Posts tagged ‘fashion’

March 7, 2013

Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity @ the Met

Impressionism, I believe, is probably the most popular and adored of the art movements. When confronted by works created by masters such as Monet, Manet and Renoir, I believe very few do not experiment a sense of awe and amusement. The special exhibition Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, however, subtly lets us into the backstage of the construction of this powerful unanimity that circles impressionist painting, taking us right back to the trenches from which it emerged: the Parisian high society.

When reading about it, at first, I figured the exhibition would just cater to a certain historical curiosity, allowing us to literally immerse ourselves in the fabric of time and materialize the impressions of textures the artists had delivered. What was waiting for me there was instead a very relevant contribution to the comprehension of the Impressionism movement as a integral part of the French society, an art embedded in the small politics of relevance that we may not fail to spot in the art scene of our days, but we might forget was also present even when the works in question hold, as of present, the status of undeniable masterpieces.

The Impressionist movement relates to modern ideals in that it both denies and affirms the perennial by emphasizing the present, the moment; representation is embraced as such and detaches from the contradictory obsessions for both ideal and reality that permeates art in the days of yore. The ephemerous, the impression, gains immense importance, being, in fact, what is truly worthy to be captured. And portraits cease to function as documents meant for posterity that idealize their objects as great warriors, lords or saints and instead become a statement of their personality and uniqueness: enters style as an immense part of this equation.

The first piece of the show is a very fine green and black striped silk-taffeta dress that was worn by Monet’s wife Camille as she modeled for one of his paintings. Through the subtile curatorship, we are led to understand how the fashion in the pictures would attract curiosity and interest as much as it does now in celebrity pictures and Vogue Magazine. It was the majestic dress that has caught the eye of the viewers in the salon where the painting was first exposed.

A painting then was as powerful a status indicator as being invited to shoot an editorial could be, except the concept here was far broader, extending to intellectual and personal wealth implications in a way that being cover of Harpers’ Bazaar never will. The most fashionable ladies, on the other hand, were also and simultaneously the best sources for great composition — that´s when you realize the colors and the textures and the ruffles and laces were all there, were sewn together by someone and worn by someone else that mattered to a picture because they were in possession of them, and not the opposite — and the finest patrons available for an artist, as they used their influence to get the works in which they had modeled into the finest exhibitions and salons, making sure they would grant their portraits the status of great art.

To be immersed in the particularities of real life instead of the usual larger than life feel I get from the Impressionism movement made me actually feel closer to understanding what it was truly about. Somehow, the ego-trips  inspired by Facebook and Instagram today seem a bit less current when we are confronted with this century old brand of vanity, the same look-at-me-being-tremendously-charming-while-I-take-my-gloves-off-and-by-the-way-this-is-art-OK?-not-just-me-showing-off-my-designer-clothes-and-being-pretty sort of thing made possible by such powerful artists. Who can say to which point they truly subscribed to portraying the mundane, even though they did it so remarkably? It is made clear in the exhibition that the likes of Monet and Renoir clearly understood that, on top of the aesthetic revolution they were proposing and of the truth behind their own brand of modernity, there was good fame and money to be made out of reframing the superfluous routines and interests of the upper classes into art.

(all pictures from the internet due to the fact they were — theoretically — not allowed to be taken)

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November 29, 2012

Fashion values: the unbearable balance between being unique and on trend

My very own bowler-deemed-cloche hat from Marc by Marc Jacobs, courtesy of the Outnet

Is it just me, or everyone instantly thinks of Milan Kundera when confronted with the word “unbearable”? Nevermind that; let us enjoy however the fact that we (I) were (was) reminded of one of his great novels, a particular one which pays homage to the bowler hat at a certain crucial point — The Unbearable Lightness of Being is what we are talking about, friends — and linger on the headpiece for a few minutes.

