In honor of New York Fashion week, here’s a look at a perfume advertisement from Anna Sui, my favorite living designer. (Not to offend her by qualifying that statement with “living,” but I do love Paul Poiret! and Jeanne Paquin and early Chanel…)
To the point: Live Your Dream is a zingy rose-berry scent released in 2009 as a flanker to the original dusty tea-rose Anna Sui fragrance. Its print ad was photographed by Steven Meisel, one of Sui’s longtime friends and collaborators. And, as the official Live Your Dream description suggests, “the glamour and the hip retro feeling of Art Nouveau” are very much in evidence here.
More specifically, Sui and Meisel were influenced by the art of Alfonse Mucha for this image. Mucha was a Czechoslovakian artist whose work exemplified the Art Nouveau style (circa 1890-1900). The prolific Mucha designed everything from jewelry to theater costumes (for Sarah Bernhardt!) to postage stamps over the course of his career, but he was and is best known for his posters and advertisements.
The Live Your Dream photography draws upon several elements of Mucha’s signature style, including a long-limbed female model in gauzy drapery, floral ornamentation, and sinuous, curving lines tying the whole thing together.
In particular, Mucha’s allegorical Painting seems to have been a source for the Live Your Dream ad.
Mucha often placed his symbolic female figures against decorative circular forms that surround them like windows or large haloes, and he posed them with expressive, almost exaggerated gestures.
Anna Sui has referred to the Art Nouveau era several times in her own designs and runway shows. The backdrop for the presentation of her Autumn/Winter 2009 collection (one of my very favorites!) was an homage to the titles and lettering of Mucha’s poster art.
And in her recent Resort 2013 collection, many of Sui’s textile designs harked back to the florals and arabesques of Art Nouveau design.
Many, many fashion designers pay lip-service to artistic movements that supposedly inspired their latest collections, but Anna Sui is one of the very few who really seems to be informed and impassioned about art history and design history. It’s one of the many reasons that I continue to seek out and wear her clothing.
To read more posts in this series, click here.
Images: Live Your Dream ad (2009), photographed by Steven Meisel; Alfonse Mucha, Painting, via Wikipainting; Alfonse Mucha, Ruby, Amethyst, Emerald, and Topaz, via Pictify; backdrop from Anna Sui Autumn/Winter 2009 runway show, New York; Anna Sui, dress from Resort 2013 collection, via Style.com.