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March 25, 2014

Southern Belles

From Gone with the Wind to Debutante Balls, a Cross-Generational Look at Beauty in the Deep South

A little under 75 years ago, David O. Selznick’s adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind delivered Scarlett O’Hara in all her Technicolor glory, imprinting forever the notion of the Southern belle: the feisty beauty with a honey-laden accent, done-up in yards of antebellum dress, on the hunt for a husband. By exploring Scarlett’s proverbial stomping grounds in and around Atlanta, Georgia, Tim Richmond and James Nutt’s documentary short Southern Belles discovers that, while the plantation no longer remains, the front porches, hospitality, grace, and etiquette persevere.

Often beneath the genteel exterior lies a strong, refined woman to be reckoned with—but presentation is still paramount. Stepping out in loungewear sans makeup or anything deemed less than respectable is a definite no-no. Equally important is their renowned, friendly hospitality. Southern ladies are exceptionally welcoming and adore entertaining. This is where the warm climate plays its part. Pleasant spring times and forgiving falls. When people are comfortable going in-and-out of doors, serving sweet tea, hosting evening garden or pool parties and the like. But on the flipside, regardless of age, many Southern women agree that one should be weary of artificiality, particularly when the mannerisms are overdone.

Today’s belles are inevitably more independent, liberated and better-educated than their predecessors. The life goal of solely seeking out an MRS degree is, slowly but surely, fading. “Long ago we were taught that we could either teach school if we wanted a career, or be a nurse or perhaps a secretary for some big shot,” notes Louly, one of the narrators from today’s short. “Things have certainly changed but the core values of the Southern belle, such as strength and graciousness, still exist.” —Lee C. Wallick

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Fleurs d’Excès

Dior Haute Joaillerie's Victoire de Castellane Unveils Her Botanical Sculptures at Gagosian Paris

For her debut solo art exhibition Fleurs d’Excès, Victoire de Castellane remade the Gagosian Gallery in Paris into an imagined Eden. NOWNESS was given exclusive access to the wearable, one-of-a-kind jeweled sculptures prior to the show's opening. “In real life I don’t like flowers,” De Castellane reveals. “I can’t get attached to something that dies so quickly, so I make flowers that live forever.” Created from precious materials including lacquered silver, white gold, nephrite jade, rubies and smoky quartz, the flora are named according to the artist’s fictional classification system—with monikers such as Heroina Romanticam Dolorosa and Crystalucinea Metha Agressiva—to connote the illicit pleasures of mind-altering substances while hinting at their potential peril. Parisian-born De Castellane discovered her calling at the tender age of five when she took apart one of her mother’s charm bracelets to make a pair of earrings. After 14 years of designing costume jewelry for Chanel, in 1998 she joined Dior to launch the house’s Haute Joaillerie department. Facehunter's Yvan Rodic was there to shoot the show's opening and private after-party hosted by Larry Gagosian and Giovanni Testino; click here to see images from the Paris Fashion Week event.


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Spotlight

Ryan McGinley: Entrance Romance

Carolyn Murphy Lights Up the Photographer's Daringly Spiritual New Film

“I knew it was going to be wild when I signed on,” says Carolyn Murphy, who stars in Ryan McGinley’s exclusive short film Entrance Romance (it felt like a kiss). “Next thing I know, my manager is telling me that they're going to break glass on my head and my leading man's a dog. I'm like, 'That's it?' I was so sure I'd have to take my clothes off,” she says, laughing. Shot with a Phantom camera (capable of capturing video at over 1000 frames per second), Entrance Romance sees the all-American beauty (since 2002 the face of Estée Lauder) cheerfully turning a can of WD-40 into a flame thrower, passionately kissing a dog and smiling serenely as a bowl of goldfish smashes over her head. Murphy notes: "We did the fishbowl scene in just one take. As soon as it cracked against my head, everyone dove down and scrambled to pick up the goldfish. None were hurt in the making of this film!" The film's collision of innocence and thrill should be familiar to fans of the photographer's previous work—carefree, hazy shots of teenagers jumping off cliffs, skinny dipping or cavorting in remote locations (earlier this year, McGinley debuted a film for Pringle of Scotland featuring Tilda Swinton in a forest and caves)—but here the action is exquisitely drawn out, with the camera registering the most minute changes in Murphy's expression. Despite the relentless focus, her face remains unflinchingly calm, emphasized by beachy makeup, luminous golden lighting, and a meditative, chant-led soundtrack, all of which provide an intriguing contrast to the film’s explosions of glass shards. “We thought about going with a really rough punk rock look,” makeup artist James Kaliardos says. “But Ryan loved the idea of showing this iconic, fresh-faced California girl in an entirely new context, so I did fresh, 70s “no-makeup” makeup. We wanted her to look happy and in control, but still vulnerable.” So she does—and her bliss is infectious. 


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