a superlative example of fine Italian craftsmanship, with an astonishing breadth of history and knowledge forming the foundation of each exquisite item.

While the beauty and skill exhibited by the wonders of Murano glassware are more than enough to warrant its reputation, prestige, and its overall aura of fascination, there is far more to this singular artistic lineage and its treasures than first meets the eye. The story of Murano glass is one confined to a diminutive Venetian island, surrounded by lore and legend, and imbued with alchemical experimentation.

GUARDING THE GLORY OF MURANO

The peerless glassmakers of Murano revelled in their status as alchemists and craftsmen of the highest order, and their work was considered an unrivalled treasure of the Venetian Republic. Fuelling the fires of intrigue surrounding their truly unique wares, rumours arose regarding the artisans of Murano and the practices they undertook. Perhaps the most enduring of these was the claim that glassmakers faced severe penalties were they ever to leave the island, for fear that their knowledge be spread further afield. Fascinatingly, this was for a time true. So closely guarded were the secrets of Murano, extreme punitive measures ranging from imprisonment to hard labour and even execution were in place throughout the Middle Ages, awaiting those who risked exposing the island’s enigmas.

Despite being little more than early explorations in the chemical and physical sciences, alchemy was viewed with great suspicion by the wider public, who frequently interpreted the alchemist’s laboratories as centres of witchcraft and darker arts. With its smelting of metals, use of powdered elements, and the resulting dazzling colours seemingly plucked from the earth, the objets d’art of Murano glass were considered at many points in history to have a magical status, most notably the ability to detect and neutralise poison. 

Murano glass designing technique. Photo credit ©Marina Lanotte.

THE CREATION OF MURANO GLASS

Fine, thin, refined and coloured glassware did not originate in 13th century Venice. Such artistry, and the alchemy which bolsters its foundations, would have been brought to the Italian peninsula from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and beyond. However, with medieval and renaissance Venice being a hub of culture, artistry, and trade unlike any the world had seen before, it is perhaps unsurprising that Murano glass garnered such a powerful reputation across the continent.

While many of the alchemical secrets of Murano were lost to time and political instability, surviving items which date back to the 15th century demonstrate the techniques used, and showcase the styles which gained popularity. For example, we know that Murano glassblowers burned quick-melting salts of tin and titanium to create iridescent finishes on their creations, and the famed avventurina wares, which are flecked with gold, were made by including tiny copper crystals in the glass. With the use of powerful furnaces, the Murano glassmakers could experiment with the colours present in metal oxides and use these to create vivid masterpieces. The synergy between scientific understanding and the creation of beauty had never been stronger and was arguably at a zenity hitherto unmatched. 

The 15th and 16th centuries, a feverishly productive era for Venice as a whole, were times of unrivalled innovation for Murano, and saw the perfection of cristallo; the art of creating crystal-clear glass for domestic and decorative usage. The millefiori technique came around the same time, which saw filigree canes of coloured glass bonded to create striking floral patterns. Towards the end of the 16th century, Murano’s alchemists and glassblowers were completely rewriting the rulebook of their craft; glass was being made to resemble marble, and enamelling and diamond engraving vastly expanded decorative possibilities, leading to increased demand and even further artistic experimentation.

A unique synergy between scientific understanding and the creation of beauty in Murano Glass.

REVIVING ANCIENT ALCHEMY IN THE 20th CENTURY

The original Murano glassworks remained a cornerstone of Venetian artisanship and industry for over five hundred years, until the glassworks were eventually closed in the mid 19th century. However, the artistic spirit is rarely suppressed for long. In the 20th century, the legacy of Murano was rekindled and resurrected by a handful of dedicated Venetian glassblowers, each keen to embrace the alchemy of Murano, explore the historical techniques, and immerse themselves in the original practices while building upon them with contemporary knowledge.

While the Murano glassware of the early 20th century was undeniably as impressive as ever in its skilful use of colour, clarity, and thinness, it was being revived amid Art Deco and Art Nouveau’s maelstrom of creativity, as well as alongside the wealth of other new artistic schools of the time, each bursting with innovative idioms and ideas. Murano glass, which continued to rely on historic patterns and renaissance sensibilities, was in danger of becoming something it had never been before: nostalgic. The turn of the 20th century saw much-needed efforts to instil new direction and a formalised system into the island’s output. While a new internal hierarchy led to certain highlights of the era, namely by glassblowers and artisans, it wasn’t until the expansion of the luxury market in the 1980s that Murano glass truly found its voice once more. 

A renewed market in search of uniquity and a sense of heritage, and a keenness to put individual artistry and localised craftsmanship before mass production led to a contemporary boost in Murano glassware. The increased demand resulted in a more artist-driven industry and allowed Murano glassblowers and designers to produce works of greater creativity, more in line with modern tastes, and with a greater emphasis on the unique and bespoke than ever before. 

Murano glass is the result of a millennium of handcrafted tradition, enriched by the intrigue of the unknown. Imbued with mystery, bolstered by mythology, and guarding alchemical secrets of eras past, the treasures of Murano reflect a shared desire to gaze in wonder at objects of beauty; elemental secrets, coloured by an unending human endeavour for perfection.

Murano glass, when craftsmanship becomes art. Photo credit ©Alex Mirzak.

THE EXQUISITE ALCHEMY AT LA PRAIRIE

The art of transformation and formulation at La Prairie is emblematic of the precious Platinum Rare collection. Just as in the case of Murano glass, the process begins with one singular ingredient, subsequently transformed through a meticulous process of pristine craftsmanship. Appreciated for more than its sheer beauty, platinum is both tensile and durable, allowing it to withstand the test of time. 

Artists began to value platinum for its endless malleable possibilities, allowing them to mould this precious metal, sculpt with it, and fashion it into creations that breached the limits of their crafts. Before it can be shaped for casting, platinum must be heated to the astronomical temperature of 1770° Celsius. From there, it can be transformed into an endless array of interpretations, from mirroring liquid to massive, imposing blocks, and from delicate filigree, to infinitesimally fine threads. 

It is this fascinating quality of platinum that prompted La Prairie to develop the Platinum Rare Collection – to reveal, to highlight, and to showcase the inherent, timeless beauty of the skin.

Platinum Rare Collection.

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The Masterpiece Defined

Fascinating. Surprising. Timeless. From creative work to masterpiece.
Apr 19, 2021

What disparate threads, insights and ingenuity come together in the making of a masterpiece? Be it a painting, viewed by millions through the centuries, a work of architecture that reimagines what a functional structure can be or a sculpture that alters the way in which a society understands itself, what are the elements necessary to elevate a creation to a masterpiece?

"It became evident that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to articulate a definition of masterpiece that could be accepted universally," former Louvre director Henri Loyrette wrote, in the catalogue for "The Louvre and the Masterpiece," a 2009 exhibition at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Certainly, a precise summary may be hard to grasp. But we know that they are gifts to us all, objects which live beyond the limits of time. They are different anything that has come before. They teach us something new, they speak of a place in time and culture, they communicate with us in a unique way.

The Mona Lisa is the example that comes most quickly to mind. There are countless Renaissance portraits. And yet, the mystique of the seated, dark-haired woman’s smile has rendered Leonardo da Vinci’s work one which has intoxicated experts and mere observers alike. According to Louvre Curator Jean-Pierre Cuzin: “The entire history of portraiture afterward depends on the Mona Lisa. If you look at all the other portraits… if you look at Picasso, at everyone you want to name, all of them were inspired by this painting.” 
This influence and intrigue, refracted through the centuries, is surely a mark of a true masterpiece. From questions of her true identity to revelations of the original brush strokes hidden under the painting’s many layers of pigment, the Mona Lisa has never ceased to surprise. But this intriguing quality alone is not enough to make a masterpiece. 

