German singer Ute Lemper walks the runway for Max Mara’s resort fashion show . Photograph: Daniele Venturelli/Getty

Publication: The Guardian
Date: 4 Jun 2019
By: Jess Cartner-Morley

Neues museum catwalk show also paid homage to Marlene Dietrich’s gender fluidity

German singer Ute Lemper walks the runway for Max Mara’s resort fashion show . Photograph: Daniele Venturelli/Getty
Women over 40, once invisible in the fashion world, are taking centre stage. The German singer Ute Lemper, 55, and the model and ocean conservation activist Carolyn Murphy, 44, were the stars of a Max Mara catwalk show at the Neues museum in Berlin on Monday evening. They continue a trend for indomitable older women headlining fashion’s most glamorous events, in which Diana Ross, 75, has performed at Christian Dior’s recent gala show and Stevie Nicks, 71, sang with Harry Styles at a Gucci event in Rome last week.

Max Mara, the quiet giant of Italian fashion with an annual turnover of €1.5bn (£1.3bn), has always dressed professional adult women rather than It girls; what has changed is that this identity is no longer a barrier to being a seriously glamorous player in the industry. “Everyone in fashion talks about empowerment now, but in Max Mara’s case it is hardwired in. Max Mara was founded in the 1950s with a clear idea of dressing a new class of women who would be going into the workplace,” the British designer Ian Griffiths said after the show.

But Griffiths, who has helmed the brand for three decades, views the vogue for empowerment as a fashion buzzword as problematic. “I think brands like ours need to be very careful because I’m now realising that the progress that has been made in gender equality is so much more fragile than we thought. So if you say that your clothes are about empowerment, you must produce clothes that genuinely are empowering. The message of these clothes is about a woman who is determined to succeed and to overcome wearing clothes in which she will be taken seriously.”

Muse for this collection was native Berliner Marlene Dietrich, courageous in a gender fluidity that was decades ahead of her time. Dietrich flouted convention, without forfeiting either status or adoration. “She wore a man’s suit in the 1930s, but she was still one of the most highly paid actresses in the world,” said Griffiths. With sharply tailored trouser suits and ice-white satin blouses, the collection also nodded to David Bowie. “As an art school boy in Manchester in the 1980s, Berlin was everything, and when we thought of Berlin, we thought of Bowie.”

The logic for a splashy out-of-season show is that the Max Mara bottom line depends on coats. The collections now shown with great fanfare in May and June, known as “resort” and “cruise”, arrive on shop floors in November. So despite their archaic names, which are anchored in a bygone age of winter holidays, they are perfect for showcasing coats.

The show was the first to be staged in the Neues museum, which stood derelict for 60 years after being bombed in the second world war before being reconstructed by the British architect David Chipperfield.

The camel coats – Max Mara’s signature – were softened to a chalky sandstone to compliment the wide double staircase in the museum’s central hall, which formed the first part of the catwalk. The models all wore flat shoes, to better navigate the stairs with confidence – except Ute Lemper, who at her own insistence wore tall spike heels under her wide-legged trouser suit.

Max Mara made headlines last year when Nancy Pelosi wore a red Max Mara coat, which she had previously worn for Barack Obama’s second inauguration, for a key standoff with President Trump. “I like to think that she chose to wear that coat because it means something to her emotionally,” commented Griffiths. “I hope that it gave her a psychological boost, which is what clothes can do.”

Click here to see the article online, with other amazing MaxMara photos

Publication: The Gay UK
Date: May 18, 2019
By: Sasha De Suinn

‘Falling in Love Again…’ an entranced Sasha de Suinn reviews Ute Lemper’s sold-out cabaret show Rendezvous with Marlene at the Arcola Theatre, London.

Where were you when Princess Di died?

Shocked, indifferent or simply unborn then? Like the Twin Towers, Di’s death instantly branded itself into cultural awareness worldwide, becoming a cultural landmark of collective disbelief. Still – if not quite on such an exalted plane – artistic earthquakes also create an enduring, seismic blip in public adoration and memorable regard. But forget the pointlessly premature – if still shocking – deaths of musical prodigies Prince, Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson; they’re the negative downside of cultural lightning brilliantly caught in a bottle. Ah, but don’t despair – there’s always light in the darkness, a Dumbledore to every Voldemort! Why, given a convenient TARDIS like every cosy, pansexual Time Lord, who wouldn’t want to witness Maria Callas, Judy Garland and Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust shows at their iconic, history-making peak?

Still, those moments, if rare, continue to persist as thrilling possibilities. And culturally – right here and right now – we’re incandescently privileged to witness Ute Lemper’s totally game-changing Rendezvous With Marlene. The work of a simply superlative artist at the top of her game, it’s a fearless exploration of Dietrich’s doubts, regrets and shockingly raw humanity.

