Shoewear company Vans has launched a contest entitled the Vans Custom Culture in partnership with Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD). This year, the lifestyle brand has decided to open up the voting to the public for the winner starting May 10.

Within two weeks, Vans will allow anyone to vote for their favorite semi-finalist design for the contest. The winner will receive 50,000 dollars for their high school art program. “Custom Culture gives these young creatives a platform to showcase their talent nationwide, while calling attention to the much needed funding for arts education,” said Megan Klempa, Vans Custom Culture program manager. The vote from the public will ultimately narrow down the finalists to five, who will then travel to Los Angeles for a final judging. The final winner will be announced on June 7. The runner ups will receive 4,000 dollars for their high school programs.

The content is a way to help inspire youth creativity through friendly competition. "Inspiration and creativity is the foundation of Custom Culture and continues Vans' ethos of enabling creative expression," Klempa said in a statement. “The concepts behind these designs are a testament to the innovative mindset of the hundreds of students that participate in the program.” Each design is made from a student who creates a Vans “Off The Wall” lifestyle including either sports, music, art, and local flavor. While providing funding for local art education, the Vans contest is a way to help improve art programs.

Penelope Cruz will play her first major television role as Donatella Versace in FX's "Versace: American Crime Story," the third season of the hit show, the network said Monday. The Oscar-winning Spanish actress will be joined by Edgar Ramirez ("Point Break," "The Girl on the Train") who will play Gianni Versace in the series looking at the fashion designer's murder in 1997.

Filming is scheduled to begin in April and the show will air next year. "Cruz has proven herself to be one of the most versatile actresses by playing a variety of compelling characters, and becoming the first actress from Spain to be nominated for and win an Academy Award," FX said in a statement.

The 42-year-old's Hollywood output includes "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" (2001), "Gothika" (2003) and "Volver" (2006), for which she earned a best actress Oscar nomination. She went one better with a win for best supporting actress for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (2008) and was nominated again for her support role the following year in "Nine."

The first season of "American Crime Story" -- "The People v. O.J. Simpson" -- ended its initial 10-episode run as cable's most-watched new series of the year, pulling in an average seven-day audience of 7.5 million. It also won nine Emmy Awards, including for best limited series and acting statuettes for Courtney B. Vance, Sarah Paulson and Sterling K. Brown.

The show, which took viewers inside the Simpson trial and explored the chaotic, behind-the-scenes dealings and maneuvering on both sides, is now available worldwide on Netflix. A second season focusing on the response to Hurricane Katrina is due to air on FX next year, shortly before season three. (AFP)

Fans of the late Spanish couturier Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972) and his astonishing designs have reason to rejoice, as a new retrospective entitled 'Balenciaga, l’oeuvre au noir' (Balenciaga is the New Black) opens its doors to the public today in Paris, France. Located in the Musée Bourdelle, the new exhibition focuses on the black garments created by Balenciaga throughout his career in Paris, from 1937 to 1968. Hundreds of designs from the 100 year old fashion house Balenciaga archives will be displayed, ranging from draped crepe dresses to perfectly tailored suits. FashionUnited shares a few images from the exhibition below.

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Balenciaga: L'Oeuvre au Noir is open from March 8 to July 16, 2017 at the Musée Bourdelle, Paris. However it is not the only Balenciaga exhibition to open this year, as the Victoria & Albert in London is set to open another exhibit on Balenciaga later this year.

Photos: Balenciaga, l'oeuvre au noir. ©Pierre Antoine

Two Yves Saint Laurent museums to open this year

Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent has announced that two museums dedicated to the late French designer will open in Paris and Morocco in autumn this year.

The foundation, which is dedicated to the conversation of the designer’s 40 years of creativity, has a collection that comprises of more than 5,000 haute couture garments and 15,000 accessories, as well as thousands of sketches, photographs and objects that will be utilised across the two museums.

The Parisian museum will be hosted in the foundations home, 5 avenue Marceau, where Yves Saint Laurent designed and created his work for almost 30 years, from 1974 to 2002. The dedicated space will allow the public to explore the designer’s heritage through what it describes as “constantly updated displays” of the foundation's collection.

Stage designer Nathalie Crinière and interior designer Jacques Grange, who both collaborated with the foundation on past projects, will rethink the exhibition space, an area that will be doubled in size and refurbished in the style of the designer’s original couture house.

“By walking through the former haute couture salons and Yves Saint Laurent’s studio, visitors will experience the essence of the creation process within the haute couture house,” explains the foundation.

Yves Saint Laurent museums to open in Paris and Morocco this October

The larger of the two museums will be in Marrakesh, located on Rue Yves Saint Laurent near Jardin Majorelle, a garden the designer and Pierre Bergé saved from development in 1980 and that has now become, with its museum dedicated to Berber culture a major cultural site in Marrakech with almost 700,000 visitors every year.

