Design Dispatch: Exploring Lace

October 23, 2008

When Edward Steichen described the photograph he took of Gloria Swanson (which just went up on our street banners all over L.A. for Vanity Fair Portraits), he said, "I took a piece of black lace veil and hung it in front of her face. She recognized the idea at once... her look was that of a leopardess lurking behind leafy shrubbery, watching her prey."


Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen, 1924, Vanity Fair, February 1928, © Condé Nast Publications Inc.

Lace can act as a shrubbery of sorts—obscuring and diffusing—but it can also embellish in a way few fabrics can, its transparency allowing it to practically become part of the object. This concept of ornamentation is one reason Vanity Fair Portraits′ lead designer, Maja Blazejewska, was intrigued by the fabric—so much so that she used it in the exhibition's typography, its entrance wall, and on a few products she created for the museum shop. The socks she designed, which she's modeling below, feature four lace patterns from LACMA's own collection. They're all chantilly lace, which is distinguished by its delicacy and complexity of floral pattern—in these particular examples, the floral motifs are made by hand and outlined with a heavy silk thread.

As clever as these socks are, the design of Maja's I'm most intrigued by is a digitized lace pattern, which she created as an homage to digital photography found in the exhibition.

She's taken a fresh approach to something aged, and to hear her describe the process of creating the pattern—"even though I was working on a computer, it really felt like I was sewing, it was so time-intensive and intricate"—makes me dig it all the more. You can check it out in full bloom on the entrance wall to the exhibition; the show opens this Sunday.

Brooke Fruchtman