One could argue that a masterpiece begins by breaking the mould. The convention-shattering Bauhaus School of Design, for example, with its stark focus on the removal of all but the necessary, favouring minimal lines and clean finishes – so very different from the other, grander architectural and decorative conventions of the early 20th century – resulted in ground-breaking structural design, as seen in the iconic minimalist Villa Tugendhat in Brno, in the Czech Republic. 

The aesthetic principles of the Bauhaus movement’s first director, Walter Gropius, as well as those of his successors, Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, reverberate around the globe today. They are evident in the 20th-century tower blocks of Europe, with their lack of adornment and dedication to simplicity. And yet, in the beginning, the Bauhaus school of faced persecution by conservative political powers, fearing its radical innovation and commitment to new ways of thinking. 

Perhaps the most startling paradox of a true masterpiece is the way in which it is both iconic - endlessly depicted and referenced - and yet forever mysterious. Imagine the infinite replications of symbolist Austrian artist Gustav Klimt’s 1912 Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, also known as ‘The Lady in Gold’ - forever followed by questions as to the exact nature of the painter’s relationship to his muse. 

In this case, the curiosity stems – at least in part – from the resplendent use of shimmering tones: 

“The golden image of Adele Bloch-Bauer I cast a spell over me even as an art history student,” said Dr. Tobias Natter, Vienna-based art historian.

It could also be due to the unique historical context in which the piece was produced when women were striving for educational and social freedom. 

“Gustav Klimt’s brilliant artistic career coincided with a period of profound cultural, social and political ferment that witnessed fundamental changes in the position women occupied in society,” notes writer and curator Dr. Jill Lloyd, in Natter’s 2016 book Klimt and the Women of Vienna's Golden Age, 1900–1918. 

This curiosity about both the techniques used and the social context in which the work was produced highlights its status as a masterpiece.

Be it through its mystery, its influence, its beauty or its context, a masterpiece above all tells a story – of what has been and what is now. It draws lines from those who came before to us in our present world, from each individual to the other, through shared values and appreciation for the timeless. 

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907 (oil, silver & gold on canvas), Klimt, Gustav (1862-1918) / Neue Galerie, New York, USA / De Agostini Picture Library / E. Lessing / Bridgeman Images

 

Art, Masterpiece, Gustav Klimt, Bauhaus

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Majestic Matterhorn: Behind the Lens

A symbol of eternity and audacious beauty, the Matterhorn is the iconic image of Switzerland — one that represents La Prairie.
Apr 19, 2021

Such is the mountain’s breathtaking allure, it has been an inspiration to countless artists for centuries. John Ruskin, the great Victorian art critic and social commentator, declared it “the most noble cliff in Europe”. He not only painted the Matterhorn, he also took the first photograph of it in 1849.

The majestic mountain continues to captivate artists and audiences today.

Nenad Saljic’s haunting black-and-white photographs of the mountain have earned him two National Geographic Awards, and resulted in the honour of being named Professional Landscape Photographer of the Year at the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards.

Nenad, who was born in Croatia, became enraptured with mountaineering on a school hiking trip when he was only 12 years old. Seven years later, he climbed Mont Blanc. But it wasn’t until his 40s that Nenad first set eyes on the bewitching Matterhorn Mountain.

“That was love at first sight,” admitted Nenad, who now lives in Zermatt, which boasts arresting views of the mountain. In 2009, he first began photographing the Matterhorn, a project that lasted several years until 2015.

The fulfilling endeavour resulted in several thousand portraits and his book "Matterhorn: Portrait of a Mountain." It features 43 black-and-white duotone photographs accompanied by a timeline of the most significant events in the Matterhorn’s history.

Photo credit: Nenad Saljic

“There are several aspects of the Matterhorn that have attracted me,” Nenad pronounced. “Artistically, it is one of the world’s most magnificent mountains – with its pyramidal shape and solitary position it could be considered an ideal mountain. The Matterhorn even produces its own banner clouds due to the special atmospheric conditions.” 

Nenad is also attracted to its rich history. The Matterhorn had long been deemed inaccessible, and it remained unclimbed long after most of the other great Alpine peaks had been reached. Edward Whymper finally conquered the mountain in 1865, marking the end of the golden age of Alpinism.

“The triumph and tragedy of this feat mark the epitome of our human desire to explore and venture beyond our limitations, simultaneously reminding us of how great and how small we are,” asserted Nenad. “The Matterhorn is a product of geological processes that transcend human beings and our concept of time.”

Photo credit: Nenad Saljic

A trained mountaineer and caver, he has never climbed a mountain that has had such a pull on him. “I think there is a Buddhist saying that the best view of a mountain is not from the top, because once you are on the summit you cannot see the mountain itself. This is a nice philosophical excuse, at least,” he stated.

Eternally captivated, Nenad finds that time gradually slows down when he is working, and eventually seems to stop entirely.

Matterhorn, Switzerland, Photography, Artist, Nenad Saljic, Art

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MELLERIO AND THE ORIGIN OF HAUTE-JOAILLERIE

Cultivating heritage as a way to move forward.
Apr 19, 2021

Power and prestige, innovation and preservation, unrivalled beauty and far-reaching heritage: Such are the pillars which support Mellerio, the world’s oldest haute-joaillerie house. Across fourteen generations and four centuries, Mellerio has decorated monarchs and provided items of jewellery for society’s highest figures and establishments. Today, this eminent family continues to create custom-made objects, highly sought-after by private buyers and collectors alike.

Enriched by their traditions, driven by craftsmanship, and helped along the way by the patronage of powerful historical figures, Mellerio deftly mines its past as a powerful dynamic force, and balances tradition and exploration as twin cornerstones of its identity. The House’s pursuit of brilliance in luxury has always been based upon a relentless inventiveness, and its era-spanning past provides a foundation on which its future is continually constructed anew. 

Fourteen Generations of Unrivalled Excellence

Prior to their fortuitous relocation to Paris from the Lombardy village of Craveggia in the 16th century, the Mellerio family were travelling silversmiths, carrying their wares and crafted items from place to place. However, the company founder, Jean-Marie Mellerio, then under the guidance of Queen Marie de’ Medici, decided to take his family firm to new heights and to an enduring home in the French capital in the early years of the 17th century. Thus began a deep and lasting connection of the Maison with royalty and regality; one which saw the family working for many Royals from Marie Antoinette to Empress Josephine, and from the Maharani of Kapurthala to the royal houses of Spain, the Netherlands, and beyond.  

The origins of these mutually beneficial royal associations have slipped into apocrypha over time. The most enduring of these legends involves silversmith Jean-Marie Mellerio helping to foil an assassination plot against King Louis XIII. This supposedly led to the royal decree by Marie de’ Medici in 1613 which granted special privileges to the Mellerio family, and positioned them as favourites at the French royal court. 

That Mellerio continued to gain the patronage of royal dynasties across the centuries, legends aside, should come as no great surprise: after all, who better to decorate the great dynasties of the world than a great dynasty of artists? Establishing the name of Mellerio as jewellers of unrivalled prestige, the Maison developed a clear mission: to ensure that each successive generation of Mellerio artists remained deeply aware of their heritage, whilst envisioning the path laid ahead. 

