If you skipped Art History 101, the significance of Sonia Agostino’s and Nicole Jordan’s fashion-forward label, Tableaux Vivants might be lost on you. A tableau vivant or, “living picture” was a popular art form in the 19th century, before film and television could bring life and color to images. Costumed actors and artist’s models theatrically lit in a drawing room, at a lavish wedding, or coronation, would act out a famous painting, drawing, or sculpture for an audience. A century later, Agostino and Jordan breathe new life into the idea of the “living picture” with Tableaux Vivants, a line of luxe latex garments, each one handmade. Says Jordan, “Our clientele is interested in having people look at them, so they become a living picture. At a party, wearing one of our garments, you’re elevated from being a human.”
It’s no wonder that some of Tableaux Vivants’ celeb clients, including the fashion house VPL, Kate Lanphear, and Lady Gaga are often described as otherworldly. “We’re fashion, not fetish,” adds Agostino. “Latex is a sexy fabric, but this is high fashion, not street wear.” The designers like it when clients mix their latex garments with other fabrics in their wardrobe. “This type of styling makes it easier to incorporate latex into everyday wear,” says Agostino. “It looks totally sexy to pair some latex leggings with a casual shirt. Add some heels and viola!”
One look at the label’s FA 11 and SP 12 lines, and you’ll see that the aesthetic is on par with Givenchy or McQueen and not something you’d find at a sex shop. And although by nature, latex is made to fit the body, not all pieces are skintight. In fact, many include elegant drape work or are takes on classic fashion staples, like the trench coat Tableaux Vivants made for VPL’s FA 11 runway show finale, which Tilda Swinton was photographed wearing in W Magazine.
Graduates of The Fashion Institute of Technology, Agostino and Jordan started Tableaux Vivants in 2009. They were able to finance the operation themselves because they had low overhead costs due to the special way the garments need to be constructed – by hand. “Because everything is handmade,” explains Agostino, “I was able to transform my dining and living room into our studio when it’s time to work.” They work with suppliers for materials in the UK and throughout Europe, sourcing the best suppliers for the intense labor they put into each latex garment. There’s no factory, just the two designers and their avant-garde fashion-forward aesthetic. Once word hit the streets about their label, stylists like Keegan Singh, Joe Zee, Patti Wilson and Victoria Bartlett started pulling pieces. Bartlett was so taken with the design team that she commissioned 8 latex garments that were shown on her FA 11 runway for the finale.In addition to being the avant-garde darlings of top stylists, Agostino and Jordan made savvy collaborations early on with talent that fit the label’s aesthetic. One of their first projects was commissioned by US Elle Style Director, Kate Lanphear, who asked Agostino and Jordan to participate in Lane Crawford’s Heritage Collection “Tribute to the Trench.” “We worked for five straight days on those hand-rolled tubes for our coat,” explains Jordan. “When Kate came to our studio, here is this fashion icon, and we hadn’t slept for days!”
Then came an unlikely client: Disney. The duo was commissioned to create pieces for a TRON LEGACY pop-up shop in Los Angeles that was open for a month before the movie came out. “This was to get people excited about the movie,” explains Agostino. “Furthermore, Disney felt that incorporating women’s fashion would get a larger female clientele interested in the movie.” Along with designing 7 garments for the pop up, Agostino and Jordan created a fashion film to showcase the designs as they had interpreted them – commissioned by Disney.
In addition to being a client-based fashion label, the designers hope to make Tableaux Vivants a “go-to company for custom costumes and garments for TV, movies, and commercials.” Video lookbooks, which are all the rage these days, are a perfect vehicle for houses like Tableax Vivants, because viewers can see how the garments move on the body. Recently, the designers teamed up with stylist Tom Van Dorpe for VMan Magazine to create items worn by Adriana Lima; the shoot was documented in a fashion video that’s candy for the eyes.
But you don’t have to be a supermodel or Gaga (who has made it her mission to promote her favorite up-and-coming designers) to wear Tableaux Vivants. Says Jordan, “Everybody has that feeling when you’re out and about and you feel like you’re in a music video doing something for the fabulous moments in life.” Agostino adds, “And there are so many opportunities to have a surreal day in New York City.”
because it goes on clear, and is kind to the latex, although baby powder works as well. To care for your garment, they recommend washing it in a tub with lukewarm water every time you wear it, especially if you use a lot of lotions or self-tanner. People can view the designers’ guidelines for caring for their latex on their website. Agostino says, “Our garments require you to love and care for them, but if you do, they will love and care for you.”
Thanks, Tableaux Vivants! (to all my readers, J’adore the boned corset and pink pencil skirt from SP 12 … and my birthday is coming up) xox BG!