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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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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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Spotlight

Byredo: Incense Visions

The Essence of Sweden's Premier Perfume House Unveiled in Cerebral Still Lifes

Photographic duo Brendan Baker and Daniel Evans’s series of arresting compositions take inspiration from the evocative names of Byredo’s celebrated perfumes, including Mister Marvelous, Sunday Cologne and Gypsy Water. Founded in 2006 by former pro basketball player Ben Gorham, Byredo has quickly grown from niche brand for the perfume cognoscenti to an independent fragrance powerhouse. Last year the Sweden-born, Canada-raised Gorham, who works with renowned perfumiers Olivia Giacobetti and Jerome Epinette, added the Seven Veils fragrance to his 15-strong collection of unisex perfumes. Often influenced by personal memories, such as an incense-laced trip to his mother’s hometown in India, Gorham’s smoky and spicy tones have incited collaborations with the likes of hair stylist Christiaan Houtenbos, Fantastic Man magazine and celebrated creative studio M/M. Avoiding the cultural cacophony of Paris, London and New York, Byredo’s new creative studio and lab which they are soon to move to in Stockholm embodies Gorham’s unwavering focus on ideas and craftsmanship. “I wanted to create an environment where I could isolate the creativity from the business side,” he says. “Stockholm is a neutral environment so it doesn’t influence me too much.” Here the entrepreneur tells us what’s in a name, and how he created a scent for the flower with no smell.  

How does Stockholm smell to you? 

I associate the smell of Stockholm with the first days of spring, which come with such clarity after the long, cold winter. It’s a green city and surrounded by lakes, so it’s that smell of spring greenery meeting the water.

How has the brand progressed since Byredo launched in 2006?

I’m more knowledgeable from a technical perspective, although I think the naïveté of the beginning phases had an interesting effect on the fragrances. I’ve tried to maintain that and have always felt that some of the more unique work I’ve done was with the first projects. At the same time our narrative for the brand has become clearer. It’s like getting to know yourself over time.

What comes first, name or perfume?
Most of the time the name and the narrative come first. A name becomes the symbol for the idea, for where I want to end up. But creating a perfume can take a year and a half, so it’s also an evolution that is affected by human experience and knowledge. There are times when the names change because the idea itself has changed. Because we have a generic approach to packaging—all the bottles look the same—the name is the one tool to draw people in and prompt them to create their own story with the fragrance.

Explain the thinking behind the creation of Byredo fragrance La Tulipe.
Tulips are a symbol of spring in Europe and for such a beautiful flower I felt it was a pity they did not really have a scent. The idea was to create a smell for the tulip, kind of like a gift. La Tulipe is my idea of what that flower should smell like.

What tips do you have for choosing perfume as a Valentine’s Day gift?

From a practical point of view it starts with learning about the fragrance families, because this gives you an idea of what kind of fragrance the other person might like. It’s also about finding something you like and understanding why you like it. Good fragrances have a reason for being, and part of the gift is getting people to understand that. My other suggestion is a gift certificate—let them choose for themselves.

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