A jeweller from Mellerio’s workshop working on the placement of a precious gem. Credit ©Mellerio

The lengthy list of ‘firsts’ achieved by members of each generation clearly demonstrates such vision in action. The Mellerio were the first family to open a shop on the esteemed Rue de la Paix, a move made by Francois Mellerio in 1815. A few years later, in 1854, the Mellerio family patented an innovative flexible shank setting, furthering the evolution of haute-joaillerie as a whole, whilst also serving as a reminder of the company’s origins as silversmiths of the highest order. 

The impetus to perpetuate the past while continually remaining tied to the contemporary times is a defining feature of Mellerio. It is embedded in certain unutterably delicate items, deemed as among the company’s highest points in their illustrious history. Among them, The Mellerio Shell Tiara, a unique and dazzling piece made for the 1867 Paris Exhibition, which was best known as being a public favourite of Sofia, the former Queen of Spain. Being the first ever item of jewellery to use platinum as a principal decorative metal, the Mellerio Shell Tiara represented a significant milestone for the industry. The blending of the contemporary and the timeless, bringing together high fashion and tradition, led to a showpiece which has radiantly shone as a key part of a dynastic convention.

The Mellerio Shell Tiara, made for the 1867 Paris Exhibition. Credit ©Mellerio

Protecting Treasures, Preserving Values

Each successive generation of the Mellerio family has been meticulous in the preservation of every single commission, receipt, letter, and design made over the past few hundred years, resulting in a jewellery archive at the Maison Mellerio unlike any other. 

This emphasis on preservation played a key role in the history of Mellerio, not least during the turbulent years at the end of the 18th century. The revolution of 1789 was perhaps the most obvious and world-changing of Mellerio’s disruptive phases, as it broke the foundation the Mellerio family had established for themselves alongside the French monarchy. 

Before the fleeing Mellerio family made their journey to the Spanish royal court, the House made sure to protect many items favoured by the doomed royals, as a gesture of respect to their most esteemed clients. The Mellerio archives in Craveggia, Lombardy, where Mellerio was born, still feature clothing worn by Marie Antoinette and a host of royal seals and documents; further evidence of the close bond and mutual respect which existed between the House of Mellerio and the court of Versailles. 

The recent Madreperla earings attest of Mellerio’s long  tradition of innovation and high craftsmanship. Credit ©Mellerio

The commitment to preservation, protection, and resistance throughout eras of great unrest is pivotal in understanding the Mellerio timeline. Indeed, the history of this great family has been typified as being made up of several distinct cycles, including three key components: anchoring, disruption, and resilience. The jewellery House has repeatedly entrenched itself within a location and an era and was each time reborn after being upended and disrupted in some dramatic manner. The revolution, the occupation of Paris during the Second World War, and untimely deaths of key family members would all be counted on such a list. This cycle has always invariably ended with a newly-established Maison Mellerio into a new age, with steely determination and a wealth of new ideas, patrons, and influences.

Inheriting the Past, Crafting the Future

The family as a chain and its duty to preserve the past is only one side of the glittering coin defining Mellerio’s identity. The House of Mellerio keenly recognises their ancient heritage, forged by individuals influenced by the style and fashions of their time, who brought their own unique talents to the family. Jean-Francois Mellerio, who oversaw the company in the mid-19th century, put great emphasis on draughtsmanship and painting in the design process. To this day, all Mellerio designs are first carried out with brush and paint, partly to ensure the highest levels of quality, and partly to continue the techniques he championed.

Such pioneers’ craftsmanship and vision have led to the creation of genuine wonders. The imitation of nature, as seen in the Peacock Aigrette presented to the Maharani Rani Prem Kaur, remains one of Mellerio’s most iconic pieces. This item, so pristine with the feathers, colours, and the bejewelment of the bird, was crafted thanks to the use of groundbreaking new techniques, bringing together multiple enamels, gold, and diamonds, making this treasured creation one of the most impressive examples of Mellerio’s innovative talent.

Peacock Aigrette: Mellerio created this piece in 1905 for Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala. It is featured in portraits of the Maharaja’s fifth wife, Rani Prem Kaur. Credit: @Mellerio

 As the new millennium dawned, the company philosophy of excellence, timeless craftsmanship, and forward-thinking design was proven intact once more. A powerful example came in the year 2005, which saw the release and patenting of the Mellerio Exclusive Cut; a stunning oval diamond cut made up of fifty-seven glittering facets and offering unrivalled brilliance. One of their latest series, the Isola Bella collection, celebrates the baroque beauty of the palace of Lake Maggiore, and clearly demonstrate the house’s ongoing commitment to blending the classical with the contemporary. The striking Madreperla ring and earrings in this collection recall the splendour and vivid mastery seen on items such as the Peacock Aigrette, and provide a testament to Mellerio’s dedication to unwavering excellence in a modern haute-joaillerie market. 

The Madreperla ring from a recent collection. Credit ©Mellerio

Preservation and commitment to the contemporary world, far from being polar opposites, are two of the key pillars of the Mellerio family — values that have allowed the House to continually dazzle with new ideas, while consistently paying homage to a past which has been providing endless inspiration. By addressing their illustrious past, Mellerio carve new paths for future generations to follow. The essence of the contemporary never ceases to evolve; that of the timeless, however, remains eternal.

Mellerio, High Jewellery, Heritage, Haute

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THE HOUSE OF WORTH AND THE ORIGIN OF HAUTE-COUTURE

Audacity and rarity at the root of a legend.
Apr 19, 2021

The world of fashion is a complex, cyclical, and ever-evolving one, a patchwork of influences, iconic figures, changing tastes and trends. However, unpick the historical thread of haute-couture and follow it back through the decades, it would eventually lead to a singular, forward-thinking figure: one whose bold ideas and unique vision laid the groundwork for the world of fashion as we know it today.

Charles Frederick Worth is widely referred to as the father of haute-couture and the founding figure of fashion as an industry and artform. Through his creations, his concepts, and his entirely new ways of approaching dressmaking, Charles Frederick Worth was able to define the image of his own era and provide inspiration for a multitude of designers that followed. Taking inspiration from the glories of times passed, while fixing his sights firmly on the future of his industry, Worth crystallised the flamboyance and beauty of the present. In doing so, he created ripples which are still felt today in the world of haute couture, which will continue to influence and inform our concept of luxury as the future unfolds.

From Humble Roots to Haute-Couture

Born in 1825 into an impoverished family in Lincolnshire, England, Charles Frederick Worth’s entry into the world of fashion was established at a young age. He spent much of his youth working as an apprentice at two different textile merchants in London. 

During his time away from the workshop, he would gaze for hours at the wonders of the National Gallery, fixated by the beauty of the dresses captured in oil paintings of historic queens and aristocratic ladies. It was in those echoing halls that Worth’s unrivalled sense of style and artistry first began to take shape, and from the billowing gowns, exquisite trimmings, and masterful artistry of previous eras, he started forming an eye for detail that would define his own future, and which would play a key role in shaping the world of fashion as we know it. 

Portrait of Charles Frederick Worth by Nadar Félix. Credit ©Ministère de la Culture -Médiathèque de l'architecture et du patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Félix Nadar.

Worth’s insatiable appetite for new ideas was forged in the heat of an art scene rediscovering the purity of a past, one which was free from the increasing mechanisation of England’s industrial revolution. Medieval masquerades were all the rage in London’s high society, and Romanticism and Neoclassicism were en vogue during the designer’s formative years. Worth’s path, which would combine the brilliance of regal history with the ever more flamboyant demands of high society, was being paved ahead of him. It was a path that would see his work raise fashion to the status of an unquestioned art form, and naturally, it led from London towards the glittering streets of Imperial Paris. 

