Oct 3 2023
Design Dispatch
Sarah Burton’s swan song, Nancy Baker Cahill bursts through the fourth wall, and mental health merch.
“Most of the objects I really care for are the things I cannot replace.”


Sarah Burton’s Swan Song Stuns in Paris

What’s Happening: The final collection from the famously private Alexander McQueen protégée and creative director paid tribute to women of all walks, a swan song whose scattershot inspirations encapsulate the full spectrum of the female form.

The Download: From his provocative catwalk shows to his dramatic gowns throbbing with romantic tension and macabre psychodrama, every aspect of Alexander McQueen boils down to feeling. Few were dialed into the departed talent’s dark idiosyncrasies like Sarah Burton, who became McQueen’s head of womenswear after graduating from Central Saint Martins and was tasked with upholding her mentor’s legacy as creative director following his suicide. Big shoes to fill, but Burton rose to the occasion with quiet grace, maintaining McQueen’s magic for more than a decade while making it her own and dutifully avoiding the spotlight.

Emotions were running high at Alexander McQueen’s spring 2024 ready-to-wear presentation this past weekend in Paris, which Kering, the label’s parent company, announced would be Burton’s last. The news gave fashion insiders pause. Though Kering has yet to name a successor (or explain Burton’s departure), the industry soon realized that anyone who comes after Burton “will not have a direct link to McQueen,” Cathy Horyn writes in The Cut, “and their understanding of his genius will come from collective memory.” As the runway show wrapped, and Burton emerged to take a bow in her signature jeans, white sneakers, and dark blue shirt to a standing ovation, the consensus was simple: a chapter had drawn to a close.

That chapter’s denouement proved a marquee moment during a predictably frenzied Paris Fashion Week. Burton’s show notes cited female anatomical inspirations, as well as Queen Elizabeth I and roses. Dangling around the room were four gigantically gnarly-knitted sculptures by Magdalena Abakanowicz, the late-20th-century Polish artist lovingly described by Burton as “a transgressive and powerfully creative artist who refused to ever compromise her vision.” As far as her final collection is concerned, the same applies to Burton. She dedicated her final bow to her late mentor, shedding light on his wish to “always empower women.” Models across ages, races, and sizes telegraphed that message with aplomb: black chiffon slip dresses, anatomically embroidered bodysuits, and the finale, a molded corset Noami Campbell flaunted like armor.

In their Own Words: “This collection was a crash course in McQueen goddess-ology, a view of women and the way they want to dress that Lee created, but boldly and brilliantly brought into the present by Burton,” critic Brooke Bobb writes in Harper’s Bazaar. “While it’s true that she’s dressed movie stars and royalty over the years, her biggest contribution has been designing for all women, as a woman in an industry where mostly men sit at the top, holding the luxury design reins. She’s done wonders to inspire women through her work, and there’s no doubt she’ll continue to do so, in her signature humble style, wherever she winds up next.”

Surface Says: With Gabriela Hearst’s exit from Chloè also looming, two fewer women have the top jobs at major houses—and none at Kering. Hopefully that doesn’t last long.


What Else Is Happening?

Check-Circle_2x OMA breaks ground on Dhaka Tower, slated to become Bangladesh’s tallest building.
Check-Circle_2x Experts warn that energy consumption will “dramatically increase” because of AI.
Check-Circle_2x An observatory built to represent Einstein’s theory of relativity reopens in Germany.
Check-Circle_2x Investors warn that commercial real estate prices are headed for a severe downturn.
Check-Circle_2x Apple is rolling out a software update to fix overheating issues on the new iPhone 15.

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An Acclaimed Italian Chef Brings a Season Concept to London

Inside London’s new cultural hub Ladbroke Hall, Pollini emerges as a gastronomic experience that’s as much about the art of dining as it is about the culinary prowess of its namesake, Emanuele Pollini, the winner of the 2020 Gambero Rosso International Award. Designed by Italian architect Vincenzo De Cotiis, the restaurant delivers an intriguing visual narrative that marries the historical elements of the Beaux Arts building with the cutting edge.

A palette of black and white engulfs the 65-cover restaurant, not only in its furnishings but also in the carefully selected, site-specific artworks by Christopher Le Brun and Nacho Carbonell. The interior pays homage to the building’s former incarnation as a car factory, featuring a preserved black marble balustrade that juxtaposes custom-made dining tables, wall lamps, and a stunning bar enveloped in artistic fiberglass and hand-treated granite. The Edwardian windows serve as a resplendent final touch, allowing natural light to infiltrate and dance across the contrasting surfaces.

