Art Nouveau (Part 1)

I’ve been taking a few classes. Along with the usual evening french classes, I’m auditing History of Fibres, History of 20th Century Fashion, and History of Film up to 1959 at Concordia University. Thankfully all the profs have allowed me to sit in, because I’m having a blast! Not only is it great being a student again, but all three courses really compliment each other. Also, not having to pay for it (or not having to do it at all) is great for my work ethic.

“Education is a right not a privilege.” (Anne T. MacDonald) Well, [post-secondary] education is a privilege these days, but it’s often wasted… Exhibit A. Although, I would say education isn’t really optional these days either, so it’s really up to you how you get yourself educated most effectively. Now I know that for me, free school is directly correlated to my success! And being in a trade it really helps to have extra cash to be able to afford the materials to create.

So during the first few weeks I have learned about the Art & Crafts movement and the Art Nouveau movement. Both began in England (but spread globally) around the turn of the 20th century, and of course before the war when everything changed. It was all about the art, throughout the hierarchy of genres (during the Arts & Crafts movement the ‘highest form’ of art was embroidery, even more than painting!). The idea was to infuse everyday life with the finest quality of art. If you’re going to have a wall, why not decorate it? If you’re going to have a bedspread, why not make it beautiful? Naturally, I fell in love with this.

The Arts & Crafts movement was more about workers health and hygiene (industrialization had already started sweatshop popularity), community, regionalism, and having the designer and crafter one and the same, or at least in close collaboration. It produced mostly tapestries and other 2 dimensional embroidery. Amazing all the same.

The Art Nouveau movement moved more into fashion. The idea of creating something as if it was the best still drove the movement into… well, the Belle Epoque. But while it was still a movement, key artists strove for quality and equality; art should be accessible and affordable, and for all to enjoy. Of course this is very contradictory because of the nature of ‘quality’ – those woven silk velvet brocaded in gold thread capes did not come cheap! Not only were they made of very choice materials, they were extremely time consuming, taking up to a year to make.

It’d be nice to bridge that gap… It’d be nice to provide mindful high fashion that is affordable and available to everyone. Because let’s face it, the masses really don’t care where a garment came from, who made it, or what’s in it, so why not just do all the work myself? I’d get huge karma points and maybe I could get my customers to donate their carbon credits to me or something…

Forest tapestry by Morris & Co. - Detail! Every strand of fabric has been stitched.

2 Responses to “Art Nouveau (Part 1)”
  1. charlie kane says:

    I feel like fashion always faces an ultimatum, which forces them to sacrifice either quantity over quality. it would be great to have more affordable, but quality fashion. but it’s definitely still going to come out rare here in the u.s. — where business only prevails when its manufactured internationally. i totally agree with you though. i’m taking technical design, in hopes to work for a company who cares about construction and details in their clothing; so even if it does come out to be mass-produced, at least there’s still a hint of ‘art’ in it.

    charlie kane

    • cnscheffer says:

      It’ll be a definite struggle here, but worth a shot I think! Even if it’s just a push in the right direction, you know. Everythings gotta start somewhere…

      Thanks for the comment! I like your blog, and I also would like to visit Chicago one day. As for me I’m doing fashion internships here and there in Montréal, and next year I’ll go to technical school for fashion design. My hopes are to create my own company with a friend, so we can have complete control over everything, which is the way to do it if you want things done right these days, right?

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