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Focus | April 3, 2017

Look Pop

Together with his silver wig, sunglasses were one of the key elements of Andy Warhol’s look. He was the most open of public figures, as elusive as he was ubiquitous, you could say he was someone who used his fame as a way of hiding. His aesthetic is back, inspiring some new eyewear collections

words Alessia Delisi

In 1964, Andy Warhol performed one of his famous Self-Portrait: for the artist of ‘all on the surface’ the choice was almost paradoxical given that a self-portrait is always introspective, an opportunity for an investigation which goes beyond simple appearance. Warhol knew this and in fact relied on a machine to represent himself, indeed, the most superficial machine of all: a booth for passport photos. That’s not all: the artist photographed himself with a pair of sunglasses that stop you from seeing his eyes, thus denying the traditional stereotype of the eyes as a mirror of the soul, because, as he said later, “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface: of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it”. Twenty years later – in 1984 – Jean-Michel Basquiat lent his face to the lens of Christopher Makos, official photographer of Factory: he is there with a globe resting on his shoulder, his long black hair pulled back slightly and his shirt buttoned. He keeps his glasses tucked into his pocket, to show the depth that Warhol preferred to conceal. Basquiat was the first artist to bring the street style he shared with the young people of the eighties into his look: when he was young he hung out with writers in Brooklyn, borrowing his baggy jeans, printed t-shirts and high-top sneakers from the hip hop and breakdancing scenes. At the legendary Time Square Show 1980 he wore the long dreadlocks that would become his sign of recognition – at least as much as Warhol’s silver wig – and since he was a teenager he pretended to be a luxury tramp, often wearing big dark glasses and a long dust-coat. Think rich, look poor, as Warhol carefully put it. For the master of Pop Art, appearance counted more than substance; hence his interest in fashion, where your look is your mood, your daily mood. One can even say that the phenomenon that goes by the name of the look began to spread with the Pop Art he loved and which painted his glasses – let’s also think of Mimmo Rotella and his Aranciata con gli occhiali, from 1966 – elevating them to one of those infinitely replicable subjects of his own works of art, like the Campbell soup cans and one dollar bills. No wonder then that today, next to the luxuriously ‘poor’ aesthetic that distinguishes many models who remade themselves according to the stylistic characteristics of the time, we find sunglasses whose bright and lively colours are – as were Warhol’s countless Marylin, his Self-Portrait, his Flowers and his Disasters – a tribute to makeup, to clothing as a mask, to exchanges of clothing and transvestism.

The first type includes, for example, the sunglasses that Smoke x Mirrors are presenting at Mido: on one side the Geo collection which, with its geometric frames, meets the expectations of lovers of vintage, especially in its tortoiseshell versions. On the other side, the Swing line that gives a nod to the imaginary aesthetic of the early sixties, when Warhol, who had by then become the coolest artist in New York, reinvented his style and expanded it to the employees of Factory in whose wardrobe, next to leather jackets, jeans and the boots, Ray-Ban Wayfarers and eyeglasses with transparent frames began to appear. Even Etnia Barcelona, already famous for its collection dedicated to Basquiat, presents, along with its Originals line, the Vintage collection: Born and Le Marais models, either sunglasses or frames for prescription lenses, seem to have been deliberately designed for a Screen Test at the Factory. On the colour front, which Pop Art restricts to an outrageously anti-naturalistic range, alien to the tradition of great European painting, what undoubtedly stands out are the glasses from the Russian FakByFak brand: the design, developed in collaboration with the designer Ria Keburia resumes the cosmetic use – applied, glued, removable – of screen printing and industrial Warhol inspired colours. Not only this: the artist’s dull appearance is also to be recreated, which achieved thanks to wigs and glasses. Artificial brilliance, the symbol of quintessential colour as an ornament, have finally the frames created for this season by the Swiss brand Sol Sol Ito.