Something intimate in shopping for elite couture
This week a Tel Aviv boutique hosts a designer who hops from city to city
Claudia Hill began the preparatory sketches for her present collection four years ago, when she was living in New York. These are not standard fashion illustrations sketched with a light hand and depicting fantasy women with elongated limbs, but rather abstract sketches, mostly in black and white, done in black pen. Most of them were created before the open salon that artist Louise Bourgeois would hold in her Chelsea apartment. Bourgeois died last June at the age of 98.
"Every Sunday, at 3 P.M., she would open her salon to the public, and everyone had to bring a piece of work to show her." Hill describes the scene in a video conversation from her apartment in Berlin. "First, we would drink vodka or whisky to release tension. Usually the people who came to her were very nervous." Bourgeois would make comments "and then everyone would see them and there would be a discussion."
The salon was open to everyone, says Hill. All you had to do was to inform her in advance that you were coming. The first time she called, she was very surprised to hear Bourgeois' voice on the line. "Maybe that's what also influenced the type of display in my present project, Salon Couture - the intimate atmosphere and the direct contact with the audience."Facebook and friends
The 41-year-old German designer roams the world with her collection, beginning last month with home base, Berlin. A show in Paris followed, and on her way to Zurich and New York, she'll be landing in Israel tomorrow to display the collection at the Shine boutique in Tel Aviv.
Private sales have become routine in the era of social networks. Designers contact their clients via their Facebook page, showing photos of new designs and information about sales. "I'm not at all advanced technologically," notes Hill with a smile. Her idea, she says, is inspired by the experience of shopping for elite couture in the small salons in Paris in the middle of the last century. "There's something intimate about elite couture, but I call it demi-couture, because after all, it's a different product."
Hill displays only at special events, during which items can be ordered with a personal fitting. "The individual measurements are taken during the meeting with the client, and certain changes can be made in any model at her request," she says. After the item is sewn in the studio in Berlin, it is sent to the client's home. Hill creates three to 15 copies of each model and attaches to each a silver-plated medallion, etched with its serial number. "That gives a sense of exclusivity and of belonging to a closed members' club," she says.
Her wandering salon took shape organically, she says, according to the personal connections she has forged over the years. In Tel Aviv, for example, her connection is with artist Nelly Agassi. The two met in Berlin at the beginning of the decade and have been collaborating ever since, including installations in Hill's store in Berlin and her collection being sold in the Shine boutique.
The manner of displaying the collection varies from city to city. "It depends entirely on the place. In Berlin, for example, we had a large space, so we could hold a fashion show with models on a catwalk. In Paris, the space was much smaller, in effect it's an apartment in the Marais quarter and naturally the show was more intimate. In Tel Aviv, it will be adapted to the boutique - some of the designs will be on hangers, and some will be displayed by non-professional models who will wander around, and in Zurich the collection will be presented as an installation in the white space of an art gallery."
"Cut & Mend" is the name of the present collection. Hill cuts the clothing and mends them. "In Japan, when you drop a porcelain vase or bowl, there's a custom of mixing gold in the glue and in that way the repaired vessel has a higher value. I liked that idea, of something that was broken and has a higher value after it has been repaired."
The collection of 70 designs is not specifically limited to a season. You can find light silk dresses and short skirts next to big sweaters and wool coats. Hill has turned details from her sketches into ornaments, such as round glass beads strung before an airy knee-length silk dress in midnight blue or the crescent and leaf shapes that decorate boyish loose tops and pants.
A circle of leather attached to the diaphragm in an ivory silk dress gathers pleated fabric. "These dresses are called solar dresses because of the element of the sun. I'm trying to integrate these elements from the drawings in a way that will suit the body," says Hill, referring to the solar plexus. They convey a sense of fragility from the use of delicate tapestry or satin, from the smoky batik colors or from the juxtaposition of a tailored masculine jacket and a soft pleated skirt.
Unlike the black lines of her preliminary sketches, the collection offers rich and varied colors. They originate, she says, from the surface reflections on water she recorded during a trip to Iceland - blues, greens, yellows, grays and whites and, of course, black. Many of her materials have a certain sheen, and some gleam in gold or silver. Her skirts in gold leather are especially impressive, with some having fans of fabric in a similar shade in the back. They are flattering when worn with an elegant jacket in sharp lines and, for a more relaxed look, when accompanied by grayish sweatshirts.
Of the fashion industry, Hill says: "The need to reinvent myself every six months seems somewhat ridiculous to me. I like to give things time to develop and grow."
She did do seasonal collections for Fashion Week in New York, but quickly tired of that:
"I want to create a wardrobe that would not lose its value at the end of one season - clothing that can be worn for a long period and will still look fresh."
Price range: shirts: NIS 900-NIS 1,500; pants: NIS 1,275-NIS 3,000; skirts and dresses: NIS 800-NIS 3,600; jackets and coats: NIS 2,000-NIS 3,900; accessories (scarves, belts and jewelry ): NIS 300-NIS 2,000.
Claudia Hill's "Salon Couture" will be a guest of the Shine boutique on 12 Harekevet Street, Tel Aviv, on Thursday from 3 P.M. to 9 P.M. (cocktail party at 6 P.M. ) and on Friday from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.