Posts tagged Design History

So so sorry for the radio silence. I was in over my head with market and moving from LA to NY. I think I let a month go by since I've done any sort of design research. Woops! And though I'm still super busy and not in the mood to do anything after hustling so hard, I have been looking at the work of Max Bill lately, so I figured it was time to get back to it.

Max Bill was born in Switzerland in 1908. In his home town of Winterhur, he apprenticed as a metalsmith before studying at the Bauhaus school in Dausau, Germany in 1924. Like most Bauhaus artists, Bill worked with a number of mediums and designed across genres. 

Some of his most notable work in my opinion is in his graphic work, which included typography.(Yes!) But then again I also love the architectural pieces, sculptures and industrial designs he did too, so maybe I actually just love Max Bill.

What's really cool about Bill is that he studied under Bauhuas, but he also hung out with French painters like Hans Arp and Piet Mondrian, whose work represented a movement then called, Abstraction-Création, which influenced him to form his own group known as the Allianz Group in Switzerland in 1937.

The Allianz Group focused on Concrete Art theories pioneered by Max Bill, which was similar to Constructivism, in that both were interested in abstraction, but Bill's theories made a heavier emphasis on color. (A good student of Bauahaus, I'd say)... 

A major tenant of the larger Concrete Art movement of the time, which was the probably the most distinguishing departure from Constructivism, was that Concrete Art strived to make no references to objects found in visible reality or in nature. So out went all the boring notions of cubism and in came really cool shapes.

Once Constructivism spawned in Russia around 1919, its influence on artwork made in Europe lasted through the 1930s. And while Bauhaus ended up a movement in its own right, some of the Bauhaus instructors such as Josef Albers, worked to create the Concrete Art movement. (See my previous posts on Josef Albers for more info). After studying with Bauhaus, hanging out with super cool French painters, and starting his own art group, Max Bill went on to teach at The School of Arts in Zurich in 1944, before forming his own school called the Ulm School of Design in 1953, with artist Inge Aicher-Scholl and Otl Aicher in Ulm, Germany. 

Originally basing their teachings of the Bauhaus school, Ulm School of Design developed a new education approach that integrated art and science. This unorthodox design education even included semiotics in its curriculum, which caused a bit of stir amongst the art and design snobs of the day. And maybe Bill and his friends were actually too ambitious with their education theories, because the school only lasted for 13 years before it closed.

After this foray, Bill started working heavily in architectural and industrial design. He also kept painting and doing graphic design, but his more commercial work in the 1950s might be what he is best known for today.

Max Bill's Ulmer Stool, (pictured above) was made in the 1950s, and is meant to be used either as an modular object that sits on the ground or as shelves mounted on the wall. So pretty! He also worked with Junghans, a Swiss timekeeping company, where he designed watches, clocks and scales, which are still available on the market. v v v (I die).

Being that Max Bill was so prolific much like his predecessors of the Bauhaus school, he worked and exhibited up until his death in 1988.

Towards the end of his life, architects and public planners in Germany and Switzerland began commissioning Bill to make large sculptures to be displayed in public spaces. Nearly all are still on view and are protected by a conservation trust started post-mortem by Max Bill's son.

I could go on forever about this guy but I need to go to bed. If you haven't familiarized yourself with his work, check it out. There's so much... the guy lived for 80 years and worked for almost 60 of them. Soooo coool.

Courtney Cady, © Bagtazo 2016


I'm working on shooting the lookbook for my new collection and I keep coming back to the work of Walter Albini. Walter Albini was an obscure Italian designer until about 2010, when a book called, Walter Albini and His Times: All Power to the Imagination by Maria Luisa Frisa was published. I was given this book as a Christmas gift in 2010 and continue to reference the it for my own work today.

Being credited for pioneering Italian Prêt-à-Porter, Albini was among the first to create ready-made clothing in Europe. Prior to Coco Chanel, most women's clothing was made to measure through the early 20th century. But Albini, was said to be "the designer who came out de l'atelier to enter the factory." (For anyone who knows me personally, perhaps this is why I connect with him so much, given that I'm always in the trenches at the factories).

In his teens, Albini was the only male student to enroll at the Institute of Art, Design and Fashion in Turin, Italy, and by the mid 1960s, he was working as an illustrator in Paris. From here, Albini met Coco Chanelle, and worked alongside a number of designers including Mariuccia Mandelli, the designer of Krizia, and Karl Lagerfeld, who also worked with Krizia at the time. During this period, Albini studied the industrial methods of knitting and textile milling, and he worked to standardize sizing, cutting and sewing for ready to wear garments made in a factory setting.

After a successful and ambitious runway show that featured over 100 models (and 100 looks) in Italy in 1969, and working simultaneously with five major fashion houses in the early 1970s where he debuted the first-ever loose fitting men's shirt and bare breasts on the runway, Albini began his own line, Walter Albini (produced by then Italian 'it-brand' Misterfox) where he reimagined women in blazers, wearing trousers and shirt-dresses. Much like Coco Chanel's adaptation of menswear in women's fashion, Albini pushed the limits of modern women's dress, working to create a 'total look' with his designs, from head to toe, designing everything from buttons and fabrics, to clothing, hats, accessories, belts and shoes to complete the package.

During this time, Albini also designed several interiors to serve as spaces for showrooms and runway presentation venues where he showcased his work with other lines and his own to press and the fashion milieu, often setting tables just to be shot for Casa Vogue where he created tableware, flatware and other home goods using prints he designed for fabrics as details.

But without much commercial support, Albini struggled for a few years during the mid-1970s, eventually leaving his collaboration with Misterfox, opting to take a break from design to travel for a few years. Upon his return, Albini made an uncharacteristic comeback, creating two Haute Couture collections where he presented the idea of atelier-produced garments to be sold as ‘teletta,’ (his take on undergarments) or textiles to be worn in various ways. However, following these two collections, Albini returned to ready-to-wear, designing some of my favorite collections with Italian brand Trell as well as with his own line, up through the 1980s.

Sadly, Albini's life was cut short, at the age of 42 (I can't find the cause of his death anywhere), but despite his short career, he was not only was prolific in his fashion design, but his concepts of advertising, runway shows as performance and his overall approach to high fashion heavily influences the fashion world today. Loud music on the catwalk is played with thanks to Albini, high designed interiors for showrooms and retails stores were first made by him, and unisex clothing was taken a step further than Chanel had done it to encompass menswear for women and women's wear for men. His attention to detail, ability to see new ideas through and willingness to learn processes made him an inventor. Much of what I do is rooted in what Albini did before me, and I'm sure many other designers, whether they're conscious of it or not, are greatly influenced by the work of Walter Albini.

Walter Albini in his own design, 1976

Courtney Cady, © Bagtazo 2015