Like the finest, vintage Krug champagne – with all its’ attendant depth, resonance and complexity of flavour – Rendezvous has intensely benefitted from its’ long, thirty-year gestation in Ute’s mind.

While playing Sally Bowles in a stage version of Cabaret in Dusseldorf back in 1992 when she was 24, Ute wrote a postcard to the 88-year-old Dietrich apologising for the constant barrage of spurious comparisons lazy journalists were drawing between the two artists. To call those journalists merely misguided would be ridiculously kind; they were wildly inaccurate. Where Dietrich was breezily, bisexually promiscuous, Ute was married with children; where Dietrich barely strayed beyond performing a narrow repertoire of expected classics, Ute’s range – including tackling songs by Nick Cave and Tom Waits – was eclecticism personified; and finally, while Dietrich stage’s act and barely-passable ‘singing’ remained essentially static and she explores no other creative pathways privately, Ute was a first-class chanteuse, actress and dancer, painting and song-writing in her precious downtime.

Very different women, then, despite the most blatantly obvious, shared physical characteristics; blonde hair and shapely bodies. Still, both had a shrewd grasp of the human impact of restrictive politics – as in Dietrich’s profound disgust towards the Nazis, while Ute – pleasingly in an era of blanket, Trump idiocies – comes across as an electrifying, pro-choice Valkyrie at the Arcola, sharing Dietrich’s passion for strong, female self-determinism.

Framed as a post-modern metafiction – Ute switching characters back and forth between herself and Dietrich, and exploring Dietrich’s memories in character en route – Rendezvous is almost an act of secular worship in performing, spontaneously eliciting an aura of hushed, quasi-religious devotion from the audience. Faultlessly exhibiting the high-functioning playfulness of an Alpha-class empath, Ute is so sensitive to nuance she virtually leads the audience en mass to the emotional mountaintops of Dietrich’s revelations. Throughout, Ute exhibits two exceptional qualities wholly lacking from the frenzied, truncated idiocy that passes as modern stage direction; dignity and restraint.

Surely a reigning role-model of liquid-boned finesse, Ute’s slightest, rippling gesture speaks emotional volumes, and she has the incalculable, expressive gift of making even the most chronically over-exposed lyrics imaginable –Blowing In The Wind, anyone? – resonate with the shocking, public poignancy of Christine Blasey Ford testimony against the vile Brett Kavanaugh.

A sheer master-class in memorial intimacy, stagecraft and the taut, emotional fury of suppressed pain and regret, Rendezvous With Marlene is an astounding instance of spiritual ventriloquism, of one acclaimed performer so prepared to relinquish egotism she’ll voluntarily become the mouthpiece of another.

Utterly in tune with our present, diversity zeitgeist, Ute’s tribute is not only pansexual, acknowledging Marlene’s female and male lovers, but also – going even further than Russell T. Davies’ Years and Years– transageist, as a youthful, ebullient Ute assumes the serene gravitas of Dietrich herself. Masterly? Of course; and – by a huge margin – simply the finest act of sustained, emotional intensity and fearless self-revelation I’ve ever seen. Ute – like Bowie, Callas and Garland before her – is in an unprecedented class of her own.

Click here to read this article on The Gay UK website.

Publication : The Gay UK
Date: May 14, 2019
By: Sasha De Suinn

Sasha de Suinn interviews Ute Lemper, the world-famous – and hugely LGBT friendly – jazz and chanson singer on her upcoming, sold-out show – Rendezvous, with Marlene, at London’s Arcola Theatre

What makes a killer diva? Is it surviving the frenzied, hot-pout hurricanes routinely weathered by the strutting queens in Pose?
Or – arguably better – surviving every possible shift in the facile, pop-trash demographic spoon-fed by reigning low-brow Simon Cowell?

Perhaps, but rarer still is one essential ingredient; jaw-dropping talent.

Not that England’s particularly thin on the ground in that respect; for every ridiculously over-praised whiner like Celine Dion or Madonna, we have a Shirley Bassey, a Dusty Springfield, an Adele and Amy Winehouse. Still, as shockingly good as those artists are, the most revered, rarefied divas – which must, without doubt, include opera queen supreme Maria Callas and legendary French chansonnier Edith Piaf – both transcend and encapsulate their formative cultures.

In brief, they’re shockingly, almost dangerously definitive, iconically flash-freezing the cultural mountain peaks they’ve chosen to climb and conquer… […/more]

Click here to read this fabulous comprehensive Interview online.