Niki & Kiki 101

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Niki & Kiki 101

If you’re having trouble keeping your deceased-French-female-artists-as-fashion-muses straight, allow us to shed a little light on the situation. After all, with these powerful gals informing spring collections on both sides of the Atlantic, it’s tres important to know your Nikis from your Kikis.

blog_niki_kiki_01.jpgIn New York,
Vera Wang
drew inspiration from
Niki de Saint Phalle (1930 – 2002, née Catherine-Marie-Agnes Fal de Saint Phalle), whom she cited in her show notes as a “woman and artist of extraordinary imagination, individuality and spirit.” The painter and sculptor first gained fame for her Shooting paintings, which she created by firing a 22-caliber rifle at containers of pigment laid out on a wooden base board. Next came the Nanas, life-sized papier-mâché depictions of women in myriad girl-power situations, including giving birth. Today, Saint Phalle is perhaps best known for The Tarot Garden, an immense sculpture park in Tuscany featuring impossibly groovy interpretations of tarot symbols.

blog_niki_kiki_02.jpgFor Raf Simons at
Jil Sander,
Kiki de Montparnasse  (1901 – 1953, née Alice Ernestine Prin) was the driving force. A major multi-hyphenate, she posed as an artists’ model for some biggies (Man Ray, Jean Cocteau, and Alexander Calder among them), belted cabaret and appeared in several short films before turning her hand to painting. Of course, today, most younger fashion-hounds only know Kiki de Montparnasse as the hip lingerie-slash-sex toys label of the same name. Ceramicist Jonathan Adler also named one of the vases in his Muses collection after Kiki.

TMI? Perhaps. But at least you’ll be prepared with a little handy cocktail party banter should the topic of fashion muses arise.

Photos:  Top left, Niki de Saint-Phalle on the cover of Vogue, courtesy of Niki Charitable Art Foundation/ Nikidesaintphalle.org; top right, a look from Vera Wang by Giovanni Giannoni. Bottom left, Kiki de Montparnasse by Julian Mandel, c. 1920; bottom right, a look from Jil Sander by Giovanni Giannoni.