Upon arriving in Paris at age twenty, Worth quickly found work with Gagelin, a major textiles company which refined and furthered what he had learned during his apprenticeship. Ever the ambitious social climber, Gagelin allowed the young artisan to open a dressmaking department as an extension of their business. It was not long before his eye-catching, distinctive work became the talk of the town; so much so that his trailblazing gowns and creations were featured in the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, and the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1855. This rapid ascendency allowed the young Worth to make a name for himself in Paris’ most fashionable circles, yet his star was still to rise considerably further.

Capturing the Essence of the Bespoke

Paris in the 1850s was a city in the midst of an entirely new cultural dynamism, led by the restoration of the royal house, and with Napoleon III crowning the city as a show home for new European ideas and fashions. When Napoleon wed Empress Eugenie, her exquisite fashion sense set the template for the women of high society in Paris to follow. The demand for luxury goods, especially luxurious items of dress, soared to new, dizzying heights.

In 1858, Worth was able to open his own store to showcase his creations and his new approaches to high fashion, and once Empress Eugenie began regularly stepping through his doors on rue de la Paix and commissioning works from Worth, his reputation exploded. Such patronage, such runaway popularity, and such a privileged position allowed him the full freedom to follow his instincts and passions, and realise what he once dreamed of whilst sitting on the viewing benches at the National Gallery. 

Portrait of Empress Eugénie, wearing a Worth dress, by Jean Marius Fouque, after Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Credit ©RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Michel Urtado.

Charismatic to the core, Empress Eugenie and her court were deeply charmed by the Englishman, and they were keen to show off the talents of their new favourite dressmaker at various state functions. Society balls at court, the intimate receptions at the Tuileries, and events like horse races in Longchamp became the 19th century equivalent of today’s fashion shows. The Parisian ladies of high society would display their latest items of haute-couture, which would be admired by figures from throughout the Second Empire and the wider world. 

While Worth’s eccentric, flamboyant and heavily elaborate designs borrowed extensively from a quasi-imagined past, his reputation and the flurry of excitement surrounding him was founded on entirely new practices which had simply never been seen before. He was, on the one hand, committed to meeting the ever-more luxurious demands of his clientele. On the other, he broke new ground by dictating the terms on which his dresses were designed, fitted and created. Prior to Worth’s arrival as a fashion designer par excellence, ladies would have selected  fabrics themselves, and their clothes would have been made from pre-existing templates. Worth’s vision, however, was based upon the uniqueness of each silhouette and fit, and from reimagining design features from prior centuries, acting as flourishes for thoroughly modern designs. In such practices, his clothing would epitomise the essence of the bespoke. Through his singularity of artistic expression, and his unshakeable belief in his talents, ideas, and creative drive, the notion of haute-couture was born.

Inventiveness to Echo Through the Ages

True artistry in any discipline rarely comes about as a result of following the crowd, and Worth was a man destined to lead with his unending roster of industry-defining ideas. Forever working by his own rules, The House of Worth was the first of its kind in many ways. His pioneering showrooms used live models rather than mannequins to display his dresses, which then would be customised and fitted to the client’s unique body shape or personal style. Furthermore, nobody prior to Worth had entertained the notion of the seasonal collection, nor had they explored bringing their designs and ideas to a truly international market. Worth was keen, from as early as 1855, to export his most original models to London and elsewhere in Europe, and by the 1860s, Worth creations were being purchased from the most luxurious department stores of New York, and beyond.

Originality, boldness and inventiveness were the core principles to which Charles Worth was committed. It is often claimed his designs were the first to ever be recognisably masterpieces of their creator. It is not easy to imagine just how groundbreaking that must have been; for the very first time, the craft of dressmaking and fashion had been elevated to the status of a high art, driven by innovation, inspiration, and with the vision of the artist taking precedence over the whims or wishes of the client. The essence of putting an individual stamp onto his work was not merely metaphorical, either, as Worth was also the first to add a signed label to this clothing. While the labels were originally printed onto the interior of the waistband, his name was so renowned that the ladies wearing his clothes would reverse the waistband, in order to display the label as a key feature of their bespoke dresses. The designer label, in the most literal sense, was thus brought into being.

Etiquette : Worth, 7, rue de la Paix, Paris Vers 1875. Localisation : Etats-Unis, Philadelphie (Pa.), Philadelphia Museum of Art. Credit ©The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image Philadelphia Museum of Art

The heady, extravagant, and opulent years of the Second Empire were, of course, not to last, and Worth lived long enough to see its collapse and the disappearance of the Parisian royal court. However, due to the new paradigms in fashion dreamt up by Charles Worth, the days of traditional dressmaking had by this time disappeared forever. As with the dawn of every great artistic movement, the world of fashion had been utterly redrawn, and the demand for bespoke items, conjured from the hands of singular artists, would never waver thereafter. Haute-couture had well and truly arrived, and in the creation of this artform, Charles Worth tore up the rulebook, and  wrote one anew on pages of velvet, lace, and silk.

Worth, High-Fashion, Rarity, Haute

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BLANCPAIN AND THE ORIGIN OF HAUTE-HORLOGERIE

Innovation as the core of Savoir-Fare.
Apr 19, 2021

To measure and mark the passage of time is a uniquely human endeavour. Since our earliest ancestors recognised the lengthening and shortening of shadows across the day, we have attempted to quantify the passage of one moment to the next. Vast stone circles, hoisted into place to frame the solstices and equinoxes of the year, gave way to rudimentary candle-clocks. Sundials of varied size, shape, and accuracy led to tolling pendulums, which in turn gave rise to mechanical timepieces, quartz watches, and the digital displays of today.

Since 1735, the Swiss watch company Blancpain has upheld a dedication to the heights of excellence in timepieces creation and, as the oldest operating watch brand in the world, it continues to capture the imaginations of watch collectors everywhere. Across more than two centuries, Blancpain has demonstrated that innovation and tradition can sit hand-in-hand, and lead to results which defined—and then redefined—the watchmaking industry as a whole. Ever committed to their dedication to the handmade, the bespoke, and the exemplary, Blancpain has never produced a quartz or digital timepiece. Despite this, or maybe thanks to it, the House has remained a consistent vanguard in the world of watchmaking, and continues to set the standard for so many others to follow.

Where Time Began: Jehan-Jacques Blancpain and the Founding of a Legend

The origins of Blancpain were humble in nature. The company founder, Jehan-Jacques Blancpain was a schoolteacher from a farming family in the Swiss municipality of Villeret, whose eclectic interests led him towards a fascination with watchmaking. In the early 18th century, he converted the upper floor of his farmhouse into a horology workshop, and began building mechanical watches while horses, cows, and other livestock bustled and brayed downstairs.

The year 1735 saw Jehan-Jacques Blancpain register himself as a horloger on an official property registry in Villeret, and it is from this date that the brand’s activities are considered to have been founded. Assisted by his wife and son Isaac, Jehan-Jacques began producing timepieces for local buyers and travelling merchants, and an upward trajectory was set which would continue for several generations. It is something of a tragedy that so few examples of those first watches have survived the eras; the Blancpain family did not originally trademark their creations under their own brand name.

From those earliest days, tinkering with pocket watch components among straw bales and farmyard equipment, all the way through to the flawless reputation that the Manufacture upholds today, Blancpain has proven to be pioneer in the truest sense of the word, constantly combining the classic with the forward-looking. One only has to look at popular timepiece series such as the Villeret Collection, which demonstrates an anchoring in haute horlogerie tradition juxtaposed with a contemporary face and technicality, to see these principles in action. 

