Patti Smith, Style Icon and writer of ‘Just Kids’

24 Jun

I wanted to write this post for quiet some time already, worried I wouldn’t do right to Patti Smith I kept postponing it. But it’s time I’ll give it a try. Not being a book reviewer, I dug up some reviews on ‘Just Kids’, a book by Patti Smith about the years she spent with Robert Mapplethorpe and it occurred to me, there a different ways to clarify the contents. I was mostly moved by the innocence and deep love they felt for each other, even after they went their own separate ways.

For years Patti Smith embodied poetry, bohemian lifestyle and music to me, but after seeing the film ‘Patti Smith, Dream of Life’ by Steven Sebring I noticed other things about her…, her great sence of humor and the fact she is very aware of her style. It may look like her outfits are just accidentally damn stylish, but they are not. She is very aware of the clothes she puts on for which occasion but doesn’t look like it : that’s her style. She is so good at this, you hardly notice. I got a huge smile on my face, when in ‘Dream of Life’, she starts to explain what she is wearing, pointing at her shoes, pants and shirt saying: “Prada, Prada, Comme Des Garçons….’ In another chapter a friend walks into her hotel room carrying a Prada bag and starts reading what is written on the duty free-paper that’s tacked onto the bag. He went shopping for her, but she’s not allowed to open the bag till she’s left the country and seems very disappointed not being able to look at the new Prada purchase.

In an interview Patti Smith told she was very aware of the way she put the jacket over her shoulder, for the famous photograph Robert Mapplethorpe took of her for the album ‘Horses’…, it had to be in a Frank Sinatra-ish way.

New York Times , Ruth La Ferla, march 19, 2010

So it was surprising to learn that her roomy gray jacket, with cuffs that unfasten at the wrist, was designed by Ann Demeulenmeester, a high priestess of Parisian vanguard chic. Her jeans were Ralph Lauren, prized by Ms. Smith for their racy lines. Her boots, a gift from Johnny Depp, who wore them as the Mad Hatter in “Alice in Wonderland”, were the perfect fit, Ms. Smith exulted, “like when the magic cobbler made your shoes.”

She has a rarefied feel for that kind of evocative detail — no stray seam escaping her scrutiny. That might stun her fans, who think of Ms. Smith as a gnarly rocker, thrashing and howling soulfully on stage. But style-world insiders embrace her as a kindred spirit whose discerning eye and sensitive fashion antennas might be the envy of a veteran stylist. Ms. Smith’s look, after all, is nothing if not rehearsed.

“She is very aware of her style and she controls it,” said Ms. Demeulenmeester, a longtime friend and fashion collaborator. (Ms. Smith favors the designer’s mannish white shirts, inspired by the one she wore on the cover of her debut album, “Horses.”) “It’s about being conscious of who you are and using all the strength you have to communicate that.”

Patti Smith, Style Icon

Great books to read:

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‘Just Kids’  by Patti Smith

‘Just Kids’ is about a moment in the lifes of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, when they were  young and inseparable. It was pure fate that introduced them to each other and they became roommates, friends, lovers and muses. Its tells a story of innocence, ambition and  their shared transit from obscurity to stardom.

They went together to museums able to afford only one ticket (the one who saw the exhibition would describe it to the one who waited outside). They went to Coney Island, able to afford only one hot dog and she got the sauerkraut. They valued the same things, though in a different way. They were both praying for Robert’s soul: he to sell it and she to save it. Finally his prayers were the ones to be answered.

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Patti Smith tells the story of the beginning of the end of Manhattan’s last great bohemian age, when a couple with dreams of artistic glory could live on day-old bread, cigarettes and paint fumes so precisely it feels like you’ve been there living it with them. When she writes about the time Robert started doubting his sexuality, you can feel his confusion and her pain

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‘Just Kids’ is also a story about becoming an artist, not the race for online celebrity and corporate sponsorship that often passes for artistic success these days, but the powerful, often difficult journey towards the ecstatic experience of capturing radiance of imagination on a page or stage or photographic paper. Mapplethorpe iconic image of Patti for the cover of ‘Horses’, serves as a  symbol of both their collaborative relationship (Patti Smith:”When I look at it now, I never see me, I see us’) and  the separate paths they took thereafter; he as one of the last century’s most heralded and controversial photographers, she as a performer whose influence still extends through poetry, contemporary music, fashion and visual arts.

The book is written so vividly yet sensitive, I could hardly put it down. I bought another copy for a friend and gave mine to others to read.

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 ‘He is the artist of my life’

Patti Smith on Robert Mapplethorpe

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The biography ‘Mapplethorpe’ by Patricia Morrisroe

Documentary

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‘Patti Smith,Dream of Life’ a film by Steven Sebring

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www.dreamoflifethemovie.com

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