Fashion: An Apologist's View

>> Thursday, April 1, 2010

I came across this article this morning in The Guardian - it's quite old, I know, but I don't think that diminishes its relevance any. In it, the writer Tanya Gold talks about how much she hates fashion - how she hates walking past shop windows displaying 6-inch heels, how she laughs at the "imbecility" of clothes on the runway, a luxury afforded to her, she says, ever since she put on some weight and decided that "even fashion wouldn't pretend it could fix me." She wonders why women can't renounce fashion and just "squeeze... (themselves) into a library and have an inner life instead", as if a love for fashion and for books can only exist mutually exclusive of each other.

Everyone has a right to their opinion, of course. And it seems to fit perfectly into the natural order of things that the more frivolous, the more seemingly vapid fashion gets, the larger and stronger grows the backlash against it. Certainly, there's much to berate about the industry - the list is long, from the use of underage, anorexic models to fashion houses' ironclad rules about lending clothes for editorial spreads, effectively killing all creativity, to the increasing number of products out there that simply do not justify their price tags (see post below).

The reason I find myself unable to stay away, however, lies in people like Alexander McQueen, Giambattista Valli, Azzedine Alaia, Nicolas Ghesquière. Looking at the things they create often moves me and sometimes brings a lump to my throat; the experience is not dissimilar to finding pleasure in music, or classic art worthy of the adulation it receives, or dance or literature or the joy of effortless eloquence.

The jury's still out on whether fashion crosses over into art, and I'm not entirely sure what my take is on the matter either - but I still find it is imperative to recognise the great creativity and often, the vision that many in the fashion world possess. We all want to be heard, especially when so many of us are so stifled and our voices silenced so much; the desire to create is most natural, most human and whether creativity finds its outlet in art, music, words, or just clothes, it deserves its place in the world just like any other.

I think it's unfortunate that Ms. Gold chose to filter fashion in the way that she did and take it as personally as she has. Fashion is, of course, an industry like any other - and one could say art is more about creativity for its own sake and hence entirely different from fashion, but surely a closer look into the art world would change anybody's mind - and the clothes mean nothing if there is no one to buy them, but that doesn't mean that there is no beauty to the madness, that all fashion is derogatory to women, that its sole purpose is to make us feel worse about ourselves, or that to buy into the dream of enchanting clothes is to declare yourself an exercise in frivolity to the world. I have a problem with extremes, especially when it comes to those in opinions and I don't believe that the right answer to anything lies in one or either polar opposite.

And that is, as they say, is my two cents.

p.s. That bit about wandering about Harvey Nichols like "an insect with a broken antennae" observing how "miserable all the shoppers look," and how shopping always involves "a kind of brief, bright burst of self-acceptance, which always evaporates" when one reaches home? Utter drivel. Tanya Gold has obviously confused a distaste for shopping with her right to a diatribe on fashion. I'm not sure what she meant about the miserable shoppers, because I certainly feel nothing but ecstatic when I'm in a store. And contrary to Gold's opinion on the matter, I think the best part of the entire experience is going home, unwrapping your new purchases, and hanging them up in your wardrobe.

In fact, the only thing better than that particular experience is wearing it all for the first time.


Erdem Wins the BFC / Vogue Designer Fashion Fund

>> Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ok so I'm being really naughty here since I'm really supposed to be compiling our annual It Guide to the hottest places to be / things to do etc, but I'm just so excited (I just can't hide it) and I wanted to share! Half Turkish, half Brit designer Erdem Moralioglu has just been announced as the very first winner of the Vogue / British Fashion Council Fashion Fund prize, which gives him GBP 200,000 (much needed for a young up-and-coming designer like him) and "access to direct level mentors across the industry", although I'm not entirely sure what that bit means. Either way, it's sure to bring him much attention and the added credentials won't hurt either.

He beat out some incredibly stiff competition, fighting off the likes of Nicholas Kirkwood and Marios Schwab for the title. I'm so pleased he won because to me this marks the triumph of beautiful, well tailored clothes that can be both otherworldly and inherently wearable at the same time. I say this with no exaggeration - every time I see someone wearing Erdem, my breath catches a hitch. His clothes have this way of making a statement for the wearer without swallowing them up or allowing them to hide behind them. It's the sort of beauty that enhances, not conceals, and I aim to one day have a few pieces by Erdem hanging in my wardrobe.

Oh, and click here for a lovely piece in The Telegraph on Erdem's (much deserved) growing popularity.


