Monday, August 19, 2013

Editorial: "Send in the Clowns" by Marilyn Kirschner

Anna Dello Russo and Bryanboy, Marcy Swingle Gastrochic; Avenue Magazine
(Click on images for larger views)

Fashion is BIG business; among other things, it creates jobs and generates serious revenue. But that doesn't mean many aspects of it are not utterly absurd such as spending almost $800 on a Lanvin brass necklace with the words Cool, Happy, & Love, spelled out in large letters ( should be knocking that off any day now); contradictory as in Harper's Bazaar's "What to Buy, Keep, Store" list, items that they suggest you 'store' are sometimes featured in their fashion editorials; and plain downright funny. Just as in life, it helps to take things with a grain of salt and have a sense of humor. The same can certainly be said about fashion -- just more so. I find that the older and more seasoned I get, the more things about fashion really amuse me and tickle my funny bone. And I'm hardly alone.

Lanvin Fall 2013 wearing your mood on your neck
One person whose astute, biting, and often hilarious observations about the industry have helped parlay him into a sought after host at the most high prolfile events, and routinely serve as fertile subject matter for his books,is Simon Doonan, the creative ambassador for Barneys New York. I actually start laughing as soon as I see the "Good Humor Man" because I always know he will have something outrageously funny to say. His latest effort, "The Asylum, a collage of couture reminiscences..and hysteria" will be released September 3, and knowing Simon, its timing right on the heels of Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week, (which kicks off yet another round of fashion shows: the ultimate three ring circus), could not possibly have been a devilish coincidence.

The Asylum: A collage of couture reminiscences...and hysteria
Click here for more info on book and to purchase

While I have not yet read the book, I have laughed out loud just reading the reviews by some of the industry's most well respected designers. For example, Marc Jacobs has already weighed in, saying "The fashion world is - in a word - hysterical! Simon Doonan is the one man who sees it and tells it like it (absurdly) is." This, from the celebrated, cultish designer, a darling of the editors, who always seems to look as though he's laughing all the way to the bank and asking: "Gee, what can I drum up and foist on them now, that they will invariably eat up and just go crazy over?" I mean really, this is a guy (Marc Jacobs)  who routinely shows up at major events looking as though he's having the last laugh, whether he is clad in his boxers and a see through Comme des Garcons shirt, or his pj's, and who, one season, uses Lynn Yaeger as his muse, only to change his mind next time, and channel Twiggy.

 By the way, if you want to laugh, this is a sampling of Simon's more memorable quotes:
"I don't want a politician who's thinking about fashion for even one millisecond. It's the same as medical professionals. The idea of a person in a Comme des Garcons humpback dress giving me a colonoscopy is just not groovy."
"When you don the pelt of a particular animal--snake, beaver, marmoset--the effect on the viewer is dramatic You will instantly and shockingly be perceived as having the same traits as your chosen varmint. The wearing of moleskin says, "I am soft and velvety and mysterious and like to hide underground." A mink coat says, "I'm a tough cookie. Though I may not have the wherewithal to actually kill you, please expect to be nipped on a regular basis." The pelts of predators always give the impression that you are a man-stealing, window-smashing home wrecker. This also applies to animal-printed fabric. The message of a leopard-print jumpsuit is clear, "I am a huntress who delights in eating the offal of her prey.”  
"Red is wild. She is unsettling. She intrigues. Wear red and other women will assume that you are a predatory vixen who is out to steal their husbands and suck the blood of their children."
"Wearing a pair of yellow shoes does not make you an interesting person, that is of course unless you've just murdered someone in them."
 "The reality is, I wear so many flowery shirts that when I go into a store or the airport or something, people often say, 'Good morning, madam.' So I thought, maybe I should grow a goatee, and it actually worked. I haven't gotten a 'Good morning, madam' in months."
"The shows this season were full of teen/tween bloggers . . . Luckily, I have a plan for next season. Since they are all about my height, I am going to impersonate one of them. I am going to wear a doily on my head (Tavi!) and tell everyone I am a teen blogger."
"I got bicep tendonitis last year from carrying my Goyard man-bag. Can you believe? A fashion injury." (FYI, a woman on the street once asked Simon what the SD initials on his Goyard bag stand for and he deadpanned, "South Dakota!")
Speaking of wit, wisdom, and humor as it applies to fashion reportage, almost nobody has been more adept at this genre than Robin Givhan, the fashion critic and former fashion correspondent for The Daily Beast  and Newsweek. In 2006, The ex Washington Post fashion critic was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, owing to her "witty, closely observed essays that transform fashion criticism into cultural criticism." I'll never forget her piece about Dick Cheney's unfortunately inappropriate choice of clothing for a ceremony at Auschwitz in January, 2005. She described Cheney’s look at the deeply moving 60th anniversary service as “the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower.” “Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood,”. Mocking Cheney’s knit ski cap embroidered with the words “Staff 2001″ and his brown, lace-up hiking boots, she observed, “The vice president looked like an awkward child amid the well-dressed adults.”

