September 13, 2016

Beemer Memory 13: Betty Davis, Kaisik Wong & Sandra Sakata ~ They were different

costume by Kaisik Wong 
 cover photo by Mel Dixon
detail photo of cover by Styrous®

Around the middle of July in 1979, fantasy clothing designer, Kaisik Wong, was preparing for a fashion show he was producing on the 25th of that month. It was to be presented at the Hilton Hotel in Caracas, Venezuela. In addition to the fashsions he was creating and sewing together, he was trying to put together the actual show itself; and he was not having a very good time with that. In a panic he contacted Gene Weber, a photographer, for any kind of  help he could recommend. 

I had done some underwater photography for Weber as well as some modeling. I was recovering from a back injury while dancing two years earlier (Beemer 5 link below). In the recovery time I was making a living with stage productions which was supported by my music knowledge.  

Weber told Kaisik he knew just the fellow that could help him out and introduced me to him. I began working with a man who would change my life forever.   

 photographer unknown

I had never seen a fashion show before; all my experience was in performance, acting, dancing, theater, etc. I looked at his designs and in my head heard the sound I wanted to hear when I viewed them. 

I spent the next week or so working with Kaisik on his show, looking at his designs knowing I'd seen something like what he was doing somewhere. It took me a while, then suddenly it clicked one day! I didn't say anything but that night I went back to my studio then to the record shelves to look for . . .  what? In what I can only describe as a semi-conscious state, I reached out and pulled this album from a shelf. I looked at it with amazement and took it with me the next day when I went back to work with Kaisik.  

When I showed the album to him he was astonished! Yes, it was his design. That was the day he began telling me about all the adventures he had while designing costumes for some of the biggest singers in the business as well as others. 

He told me about taking dresses to Tina Turner in her dressing room during shows when she was still with Ike; seems that other than Tina, it wasn't a whole lot of fun.  

He recounted his adventures in Spain when he met the great Catalon artist, Salvador Dalí in 1969 and when he and Steven Arnold (more below), a protégé of Dalí, assisted the master in the embellishment and inauguration of his Teatro-Museo Dalí in the mid 70's. Dali commissioned Wong to create his signature work, Red Ray, one of The Seven Rays series.

photo by Allan Warren

When we were working on his show, sometimes I took Kaisik around to pick up items he needed for his designs. Neither of us had a car so we went on my bike; he loved riding around on it with me, holding onto the back of my jacket. I loved it when I heard him hoot and holler the first time. He rode excellent pillion!  

Well, he went off to Caracas with the music I'd put together for his fashion show; unfortunately, I couldn't go with it. When Kaisik returned he said the people went crazy over his designs and the music I'd used. It was nothing like any they'd seen or heard before in a fashion show. I thought, "Great!" then didn't think of it any further.    

Kaisik worked for an art-to-wear salon in San Francisco called, Obiko, owned and operated by Sandra Sakata. In March of 1980, Sakata was preparing for her very first fashion show (Beemer Memory 14 link below). The clothing for the show was furiously being designed and created but production for the actual show was not going well. In desperation she asked Kaisik if he knew of any one who could help with the music. He told her about me; I met Sandra and we proceeded to produce our very first fashion show together. Obiko, Sandra and I were on the way to an almost 20 year history of stellar, theatrical fashion shows that have never been equaled. I produced the Obiko shows until Sandra died in 1997.  

The last piece in the first Obiko fashion show, Red Ray, was commissioned by Salvadore Dalí. It was one of many designs by Kaisik Wong that have found their way into the collection of the Textile Arts Council of the M. H. de Young Museum.    

Kaisik Wong ~ Red Ray (1974) 

model Merle Bulato wearing Red Ray
with Kaisik Wong
Steven Arnold ~ photographer 

Kaisik Wong ~ Orchid Dress, ca. 1976
shown in the first Obiko fashion show
Textile Arts Council
M. H. de Young Museum

Evening Dress & Coat
Kaisik Wong
Palace of Fine Arts
San Francisco, CA
Kaisik Wong ~ photographer

Kaisik Wong ~ photographer

Wong designed the costumes for the 1981 film, Fruits of Passion, directed by Shūji Terayama and starring Klaus Kinski. The film is loosely based on the novel Retour à Roissy by Pauline Réage, written as a sequel to the Story of O. The story takes place in southern China where Sir Stephen (Kinski) owns a casino. Sir Stephen places O (sabelle Illiers) in a Chinese brothel for "training" and O is then subjected to a variety of humiliating experiences to prove her unconditional obedience. A sub-plot concerns a coolie rebellion due to the resentment towards Europeans by the local population and a young man desperate to afford O's favors at the brothel (links  to more info).  

Fruits of Passion  - 1981 

Steven Arnold was an artist of various media. There is a video of one of his works, Luminous Procuress on YouTube (link below). The Procuress leads two young men through a surreal peepshow of fantastic, bizarre, androgynous, mystical, spiritual, and sexual vignettes. Arnold’s surrealistic fantasy, was lauded by Dali and Andy Warhol, among others. The Village Voice called the film ‘a tour de force of the imagination – a journey through peekboxes of naked tableaux, theatres of mechanical dreams, feasts of monsters and piles of humanity.’

Luminous Procuress - poster 

Kaisik Wong died in 1990. In 2002, the star of the house of Balenciaga, Nicolas Ghesquiere, copied the work of Wong. Although this happens all the time, when someone is caught at it, this is a sin in the fashion industry. It created an international incident in the fashion world (link below). Ghesquiere created a patchwork vest in his spring collection that resembled one that Wong had designed in 1973. He admitted in an interview in Paris that he had copied the garment.

Kaisik Wong vest (1973)

Nicolas Ghesquiere designs after Wong (2002)

Net links: 
Betty Davis ~ They Say I'm Different    
Beemer Memory 14         
Beemer Memory 5        

Steven Arnold Archive           
Kaisik Wong ~ Tumblr
Kaisik Wong ~ Wearable Art For Gods and Goddesses         
Fruits of Passion (complete) on YouTube       
Fruits of Passion credits on imdb        
Steven Arnold ~ Luminous Procuress on          

Betty Davis, They Say I'm Different
costume by Kaisik Wong
vinyl LP
cover photo by Mel Dixon
detail photo of cover by Styrous®

"I think the whole body should be a jeweled, radiating beauty."

                                            ~ Kaisik Wong: 1950-1990

Styrous® ~ Tuesday, September 13, 2016      

No comments:

Post a Comment

PLEASE NOTE: comments are moderated BEFORE they are posted so DO NOT appear immediately.

Thank you.