(…)

Hats are, I believe, a great transition point in terms of personal style. When one decides to wear such headpiece on a regular basis, an important point has been made: “I truly don´t care if you think I look ridiculous”. The fact is that unless you are Queen Elizabeth II, your hat may be passionately criticized by the public in general, not in the constructive way; let us remember that most of the regular people — those who think Anna Dello who? is a weird, crazy woman, A.K.A the majority of the population living on Earth — find Philip Treacy fascinators absolutely ridiculous.

However, when moving back to the fashion grounds — meaning those places in which the letters A,D,R have a meaning as obvious as F,D,R do — your choice of hat will speak even more loudly of the commitments your soul has made to sartorialism: will you go with tradition, emulating gangsters with a fedora, early twentieth-century starlets with a cloche, Fred Astaire with a top hat…? Or will you prefer to instead pay homage to a Cézanne painting — or Carmen Miranda, it all depends on your own personal references — and go for a piece rather similar to a basket of fruit?

What is unique, and what is trendy, when it comes to wearing hats? Everything or nothing? Is there a hat equivalent to what Isabel Marant wedge sneakers meant to fashion this year (this is extreme rhetorics, as the obvious answer is NO)? In fact, what kind of opportunities are created and destroyed for a fashionista when such a massive takeover occurs — should one stay true to the sneakers because even though they do not display one´s unique eye for style anymore, they are still rather cool; perhaps more importantly, they are so now? On the other hand, how far from whatever is so now can one go for the sake of outlining strong personality and still be fashionable? To me, there is clearly a dialogue between trend and not that for its subtlety, makes it all the more magical when a look really works — try to notice how originality actually emerges from very private dialogues between the old and the new.

Hats are, to me, the epitome of such discussion between uniqueness and trendiness — because there is very little else that strongly evocates timelessness and at the same time, as strong and potentially insane as this particular accessory; the attitude, here, comes from deciding to tell your own story in the form of a thing you will wear on your head.

November 9, 2012

Virtual shelves and our propensity to buy expensive clothes

This scene wouldn´t have happened in our days — Vivian would have had net-a-porter

I have recently developed a theory about designer e-commerce and our propensity to buy expensive clothes: I think the internet makes us more comfortable purchasing items from tried and true, high-quality brands than we would should we follow our “normal”, physical world inclinations to such indulgences.

Firstly, the internet is far less intimidating than fancy, shiny stores with tons of security and two huge guys in black suits and sunglasses suggesting you might be regarded as a delinquent as you may or may not be allowed to enter the whimsical insides of a Prada store — and if you do, you also may or may not receive the approving nod of the salespersons in place, a doubt that provokes great fear of reliving the dreadful experience Julia Roberts had on her first day shopping on her movie Pretty Woman — without having Richard Gere on hand for a next day redemption splurge.

Secondly, and I think this is my most interesting breakthrough, the internet does not provide the sense of cut, quality and detail one achieves by physically experimenting with many options, online, realtime, pun intended. Thus, a respected, though expensive brand offers a guarantee that what you see is what you get: I definitely feel more safe about how a purchase will fit me and about the quality and detail of the fabric if the item in question is Stella McCartney and its measurements correspond to mine, then if I buy from a fast-fashion shop, even though I do buy a lot of stuff from the latter — if in a real store, not a virtual one. There is a reason why they are cheaper: not only that they copy designs and use materials of (usually) lesser quality, but also the fact their cuts are much more industrial and less supervised and their finish idem.

Last, but not least, it is rather rare to see a big red lettering outside a Gucci store shouting “SALE – 80% off” — not so much on net-a-porter. So why not spend a few extra bucks — a few, maybe not so much — and instead of buying three items of lesser quality, get a great pair of shoes for about 150 bucks? I often subscribe to that sentiment.

So how do you feel? Do you think you are actually more inclined to purchase designer clothes on the internet than in actual stores made of brick and stuff? Are your reasons similar to those I have exposed here?

