Anna dello Russo, the editor-at-large of Vogue Japan, is best known for her extravagant, peacock-like displays of the latest fashions. Is she merely a passive victim of fashion? Or can we see her as a ground-breaker? Although she seems to move across these categories, I would not hesitate for a minute to call her a ground-breaker. The reason behind my choice is that she embodies the abstraction of fashion itself, or at least aims to do so.
the most popular of all the garments
thoughts on my favorite color: black
this autumn fashion proposes a general statement: femininity.
(Albino; Balmain; Gaultier; Mabille; Chalayan; Vionnet; Jacobs; and Prada are only some exemples)
Under this wide label, though, designers are tracing many paths that all converge in a single point.
Pink, hourglass lines, romantic flower prints, lace fabrics, and of course, metallic colours.
If I turn my gaze to the past I can see at lest two great moments in which metallic invaded fashion: the ’30/’40
, and the ’60.
while analysing the use of fashion in noir movies, I realized that the fabled figure of the femme fatale was characterized by expensive and eccentric clothes, tight on the body and sexy. Very often those clothes where made with lamé, a jewell-fabric, extremely expensive and very delicate. Obviously, this choice had several
purposes: the femme fatale needed to seduce, and she also had to be recognised straightaway by the spectator. She was meant to stand out form the general crowd of average women.
In this case t
hen, metallic was used to create a particular idea of ‘precious’ femininity, as if the body itself had to be cocooned in an envelop of splendour.
This allusion to precious metals like gold, platinum and silver, was quite common, not only in noire movies, but also in films like Cristopher Strong (1933), with Katharine Hepburn.
Another example that should be recalled is the golden Ida Lupino’s dress in The Man I Love (1947). just excessive and stunning.
The ’30 and ’40 for film historians are known to be the years of the “Great Hollywood”. Cinema at that time was indeed the main inspiration for fashion, style and life-style.
Another ‘metallic moment’ that I want to recall here occurs in the the sixties. Thanks to designers like Courreges and Cardin, metallic colours were used to express a very different mood: futurism.
Futurism then was seen as a metaphor for youth. During the sixties, indeed, the clients of fashion started to change. Rich married ladies were still the core buyers of haute couture, but a whole army of young girls and boys was getting more and more interested in buying ready to wear. A new target was born.
Obviously there are other paramount metallic collections (for instance the use of metallic fabrics was massive during the eighties), but what interests me now is to propose a question: what do you think is the meaning of this “new” blast of silver and golden for the approaching autumn?
My idea is that we are back in the thirties, we are back to the moment in which femininity had to be gilded, precious and charming. To know if my suggestion works, though, we have to wait few months, we have to pass this season and to turn this present into history; but “history” in fashion is just a synonym of “yesterday”.
That our era is the age of surrogates is a widely known fact. Criticizing the fake promises of today’s marketing seems a consolidate fashion amongst the most important critical thinkers. The pop-philosopher Slavoj Zizek, for instance, labels our world as the world of “laxative–chocolate”; “decaf-coffee”; and “coca-light”. Paradoxes that clearly represent the schizophrenic desires of contemporary customers: “I want to sip a coffee without having the bad side of the caffeine”, “I want to drink a coca-cola without getting fat”, namely I want to enjoy but I refuse the limitations that come along with this enjoyment. And if the “real” pleasure in this way is not possible, then I will go for a surrogate, a fake copy of the original.
But what about fashion?
In the realm of clothes and style this question is even more urgent, because fashion epitomises the essence of every present moment. Fashion is in a way an “intensified present” because it pretends to last only for “today”.
I was quite shocked the last spring, walking into a Zara store and spotting a pair of high heels that were the unashamed copy of a Sergio Rossi’s design. A smart shoe with a metal heel. And then in the same store I found a bag, a Prada bag, a Zara-Prada bag. And here it is: a black and white dress conceived following the same idea of Nicolas Guesquiere for his last collection at Balenciaga. An ingenious idea, in Guesqiuere’s pencil, not anymore in a messy shop floor; there it was only a bad copy with ugly stitches on it. But quality is obviously not Zara’s point. What is at stake here is that this kind of brand gives a simulacrum to people that cannot afford the original. In this sense clothes become decaf-coffee. The nth fake, vicarious mean of enjoyment that surrounds us. Brands like Zara (is important to repeat that Zara is just an example, but there are many more likewise) are high street brands, their price makes theme high-street, but do not call theme street style.
Styling the streets is a different matter, and has nothing to do with copying, and copying, and copying the catwalks.
Mary Quant, for instance, dressed an entire generation of women. She invented a new way for femininity; fulfilled the desires of young people in the streets and she did it by creating the fabled miniskirt. Inventing, reinventing, proposing newness, not mimicking.
I prize, I love street style when is such. When has his own mark, I like it when is not a bastard son of pret a porter, this happens in American Apparel, TopShop, All Saints, Cheap Monday, amongst the others. One may not like their style, but must be recognised that they have something to say.
Now, everyone knows that Inditex group (the group that owns my “case study” Zara) is one of the most successful in the world, but yet I think that it fails precisely when it succeeds. It succeeds because of the huge income, but it fails in creative terms. It does’t invent. It does’t remain. it has a specific type of customer, but doesn’t have a specific stylistic identity.
Their clothes cannot even be called ugly, because they are not! Obviously, when a brand crawls cannot fall off. Only daring brands can miss some collections. Then give me ugly, give me failure, give me questionable taste, but leave your OWN mark on the streets.