Wednesday, September 2, 2009



Videotape Princesses.
They could be the long-lost great-granddaughters of Schiaparelli, of La Môme Bijou, the bejeweled barfly photographed by Brassaï in the thirties, or even the illegitimate granddaughters of that iconic American blonde who sang "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend". But as concerns their pedigree, Yaz and Emel, the two sisters who form the fashion duo Yazbukey, can only brag of being grandnieces of King Farouk. On a tee-shirt they have embroidered the sparkling ruby slippers and sensible socks of Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz — those shoes that made the Wicked Witch of the West literally burn with envy. On a leather bustier dress in a brash shade of yellow, they put Alfred Hitchcock's menacing birds, perched on their sinister branch just waiting for their chance. In their workshop, a medley of handbags, gloves, belts, shoes, skirts and tops, printed or embroidered with a black and white keyboard design and accompanied by a chorus of "musical note" and "treble clef" rhinestone brooches and earrings join their voices to sing along with Gene Kelly in An American in Paris, or perhaps to sing the praises of the pink panther, whose mustachioed muzzle entered the theater of fashion when Yazbukey embroidered it in pearls. In another corner, disquieting bats out of a Tim Burton horror film roost on a pump, alight on an arm, perch on a shoulder and nest on a bikini top.

Yaz and Emel's fashion fables are transpositions of an other-worldly vision, an incongruous blend of the maudlin, trashy, glamorous, goth and kitsch that owes a lot to cinema. From the movies they glean little fashion talismans, like fake but nonetheless precious relics brought back from their pilgrimages to the dreamland on the other side of the screen, where they can venture at will like modern-day Alices, their noses propping up the bizarre glasses with lenses dotted with Swarovski crystals that they invented for themselves "in order to see the world better". They love the movies: Tim Burton first and foremost, but also the innumerable films of all genres and qualities that they watched on videotape during their childhood and teen years, sheltered from heat and boredom in their gilded cage in Saudi Arabia, where their father served as a diplomat for seven years. And television as well, especially those sentimental and heartless soap operas that Yaz still loves to watch all afternoon long while embroidering in their tiny apartment in central Paris. And in the background of this luxuriant jumble, filtering through the snappy, zany or saccharine refrains of the musical comedies they loved as children, comes a smattering of hard-edged punk. Asked to sum up their style, Yaz describes it as "Siouxsie meets Cyd Charisse."


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