UNPICKING Project Description
As your initial inspiration and starting point for this project we are asking you to design and create around the theme of the Harrods 'Green Men'. Initially, you will research 'The Green Men' as a British Icon with a ceremonial role of welcoming guests to the Harrods store.
Icon - A person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration - Idol, statue, portrait, model
Ceremonial - (of a post or role) conferring or involving only nominal authority or power - formal, official, ritualistic, stately, solemn, dignified, celebratory, sacramental, liturgical
welcoming - greet (someone arriving) in a polite or friendly way - say hello to, salute, usher in, appreciate, react with pleasure
guest - a person staying at a hotel or guest house - visitor, client
Harrods is a luxury department store located on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, London. It is now owned by the state of Qatar. The site has 330 departments covering one million square feet of retail space. Founded in 1834 by Charles Henry Harrod.
The Harrods Motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique, which is latin for 'all things for all people everywhere'. I think this motto highlights that inclusivity is integral to the company, and that the doors of Harrods welcome people from all over the world to indulge in quality and luxuary goods. However, I personally think this motto is ironic, as the highly expenisve luxary lifestyle that Harrods offers is not accesible to all - it is the opposite ! As only the top percentage of the worlds population can offord to shop there.
In 1985, Egyptian Chairman Mohamed Al Fayed stated that Harrods 'is a special place that gives people pleasure. There is only one Mecca.' Here, Al Fayed compares the department store to the birthplace of Muhammad, the holiest city for Muslims, and thus elevates the status of Harrods. In the same way Muslims embark on a pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in their lives, individuals journey to Harrods for an experience.
On Wednesday, 16 November 1898, Harrods debuted England's first 'moving staircase', an esculator. Today we take esculators for graunted, as many populate the city, e.g leading into underground stations. However, one can only imagine the amazement of customers at the innovation of the woven leather conveyor belt-like unit with a mahogany and 'silver plate-glass' balustrade. Nervous customers were offered brandy at the top to revive them after their 'ordeal'. I think this is a rather comical but marvelous anikdote, which highlights the huge progression Harrods has made over the last 184 years.
Since the deaths of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed, Mohamed Al-Fayed's son, two memorials have been erected inside Harrods to commemorate the couple.
The Green Men
The Green Man as an Icon
I think the Green man is a representative icon that establishes, from quite literally the moment coustomers place one foot in the doorway, they are treated with peronal attention and eticate. Customer satisfaction seems to be a top priority, and it is this helpful, almost dutiful approach which earns the customers loyalty. The Green Man thus becomes symbolic of the strong personal relationship between Harrods and thier shopper, and dominates the merchandise. The figure dressed in green Uniform is instantly recognisable, along with the consistent colour of moss green. The repetition of the Green man highlights its habitual effort to make the customer feel at ease.
The Green man becomes like a mascot, viewed in various contexts in artists interpretations such as illustrations, in the form of a wooden figurines, teddy bears etc.
The way the Green Man's uniform matches the canopies of the building, and they stand almost like the verticals of the door frame, it is as if they are part of the building. Their statuesque appearance emphasises the unity between themselves and the building, like ancient statues in a temple.
The Green Women 1915 in Harrods. The shortage of male employees, due to the war, means that Harrods Green Men are replaced by Green Women.
The Green men function to open doors for customers. It is as if they personify their action, and become an extension of the door handle itself. Thousands of customers enter and exit Harrods every day, which highlights the repetition of this swinging action of opening and closing.
A doorway symbolises the transition and passageway from one place to another. By previously studying History of Art, I am aware of their religious significance in the context of churches - representitive of the doors of Heaven, and entering a new higher realm. Doorways were emphasised by grand stairs which elevate entrances, and intricate carvings. Although the Harrods doorway is not raised, the long green canopy creates immediate visual impact. Doorways are also emphasised in mythology and literature, and can be symbolic of opportunity 'one door closes, another opens'.
