Three years in, Veuve Clicquot’s ‘Widow Series’ has become an autumn staple of London’s cultural calendar. Invented to celebrate the pioneering champagne icon Madame Clicquot, who was widowed at just 27, the immersive art event is handed to a different creative team each year, with the aim of fashioning a night to remember while raising money for AIDS charity Amfar.
Last year’s FKA Twigs-curated installation was a hit, selling out in 20 minutes and garnering over 11 million online impressions. With a lot to live up to, this year’s team was in safe hands, with style doyenne and iconic fashion editor Carine Roitfeld steering the ship alongside creative director Patrick Kinmonth.
The longtime collaborators, who first worked together on a Mario Testino photo shoot in the 1990s, are a formidable force, as well as being fierce friends. ‘Patrick is the most generous storyteller,’ says Roitfeld. ‘And this was a big production – which is putting it mildly.’
Carine Roitfeld at the entrance to ‘Seven’
Entitled ‘Seven’, and themed around the deadly sins, guests are taken on a vice-laden journey across four floors of raw concrete in an expansive subterranean Islington venue, journeying into the pits of Dante’s Inferno. It’s a bold move for Roitfeld, a self-confessed ‘pages person’, to work on an installation of this scale. ‘I work in magazines – this is totally new for me,’ she says. ‘So I’ve brought a few of my fashion family in to help.’
Notable collaborators have shown up in force. Guests feel the furore of wrath through the eyes of Fendi and we’re toyed with by lusty models in red PVC courtesy of Atsuko Kudo, all the while being satiated with VC Extra Brut by ‘widow’ waitresses dressed in black lace by Tom Ford.
The melding of art installation and ‘the fashion world’ is something Kinmonth has enjoyed seeing develop throughout his career. ‘The change has been tremendously slow but absolutely permanent,’ he says. ‘Fashion is no longer regarded as something superficial, where clothes just come at the end. People understand that clothes are a manifestation of deep cultural processes. They are extremely legible and can be experimented with in these kinds of settings.’
The costuming, set design and performance act as the crystal glass in which the champagne sits – with the latter remaining very much the star of the show. In a final act of pure, unadulterated extravagance (and a full embodiment of gluttony) guests are invited to chuck their champagne glasses over a ledge and watch them fall four stories, creating a mosaic of shards across the floor. If this is Inferno, we want a one way ticket to hell.