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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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Hair Raising

"Vidal Sassoon The Movie"

“It’s deeper than just me,” muses legendary hairstylist Vidal Sassoon on the new documentary about his life. “It belongs to the craft.” Initially conceived by Bumble and Bumble founder Michael Gordon as a short film to give to Sassoon upon his 80th birthday, the project quickly evolved into the feature-length Vidal Sassoon the Movie, celebrating not only the hairstylist’s life but the art of the profession itself. “It was a process of trying to put pieces together in a way that I thought it should be told—it wasn’t necessarily the way Vidal remembered it,” explains Gordon. “When some people are making history they don’t really realize what they’re doing.” The film, which debuted at last week’s Tribeca Film Festival, follows Sassoon’s life, covers Sassoon's beginnings in an orphanage, his apprenticeship as a teen “shampoo boy” in London, and a stint in the Israeli army before he found international celebrity with his salon, established in 1954. Sassoon’s revolutionary approach freed women’s tresses from the need for pins and sprays, and created a host of era-defining styles, including the bobs he snipped for Mary Quant’s runways and the five-point geometric style—which he explains himself in today’s exclusive clip. Sassoon’s passion is still evident: “If you were to ask me what was the moment of complete joy, it was sharing; it was knowing that our work was not just copied but people utilized it, learned from it and then used their own artistry. That’s what it’s all about.”

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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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