The running equation of time, the most mythical of ‘’complications’’ innovations in the history of haute-horlogerie. Here represented in the Villeret piece. Credit: ©Blancpain

Blancpain was a company founded on the principles of passion, craftsmanship and long-term vision. As such, Jehan-Jacques Blancpain was able to lay a foundation, which led to some of the most significant horology innovations and inventions the industry has ever seen. 

Sharpness, Complexity, and Changing Times 

In 1815, Blancpain was headed by Frédéric-Louis Blancpain, the great-grandson of Jehan-Jacques. Frédéric-Louis was a man of considerable foresight and ambition, and he transformed Blancpain from a small-scale craft workshop into modern, industrial timepiece producer, embracing new machinery, methods, and approaches. Frédéric-Louis’ spirit of innovation and adaptation is what led to the development of ultra-flat movements for Blancpain’s Lépine-style pocket watches. These movements allowed for the construction of slimmer, more elegant timepieces, and opened the door for higher levels of complexity and accuracy than ever before. The ultra-flat components created by Frédéric-Louis paved the way for a feature that is still central to many of the house’s watches today.

Just like the 19th century, the one which followed led to a long and impressive list of ‘firsts’ for Blancpain. In 1926, Frédéric-Emile Blancpain, along with his trusted co-manager Betty Fiechter, joined forces with the British watchmaker, John Harwood. Together, they pioneered the creation of the first patented automatic wristwatch, whose design involved a thick winding rotor as well as a rotating bezel for setting the time, instead of the traditional crown that has been entirely removed from the watch. Their collaborative creation is a most beautiful item, and utterly remarkable for the fact that it so clearly set out the blueprint for every mechanical automatic wristwatch which followed. 

Following the unexpected death of Frédéric-Emile, the helm was taken by Betty Fiechter and Frédéric’s sales director, André Léal. The new owners were more than aware of the importance of the Blancpain family heritage, and expressed a deep commitment to maintaining the company’s ethos of perpetuating authentic and sophisticated watchmaking techniques combined with a constant quest for innovation, which are both driving forces of the Manufacture.

By 1953, this commitment came to powerful fruition with the launch of the Fifty Fathoms, the world’s first modern diving watch, followed in 1956 by the world’s smallest round watch, Blancpain’s Ladybird model, to name just two key achievements. Later decades saw no slowing in the House of Blancpain as far as innovation was concerned, and no shortage of other record-breaking and industry-defining moments.

The legendary Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Chronograph. Credit: ©Blancpain

The Blancpain philosophy for paying tribute to the past while celebrating the future of their craft can be seen in a renowned high point of the company’s recent history. The revival of the one-minute flying carrousel came about in 2008, and immediately sent ripples of wonder through the industry and the hearts of collectors alike. Abandoned by even the most ambitious of watchmakers over a century ago as a result of its unrivalled complexity, Blancpain’s master horologists brought back this rare and unique complication, designed to counteract the effect of the natural gravitation of the earth. 

Handcrafted Innovation, from the Ocean to the Moon Phases

Blancpain, perhaps more so than any other fine watchmaker, is known for balancing the most exquisite and beautiful designs with the most complex and visionary innovations. Few timepieces in their extensive history exemplify this quite as splendidly as the Fifty Fathoms diving watch; a timepiece which pushed further the limits of the exploration of new realms in the underwater world, and which was championed and worn by those—professional divers, scientific explorers, underwater photographers, as well as several military combat swimmers corps around the world—who shared the brand’s passion for the exploration and protection of the oceans.

The Fifty Fathoms timepiece sprung from the depths of the imagination of Jean-Jacques Fiechter, Head of Blancpain from 1950 to 1980. He was a man of twin passions; of fine watchmaking, and of uncovering the hidden wonders of the sea. 

From the very beginning, the Fifty Fathoms model was designed with professional usage in mind: an unidirectional rotating bezel with clear time markings, a dark dial with contrasting white luminescent indexes and hands for a better legibility, a double sealed crown system and special sealing system for the caseback to enhance water resistance, an automatic winding movement as well as an antimagnetic protection for the movement. Result of a collaboration with the two founders of the French Navy’s combat swimmers corps—Captain Robert “Bob” Maloubier and Lieutenant Claude Riffaud—the Fifty Fathoms model was adopted by the French and US navies, and thanks to ongoing collaborations with world-class divers, later models were made to withstand depths of up to a thousand meters. 

Blancpain has mastered the art of watchmaking since the beginning of the 18th Century. Credit: ©Blancpain

Another significant jewel in the house’s crown came about some forty years after the launch of the original Fifty Fathoms. Demonstrating that honouring the past by no means dilutes a passion for innovation, the year 1991 saw Blancpain release the most complex automatic wristwatch ever made at this time: the “1735” Grande Complication. The list of elaborate and deeply impressive features on this timepiece is a lengthy one, and it includes a one-minute tourbillon regulator, perpetual calendars with a stunning moon phase indication, a chiming minute repeater, a flyback chronograph, and much more besides. Its accuracy, scope of vision, and the sheer attention to detail demonstrates an almost miraculous realization of design and technical skill, especially when one considers that these timepieces are made entirely by hand, by a single craftsman over the course of a year.

Robert Burns wrote in Tam o’Shanter that “No man can tether time or tide”. True as this may be, Blancpain and their innovative watches have shown that with artistry, craftsmanship, and a dedication to precision, it is possible to inch ever closer to what at first appears to be an unreachable goal. Tradition and innovation, far from being opposites, in fact ebb and flow as the tides beneath the moon, coming together to give rise to exemplary and pioneering creations, like luminescent pearls from the depths below. 

The beauty, prestige, and quality of Blancpain’s timepieces have seen the company survive the centuries. It is by placing innovation and savoir-faire at the core of their craftsmanship, and by preserving tradition while envisioning bold futures, however, that makes their watches truly timeless.

The one-minute flying carrousel: a unique technology brought back to life by Blancpain in 2008. Credit: ©Blancpain

 

Blancpain, High-Watchmaking, Innovation, Haute

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THE ORIGIN OF HAUTE-REJUVENATION

The fusion of savoir-faire values with exceptional skincare benefits defines the very essence of haute-rejuvenation.
Apr 19, 2021

The world of fashion is a complex, cyclical, and ever-evolving one, a patchwork of influences, iconic figures, changing tastes and trends. However, unpick the historical thread of haute-couture and follow it back through the decades, it would eventually lead to a singular, forward-thinking figure: one whose bold ideas and unique vision laid the groundwork for the world of fashion as we know it today.

Charles Frederick Worth is widely referred to as the father of haute-couture and the founding figure of fashion as an industry and artform. Through his creations, his concepts, and his entirely new ways of approaching dressmaking, Charles Frederick Worth was able to define the image of his own era and provide inspiration for a multitude of designers that followed. Taking inspiration from the glories of times passed, while fixing his sights firmly on the future of his industry, Worth crystallised the flamboyance and beauty of the present. In doing so, he created ripples which are still felt today in the world of haute couture, which will continue to influence and inform our concept of luxury as the future unfolds.

From Humble Roots to Haute-Couture

Born in 1825 into an impoverished family in Lincolnshire, England, Charles Frederick Worth’s entry into the world of fashion was established at a young age. He spent much of his youth working as an apprentice at two different textile merchants in London. 