 Similarly, The New York Times' Cathy Horyn often deadpans, injecting wit and sarcasm in her reviews and columns. And of course, the IHT's Suzy Menkes can always be counted upon to amusingly put things in their proper perspective. With New York Fashion Week beginning in just a few weeks, I'm already laughing thinking about the impending scene this three ring circus has turned into, and it made me think back to a column Ms. Menkes wrote for "T" in February 2013, "The Circus of Fashion".

Among her observations:
"Today, the people outside fashion shows are more like peacocks than crows. They pose and preen, in their multi-patterned dresses, spidery legs balanced on club-sandwich platform shoes, or in thigh-high boots under sculptured coats blooming with flat flowers".
"There is likely to be a public stir when a group of young Japanese women spot their idol on parade: the Italian clothes peg Anna Dello Russo. Tall, slim, with a toned and tanned body, the designer and fashion editor is a walking display for designer goods: The wider the belt, the shorter and puffier the skirt, the more outré the shoes, the better. The crowd around her tweets madly: Who is she wearing? Has she changed her outfit since the last show? When will she wear her own H&M collection? Who gave her those mile-high shoes?!" 
"The fuss around the shows now seems as important as what goes on inside the carefully guarded tents. It is as difficult to get in as it always was, when passionate fashion devotees used to appear stealthily from every corner hoping to sneak in to a Jean Paul Gaultier collection in the 1980s. But the difference is that now the action is outside the show, as a figure in a velvet shoulder cape and shorts struts his stuff, competing for attention with a woman in a big-sleeved blouse and supertight pants".
"You can hardly get up the steps at Lincoln Center, in New York, or walk along the Tuileries Garden path in Paris because of all the photographers snapping at the poseurs. Cameras point as wildly at their prey as those original paparazzi in Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita.” But now subjects are ready and willing to be objects, not so much hunted down by the paparazzi as gagging for their attention".
 "Something has been lost in a world where the survival of the gaudiest is a new kind of dress parade. Perhaps the perfect answer would be to let the public preening go on out front, while the show moves, stealthily, to a different and secret venue, with the audience just a group of dedicated pros — dressed head to toe in black, of course".

Yes, Fashion Week (or Fashion Month really) has become a spectacle of major proportions, and it's not going away any time soon. Based upon what the big trends are for fall, it's easy to envision what many of the subjects might wear, (with varying degrees of success I might add). Let just say that the jump from runway to reality is not always pretty, and it serves as a reminder of just how quickly things can go awry: Furs and fur trims (even in 90 degree weather), leather and pleather biker jackets, tweeds, over the knee boots; piled on gold chains, etc. Hey wait a minute, didn't I just write about how some of these very same things are THE items to buy and wear now?

Just weeks after writing Ready-to-"Ware", my blog about the 4 "look changers", I can honestly say I'm already "over" may of them (well, sort of), and the season hasn't even started. The problem is (and has been for awhile now), fashion overkill and "fast fashion". At the highest end, before an item has gone mainstream, it looks novel and appealing. But, by the time it's been democratically filtered down to Bebe, Zara, H&M, et. al., the results can be disastrous. Quite frankly, when something is deemed "in", perhaps that's the perfect time to go in the opposite direction.  (FYI, black & white have long been my signature colors, and I have always loved stripes, so I was kind of 'ticked off' when they became so "in" last season and everyone else followed suit LOL.)

Calvin Klein stretch patent knee high boots Fall 2013

Case in point: I know that I just gushed about over the knee boots, and I still think they have their place, but lately, and perhaps unsurprisingly, I have found myself being drawn to the innate smart chicness of knee high boots, which have not been plastered all over the internet and which are not subject to the vagaries of the ins and outs of fashion. They just always look great, period. Conversely, peplums are so "last year", they are truly "bridge and tunnel" at this point. That said, when you see an interpretation that looks great, such as Phoebe Philo's elongated black leather peplum top, Alexander McQueen's peplum biker jacket, or Haider Ackermann's military inspired peplum jackets, they hardly look passé.

Peplum Celine Pre Fall 2013

The bottom line is that when something is ill fitting, poorly made, inappropriate, etc., it doesn't matter that it is "in", it's just looks plain bad. And if something is good, it's always good, regardless of whether or not it's on the hit list of magazine editors, bloggers, and retailers. This always brings me back to something Geoffrey Beene once said: "Don't ask me what's new...ask me what's good!" Something to keep in mind as we head into yet another fashion cycle.

- Marilyn Kirschner

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