Friday, July 10, 2020

Mourning Fashion as I once knew it and now ... a commentary

As my dear friend Mary Russell, former Vogue, WWD editor and ever informed fashion aficionado said to me recently that our new normal is abnormal … it is surreality and so it is …. without any argument from me.
We have just completed the couture cycle (seemingly sans Valentino and Prive)  and one must wonder or might even be perplexed by who needs these clothes in these precarious times; shouldn’t we think that couture is out of synch with our times? Shouldn’t we all be more concerned about vaccines, equality and incompetence than we are about labels, Lesage and creations that may never ever go any further than a closet? What needs to be said at this point is that couture has always been an escapist pursuit for the uninformed from which they extract their dreams and fantasies. For those of us who are seasoned veterans of fashion and those who truly understand the business of fashion… well, we have a different take on things and it’s not just about pretty clothes.

Yes, it is somewhat comforting to see clothes that we once associated with being the finest that money could buy but now you honestly have to ponder who and why anyone will buy them, let alone where and if they will ever get worn. As far as I can tell, only one designer seemed to understand and grasp this most salient point via his imaging and that was Alexandre Vauthier. Yet, we fashion addicts can still see that somewhere buried in this profusion of conspicuous consumption is the slightest breath of how genuine fashion incubates.

It feels inauthentic: a copy of an idea from another creative discipline. And the problems of couture are not so much financial (most of the brands that can afford couture have enough of a cash cushion to survive the current situation, and someone, somewhere, is still buying it) as existential. With the dire state of the world, what’s the point?” Vanessa Friedman NYT

This entire all-encompassing conundrum has taken its toll on all of us … consciously or unconsciously. Personally, this is something I would never reveal in times that have passed,  but I haven’t worn a pair of pants with a  waistband in months nor have I  worn a pair of real shoes in that time frame and most shockingly I only wear my beaded bracelets for a weekly photo op and have not wrapped a scarf around my neck in months! Between pandemic, idiocy at the top of the pyramid, and the insensitivity that apparently envelops us, it is a wonder I ever leave my home at all! Fashion now needs to be viewed on a somewhat more cerebral and realistic level rather than just the obvious.

I MISS IT ALL! My closet is a museum….

This new surreality includes shopping online like never before and dressing from the waist up for your ZOOM meeting. Then there is of course that moment when you slip on a pair of elastic waist shorts or sweats and pair them with a Cuccinelli cashmere or an ETRO shirt just to remind yourself of what once was. The other scenario is either wear something new that you really didn’t need to buy in the first place or air out a wearable heirloom from your closet museum…  this would never have happened in the past but now in this surreality, people, including myself, are doing it not as a fashion statement but as a feel-good moment. As I read earlier this week, people still have a need to dress up and feel better about themselves so they are doing it except they are doing it at home…. You know the saying all dressed and no place to go … well, we are living it now! Masks, pandemics, brutality, inequality, protests and overall insanity.

To complete this circle of hell, as it were, we have the couture which most definitely is showing signs of outliving its purpose and prestige as well as being démodé in most cases (a cyclical concept). Let’s face it, all these collections that have just shown are primarily evening clothes… where exactly is one wearing them when all social gatherings of every kind are at a standstill and yes it might change in the blink of an eye but then sadly it can reverse just as quickly. Unless you have untold wealth at your fingertips and collect couture as a hobby, who is buying couture and why? … let alone why does anyone really care? I don’t think it would be a stretch of the imagination to liken couture to Nero fiddling while Rome burns!

Keep in mind that couture is direct to customer much like current internet selling but at 100 times the price while ready  to wear is in a Catch 22 with stores still heaving in old merchandise and their need for new merchandise to lure their customers back in and if that is not enough add rent, wages, employees and  regulations that  might allow you to receive customers once again. This is not the world of fashion I signed up for or fell in love with anymore but I remain hopeful.

In the end, I tip my hat to all the warriors of fashion (to whom this is dedicated) who will do everything they need to do to outlive this crisis which has affected everyone involved in fashion in ways we never imagined or might have fathomed. How this will all play out remains a mystery but I want to believe that the true warriors of fashion will win out in the end and survive to recount the tales of these horrendous, precarious and nebulous times.

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