During his time away from the workshop, he would gaze for hours at the wonders of the National Gallery, fixated by the beauty of the dresses captured in oil paintings of historic queens and aristocratic ladies. It was in those echoing halls that Worth’s unrivalled sense of style and artistry first began to take shape, and from the billowing gowns, exquisite trimmings, and masterful artistry of previous eras, he started forming an eye for detail that would define his own future, and which would play a key role in shaping the world of fashion as we know it. 

Portrait of Charles Frederick Worth by Nadar Félix. Credit ©Ministère de la Culture -Médiathèque de l'architecture et du patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Félix Nadar.

Worth’s insatiable appetite for new ideas was forged in the heat of an art scene rediscovering the purity of a past, one which was free from the increasing mechanisation of England’s industrial revolution. Medieval masquerades were all the rage in London’s high society, and Romanticism and Neoclassicism were en vogue during the designer’s formative years. Worth’s path, which would combine the brilliance of regal history with the ever more flamboyant demands of high society, was being paved ahead of him. It was a path that would see his work raise fashion to the status of an unquestioned art form, and naturally, it led from London towards the glittering streets of Imperial Paris. 

Upon arriving in Paris at age twenty, Worth quickly found work with Gagelin, a major textiles company which refined and furthered what he had learned during his apprenticeship. Ever the ambitious social climber, Gagelin allowed the young artisan to open a dressmaking department as an extension of their business. It was not long before his eye-catching, distinctive work became the talk of the town; so much so that his trailblazing gowns and creations were featured in the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, and the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1855. This rapid ascendency allowed the young Worth to make a name for himself in Paris’ most fashionable circles, yet his star was still to rise considerably further.

Capturing the Essence of the Bespoke

Paris in the 1850s was a city in the midst of an entirely new cultural dynamism, led by the restoration of the royal house, and with Napoleon III crowning the city as a show home for new European ideas and fashions. When Napoleon wed Empress Eugenie, her exquisite fashion sense set the template for the women of high society in Paris to follow. The demand for luxury goods, especially luxurious items of dress, soared to new, dizzying heights.

In 1858, Worth was able to open his own store to showcase his creations and his new approaches to high fashion, and once Empress Eugenie began regularly stepping through his doors on rue de la Paix and commissioning works from Worth, his reputation exploded. Such patronage, such runaway popularity, and such a privileged position allowed him the full freedom to follow his instincts and passions, and realise what he once dreamed of whilst sitting on the viewing benches at the National Gallery. 

Portrait of Empress Eugénie, wearing a Worth dress, by Jean Marius Fouque, after Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Credit ©RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Michel Urtado.

Charismatic to the core, Empress Eugenie and her court were deeply charmed by the Englishman, and they were keen to show off the talents of their new favourite dressmaker at various state functions. Society balls at court, the intimate receptions at the Tuileries, and events like horse races in Longchamp became the 19th century equivalent of today’s fashion shows. The Parisian ladies of high society would display their latest items of haute-couture, which would be admired by figures from throughout the Second Empire and the wider world. 

While Worth’s eccentric, flamboyant and heavily elaborate designs borrowed extensively from a quasi-imagined past, his reputation and the flurry of excitement surrounding him was founded on entirely new practices which had simply never been seen before. He was, on the one hand, committed to meeting the ever-more luxurious demands of his clientele. On the other, he broke new ground by dictating the terms on which his dresses were designed, fitted and created. Prior to Worth’s arrival as a fashion designer par excellence, ladies would have selected  fabrics themselves, and their clothes would have been made from pre-existing templates. Worth’s vision, however, was based upon the uniqueness of each silhouette and fit, and from reimagining design features from prior centuries, acting as flourishes for thoroughly modern designs. In such practices, his clothing would epitomise the essence of the bespoke. Through his singularity of artistic expression, and his unshakeable belief in his talents, ideas, and creative drive, the notion of haute-couture was born.

Inventiveness to Echo Through the Ages

True artistry in any discipline rarely comes about as a result of following the crowd, and Worth was a man destined to lead with his unending roster of industry-defining ideas. Forever working by his own rules, The House of Worth was the first of its kind in many ways. His pioneering showrooms used live models rather than mannequins to display his dresses, which then would be customised and fitted to the client’s unique body shape or personal style. Furthermore, nobody prior to Worth had entertained the notion of the seasonal collection, nor had they explored bringing their designs and ideas to a truly international market. Worth was keen, from as early as 1855, to export his most original models to London and elsewhere in Europe, and by the 1860s, Worth creations were being purchased from the most luxurious department stores of New York, and beyond.

Originality, boldness and inventiveness were the core principles to which Charles Worth was committed. It is often claimed his designs were the first to ever be recognisably masterpieces of their creator. It is not easy to imagine just how groundbreaking that must have been; for the very first time, the craft of dressmaking and fashion had been elevated to the status of a high art, driven by innovation, inspiration, and with the vision of the artist taking precedence over the whims or wishes of the client. The essence of putting an individual stamp onto his work was not merely metaphorical, either, as Worth was also the first to add a signed label to this clothing. While the labels were originally printed onto the interior of the waistband, his name was so renowned that the ladies wearing his clothes would reverse the waistband, in order to display the label as a key feature of their bespoke dresses. The designer label, in the most literal sense, was thus brought into being.

Etiquette : Worth, 7, rue de la Paix, Paris Vers 1875. Localisation : Etats-Unis, Philadelphie (Pa.), Philadelphia Museum of Art. Credit ©The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image Philadelphia Museum of Art

The heady, extravagant, and opulent years of the Second Empire were, of course, not to last, and Worth lived long enough to see its collapse and the disappearance of the Parisian royal court. However, due to the new paradigms in fashion dreamt up by Charles Worth, the days of traditional dressmaking had by this time disappeared forever. As with the dawn of every great artistic movement, the world of fashion had been utterly redrawn, and the demand for bespoke items, conjured from the hands of singular artists, would never waver thereafter. Haute-couture had well and truly arrived, and in the creation of this artform, Charles Worth tore up the rulebook, and wrote one anew on pages of velvet, lace, and silk.

Haute-couture, haute-horlogerie, haute-joaillerie – those métiers that elevate craftsmanship to a high art – exist in a world apart, one which revolves around the stellar constellation of daring creativity, masterful savoir-faire, the most exquisite materials and an exclusive encounter with the extraordinary. 

In the creation of its skincare, La Prairie applies the same principles as those of maisons, from the painstaking selection of its raw, precious ingredients to the expert formulation of its products and the sublime design of its vessels. Perhaps the La Prairie collection most exemplary of these values of artisanry, the Platinum Rare Collection offers a splendid experience synonymous with pleasure, with a dream spun out of desire – just like the most decadent creations of a true luxury house. 

The Platinum Rare Collection
The Platinum Rare Collection

The fusion of luxury savoir-faire values with exceptional skincare benefits defines the very essence of haute-rejuvenation – La Prairie’s high art of reigniting a youthful appearance. Through this philosophy, the Platinum Rare Collection redefines rejuvenation as we know it. Haute-rejuvenation not only embodies the traditions of savoir-faire unique to La Prairie – audacious innovation, bespoke craftsmanship, the use of the most precious, rare ingredients and a refined, enchanting experience – it propels them to the next level.

The Platinum Rare haute-rejuvenation experience starts with the latest innovation to come from the Swiss laboratories of La Prairie: Platinum Rare Celluar Life-Lotion. A new beginning for your skin, it offers an unparalleled formulation drawn from the source of life. Inspired by the eternal beauty and strength of platinum, it is where haute-rejuvenation begins.