The new space spans over 43,000 square foot and will house a permanent display of Yves Saint Laurent’s work staged by Christophe Martin, a space for temporary exhibitions, an auditorium, a research library and a café and restaurant.

It is hoped that the two museums will “not only intend to attract fashion and art lovers, but also aim to appeal to a large audience interested in discovering Yves Saint Laurent’s work, the oeuvre of a major artist of the twentieth century,” the foundation added.

Pierre Bergé, president of Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, said: “When Yves Saint Laurent discovered Marrakech in 1966, he was so moved by the place that he decided to buy a house and regularly go back there. It feels perfectly natural, fifty years later, to build a museum dedicated to his oeuvre, which was so inspired by this country. As for Paris, who needs to specify that it is where Yves Saint Laurent created all his work and built his career?”

Both museums are set to open in October.

Image: via Fondation Pierre Bergé Yves Saint Laurent Facebook

Paris to get its first fashion museum

Paris, the world's style capital, is finally to get its first permanent museum dedicated to fashion. The Palais Galliera, which has already been hosting temporary exhibitions on major designers for the last four years, is to become a permanent museum, the city's mayor Anne Hidalgo has said.

New 5.7-million-euro (6-million dollars) galleries will be built under the colonnaded 19th-century pavilion with the help of the Chanel fashion house, she added. They will open in 2019 and will be named after Chanel's founder, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel.

The Paris Fashion Museum will also be open all year round and offer a journey through the history of fashion, from 18th-century costumes to the latest looks hot off the catwalk. "Paris is proud to be able to open this exceptional space, proving once again that it is the home of fashion," Hidalgo added.

The museum is located in a wealthy district on the Right Bank of the River Seine opposite the Palais de Tokyo modern art museum, where many of the Paris fashion week catwalk shows are held. (AFP)

Photo: By Mbzt (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

New York - The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) is honoring a costume designer this spring. Highlighting Adrian Greenberg, the exhibition entitled “Adrian: Hollywood and Beyond” will open March 7.

Adrian, known most commonly by just his first name, gained a reputable standing as a costume designer for his gowns and vivacious designs made in the past for Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, and Norma Scherer. His costume designs were “the most copied clothes in the world,” according to the Fashion Museum at FIT’s website. The exhibition will include his ready-to-wear designs alongside his portfolio. The program will highlight Adrian’s materials and textiles used as well as his production process. The installation will run for an entire month up until April 1.

The Museum at FIT is known as a specialized fashion museum that features various artists and designers. The museum has approximately 100,000 visitors per year. The museum’s mission is to educate and advance the knowledge of fashion through these programs, exhibitions, and publications. Featuring Adrian will further expand his legacy as a costume designer alongside his iconic work.

The kimono, in myriad iterations from its origins in ancient Japan to its embrace by today's top fashion designers, took centre stage Wednesday at Paris's Guimet museum. While the once ubiquitous garment is now reserved for special occasions and official events in its homeland, it has inspired the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier and Dior's John Galliano in the West's fashion capitals.

Around 150 styles from the collection of Matsuzakaya -- the centuries-old Japanese fashion house that became a department store -- are on display abroad for the first time in the Guimet's show, titled "Kimono, The Ladies' Delight". The unique pieces, some of them dazzling works of art, reflect a range of sophistication and difficulty in fabrication.

Variations of the kimono first caught on in the West as part of a general fad for all things Japanese in the late 19th century when bourgeois ladies began wearing a casual version -- without the restraining obi belt -- around the house. Then Parisian couturiers Paul Poiret and Madeleine Vionnet began experimenting with the kimono in the 1920s.

Fast forward to Japanese-French designer Kenzo Takada, two of whose creations dating from 2006 are in featured in the exhibit. "It's thanks to the kimono that I found my identity," said Takada, the 77-year-old founder of the Kenzo luxury fashion house.

"When I opened my boutique (in Paris) in 1970, I told myself, I'm Japanese, I probably know kimonos and Japanese traditions better than French designers and I should take advantage of that," Takada recalled. "Before that I followed Parisian trends. I hadn't thought of the kimono in fashion."

French haute couture designer Franck Sorbier's take on the kimono has been more ephemeral. An organza piece evoking an evanescent white butterfly from his summer 2008 collection is in the Guimet exhibit along with pieces by Galliano and Gaultier. "With its extra long sleeves and its train it has an imperial dimension," Sorbier said.

