Saturday, January 12, 2008
One of my favorite style icons is early 20th century designer Mariano Fortuny, Spanish master of several arts, and one who set a very high bar for textile and lighting designers for centuries to come.
Fortuny developed a technique for pleating silk by placing the carefully folded wet fabric onto heated porcelain tubes to permanently press the pleats into the cloth. He used this silk in a simple dress based on the simple classic Greek sheath design. The sinuous, clinging pleats of the fabric elongated the forms of lithe jazz babies and gave them the va-va-voom that inspired the jazz age to roar so hotly. Examples of this dress, the Delphos, sell for extraordinary amounts at auction these days. I found one example online which sold for well over $11,000 in 2001.
Fortuny was a rich kid whose interests were much varied, and who moved around the European capitals rubbing elbows with other creative sorts. He is said to have been a great inspiration to Proust, and buddy of composer Richard Wagner.
While he was hanging out with these artsy folk, Fortuny became quite keen on stagecraft, and began to design theatrical lighting equipment. A factory in Italy still produces his designs, and the Fortuny Lamp is a style staple you can buy freshly produced today for a cool $5,000*. No doubt, vintage editions of this lamp would fetch staggering amounts. Other Fortuny lamps are still in production and fetch prices in the $1000-20,000 range, rendered in hand-painted silks and intricate glass forms. Srsly.
Serious design. Seriously beautiful. Seriously, nose-bleedingly expensive.
*having been a style groupie for lo these many moons, I was so delighted when the firm Design Within Reach came along, but I quickly discovered they meant the designs could be obtained, but were not at all affordable. *harumph* Oh well.