Platinum Rare Cellular-Life Lotion

“THE ONLY METAL FIT FOR KINGS”

Louis XVI of France declared that platinum, with its subtle sheen and sophisticated colour, was to be the only metal used at Versailles to decorate the tables and coiffeuses of the court. Ever since, platinum, brilliant and refined, has been the ultimate emblem of exclusivity. It is this very exclusivity – this rarity – that has made of it the chosen symbol to convey the pinnacle of excellence. It is the ultimate choice to express taste, elegance and grace.

The scientists at La Prairie, however, have discovered that its beauty goes beyond its inspiring appearance. A powerful enhancer of rejuvenating peptides, it rests at the heart of every Platinum Rare product, selected like a raw gem to be transformed in the hands of the expert artisan. 

 

THE ORIGIN OF REJUVENATION LIES WITHIN

Like the other products of the collection, Platinum Rare Cellular Life-Lotion is infused with the eternity of platinum. The result of years of research – the time required to create a true piece of haute-artisanry – it offers the essential first step in the Platinum Rare haute-rejuvenation skincare ritual. Platinum Rare Cellular Life-Lotion is a complete essence-in-lotion that helps to boost the skin’s rejuvenated appearance by supporting key cellular detoxification processes – for skin that is detoxified, renewed, reset: optimally prepared to benefit from the rejuvenating treatments that follow. 


EXQUISITE DESIGN

Like all the products in the Platinum Rare Collection, the design of the Cellular Life-Lotion decanter conveys a fastidious attention to detail, echoing the values of haute-artisanry. Conceived in deep amethyst tones, each line of the tall, sleek vessel angles into another. Every surface, every facet of the cap is hewn to catch the light in an unexpected and surprising way, like an expertly cut gem. Sculpted with careful attention to symmetry, visual equilibrium and harmony, it reflects the haute-rejuvenation contained within.

Platinum Rare Cellular-Life Lotion

 

Platinum, Rejuvenation, Skincare, Haute

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The Origin of Essence

Uncovering the mystery of ancient beauty water.
Apr 19, 2021

La Prairie Invites: On the occasion of the launch of La Prairie’s Platinum Rare Cellular Life-Lotion, beauty writer SunHee Grinnell explores the origin of essences in lotion.

Essence: It is a term we often hear in the field of beauty and skin care, where the word itself sounds as fluid as the substance it names. But what is an essence, exactly?

The word “essence” is defined as “the inherent nature of a thing or idea; being.” In philosophical terms, “essentia,” derived from Latin, is the property that makes an entity what it is. Applying that philosophy to skincare, essences are vital substances that capture the defining goodness of the ingredients they are derived from, and in turn, are used to help restore the skin to the full state of beauty it was meant to have. It is a key to replenishing the whole being, where its essence can be gauged in its original, unbroken form.

Essences have been central to notions of beauty and skincare for centuries in Asia. Intricate cleansing rituals involving “beauty waters” are recorded in the ancient Japanese beauty guide known as Miyako Fuzoku Kewaiden. This book, dating back to 1813, notes that geishas would apply oshiroi (white powder), then polish the skin with a towel, then re-apply and polish, many times over, in order to achieve a milky-white skin tone, said to be as radiant and translucent as porcelain. Using an essence played a vital role in this daily ritual.

Steeped in antiquity, essence - whether given exalted names like “miracle water” or referred to with the simple, modest term “lotion”- comes in various forms around the world. In texture, some are thickened fluids, while others have a consistency as clear as water. In the Far East, traditional formulations included ingredients sourced from tea leaves, red algae, and fermented rice. Modern-day science has verified the efficacy of these elements, vindicating centuries of practice, which are still in use today but refined with more sophisticated technology. Still, the purpose of essences remains the same: to bring about the correct pH to balance the skin, and when applied prior to serums, elixirs, and creams, to act as a channel that magnifies their beneficial effects.

If essences initially took some time to migrate from East to West, one reason may be that traditional Asian skincare regimens often required multiple steps within the ritual, including the application of essence, to reach complete beautification, while Western society was reluctant to do away with a more straightforward routine involving only soap, water, and cream. However, the gradual rise in the interest of Asian skincare reached a watershed moment in 2011, with an upsurge of enthusiasm for Korean beauty practices, including the 10-step ritual of proper skin cleansing and care. Whether one chooses a full 10-step regimen or a simpler variation of a multi-step beauty ritual, there can still be a certain amount of confusion surrounding the purpose and usage of an essence. Is essence the same as a toner, some people ask? When does one use an essence? Where is its optimal place among the steps of cleansing and care?

In clarification, a toner serves as a second stage of cleansing, removing the day’s pollutants and residues from the cleansing agents themselves, while also refreshing and prepping the skin for the next step — the essence. A facial essence, usually a bit more emollient than a toner, features active ingredients that penetrate deep into the skin, creating a pathway for the next step, which is usually serum or elixir. 

An essence serves as a skin balancer and primer. In some Asian cultures, the use of essence is an indispensable step in many women’s skincare routine because it soothes skin at the cellular level, accelerating a natural turnover that results in a smoother and a healthier complexion when used within a skincare regimen.

The traditional Asian 10-step beauty practice may involve the following: cleansing oil; cleansing cream or foam; gentle exfoliator; toner; sheet mask (often at night); essence, or softening lotion, as it’s sometimes it’s called; serum; moisturizer; eye and neck cream; and broad-spectrum sun protection, often SPF 50, applied in the morning.

In recognizing the value of essence as a critical step in a complete skincare routine, La Prairie unveils a new arrival in their Platinum Rare collection, called Life-Lotion, an essence-in-lotion. Developed as a skin-prepping treatment, Platinum Rare Cellular Life-Lotion should be applied before a serum, as noted above.

According to Dr Daniel Stangl, the director of innovation at La Prairie, "For Platinum Rare Cellular Life-Lotion, in addition to La Prairie’s Exclusive Cellular Complex, our Swiss scientists have combined the Platinum Peptide with powerful detoxifying ingredients to address the full spectrum of detoxification for the first time in skincare history. As detoxification is an important first step to skin renewal, La Prairie has created an essence-in-lotion that prepares the skin for a journey to haute-rejuvenation."

In order to achieve the full benefits of the Platinum Rare collection, the following method is recommended: after cleansing and toning, the Platinum Rare Cellular Life-Lotion, should be applied — morning and night — followed by Platinum Rare Cellular Serum by day and Platinum Rare Cellular Night Elixir in the evening. At either time of day, the layering treatments should accompany Platinum Rare Cellular Cream. One simple rule to keep in mind for any multi-step skincare regimen: the order of application should always progress from the lightest texture to the richest.

Throughout time, the ancient skincare ritual grounded in elaborate beauty ceremonies originating from the East has been proven effective. Now, thanks to advanced biotechnology and innovative ingredients, everyone can benefit from this time-tested, multi-step custom, but in a simpler and faster form that is in keeping with a modern lifestyle.

Platinum, Essence, Life-Lotion

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One Hundred Years of Bauhaus

A Century of Timelessness.
Apr 19, 2021

Few artistic movements have made an impact quite like that of Bauhaus. Indeed, the word itself has become a noun, an adjective, and a household name; the mention of Bauhaus immediately conjures up images of tower blocks and typefaces, of bold architectural aesthetics and pared-back furnishings, and a remarkably wide array of design features in possession of the unmistakable Bauhaus idiom. The artists who studied Bauhaus, most notably the founding father of modern art, Wassily Kandinsky, went on to reimagine painting for a new age and create entirely new visual languages with which to reshape culture as we know it. Celebrated Bauhaus architects, such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, would spread their influence as far as Chandigarh in India, Chicago, Tel Aviv, and beyond, and traces of Bauhaus style can be seen everywhere from flat-pack furniture to the minimalist aesthetic of today’s smartphones. This movement, this school of thought as much as design, became the typeface in which the future was written.

