IAC’s 21st Fashion Conference: BLUE

This November blue–a potent color most often used branding, the preferred hue of colored gemstones, and a visual metaphor for purity and creativity—the color and its power are the focus of IAC’s annual fashion and design conference; its history and use fuel consideration of contemporary issues including fashion’s relationship to sustainability, the sources of the color that we see, and the reasons for blue’s centrality in garb and adornment.

Blue is primary. It is primal. Blue are the waters that cover our beloved planet, which require far more responsible use of its sources. Blue is the color of lapis lazuli, ground for the pigment of Old Master paintings. It is the quintessential base of denim, the beloved all-American fabric, and the hue of the “extra something” a bride needs on the big day. In all cultures, blue materials are revered and fashioned into objects of desire. From Thursday, November 14th through Saturday, November 16th, 2019, Initiatives in Art and Culture will host its 21st fashion, jewelry and design conference, entitled “Blue,” celebrating the hue, at Parsons The New School.

Stan Herman Poses with Models Wearing the TWA Hotel Uniforms. Photo: Isak Tiner, courtesy: The New York Times.

Lisa Koenigsberg, president, Initiatives in Art and Culture, says, “Like music experienced directly and requiring no translator, color is one the most powerful signifiers producing visceral responses embedded deeply within us. For this reason, blue, one of the most elemental colors, is the focus of Initiatives in Art and Culture (IAC)’s 21st Annual Fashion, Jewels + Design Conference. Blue sits astride the entirety of fashion. Uniquely resonant, and thus the preferred color of branding, the color, with its many hues and variations, is central to the work of the great designers, artisans, jewelers, design pioneers, and authorities whom IAC is honored to welcome. We also express our gratitude to our project partner, The New School, for its engagement and to all other entities playing a role in making this metaphorically mixed deep dive impactful for all attending.”

With materials at the forefront, IAC’s Blue conference begins Thursday evening with introductory remarks by Koenigsberg, followed by the talk “On this day: Blue,” given by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, fashion historian, journalist, and author of Worn on This Day: The Clothes That Made History. Cameron Silver, director, Halston, and founder, Decades, a vintage couture boutique in Los Angeles, follows in conversation with celebrity stylist, Andrew Gelwicks in “It’s Chic to Repeat.” The history of the color and the assorted materials used to realize its many hues in garments of historical significance will be chronicled, contextualized, and assessed for continued relevance, as will blue’s use in today’s fashion iconography. Further delving into making, on Friday morning, Rowland Ricketts, professor and associate dean at Indiana University’s Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, reflects on his history of indigo farming and natural dye use in textiles in “Growing Blue: An Artist Reflects on Material, Color, and Process.”

Mined from the earth, and beloved as jewels, vibrant blue gemstones set into jewelry also captivate. Grant Mobley of the Diamond Producers Association, will explore the wonder and uniqueness of natural blue diamonds. Michael Peters, CEO, Trusted Gems & founder, Panjshir Valley Emeralds, and Elle Hill, CEO, Hill & Co. Fine Jewelry Launch and Growth Experts, discuss the extraction and transformation of precious blue substances, as well as their translation into treasures to be worn. Delving into the experiential, attendees will view “The Protagonist,” an exhibition of sustainable fine jewelry organized by Vogue Italia, held at the Park Avenue Armory. A dazzling array of gemstone pieces, created with better stewardship of our planet in mind, will be on view; attendees will be welcomed by remarks from creative director, and haute joaillerie designer, Alexandra Mor.

Dana Thomas, Fashionopolis The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes. Penguin Press, New York, 2019. Cover design: Evan Gaffney. Cover art: Michelangelo Pistoletto, Venus in Rags, first produced 1967, T112200, the Tate’s version, produced in 1974 is the only one in which the figure accompanying the textiles is made of marble. Marble and textiles. Tate, London.

