She used to stroll down the streets of Venice, he, the pavements of Liverpool. The
twilight got them reunited at a time that stopped, stuck in between the first half of the
twentieth century Europe and today’s hyper real global era. Two creative spirits
sharing the same run towards a bewitching materialisation of their selves, seeking for
the staring gaze of the world. She hangs out with cheetahs, he among spiders. They
could never meet…perhaps their visions collapsed in dreams of nights, with no end
and daydreamed fantasy. British fashion designer Ben Mak gets acquainted with the
Marchesa Luisa Casati. No spiders nor cheetahs, simply their hypnotising fascination
for dark aesthetics. A reunion beyond the crystal ball.
Luisa: [laughing]: I am such a stylish mythomaniac.
Ben: Loving the artifice, Darling. There’s no other way.
Luisa: Let’s say the alien.
Ben: Please, don’t tell me this to empower women. Oh, please no. [sigh]
Luisa: What are you saying there?! I am allergic to sunlight. How the hell would I
step out on the streets to demonstrate? Moreover, to serve some vile purpose that
does not even need to be defended?
Ben: O-M- G. Thanks so much for this, Lord!
Luisa: A propos…These pseudo “feminists“ need to learn about manners. They
certainly are not acquainted with gestures of savoir-mourir.
Ben: Tell me about it. It is atrociously irritating me. I’m a fashion designer but not
trying to make women feel stronger. Aren’t they strong already? What a pity.
Luisa: As a woman, I want to be looked at. To be a living work of art. Do you
Ben: So does my woman. Dressed to be starred at.
Luisa: For a summer of drug abuse on the Island of Capri, I once packed only black
Morticia gowns, dyed my hair green, and wandered, if not paraded, through the
streets with a crystal ball.
Ben: This sounds brilliant! My mum had green hair once. She was wearing that black
gown I made for her. Sublime reincarnation of a black widow dead long ago.
Luisa: Talking arachnids. One mentioned me as a spider on the web that is fashion,
always more perfectly imperfect yet stylised, every time the spider is reconstructing it.
Ben: Darkly fascinating! I’m terribly appealed by spiders…without knowing why.
Luisa: The genius for exhibitionism, Chéri. I’ve never travelled without my pet boa
constrictor; even at the Ritz in Paris, they had to find rabbits to feed my baby.
Ben: Misery as a masterpiece of couture! This is it!
Luisa [proudly mentioning]: You might need to enlighten me, jeune homme. A
gown of egret plumes? A peacock headdress spattered with fresh chicken blood?
Perhaps a suit of armour pierced with electrified arrows – that nearly fried me, I have
Ben: Only you can see this…
Luisa: D’Annunzio gave me the nickname ‘Coré’, you know, that variation on the
Grecian name for Persephone. Once innocent maiden, once the Queen of Hell.
Ben: I guess, this means that the unusual is beautiful and beauty can marry
Luisa: Through the immortalising strokes of the woman’s transformations.
Ben: I’m never drawing my designs, Luisa. The fabric speaks; I’m listening to it. It
knows where and how to fall. That’s why I always start from the mannequin.
Luisa: I learnt to care for its whisper when still a child, lost in the wardrobe of my
Ben: I thought that when my mum asked me to dress her, it was all a joke. The first
thing that I made was absolutely disgusting. Some white stretchy nylon attached to a
quarter of a pillowcase – just to test my sawing machine – and she found
it…fabulous! She had it wrapped around, with only leggings and a bra on, plus her
hair was a mess. ‘No mum, that’s not cool.’
Luisa [sighing]: A very revealing ensemble for a daytime event. Nudity of course,
Ben: Alike insects, isn’t it? Non-human forms dressed up with a decadence of
colours and textures. Naturally assembled. They’re fascinating, don’t you think?
Luisa [dreamingly wondering]: Being the muse of an artist…sometimes more
perfume than clothing happens to be necessary. The use of various degree of
carefully staged nudity, shall we say.
Ben: Could we tell it as an art of vanishing? Similarly to the spider leaving behind a
hypnotising web, always coming back at the right time.
Luisa: Exactement. A non-human elemental force.
Ben: I’m digressing. Such a slut to the dream world.
Luisa: We are both embodying a triple-eyed Medusa of the surrealist set. You have
dared and uncovered what you want.
Ben: You are an angel!
Luisa: I cannot really count among my intimates many individuals of my own sex.
May that surprise you.
Ben: The thicker the fabric, the more structured.
Luisa: I tell you Ben, we have been constructing our respective museums, with
ourselves as their main work-in- progress.
Ben: Cheap yet expensive. Fancy yet crazy.
Luisa: That is called the synthesis of high art and everyday life.
Ben: Unfamiliar territory. Blisters on four fingers making this.
Luisa: Once you used to want a Medusa portrait; today a lion’s. You killed yesterday,
remains tomorrow and its unveiled secrets. You simply want to play with fire.
Ben: Serving casual fire in Ben Mak Red and Purple Iris gowns. Digital sex, send
Luisa: A diabolic attire that requires no vulgarity aucune.
Ben: No wonder it does not. Full moon. Puzzles answered!
Luisa: They call it diabolic for it is not the same and the world appears to desire for
more of the similar. I do not like what is average. So I am alone.
Ben: My clothes do not bite though.
Luisa: Everyone might be an actor on this stage yet make them all become
Ben: Fruity, juicy and a little bit odd. We promise some weird and wonderful.
Luisa: Brutally ourselves, isn’t it? My make-up melts in the heat of the sun, while I
hold my crystal ball.
Ben: Once upon a time… A thing called a social life.
Luisa: I am the Marchesa Casati. Two days ago in London, I saw one of your
designs. Now, get your scissors. I have only this night to give you.
Ben: Mastering this new dragon pleat… At your service, Madame!
Luisa: In art, obviously, my eye is for the perverse.
Ben [overwhelmed by his conversation with the Countess, got back his
Liverpudlian accent]: See you bitches on the other side. Forgot me jacket, freezing, so
jumped the bus over. Limos’r for losers!
by Cindy Fournier – read more on her website C’s Fashion Diary
In order of appearance. Slightly altered quotes from the Marchesa Luisa Casati (1881 –
1957) and Ben Mak – Artworks by Cindy Fournier