Derelicte - Homeless Chic

It can sometimes be difficult to really appreciate fashion without wondering if knowing that those exorbitant price tags could be put to much better use elsewhere. On the other hand, I think fashion is the closest thing to art without actually being art - interestingly enough, I read a lot of press last week about the brouhaha created by the latest biography of Yves Saint Laurent, written by a Frenchwoman called Marie-Dominique Leliévre. Expressing her reservations on the widely accepted view that Saint Laurent was an artist, she writes: "An artist recreates, reinvents the world, a couturier only dresses it."

I'm not sure how much I agree with her, since great fashion designers change the way the world looks at clothes and their wearers, which makes them creators and perhaps, using Madame Leliévre's definition, artists in their own right.

Regardless, there are times when the boundaries between art, fashion and sheer ludicrousness get a bit blurry, especially when it comes to quotidian outfits using everyday materials to make products that are more often than not factory produced in China. Gawker seems to share my views and has put together a visual of what one could purchase for $15,000 in the quest for homeless chic (a concept I would find hilarious if it weren't a sartorial reality).

What do you think? Is spending almost $3,000 for a threadbare, geeky, falling-apart-at-the-seams sweater fashion, art, or just a subversive statement?


Red Carpet Garçons

>> Monday, March 8, 2010

Remember when the Golden Globes rolled around in January and I couldn't help but bemoan the sheer lack of imagination in the men's camp? As it turns out, I'm not the only one who feels this way. Out magazine took my wishful thinking a step further and re-imagined today's famous male red carpet stars in some far more creative looks.

My favourite was the picture of Woody Harrelson rocking up in Japanese favourite Comme des Garçons. I can't say I can picture the entire outfit on him, but I'd love to see someone with a personality as offbeat as his rocking up to an event in Comme des Garçons.


Alexander McQueen Spring / Summer 2010

>> Thursday, March 4, 2010

I just watched the show on McQueen's website. Goosebumps all over. And when it ended it was like being sucked back to reality through a portal. Fashion like this is art.

Make sure you click on the enlarge button to see the show on the fullscreen.


You Won't See That Sort of Thing Here...

>> Tuesday, March 2, 2010

So Mercedes Benz, London Fashion Week sponsors, put one of these hampers in the boot of all their cars that fashion folk used to travel to, from and between shows.

Jelly babies and awesome packets of what look like apricots and candy and seeds to munch on. What? I want to live in not-India.


Back to the Basics - Gucci's New Ad Campaign

>> Monday, March 1, 2010

Gucci has just launched a new ad campaign that focuses on their heritage, using two keywords: Forever Now.

My first thoughts when I saw pictures of the campaign, which hit international newspapers on 27th February, the day Gucci showed their F/W11 Collection, pertained to how similar the images from the campaign are to the images that Louis Vuitton sends the media of workers in the early part of last century at the Vuitton headquarters of Asnières.

The brand is obviously trying to focus on its heritage, which I think is interesting because they're currently positioning themselves as the epitome of cool under the helm of creative director Frida Gianini. They're also one of the few luxury fashion houses that have embraced modern day technology, with their iPhone app, free Wi Fi at their shows and live streaming of the collections on their websites and via Facebok and Twitter.

Louis Vuitton, on the other hand, have always stuck to their philosophy as the go-to brand for the true connoisseurs of travel, or aesthetes of travel, as heir Patrick Louis Vuitton once told me, and as a heritage brand, despite their trysts with everyone from Madonna to Japanese artists like Takashi Murakami.

Here are a couple of images from the campaign, taken in the 50s in Gucci's factory in Florence.

And some images from the Louis Vuitton archives (not campaigns).

Louis Vuitton is currently running a conservative ad campaign of its own, focusing on craftsmanship instead of heritage, featuring lithe, petite women straight out of a painting by Vermeer, working on unfinished products while bathed in golden light. I'm unsure about the actual volume of Vuitton products that are currently handmade (and even less so of the accuarcy of representation of the brand's craftsmen and -women - they can't all look like that!) but here are the images.

It's interesting to see the shift companies make in their marketing strategies during a recession. Now is obviously not the time for unwarranted impulse buys and with consumers being exceptionally watchful of their consumption, profits of large design houses the world over have dropped steadily. By featuring marketing that focuses on the brand history, companies are sending consumers the message that they're buying into the company's heritage and brand values, reassuring them that their purchases are tasteful and above all, good investments.


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About this Blog

I've loved fashion for as long as I can remember, so it only makes sense that I write for a fashion magazine. I find however that the experience of working in the industry is quite different from appreciating it from afar. That's why I chose to be a travel writer (I chronicle some of my travel experiences here) while staying at the magazine, albeit focusing more on the lifestyle aspects of the job. This means that I must find another outlet for all my sartorial web crawling - et voila! Monyet in Pearls was born.

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