Harrods dress code
When researching Harrods, I came become aware of the dress code which prohibits: "...ripped jeans, high cut Bermuda or beach shorts, swim wear, athletic singlets, cycling shorts, flip flops or thong sandals, dirty or unkempt clothing." Furthermore "Any extremes of personal presentation are prohibited as are bare feet and exposed midriffs." I then read an artical which documents a boys experience testing these rules, by dressing up as a various subcultures. It does seem bizzare that in 2018 customers are restricted as to what they can wear - is an office worker in lycra shorts used to cylcle to work not allowed to enter? Or a gothic teenager with ripped jeans ? Some might say that is discriminatry.
Historical Research of Harrods
Louis Vuitton Trunks
The photo directly above shows how trunks were multi functional - not just as a structure that protects what it holds, but also as a peice of furniture. Some trunks include mirrors and coat hangers - even today antique trunks are used for an aesthetic low coffee table. I want to celebrate the significance of the trunk, and how its effective design has become an icon for travel.
During the 1980's the fur trapping and fashion industries came under increasing criticism from animal rights activists for the cruel procedures used to obtain fur. To my disbelief, today, Harrods is among the few stores to still sell animal furs, ruthlessly exploiting animals for their exchange value. This lead me to research more into the history of fur, and the ideologies behind it. After reading Venus and Furs, the cultral politics of fur by Julia V Emberley, I realise that fur was, and can still be viewed as symbolic of wealth, decadance and prestige. Interestingly, in the anti fur season of 1980's bourgeois women felt the loss of whatever symbolic agency they had accured as consumers of fur's symbolic power. Not only was fur a signifiacant commodity fetish; the link between sexual and material excess contributed to furs signifcance as a sexual fetish. Fur was an object of desire, commonly worn by aristocratic women of fashion to exhibit their status. Historically, fur was a principle object of exchange for guns, kettles, other tools and luxury goods.
Animal rights groups PETA has slammed Harrods for selling a £1,400 cuddly toy made from real rabbit fur. The 30cm sleeping dog is made by French fur toy and accessory manufacturer Caresse d'Orylag. The Knightsbridge shop says on their website that the cuddly toy is 'incredibly soft to the touch' and 'luxuriously crafted from tonal grey Orylag fur'.http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4415826/Harrods-sells-toy-rabbit-fur.html
My project explores the idea of excess, and this seems to be one of the pinnacles of excess for me. Although I do not justify the use of animal fur within clothing, it could be argued that it functions to keep the wearer warm. The use of animal fur in a cuddely toy, immitating to be an animal itself seems disgustingly ironic. It is completely unnecessary, and shows how selfish we are as humans, as our desire to buy luxuary items seems to outweight the animals right to life.
The picture below, 1985 captures British protesters errecting a sign on the Harrods building in protest about the killing of animals to make fur coats.
Posters like this have immediet impact and are quick to grab the viewers attention. This poster make me want to incorporate lettering within my prints. I am aware of Vivienne Westwoods current exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum in London. It celebrates the socio-political power of this universal garment, one used as a visual tool for conveying cultural statements and protestations.
Gold and its status
I love the idea of a golden face - this tomb mask reminds me of todays emoji, or yellow smiley face.
The People of the Labyrinths
In the library today I came across a book that instantly inspired me, Maze, The People of the Labyrinths. In 1984 Hans Demoed and Geert de Rooij started The People of the Labyrinths (POTL), A fashion company and fashion-label specialising in handprinting and hand-dyed creations.
Interested to know more about their ideas and process, I went on youtube to find interviews of the artists. Unfortunately an interview of them was not in english, but I found another video which shows the journey of dyeing fabrics and screenprinting. The dying process combines yellow, red and blue to create a tye dye effect of different tones as some colours merge together. The ground is an overal dull browny colour, which provides an effective background for the bold screenprints. I really like the way the artists layer up different stencils, and different shapes interact with eachother, making a cohesive irregular pattern. This builds up layers of rich visual interest, the overal appearance is distinctive, casual and carefree. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5p00IL6bOA
Jewellery at the V&A
Beads in Jewellery go far back in time, long before the craft of metalworking - very early beads often had symbolic or amuletic value
The desire to have beads as a personal adorement is universal to all cultures
The fascination with gold never ceases - Rejected when the avant-garde was experimenting with alternative materials, gold returened to favour in the 1990's.