Chef Pollini’s culinary vision is a personal exploration through his Italian roots, offering a seasonal menu inspired by his childhood memories along the Adriatic Sea and in the Alps. His fusion of traditional and novel flavors promises diners a journey through dishes like Insalata di mare, Linguine ai ricci, and a reinterpretation of the classic Lasagna.



Nancy Baker Cahill Bursts Through the Fourth Wall

You won’t find the Whitney Museum’s latest installation within its Renzo Piano–designed walls. Instead, artist Nancy Baker Cahill has taken to the skies above to showcase her latest digital work, Cento, as part of artport: the museum’s online gallery for internet-based and new media art. With its serpentine body, squid tentacles, and metallic scales, Cento seems to spring from the intersection of steampunk and ancient mythology, though Baker Cahill refers to it as a “holobiont,” or “an assemblage of multiple species.”

The AR artwork represents a historic moment for the museum as its first digital commission that viewers can co-build using 4th Wall, Baker Cahill’s accompanying smartphone app managed by Shaking Earth Digital. Using the app, viewers can use their phones or tablets to see the artwork in flight above the museum, whose sixth floor also features an immersive video created by Baker Cahill to depict Cento’s imagined habitat. Through 4th Wall, viewers on site and around the globe can add feathers to its chimeric body—an act of evolutionary resilience in the face of an increasingly hostile and unpredictable climate. “Cento represents a kind of body politic,” Baker Cahill says in the exhibition’s opening materials. “The project underscores and reminds us of our interdependence and the invitation to work collaboratively to survive the climate crisis.”


Bina Baitel’s upbringing in the Middle East helped nurture deep interests in cultural interpenetration across art, design, and architecture, leading her to study at the National Superior School of Architecture of Paris La Villette before founding her eponymous studio there in 2006. Since then, she has paid close attention to sensory design and how objects invite contemplative experiences. During this year’s Paris Design Week, she debuted a collection of sculptural furniture—pebble-like sofas, rugs reflecting oneiric landscapes—whose enchanting forms and traditional savoir-faire reference her recent experiences decorating Normandy’s historic Tremblay Castle.



Holly Tupper Debuts Nature-Inspired Fine Jewelry for Cultus Artem

Best known for its haute skincare and fragrances, Cultus Artem has sparingly released limited-edition haute jewelry: a pair of 18-karat gold and diamond earrings here, or a cobalto calcite ring there. This fall, the brand has gone all-in by debuting a collection of one-of-a-kind fine jewelry pieces inspired by the most raw and natural version of a kaleidoscopic array of gemstones. The Through Paradox collection marries the raw with the refined and the organic with the streamlined, creating a symphony of contrasts and “disparate materials as expressions of snippets of time and place,” says founder Holly Tupper, who spoke with Surface ahead of her collection’s launch at London’s PAD art and design fair on October 10.



White Cube’s First U.S. Gallery Arrives With a Bang

This weekend, White Cube celebrated the opening of its first stateside gallery with two days of events. The festivities kicked off with a private dinner on Friday and culminated the following day with a VIP preview of the inaugural exhibition at the gallery’s new home on the Upper East Side. White Cube founder Jay Jopling and senior director Courtney Willis Blair welcomed guests at the gallery before making their way to the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion to continue the celebration, which featured performances by Kelela, Jason Moran, and Sun Ra Arkestra.

When was it? Sept. 29 and 30

Where was it? Upper East Side, New York

Who was there? Michael Armitage, Cerith Wyn Evans, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Michèle Lamy, Julie Mehretu, Alex Israel, Christian Farschou, Jon Gray, Max Hollein, Monique Péan, Anne Pasternak, Nicola Vassell, Leo Villarreal, Ralph Pucci, Doris Salcedo.



Member Spotlight:
Studio CAHS

Studio CAHS is a New York City–based architecture, design, and development firm guided by craftsmanship, personalization, and preservation. Founded by Caterina Heil Stewart, the boutique studio’s suite of capabilities is anchored in a respect for architecture, an emphasis on the value of time and materials, an expertise in furniture curation and a commitment to visual movement and harmony.

Surface Says: While no two projects are exactly the same, Studio CAHS has a knack for transcending trends, thanks to an eye for midcentury furnishings and contemporary artwork.



Today’s Attractive Distractions

Can robots proficient at the board game Diplomacy offer hope for the future?

Bryan Johnson follows a strict diet and lifestyle to reduce his biological age.

An asteroid gets named after Cocteau Twins frontwoman Elizabeth Fraser.

Brands are lining up to release Lexapro sweatshirts and mental health merch.


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