The kimono adds instant elegance to an ensemble, he said. "Throw a kimono over a shirt, skinny jeans and heels and you're dressed for a night out. No need for an evening gown." The show runs until May 22. (AFP)

The Acropolis is not for rent: Greece may be indebted, but the message over its ancient heritage is clear after it rejected a request from Gucci to hold a fashion show amid the ruins. ​

​ The decision was reached unanimously by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS), the guardian of Greek heritage, local media reported on Wednesday. "The Acropolis is a symbol for all mankind, which cannot be the subject of commercial transactions," Maria Andreadakis Vlazakis, general secretary at the culture ministry, was quoted as saying. ​

​ The luxury fashion house had reportedly offered two million euros towards the conservation programme for the Acropolis and was pledging to boost Athens' tourism revenues during a time of economic crisis. "We are always open to financial support" but "the country's difficult economic situation" is not an argument for ceding the monument, said the culture ministry official. ​

​ The Greek press was less polite, with a commentary in the daily Kathimerini newspaper describing Gucci's request as a "humiliation" and the site as "shining symbol of democracy". "The argument that it will benefit from the inflow of cash or the promotion is nothing less than a guise for abject cynicism," said the piece. Despite some decisions by the culture ministry facilitating it, commercial exploitation of ancient Greek sites remains extremely rare. ​

​ Greek-Canadian film director Nia Vardalos and America's Francis Ford Coppola are among the few who have been allowed to shoot at the Acropolis. Kathimerini also cited US singer Jennifer Lopez who was allowed to pose at the site in 2008 by a former culture minister, who bypassed the KAS. The most visited heritage site in Greece, the Acropolis is made up of temples including the Parthenon, the Erechtheion and Athena Nike. They date back to the fifth century BC, the golden age of Athenian democracy. ​

​ Restoration work has been ongoing for four decades with the help of European support funds.​ (AFP)

Italy's glossy style magazine Grazia will launch in Pakistan, publishers said Monday, as the deeply conservative Muslim country's growing fashion industry seeks a place on the world stage.

The first issue of Grazia Pakistan will go on sale this month, Saif Publishing said, with plans to double the initial run of 20,000 copies within six months. ​

​ "Pakistan's middle class as well as the fashion industry is booming and Grazia is going to provide an amazing platform to nurture this growth," said Zahraa Saifullah, the editor and publisher of the magazine, at a press conference in financial hub Karachi. ​

​ Pakistani fashion designers have been striving to develop the local market, which experts believe conservatively accounts for 200 million ​dollars ​ in revenue but is largely undocumented. ​

​ From an industry made up of just a handful of designers and models in the early 1990s, fashion shows that attract foreign buyers are now held regularly in Lahore and Karachi. ​

​ Its leading figures are aready gossip column and magazine staples, including in Grazia's rival Hello!, which launched a Pakistan edition in 2012. Ninety percent of Grazia's content would be local style, Saifullah said, adding: "We plan to show the fun, creative side of Pakistani fashion to the world." ​

​ The Italian edition of Grazia was first published in 1938. The popular magazine now appears in more than a dozen countries, including the US, France, Germany, Spain, Britain and India. ​ (AFP) ​ ​

Elton John to turn 'Devil Wears Prada' into musical

Pop superstar Elton John unveiled Thursday his return to Broadway with a musical adaptation of the blockbuster film and novel "The Devil Wears Prada."

John will write the music for "The Devil Wears Prada," with lyrics to be penned by Paul Rudnick, a humorist who frequently writes for The New Yorker magazine.

"Reimagining 'The Devil Wears Prada' for the musical theatre is super exciting," John said in a statement, which added that the production timeline will be announced later.

"I'm a huge fan of both the book and the feature film, and a huge aficionado of the fashion world. I can't wait to sink my musical teeth into this hunk of popular culture," the English musician said.

Elton John to turn 'Devil Wears Prada' into musical

While Broadway is notoriously tough terrain even for famous names, John has a proven record of triumph with musicals. "The Lion King," his musical adaptation of the Disney animated film, set the record as the first show to gross 1 billion dollars on Broadway where it remains the third longest-running show in history.

He also found success with a musical adaptation of Verdi's opera "Aida" as well as "Billy Elliot the Musical," which closed last year after a successful run on London's West End.

Meryl Street and Anne Hathaway starred in the 2006 film "The Devil Wears Prada" about an all-powerful fashion magazine editor who tyrannically imposes her will on an ambitious young editorial assistant.

Elton John to turn 'Devil Wears Prada' into musical

A major international box-office success, "The Devil Wears Prada" was based on the popular novel of the same name by Lauren Weisberger. The author formerly worked for longtime Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, although she has never confirmed that Wintour was the inspiration. (AFP)

Photos: Screenshots from the Devil Wear Prada, Movieclips, Youtube