BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS, WITH AIMÉE LABERGE
As we all know, fashion is French! And this dates back to the court of the Sun King with Louis XIV’s richly embroidered justaucorps and red sole boots all the way to the global luxury goods empire of LVHM and the artistry of the Paris couture houses. —Aimée Laberge, Director of Programs, Alliance Française de Chicago
No one could better explain the virtual rendezvous that the Alliance Française has planned each Thursday through December 3 for both men and women than Aimée Laberge, surely Chicago’s premier creator of programs with élan.
“We chose the title Chic & You because the ‘you’ can be anybody: male, female, gender fluid, even the little dachshund in our logo is chic!” Laberge explains. “Chic & You is anchored in the here and now, with COVID and online programming giving us the opportunity to hear guests from Paris, New York and Chicago. It won’t be your usual Zoom!”
The only exception to the every Thursday rule occurs Friday, October 16 at 6 pm when the Alliance welcomes the New York “Queen of Diamonds,” Italian Countess Patrizia di Carrobio, in conversation with the former editor of Vogue Italia, Grazia d’Annunzio.
“As an international dealer of precious gems and vintage jewelry for more than 30 years, Patrizia’s family history precedes her. While sharing an apartment with fashion legend Elsa Schiaparelli, Patrizia’s grandmother Contessa Gabriella Nicolis di Robilant served as a fashion and jewelry advisor to wealthy Americans traveling to Paris. She began her career at Christie’s in New York in 1980, quickly becoming one of the firm’s senior gem appraisers and eventually heading the Jewelry Department. She was the first female auctioneer in that department and generated a record-breaking $30 million sale, the largest such sale in North America at the time. Her passion for jewelry spans centuries, cultures, and genres —from costume jewelry to Crown Jewels. She deals in important diamonds, pearls, emeralds, and royal jewels, as well as important pieces by major jewelers. She has also lent items from her collection to celebrities for Oscar and Emmy red carpet appearances,” says Laberge.
Expect an hour of 100% energy and charm, with tales of adornment in history, fashion, literature, and art, and tips on how to make heads turn without breaking the bank.
Laberge shares that the Alliance sees the series as both a forum of ideas about the changes going through the fashion industry and a feast for all of us who’ve missed wearing our chicest clothes (and the occasions to wear them).
On October 22, the Alliance will spotlight its “chic advisor,” the always popular Gloria Groom, Chair of European Chair of European Painting and Sculpture and the David and Mary Winton Green Curator at The Art Institute of Chicago to speak on fashion as an art form, having entered the world of museums.
When the internationally acclaimed exhibition Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity opened at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2013, it had reached the end of a tour that included Paris’ Musée d’Orsay and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It was also the culmination of a transatlantic collaboration involving numerous cultural institutions, collectors, curators, and scholars in the United States and France. The groundbreaking exhibition was the first to explore the relationship between fashion and the fine arts, in particular, that of the French impressionists such as Monet, Manet, Degas, and Renoir. Groom, the exhibition’s curator and a superb speaker, will reveal the behind-the-scenes efforts of putting this ambitious exhibition together as well as fashion’s place within the art museum.
The following week, on October 29, Laberge and the Alliance will host photographers and image-makers Isabelle Chaput and Nelson Tiberghien of the Young Emperors Instagram. The New York-based French couple make their viral weekly posts to their 170,000 followers an unusual combination of humor, performance art, and gender-bending matching outfits by the likes of Isabel Marant and Marine Serre. Their posts are also an extension of the work they create under the name Cesar Love Alexandre, encompassing everything from fashion photography to visual performances. Tiberghien and Chaput will discuss social media’s role in their creative process as well as the evolution of the fashion influencer in the digital age, a decade after the concept’s emergence.
November 12’s event features Sophie Theallet, couturière et protégée of Azzedine Alaïa, in conversation with supermodel Veronica Webb, both champions of a racially inclusive runway. Born and raised in Detroit, Webb first traveled to Paris at the age of 19, launching a decades-long career working with noted designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Martine Sitbon, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Alaia, and Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garcons. In addition to being featured in publications such as Elle, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar, Webb became the first black model to receive a lucrative beauty contract with Revlon.
The series is curated by Alexander Aubry, Patrizia di Carrobio, and Aimée Laberge in partnership with the Fashion Resource Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). For more information, click here.