Friday, October 22, 2010

The New Modernist: Chadwick Bell

Source of Insperation for the Chadwick Bell Spring 2011 Collection. Photograph by Gigi Stoll

by David Pedroza, Editor-in-Chief

During the Golden Age of Haute Couture, Madame Gres created a sensation with bias cut gowns and liquid, jersey dresses which resembled the ruined columns of Greece. The mastery of drape and manipulation of the bias grain, established her as a grand couturier and master dress maker. For spring 2011, Chadwick Bell, presented a collection that took on the key elements of Madame Gres; soft draped fabrics, beautifully cut bias, and an airiness in his clothes in which great dressmakers learn through an apprenticeship at an haute couture house.

I had the pleasure of being a guest at the Chadwick Bell Studio during the spring 2011 collections, in September. Bell’s collection titled, Camouflage, took on inspiration from a photographer who took photos of her journey in a desert. These photographs by Gigi Stoll, exposed the beautiful textures, rich colors, and elements of a desert along with the life style of those who inhabited the desert. Bell took these elements and transformed them into loose bias cut dresses, light cotton voile blouses and evening columns beautifully adorned with stacked paillettes made to look like crushed, wet, earth. On the runway, the collection was beautiful and very light, but the work up-close was impressive, the attention to detail did not disappoint. Bell’s tailoring techniques have developed during the years; he has achieved the ability to create soft jackets with impeccable tailoring techniques. Taupe, earthy-red clay hues, and Ash grays dominated the color palette, with a mixture of classic men’s suiting fabrics and an organic print in Navy with Egg shell white. Fabrics ranged from a pinstriped gabardine, silk georgette, flesh colored Lamb, and Mudsilk, a crisp, dense fabric which had a distressed, leather look, but soft and light to create an architectural caftan gown. Bell and Webster took me through the collection, and we discussed the virtues of each garment and their workmanship. Chadwick Bell produces ready-to-wear, which is sold at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, but the workmanship stands out, some pieces have been made with the same integrity as haute couture garments, which has created the brand a strong following, of modern elegant woman, many who are Haute Couture clients (One of his clients was a loyal customer at Christian Lacroix Haute Couture).

Studio Visit Photos: 1) Bias cut gown with layers of Chiffon to create a Moire effect. 2) Organic Print Dress. 3) "Mudsilk" Gown. 4) Mastered tailoring in a light men's suiting fabric. 5) The georgette gown shown at the end, with beading made to look like crushed, wet, earth.

Vanessa Webster, Bell’s managing director and business partner, recognized Bell’s unique eye and talent, and supported him to launch a label under his own name in 2007. Webster, who has a laid back elegance and charm, has expanded the company from a small made to order business to an established brand creating clothes for everyday lifestyle. Bell, created a vision of sophisticated, beautifully made clothes that have an intellectual approach with an artistic influence, which vary from contemporary art to grand masters of Haute Couture. Bell favors the work of legendary designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Lacroix and Gianfranco Ferre, whose architectural background is evident in Bell’s clothes. Chadwick bell’s vision continues on to jewelry and shoes; for spring 2011, the collection features beautiful abstract rosaries and gold chains that have a modern and rustic mood, along with hardy, stacked heel, luggage sandals made in collaboration with shoe designer, Nathalie Elharrar.

Chadwick Bell is on his way to becoming a great American Fashion House, with a more sophisticated view on fashion than most young designers, and establishing himself for the long run. Creating clothes that will outlive the seasonal shelf live, and will carry on to a new generation, perhaps he may even become one of our American masters.

Studio Visit Photos: 6) Perfect Bias Cut Day Dress. 7) Bias cut, pinstriped wool dress. 8) The great White Blouse. 9) Supple Lamb used to create a travel-friendly Dress. 10) Silk gold iridescent Matelasse dress with stacked paillettes embroidery.

Runway shots of the Spring 2011 Chadwick Bell Show, courtesy of WWD

Post Script: All clothes and accessories by Chadwick Bell Spring 2011. Chadwick Bell is available at Bergdorf Goodman, New York.

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