Rebellious creativity is the legacy passed down to Veuve Clicquot by Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin (Madame Clicquot). Widowed at twenty-seven by her husband Phillipe Clicquot in 1805 and left in charge of his various businesses, she became the first woman to head a champagne house.
The Napoleonic Code of the early nineteenth century prohibited unmarried women from carrying out entrepreneurial endeavours; women could only work and earn money for themselves with the permission of their husbands. Widows, however, were at liberty to run businesses. As such, Barbe-Nicole launched her own luxury champagne-manufacturing company in 1810 with the name Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin, ‘veuve’ being the French word for ‘widow’.
Today, Madame Clicquot is known as ‘La Grande Dame’ of champagne, celebrated for her defiance, her innovation and her ambition. With her creative approach, her implementation of new wine-manufacturing techniques and her upholding of female entrepreneurship, she broke away from the tradition of champagne production.
In honour of their founder’s creative vision, Veuve Clicquot took over The Bargehouse at Oxo Tower wharf to present ‘REBELS’ – ‘a space for radical minds’. The event, which took place over three days in November, was the fourth in an annual series called ‘Widows’, curated each year by a notable creative personality. This year, graphic designer and creative director Tom Hingston joins the ranks of previous collaborators like musician FKA twigs, photographer Nick Knight and fashion icon Carine Roitfield.
Hingston’s vision for the brand was that of a nightclub where imagination, ideas and creativity flow as freely as the champagne. REBELS was a multi-sensory, multi-disciplinary artistic experience which combined fashion, film, music, design and art installation, with an emphasis on the subcultural, the audacious, the revolutionary and avant-garde to convey the rebellious spirit of Veuve Clicquot. The luxury French brand was mixed into a cocktail with the heritage of British underground cultures, trends and identities: punk, house, rave. Hingston saw, in the story and legacy of Madame Clicquot, the same disobedience to the status quo and the same impulse to challenge or reject societal norms as he saw in the counter-cultures that bloomed in Britain’s nightclubs throughout the late twentieth century.
With input from people like singer Jehnny Beth, set designer Anna Burns, photographers and filmmakers Warren Du Preez and Nick Thornton, fashion designer Liam Hodges, artist Rebecca Louise Law and previous curator of Widows, Nick Knight, the installations ranged from floor-to-ceiling film-screenings, immersive musical experiences, interactive sculptures and striking lighting displays. Widow Series Part IV was not just a tribute to Veuve Clicquot’s original innovator, but to all those who refuse to play by the rules: the radicals, the revolutionaries, the rebels.