Mary Martin London + The Collections

The Fashion Years

“We have seen that a Fashion utterance involves at least two systems of information: a specifically linguistic system, which is a language (such as French or English) and a ‘vestimentary’ system, according to which the garment signifies the world or Fashion. These two systems are not separate: the vestimentary system seems to be taken over by the linguistic system.” So wrote our favourite philosopher Roland Barthes in his 1967 revelation The Fashion System.

It’s like the arrival of the Queen of Sheba with the beauty of Queen Esther and the wealth of King Solomon. “Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness, doesn’t it help?” she cries, channelling her inner Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei Lee in Some Like It Hot. Applying a blonde wig and beauty spot before donning a Mary Martin London little black number with extended faux fur later, she is soon standing over air vents and blowing kisses to admiring onlookers. Some like it very hot! She starts singing, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” Super supermodel Katie Ice has entered the building.

Musical model Funmi Olagunju literally rocks up strumming her guitar. Lavender coloured clothes clad, she sings, “I only wanted to see you, laughing in the purple rain, purple rain purple rain…” Funmi shares, “Mary’s clothes are so crazy! They’re elegant and theatrical. They’re regal. She thinks outside the box!” Beautiful Natasha Lloyd bursts across our vision in a radiance of red. Crimson is the new black. She next models  the Queen of Africa dress. Over to Mary, “I’d just won African Fashion Designer of the Year and I felt like I was the Queen of Africa! The colourway in this dress represents brown for earth, green for grass and yellow for the sun.”

While getting ready, model Sienna Kinley advises on confidence, “You forget who you are. You go into fear mode. The mindset is to remind yourself who you are. Who you are is everything you need to be in this life. Everything you’ve been given is enough for you in this world. Sometimes you can forget that’s enough. Confidence is recognising who you are: you are a perfect being. All the gifts and talent you have are enough.” Makeup artist Sofia Mahmood adds, “Be creative. You need great patience to be a makeup artist. Patience with creativity.”

This Old Street London warehouse is rocking with a carnival atmosphere and a festival of talent. All of us are in front and to the side and behind the cameras as filming continues… yes, that film. In the midst of the mayhem and madness and fashion miscellanea, Mary emerges, as ever a human whirlwind of orders and changes and directions and laughter. “I don’t like ordinary,” she understates. Natasha reappears modelling The Hidden Queens Collection dress with its socially distancing crinoline.

The dresses of The Collections flow onto the film set amidst falling roses and oversized poppies. World class ballerina Omozefe (“just call me ‘Sue’”) performs pirouettes and shows photograph of herself with Margot Fontaine. “It was her last performance ever at the Royal Opera House! I have met Rudolf Nureyev twice. I love dancing to The Nutcracker, Carmen and of course Swan Lake.” Soon Sue is teaching model Hassan Reese some Pilates moves. “Pilates is similar to ballet – it’s about micro movements stretching muscles. You can’t get up on point unless your core being is very strong.”

Cleopatra, brought to life by model Natasha Lloyd, struts her stuff. Three times Taekwondo World Champion Carol Hudson, modelling herbaceous headgear, says with some understatement, “Mary’s clothes aren’t for the fainthearted!” Photographer Monika Schaibel agrees, “Mary has a vision and is always true to her vision. Amazing eye to detail. Her fashion shows are pure theatre – they’re art happenings.” Kiki Busari, modelling The Red Dress, adds, “I love the opulence. These dresses take you to a fantasy world. A world where you are empowered and strong.”

It’s like the creativity of King Jotham with the boldness of Queen Vashti and the power of King Xerxes. “Never try to explain your work,” once said our fav photographer of all time, Deborah Turbeville. So we won’t say we are a muse or the bridge between the bright lights or something else far more mesmeric and fantastic. Let the wrap party begin! To paraphrase Marilyn Monroe, we all just want to be wonderful. “Fashion dissolves the myth of innocent signifies,” ends Roland Barthes, “at the very moment it produces them.” Super supermodel Katie Ice has left the building.

Architecture Art People

Teatro Colón Buenos Aires + Antonín Dvořák’s Rusalka

Linger for a Moment

Ana María Martínez, Puerto Rico’s finest vocal export, is known for her dramatic performances. A few years ago, opera lovers at Glyndebourne were treated to rather more drama than they anticipated. The soprano, who was playing the lead role in Antonín Dvorak’s opera Rusalka, was nearing the end of the first act when, with abandon, she pulled away from her prince, fell off the stage, and landed in the orchestra pit.

Fortunately no ambulances were required at Ana María’s performance in Teatro Colón. One of the world’s great opera houses, up there with Milan’s La Scala, Teatro Colón is an island of culture, filling an entire urban block of Buenos Aires. Viamonte Street to the north | Tucumán Street to the south | Cerrito Street to the east | Libertad Street to the west. It overlooks 9 de Julio Avenue but doesn’t manage to dominate it. Nothing would. One of the theatre’s vast pedimented elevations may face onto 9 de Julio Avenue but it’s the world’s widest road, spanning 16 lanes.

While its cornerstone was laid in 1890, the 3,500 capacity Teatro Colón is the product of a suitably eclectic array of architects, taking 18 years to complete. The original architect Francesco Tamburini was succeeded when he died by his partner Victor Meano. Mr Meano in turn was succeeded when he died by Belgian architect Jules Dormal. The theatre was extended in the 1960s by architect Mario Roberto Álvarez. Tiers of boxed seats are arranged in a horseshoe under a painted dome. And then there’s that 48 metre high stage.

It’s pretty spectacular.

Kiri Te Kanawa and Renée Fleming; Anna Pavlova and Rudolf Nureyev; the Berlin Phil and the New York Phil: Richard Strauss and Camille Saint-Saëns; all the great and the good have sung, danced, played and been played at Teatro Colón.

Dmitry Golovnia is Rusalka’s suitably tall and dashing Prince. A full figured crimson hooded María Luján Mirabelli is Jezibaba, giving it her all. The mezzosoprano is a regular performer at Teatro Colón. Ante Jerkunica is a bald skeletal Vodnik. The theatre has its own costume and scenery departments. Tonight, a penchant for the visually avant garde accompanies Julian Kuerti’s musical direction. Ana María gives a heartrending rendition of Song to the Moon, the opera’s keynote aria. “Moon in the dark heavens, your light shines far. You roam over the whole world gazing into human dwellings.”

The final curtain. Ante runs on stage to take the first bow. Ana María flamboyantly curtsies to the floor, managing to stay on the stage. The audience is ecstatic. An even bigger roar from the audience erupts for Dmitry. Bravo! Encore!