Founded in the German Weimar Republic (1913 - 1933), Bauhaus served to break down the barriers between artistry and craftsmanship, with its sights set on a utopian aim of forging a new industry-spanning aesthetic. Driven by experimentation and collaboration, and bolstered by enduring results and a broad spectrum of opinions and reactions, it set the pattern for the rest of the 20th century and today. Now in its centenary year, and after decades which saw Bauhaus equally scorned and celebrated, misunderstood, cast out, and finally adopted wholeheartedly by the mainstream, its adorers and critics alike are able to cast their eye over a century of influence and innovation. Behind Bauhaus' elegant and simplistic lines, and beneath its stark white exterior, we can uncover a true sense of timelessness which has informed the way we live.

Inception: From the Jugendstil to the Bauhaus

Despite its boldness and insistence on an entirely new order, a clear lineage and heritage which led to Bauhaus’ foundation can be traced. Walter Gropius, the Prussian architect behind the creation of the Bauhaus, was insistent on the Bauhaus approach being based on an equal value given to technical knowledge and artistic ability, an approach previously seen in the Jugendstil movement, and the English Arts and Crafts a few decades prior. The Jugendstil, with its youthful approach and the value it placed in high art being used for practical purposes embodied several significant aspects of what would become core tenets of the Bauhaus. Jugendstil artists were known for, among other things, using their collaborative talents to produce everything from architectural designs to stage sets, and from advertisements to more traditional canvases.

Another key movement which formed the bedrock on which the Bauhaus was built was the Wiener Werkstatte. Co-founder Josef Hoffmann, the Austrian ceramicist best known for his iconic monochromatic homewares and eccentric chair designs, demonstrated how the lines are drawn between high art, consumer goods, and industrial design were not as unwavering as was once supposed. One could, if one was on the hunt for the Bauhaus heritage, easily cite his talent and vision as being instrumental in the creation of both the Bauhaus approach and aesthetic in equal measures.

Hoffmann, Josef (1870-1956): liquor glass, Winer Werkstatte, around 1911. MAK - Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna. Photograph: © Peter Kainz/MAK.
Hoffmann, Josef (1870-1956): liquor glass, Winer Werkstatte, around 1911. MAK - Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna. Photograph: © Peter Kainz/MAK.

Construction: Crossover Aesthetics and Enduring Powers

The creation of the Bauhaus as a physical space—and not merely an approach, concept, or aesthetic—was borne of collaboration and the result of a municipal project spearheaded by Gropius in conjunction with the state.The city of Dessau commissioned and supplied the plot of land for the school - the prospect of a new direction, a home-grown design idiom, and a new centre of artistic and technical excellence was clearly more than the local officials could resist.

Bauhaus building in Dessau by architect Walter Gropius. Photographer: Glenn Garriock.
Bauhaus building in Dessau by architect Walter Gropius. Photographer: Glenn Garriock.

The school’s original aims were to completely break down the boundaries between all artistic disciplines, and to erode the very systems of thought which separate high art from ‘craft’. Gropius’ founding proclamation was that of “a new building of the future, that will unite every discipline, and which would rise to heaven from the hands of a million workers, as a crystallised symbol of a new faith”. His was a concept of the crossover, taken to previously unimagined levels. The Hungarian artist and photographer Moholy-Nagy is a powerful example to consider. As one of the Bauhaus’s most celebrated associates, his work seamlessly blends technical brilliance with unhindered and liberated camerawork, traditional sculpture, and conceptual art in ways which were entirely new.

Moholy Nagy, Laszlo (1895-1946): Untitled. 1926. ©2019. Christie's Images, London/Scala, Florence.
Moholy Nagy, Laszlo (1895-1946): Untitled. 1926. ©2019. Christie's Images, London/Scala, Florence.

While the success of Gropius’ vision is perhaps best known through the modernist architectural idiom borne of Bauhaus design, the artistic heritage of the short-lived school can be found everywhere we look. Indeed, the bold use of line and colour, that unmistakably Bauhaus approach associated with artists and printmakers such as Oskar Schlemmer can be seen at supermarkets, on book covers and grocery packaging, in-car designs, luxury brands, road signs, kitchenware… the list of places in which the Bauhaus spirit of collaboration and the fundamentals of its aesthetic can be found goes on and on.

Schlemmer, Oskar (1888-1943): Diagram for "Gesture Dance", 1926. ©Public domain.
Schlemmer, Oskar (1888-1943): Diagram for "Gesture Dance", 1926. ©Public domain.

Deconstruction: Breaking Down Barriers in Art and Beyond

Bauhaus was always driven by the belief that in order for artistic ability to flourish, technical excellence must always be at its heart. While this belief was certainly vindicated with evidence of such surrounding us at every turn, the original school had its life cut short by the rise of National Socialism in 1930s Germany. World War II may have changed the direction of the Bauhaus ideology, but its value lost none of its value or ability to appeal, influence, and divide opinion. As the 20th century continued, artistic aesthetics and architectural design became increasingly visibly reminiscent of and inspired by the works which the Bauhaus had launched upon the public consciousness, and this trend seemingly lost none of its paces as the 20th century ended and the 21st began.

Kandinsky, Wassily (1866-1944): Soft pressure, 1931. Russia, 20th century. Private Collection. ©2019, DeAgostini Picture Library/Scala, Florence.
Kandinsky, Wassily (1866-1944): Soft pressure, 1931. Russia, 20th century. Private Collection. ©2019, DeAgostini Picture Library/Scala, Florence.

Perhaps one of the key catalysts of the timeless appeal of the Bauhaus was its becoming a global phenomenon, rather than a European-based approach to art and design. It is almost ironic that attempts to suppress the creative visions of the Bauhaus in 1930s Germany may have led to it becoming the worldwide tour de force we know it as today. Indeed, the latter half of the 1930s saw the vast majority of the original Bauhaus representatives emigrate to the United States, disillusioned by the backwards-looking artistic culture of Germany at the time. It took almost no time at all for their genius to be recognised by artistic communities of New York, and in 1938, the MoMA launched a full Bauhaus exhibition, thus cementing its position as the modernist global movement in art, architecture, and design.

Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig (1886-1969): New National Gallery, Berlin, Germany, 1968. Interior view of main entry area. New York, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Mies van der Rohe Archive, gift of the architect. ©2019. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence. 

Bauhaus: Shaping the World and Forming the Future

One hundred years on from the founding of perhaps the most influential artistic movement of the 20th century, how are we able to see Bauhaus from a holistic perspective, and with the benefit of hindsight? Undoubtedly, the school and its output created outrage among conservative society at the time.

However, at the end of a century of Bauhaus, we can see that the Bauhaus movement and school was not, as was often claimed, a threat the elegance of its predecessors. Nor is it the manifestation of one small group’s vision of modernism. Bauhaus was, is, and continues to be associated with an abundance of creative energies, true courage in conviction, and a movement which valued technical learnable skills as much as it did raw artistic talent. In these senses and more, it has managed to touch every aspect of commercial production and cultural life, and has made its mark on the artistic movements which followed, a variety of industries, and across almost every country on earth. From the smartphones in our pockets, to the art on our walls and the homes and cities in which we reside, we all live in a Bauhaus-inspired world.

Bauhaus, Anniversary, Design, Architecture

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