There’s still an odd, lingering Anglo Saxon puritanism, in Britain, where menswear is concerned. I couldn’t help but also notice the gangly unease with which the models in Topman Unique – the opening show of the four day London Collections Men calendar – gamboled down the catwalk, sinewy legs drowned in wide baggy trousers or sticking out of painfully abbreviated running shorts. They seemed a bit reticent, embarrassed even – which is sometimes the case with the menswear shows as a whole, lacking the confident swagger of the Milanese collections, for instance, which are set to begin on Saturday.
How do you define the here-and-now? Well, it’s tricky. In fact, as the Milanese collections unfold, it’s increasingly proving impossible. The contemporary is the untimely, said Roland Barthes – the fact he said it on a Gucci press release was quite something. What Barthes means is that the present is impossible to pin down – as soon as you say it, it’s passed.
Family is a big deal in Italian fashion. When Donatella Versace, for instance, talks about the Versace DNA, I don’t roll my eyes quite as audibly as I do with other designers. I once asked her what the name “Versace” represented to her. “As a label, or as my family?” was her reply.
Given that shows, by and large, have scaled back from the flashy theatrics and set pieces of past fashion spectaculars, the quarterly reinvention of the Prada show space on Via Foggazarro is hotly anticipated by the fashion world. That’s because everything Miuccia Prada does about, around, before and after a collection is rabidly unpicked, scoured for hidden meaning. This season, Rem Koolhaas’ AMO created a space reminiscent of either a grand ocean liner or a suburban leisure centre, with a suspiciously cobalt-blue pool shimmering bedside thick, chocolate-brown shag carpeting and around the central pillars that are the only constant (they’re supporting, presumably).
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.
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.
It’s difficult to buy a bag, as a man. Very, very difficult. And it’s not because people aren’t pitching for your cash. Far from it. We featured manbags alongside the glad rags in the men’s fashion special of the Independent Magazine for autumn/winter 2013, because they have grown in visibility and in importance.
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