Last night was the Met Gala, celebrating the opening of the exhibition Charles James: Beyond Fashion. It’s lauded as the east coast equivalent to the Oscars: but compare the Met’s media reach to the Oscars, which pulled in 48 million television viewers from the USA alone, and it pales.
Then again, the Oscars is, ostensibly, about more than just frocks. It’s about prizes, about ambitions thwarted and dreams fulfilled. The Met Gala is about fund-raising. Never forget that. It’s a giant charity lunch, gussied up in fancy clothing. Last year, Gwyneth Paltrow said it “sucked”. Our attention, and the media hullabaloo, is all about the (cat)walk to the event, not the event itself.
I bet people wonder what fashion editors do during the “off season”: write dodgy novels, maybe? Shop? Painstakingly plan ensembles to be crated and shipped ready for the next round of shows, when said eds are released from their pen, like the rabid hounds that shred unwanted visitors to Mr Burns’ mansion in The Simpsons? Only fashion editors voraciously attack and devour garments, and sometimes designers, rather than intruders.
I’m not overwhelmingly interested in celebrity dressing. Is anyone, really? The rounds of premieres, awards-shows and television appearances are relentless – every country has its own launch for a film, a television programme, a magazine, a cereal. And every launch has an outfit. Bar a few celebrities with emblematic style (Kate Moss) or hefty endorsement deals (Jennifer Lawrence in Dior, obviously), what they wear is mostly forgettable. Just like so much of fashion today is forgettable. There’s a surfeit of stuff. Most of it is anodyne, rehashed, dull and unnecessary. Why would I be interested in that?
Visibility and viability: Rihanna does Comme des Garçons, Céline challenges superficially and Chloe clumps along
Rihanna was sat front-row at Comme des Garçons on Saturday afternoon. I’m uncertain why she was there – it isn’t something I would normally mention, but the incongruity of such a high-profile attendee at Comme des Garçons, hitherto the bastion of intellectualism, of substance over mere style, bears comment. What did Rihanna make of it all? I didn’t ask because, frankly, I don’t care. Comme des Garçons isn’t about the flashy, slightly trashy circus of celebrity dressing. Hence, perhaps Rihanna’s presence was some form of artistic statement, a kind of installation or performance piece? I wondered if someone, somewhere was laughing at her. Or maybe, if even Comme counts the column inches. Visibility, in today’s fashion game, seems next to godliness.
We think of Dior as a house built on evening wear – the French call that flou, which, as the name implies, denotes garments with a sense of fluidity and lightness. Even if a Dior ball gown was anything else. But Dior’s most famous fashion image is of la Tailleur Bar. It’s one of those house codes that Raf Simons has been fixated on since he began redesigning Dior in 2012. Hence the fact the Bar suit’s jacket, the nip-waisted, thrust-hipped silhouette originally cut in tussore silk by Pierre Cardin (a tailor at Dior before setting up under his own steam) appears again and again, insistently, in his collections, cut in everything from grain de poudre to denim.
Paris fashion week is the great consolidator, the grounder of the fashion season. It rounds off the ideas we’ve seen emerging in the other three fashion capitals, adds a few more of its own and a distinctly Gallic flourish, and ties the whole thing up in a fancy, florid Frenchy bow. It adds the punctuation. It makes the whole thing make sense. It does usually at least. This season, however, Paris seems, somehow, subdued. It’s throwing up questions rather than answers, and bucking the trends. It’s an intriguing turn of events.
Following their occupation of Paris in 1940, the Nazis tried to move the couture industry lock, stock and stays to Berlin. The then-head of the Chambre Syndicale, the couturier Lucien Lelong, declared “You can impose what you will by force, but Paris’ haute couture is not transferrable… It exists in Paris or it does not exist at all.”
Fast fashion, lazy luxury and tenderness: From Milan, Moschino, Bottega Veneta, Versace and Jil Sander
Milan fashion week is sometimes a little bit like groundhog day. The same shows are staged in the same showrooms, at the same time, to the same audience. It’s all rather predictable.
Miuccia Prada is currently fixated on the performative aspect of fashion. Her latest collection was titled simply “Act II”. Or maybe it wasn’t a title, but more a statement of fact. It linked it immediately to the menswear show she presented in January, implying the two are part of a continuum. The clothes links it too, as did the presence of male and female models. That was an element many criticised in her menswear show, complaining there were too many female models in too much of her womenswear pre-collection. If they didn’t say it in print, they certainly expressed it verbally. I wonder if any of that reached the top of that Carsten Höller slide where Miuccia Prada’s office sits? If so, I suspect it would only have inclined her to add more male looks to her ostensibly all-woman show.
Edward Meadham once told me he was interested in codes. “The codes of dressing, these languages,” were the words he used. Then we went off on a tangent about Chanel. But that idea of “coding through clothes has stuck with me ever since, whenever looking at a Meadham Kirchhoff collection.
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