October 31, 2012

On fashion and ethics – transparency

Pucci Spring 2013

In Paris, Elie Saab and Giambatista Valli. In London, Christopher Kane. In Milan, of course, Dolce & Gabanna, but also Pucci and Alberta Ferretti. In New York, we had Marchesa, Jason Wu and perhaps Tadashi Shoji? I´m talking about transparency taking a major role in shaping what Spring 2013 will look like: sheer joy indeed.

Christopher Kane Spring 2013

Of course there is nothing new about transparency, as there is in fact something quite old about shoulder pads or fringes, but there is a fascinating phenomenon to fashion that is in fact what fashion is all about — something about the spirit of our times being captured in a specific way of self-presentation that translate into tendencies, that is, suddenly, all at the same time, everyone thinks transparent skirts and pants and crop tops are very now.

Alberta Ferretti Spring 2013

I think sheer bottom wears and mid-riff baring outfits have everything to do with our post online-social-networking times. In the 2000s, we started creating our public profiles, publishing online photo albums, even writing our own blogs. Some adhered to twitter at rather early stages, and our lives were out there for the world to see: we would sit at home or at work (if possible) and update some or all of those windows we decided to open for others to glance into a bit more of ourselves, and it was like we were lighting up a room at a time in a house that represented our lives: Blogger, then Flickr, then Facebook. MSN Messenger was on while we were at it (does anyone remember ICQ? It was all the rage in the 1990s).

Probably it was smartphones that changed all that into something more, just as cellphones helped destroy punctuality. The routine of having to *get somewhere* to check your emails or updating your status has disappeared. Twitter has become massive because you still cannot update a blog over your cell — but you can post a funny sentence and a link to something you just found really interesting. Instagram provided filters for the masses to produce some immediate beauty out of their ordinary lives (and plenty of pictures of one or many pairs of feet photographed from above, dressed in a variety of shoes and placed over a variety of sidewalk patterns, rugs, all shades of grass, and floors in general) even if they are eventually ill-equiped for actually taking a good shot. And Facebook now brings everything together — including the other things, such as random online services for which you sign up with your social network account. It also guesses the people you know that are members too and you really wish they didn´t find you. So now, you don´t get to light up a room at a time. In fact, there are no more windows: life is, or at least it can be if you don´t compulsively check privacy options, a glass-walled loft.

Transparency is a common philosophical trick for bringing about moral behavior — think Kant and the famous (ok, not so much, maybe?) categorical imperative: act as if your actions and motives were absolutely public. Our society has taken this idea one step further by making it possible for everything you do be ACTUALLY subject to universal scrutiny — no need for idealizing publicity anymore. And some are still very suspicious of those who resist being fully connected, even though YouTube has proven transparency in excess might bring only pain and trouble — how many people have been ridiculed by millions (MILLIONS) because a private moment of play (singing a stupid song, dancing a stupid dance, falling on their asses) has gone viral? I always wonder when confronted with a new fashionable video of such kind if their protagonists will actually someday be able to get new jobs. Maybe in the long term.

So if you are no longer private about the inner workings of your soul, your honneymoon or your dinner, it only makes sense for the next step to be no longer being private about any of your body parts, hence sheer pants, thigh-high splits and crop tops. Cellulite? Shouldn´t have them, just like you shouldn´t sing around if your voice is mediocre or have sexual intercourse with people that posess cameras on their cellphones (they might take pictures of you naked while you are sleeping and then publish them on their twitter). Let alone body fat or an abdomen without evidence of hard muscles sitting tightly beneath your (flawless) skin. Definitely shouldn´t have THOSE, you weak minded, lazy bum!

Having said that, I guess the best way to enjoy the beautiful and ever unrealistic proposals emanating from Spring 2013 Fashion Week shows is, as always, to select and adapt — just like you already probably do with your social networker life. I, for instance, have this blog, no Facebook or Twitter accounts, and have been in love for quite a while with a pair of Valentino sheer gauze top that´s sitting on the Outnet´s virtual shelves for months (and for a relatively matching pair of lace pants that have been long sold out):

Valentino Appliquéd jersey and gauze top @ the Outnet

Sheers!

Crafted in Carhartt

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