A new approach 1980-2000 - Robert Ebendorf, an enthusist for incorporating found objects, chose to make his beads out of papier mache from Chinese newspaper and gold foil.
1995-2005 - Hans Stofer describes his necklace as 'totally unbling, but the size of bling', and having 'a narrative unlike bling'. As my project explores excess, the idea of bling seems to be integral, as I continue to investigate what is too much? what is vulgar? what looks 'cheap'? Hans Stofer seems to argue that size is relevant to bling, and this is very valid as the bigger something is, the more attention grabbing it is -The bigger the better
The smiley face as an Icon
'A smiley (sometimes called a happy face or smiley face) is a stylized representation of a smiling humanoid face that is a part of popular culture worldwide.'
Concerned about low moral in the company, the company look for a way to cheer up employees - A symbol that could be worn on a pin or a button. The smile button was a major hit and was produced in the thousands, handed out to promote the company.
In the 60's the smiley face returned, and was as popular as the peace sign.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P78C_TFeqjU
As humans we have always wanted to express how we feel. Today we live our lives immersed in technology such as our phones. Emojis act as a communication tool to express our emotions to a certain extent. Its been called the fastest language to learn, one study suggets that 3 billion people use it. 39% of communication on a daily basis is through technology, meaning that as we have 'shut out the rhythm of the human voice', and it is essential that we replace it with something.
Misscommunication may arise due to the brevity of messages, and people can become unclear regarding the feeling and tone of a message. The emoji was designed to eliviate this problem. Today the emoji has been used as a medium in art, and even in film.
I am interested in the smiley face as an icon, in the same way the Green man is an icon. I want to include the green smiley face in my work to refference and celebrate the welcoming symbol the Green men are. This is quite a literal refference, but I want to challenge my ability to personalise such a universal symbol. Despite being a smiley face, there is something strangley emotionless about a smileyface, probably as it can only express one emotion....
I first came across Rachel Maclean's work in 2016 when I visted her exhibition at the Tate Britain 'Wot u :-) about?'. http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/rachel-maclean-wot-u-about
The exhibition presents a 'vision of society that is at once seductive and nightmarish, exaggerating contemporary preoccupations and behaviours.' Glasgow based artist and filmaker, Maclean strongly focuses on societies dependance on technology, refferencing advertising syles and childrens television programs. She creates a surreal world in which the main character is an emodiment of data. Maclean plays all the charaters herself, using green screens, costume and make up as tools to convey her artifical fairy tale like world. I particularly like the way she uses everyday objects/symbols to critique thr materialistic world of today. This includes the yellow smiley face and other emojis, coffee, phones as objects we worship. Her overall bright digital aesthetic which has a visually agressive intensity, and grotesqueness which relates to my theme of excess well.
I came across Manish Arora when researching the circus, looking for contempory designers that were inspired by the circus. The garment below really excites me because the use of print and embelishment creates a visual richness that attracts the eye. The figures and motifs take on a narrative like role - their stylised appearance emphasises the playful subject matter. I love the way the decorated breast cups match the hat, and the way in which makeup is used to add dramatic flare. I searched for books on Manish Arora in the library, but unfortunately there was not any. I searched on the Vogue catwalk website to find his current Fall Winter 2018-2019. I really admire his astute craftsmanship and unique play on colours. There is a certain joy and celebratory quality about his work, as he combines differnt prints in an unexpected way - sleeves become different patterns ' a stylised interaction of exotic skin etched in rivulets of gold'.
