From screen tests to road trips, Brian Wolk and Claude Morais have carved out a refreshingly unique space in fashion by using their storytelling and collections to highlight aspects of L.A. culture.
On Monday night, they took on the concept of reality versus duplication inherent to Hollywood, presenting their 11th collection at Grandmaster Recorders, the former recording studio (and silent movie theater before that), which has become a nightlife hot spot.
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Titled “Recto/Verso” after the fine art term, the collection was different from front-to-back, featuring energetic renditions of their signature tailoring using reclaimed ’40s silk tweeds, houndstooth checks, Chantilly lace, Duchesse satin and denim on bi-fabric pants suits and miniskirt suits. There were also funky blouses made from ’70s- and ’80s-era silk prints, and multicolored satin gowns with a vintage spirit.
Being L.A. designers, they’ve also embraced the fashion film medium, and picked up some international awards along the way. This time, the shot on location among the floor-to-ceiling racks of the historic Western Costume house, a Hollywood landmark since 1912, with models marching back and forth through the aisles in their looks, which were different coming and going.
The crowd at the screening party ate it up, including costume designer Arianne Phillips, stylists Maryam Malakpour and Elizabeth Stewart.
The film was narrated by Alan Cumming, who has worn Wolk Morais suits on several occasions. In it, he recites snippets from the Jean Genet play “Elle” about a photographer who goes to visit the Pope and take his picture, only to find he’s dressed in the front and completely naked in the back.
“The idea of why do you care about my behind when only my image is important has stuck with us since we first saw Alan in the play in 2003,” Wolk said. “And we thought it was particularly relevant to the time we’re living in of social media and paparazzi…”
“When a photo is enough for me to be me,” Claude Morais added.
After the short screening, (for the event’s Instagrammable moment), curtains parted to reveal a mis-en-scene of famous mannequins dressed in pieces from the collection, including Twiggy, Pat Cleveland, Cher, Joan Collins, Marilyn Monroe, Joanna Lumley and more, sourced from L.A.’s Oh Mannequin collection.
“We thought it was great to expose what was behind…and behind…” Wolk said.
Oh Mannequins owner ChadMichael Morrisette, whose 2,500-piece archive dates back to the 1800s, was on hand to discuss his passion.
“I’m the number-one search for mannequins in Los Angeles, I have been doing it for 30 years,” he said, noting that his collection includes several from mannequin pioneer Adel Rootstein, who started making them for retail stores in London in the ’60s in the image of Twiggy and other famous fashion models.
Nowadays, Morrisette primarily works with museums and Hollywood studios on For Your Consideration events and exhibitions, using faceless or egghead mannequins and sculpting bodies to celebrity specifications.
One of his most prized from his archive, which includes papier-mache, fiberglass and 3D printed models, is a Kim Kattrall from the 1987 movie “Mannequin” which was dressed in Wolk Morais for the evening. “Someone had to die,” he said of procuring the piece valued at $15,000. “There were only six of them made for the film.”
Now, most fashion mannequins are faceless and mass produced, he said. “We look at ourselves now, it’s self absorbtion, it’s not about the unreachable, it’s about your own face.”
The Wolk Morais designers’ latest film will be screened at the ASVOFF fashion film festival, and at festivals in London and Seattle. Meanwhile, they are launching their second cashmere collection this winter, and looking forward to getting back to dressing celebrities for the red carpet soon. Wolk said of the latest offering: “We are hoping this is perfect timing for the end of the strike.”
Launch Gallery: Wolk Morais Collection 11
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