In addition, an ever-growing call for sustainability is at the forefront of the fashion industry, prompting designers to rethink their creations, and challenging brands to take a stand on corporate social responsibility. Jessica L’Abbe, senior director of Color, Materials and Graphics, Converse, explores this concept in “Chuck Taylor: An Icon and the Embrace of Sustainability,” addressing how a commitment to the planet changed Converse’s business model and company culture. Sergio Guadarrama and Kade Johnson, the designers behind the bespoke Celestino, discuss their signature style, office to red carpet glamour, made of repurposed materials and textiles. Johnson says, “We are participating with Initiatives in Art and Culture because of their focus and integrity to shed light upon influential and prominent companies in the industry making a difference in the world today. Sergio and Kade nurture Celestino to be a sustainable, eco-conscious, and politically charged company that successfully educates and makes positive impacts on the world.” Regarding sustainable fashion on a macro level, Dana Thomas, award-winning journalist, and the author of Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes, explores the reclaiming of traditional craft, sustainable technologies, and how both are used to improve the quality of the fashion industry today. On Saturday afternoon, attendees will visit Scott Morrison, founder and creative director of 3×1 Denim, at his showroom, for a discussion of and look at the crafting of a new type of transparency in the denim industry.

Leading fashion authorities and luminaries will discuss career highlights, their personal relationship with the color blue, and the color’s use in branding. Cocktails and a conversation with Benoit-Louis Vuitton, entitled, “The Spirit of Travel Through Sea and Sky,” will be hosted at Louis Vuitton; the Maison represents a heritage brand that marries timeless style with craft and artistry. In addition, two icons, each with a major museum show—acclaimed British designer and colorist, Zandra Rhodes (“Zandra Rhodes: 50 Years of Fabulous, Fashion and Textile Museum) and beloved American designer and Made in USA advocate, Anna Sui (“The World of Anna Sui,” Museum of Arts and Design), will be in conversation about Zandra Rhodes’ 50 years in fashion. Both powerhouses of creativity in their own right, their examination of blue is not to be missed.

The color’s sartorial importance will also be explored during the conference. Why are so many uniforms blue? Why is so much fashion blue? Stan Herman, fashion designer, will discuss this with Bridget Foley, executive editor, Women’s Wear Daily (WWD). Herman designed uniforms for many well-known companies, such as Amtrak, Federal Express, JetBlue, TWA, and United Airlines. He says, “Blue has been the dominant color of my uniform design life. It cuts across all boundaries and instills a sense of confidence in the wearer. No other color comes close — I wonder why? I look forward to exploring this topic in conversation with Bridget Foley in Initiatives in Art and Culture’s Conference, Blue, which is devoted to this primary color and is the preferred color of branding because of its unique resonance.

CELESTINO, Couture, 2018. Photo: Lindsay Adler; courtesy, CELESTINO.

During the talk “Blue Notes,” Arthur Elgort, world-renowned fashion photographer, whose work is informed by his lifelong love of jazz, and photographer, author, and jazz musical impresario Hank O’Neal will be in conversation about the influence of music and the image with blue. Elgort observes, “Blue is a color that uniquely resonates as we know from music, and it will be an honor and a pleasure to talk with my dear friend, Hank O’Neal, about the role of this color in jazz, the most singularly American art form, and in photography, the creative medium in which I have expressed myself, at Initiatives in Art and Culture’s Conference, Blue.”

Mickey Alam Khan, editor in chief, Luxury Daily, says, “IAC’s Blue conference promises a feast of ideas, insights and inspiration on fashion, jewelry and design. This 21st edition, like its predecessors, stands out for its stellar lineup of speakers, all of whom are subject-matter experts and industry observers without parallel. This is a must-attend event for those involved in the worlds of fashion, jewelry and design.”

“Blue” has been developed and organized by Initiatives in Art and Culture, and is hosted in partnership with the School of Fashion at Parsons School of Design. The Lena and Louis Minkoff Foundation is gratefully acknowledged for its generosity. Additionally, IAC expresses sincere thanks to Diamond Producers Association, Piaget, JCK, Salon Art + Design, and Trusted Gems Inc. and Panjshir Valley Emeralds to for their generous sponsorships.

Register for “Blue: 21st Annual Fashion, Jewelry + Design Conference” directly on Eventbrite by clicking here. To learn more about Initiatives in Art and Culture, or inquire about sponsorship opportunities, visit http://artinitiatives.com, call 646-485-1952, or email info@artinitatives.com.

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