“Fellini of Fashion”: ALEXANDRE DE BETAK’s Fashion Show Revolution

Betak: Fashion Show Revolution is an aptly gargantuan volume dedicated to an art director who trades in grandiose live experiences. After getting his start as an extremely ambitious teenager in Paris, Alexandre de Betak has come to be known as the “Fellini of Fashion,” transforming brand experiences into compact sensorial monuments. “On an almost subconscious level, Alex’s shows plant something in someone’s mind,” designer Laura Mulleavy muses in the book, “You can’t describe what it is, but you understand the idea or connect more to the idea of what we’re doing.” This instinct for spectacle and purity of expression has carried Betak’s work across an entire industry, where it feels just as at home in the context of Victoria’s Secret as it does in Dior.

Christian Dior, Couture Fall/Winter 2014 by Raf Simons, Musée Rodin, Paris. Photo: © Daniel Beres

But at the heart of the book lies a challenge: How does one document the moveable feast of runway shows into a history? And, furthermore, how do you archive the work of an artist who trades in live ambiance? The book achieves this through recollection very much set in the worded print, resurrecting famous choreography moves bearing Betak’s inscriptions. For instance, when Anja Rubik jaunted into a white cube constructed in the middle of the library of the Lycée Henri-IV during Kanye West’s 2011 fashion show, she famously stood and paused, waiting for the beat – heightening tensions – before getting on with the show. Such moments are crucial to the dissemination of the expression of the garment. It is no surprise that his cue cards directing models have gained notoriety for their style as well as their humor, with cheeky cheeky mise-en-scènes such as: “You are driving in a convertible with the top down, the wind is in your hair. You’re beautiful and in love.”

In Issue #31, 032c documented the entirety of Prada’s runways designed by Rem Koolhaas’s OMA/AMO, which used architectural strategies to deconstruct the hierarchies of fashion presentations. With their exposed scaffoldings, many of Batek’s runways share in OMA’s fascination with the inherently nomadic nature of their venue. But unlike Koolhaas’s systemized approach, Batek does not hesitate to indulge in fashion’s penchant for freakish wonder. For John Bartlett’s Spring/Summer 2001 show, for instance, he forged a partnership with Parmalat, an Italian company who had just launched a campaign for their vitamin-E-enriched milk. As the backdrop of the catwalk, sinews of milk drizzled over one man’s body painted in red, accenting the collection and the five aisles of men painted in white. The catalogue walks you through these gestures, as if they were created with the same grace and ease as a flip of a page.

Betak: Fashion Show Revolution is published by Phaidon (London, 2017).

Text Vanessa Gravenor
Images Courtesy Phaidon

Related Content

  • I’ll Be Your Mirror

    An analysis of artist THOMAS DEMAND's Oval Office series PRESIDENCY, published in The New York Times Magazine.More
  • Deeper

  • ALL A DAT ALL A DAT: Rap Crew 67 Can Make Anything

    Members ASAP, Monkey, LD, Dimzy, Liquez, and SJ are branching out. “67 can release rizla,” says LD ahead of the UK drill collective’s appearance this weekend in Berlin. “Not everybody can do that. A lot of people are just rappers.”More
  • 032c Resist Collection

    032c Resist Pin

    €10
  • David Ostrowski Brings Bauhaus to Warsaw’s Galeria Wschód

    The painter David Ostrowski has been off the radar for the last few years. A former student of Albert Oehlen and graduate of the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Ostrowski is best known for his large abstract paintings, which often include the use of spray cans and a formalistic approach to shape. Now he's back, with a new body of work and two shows – the first of which opens in Warsaw at the progressive gallery space Wschód this weekend.More
  • 032c WWB Collection

    032c WWB Rugby Shirt Black

    €115
    Buy Now
  • Anders Haal and Nicole Walker Imagine Total Fluidity on Humanity’s Next Planet

    The late Stephen Hawking was convinced that humanity's time on Earth was coming to a close, and proposed Proxima Centauri b as a second planetary home. The transition off-world is one subject in a new fashion book by stylist Nicole Walker and Anders Haal, founder of Stockholm-based fashion label HAAL, that considers the illogic of borders on a cosmic scale. Here we preview the book's opening visual essay.More
  • 032c WWB Collection

    032c WWB “Chevignon by 032c” Cosmo Jacket Green

    €480
    Buy Now
  • RBMA Co-Founder Many Ameri on Two Decades of Musical Exchange

    Since 1998, the Red Bull Music Academy has provided a roving laboratory for emerging musicians to incubate ideas and grow. Twenty years later the Academy, which takes place every Fall, has returned to Berlin – the city where it all started. 032c spoke to co-founder Many Ameri for personal highlights and reflections on a city in flux.More