When researching Eggs, I came across this short film which I thought was hilariously poingant. It follows the story of an egg, who bounces out of his egg holder and seems to go on a huge journey. It embarks on psychedellic landscapes in which the sky becomes a hallucinagenic merge of pattern and colour. The film ends abruptly when the egg cracks on the floor, and the viewer realises this otherworldly journey was actually just the egg falling from the egg cup to the floor. With a sudden crack the eggs fragile shell is smashed on the floor. The final shot is of a person buying a new egg in a supermarket. I love the simplicty of this film - The egg take on a character like narrative, almost like a human. I like the way music and special digital effects are used to create an atmosphere, as the egg cannot show emotions/communicate.
In the library I was researching luxary goods and came across Louis Vuitton's The Birth of Modern Luxury which documents the significance of trunks. In the 1800's Trade intensified throughout the world along with the growth in production. In major cities the most spectacular change was the appearance of the large department store. It offered a luxurious setting and wide variety of merchandise, which was classified into departments and sold at attractive prices. Trade names flourished, and most of them still exist today.
Louis Vuitton was an apprentice and later a senior clerk at Monsieurs Merechal's establishment. His primary role as a box maker was to pack elegant clothing. Each piece of clothing was put in a box or layette especially made for it. In its protective case it would travel without risk. Louis Vuitton would draw on the box maker/packer tradition years later, when he launched himself as a trunk maker. His knowledge meant he was aware of the 'alliance of solidarity and lightness' - as a case that was too heavy increased transportation costs, but one that was too fragile could suffer from the hardships of travel, and its contents could be damaged.
The picture above interests me because the figure seems to physically be made from trunks and storage units. This blurs the lines between what is human and what is a manmade object, as his body seems decompartmentalised like a robot. The problem with having so much 'stuff' is the issue of where to store it. This interests me because pockets play a huge role in making our lives more efficient, and convenient for us as consumers.
Pockets come in a variety of forms and sizes and can be located anywhere on the body, functioning to store small items - Pockets or envelopes can also be attached to luggage, backpacks.
Origins - Ancient people used leather or cloth pouches ro hold valuables, and a 'Iceman' who lives around 3,300 BCE had a belt with a pouch sewn to it that contained his useful items.
When researching the History of pockets, I discovered that there are no pockets visible on this woman's ensemble of 1760. They were usually worn underneath their petticoats. Men didn't wear separate pockets, as theirs were sewn into the linings of their coats, waistcoats and breeches. I think it is quite suprising to have pockets basically on your underwear! However, I quite like the idea of the pockets being so close to ones body, as fundamentally they contain valuable things.
Many pockets were handmade and they were often given as gifts. Some were made to match a petticoat or waistcoat. However, many pockets were stolen - in the 18th and 19th centuries, thieves known as 'pickpockets' removed men's wallets and cut the strings of women's pockets. http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/history-of-pockets/
In the 1790s women's fashions changed very dramatically. Wide hoops and full petticoats went out of style. Instead, dresses had a high waistline and skirts that fell close to the body and legs. This meant that traditional pockets and their contents would ruin the line of the dress. As a solution, women began to use decorative bags designed to be carried over the arm like todays contemporary handbag.
Below are some contemporary examples of pockets which dominate the garment. I find the third picture of Yuki Hashimoto's Cosmic Migration very interesting, beacuse the bags become extensions of the arms.
Ocean liners: Speed and style
The ocean liner remians one of the most admired symbols of modernity, being the most romantic and remarkable form of transport. Liners shaped the world, transporting millions of immigrants to new lives, carrying troops to war, while ship building became central to many modern industrial economies.
- great floating palaces - just as luxurious as hotels - sumptuous interiors to attract wealthy passengers
-Art Decco became the pre eminent style for liners with its associations of glamour and luxury
- Interiors combined internationalism with national characteristics and traditions
- Ocean Liners were symbols of the state - expanding empires -national rivalries between liners
- Fashion became central to the experince of being on board and liners were used to stage runway shows in 20th century
- Shipping lines promoted refined delicacies and extravagant displays which became an indispensible part of the journey
Scanning electron micrograph showing the structure of the surface of a mosquito egg.