“If Browne has always been determinedly, even defiantly, sui generis in his work, the outside world was tapping at his window today.” This statement from Tim Blanks’ enjoyable writeup on Thom Browne’s Fall 2013 show got me thinking about authors of their own reality. In fashion, this means folks like Diana Vreeland, Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. They are storytellers (were, in the case of Vreeland and McQueen, but I get sloppy with tenses when someone’s legacy is still so vivid. The internet keeps everything alive.) and aspire to archetypes. Their stories elevate us above the mundane, and they are often controversial figures. In the case of Vreeland’s authorship, she never let facts get in the way because that would be boring. “There’s only one very good life and that’s the life you know you want and you make it yourself.”
When Romain de Tirtoff Erté was asked to put together a few lines about himself for the March 1919 issue of Harper’s Bazar, he was hesitant to reflect on his body of work at that point in his life: ‘Those things told by an old master might interest the public, but I prefer to give your readers my work, for at my age my art, which is my life, is the only language through which I speak with the world.’ (Stella Blum. Fashion Drawings and Illustrations from “Harper’s Bazar” New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1976) When considering the constant wellspring of fresh designs produced throughout his long life, perhaps there never was a time in which he would be comfortable speaking any other language.
Erté for Harper’s Bazar, January 1918 Blum
Natalia Vodianova’s story reads like a fairy tale. In her early teens she helped support her family by selling fruit on the streets of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Today she’s a mother of two, married to a wealthy Englishman and one of the world’s top models. Fortune has been very good to this 24- year-old, but the success she has found is also due to her tenacity and positive attitude.
image: Natalia Vodianova Vogue Italia, March 2004 www.nataliavodianova.net
In fashion the right combination of instinct, skill and innovation shows true mastery of the craft. It is critical to be inspired by the past, but it is equally critical to invent. At the big shows there seems to be a line drawn between what is wearable and what is merely artistic gesture. Unfortunately this translates into looks that are sellable and looks that aren’t.
There is no need to belong exclusively to either the Gareth Pugh camp
image: Gareth Pugh a/w 2006-7 www.style.com
…or the Monique Lhuillier camp.
image: Monique Lhuillier a/w 2006-7 www.style.com
The progressive or the play-it-safe.
Fashion is about the seamless blend of tradition and modernity. There are designers who tread the delicate line of being inspired by timeless elements and original conception. This is a testament to skill. I would argue that a good many Japanese designers tread this line gracefully. Examples include:
Tao Kurihara of Tao
image: Tao a/w 2006-7 www.style.com
image: Yohji Yamamoto a/w 2006-7 www.style.com
Mami Yoshida and Patrick Ryan of Yab-Yum
image: Yab-Yum a/w 2006-7 www.yab-yum.com
image: Tsumori Chisato a/w 2006-7 www.aufeminin.com
Jun Takahashi of Undercover
image: Undercover a/w 2005-6 www.style.com
As much as I am obsessed with the talent coming out of Japan, the fusion of timelessness and modernity can also be found in the work of:
image: Prada s/s 2006 www.style.com
image: Alexander McQueen a/w 2004-5 www.style.com
(look for Sabyasachi at Olympus Fashion Week
in New York next season!)
image: Sabyasachi Mukherjee, the snail collection 2006 www.specials.rediff.com
Nicholas Ghesquiere of Balenciaga
image: Balenciaga a/w 2006-7 www.style.com
Alber Elbaz of Lanvin
image: Lanvin s/s 2005 www.vogue.co.uk
image: bruno Pieters a/w 2006-7 www.vogue.co.uk
image: Alexandre Herchcovitch a/w 2006-7 www.style.com
Viktor & Rolf
image: Viktor & Rolf a/w 2006-7 www.style.com
(Her work is so inspirational I’m posting two images.
For more see link below.)
image: Sandra Backlund, perfect hurts collection www.sandrabacklund.com
image: Sandra Backlund, body, skin and hair collection www.sandrabacklund.com
Fashion needs its visionaries, even if there seems to be little tolerance in the industry for them at the moment. Jum Nakao and Gareth Pugh are visionaries. An example of Jum Nakao’s work:
image: Jum Nakao s/s 2005 www.dailytimes.com.pk
The extent of their “vision” or “progressiveness” is a matter of eventuality. In other words, the measure of modernity in their designs – if not already clear - will become clear when imitations or watered-down versions emerge either on future runways or on the street. I believe this is what’s meant by Cathy Horyn’s comment in reference to John Galliano: “The modernity of Mr. Galliano’s torn-apart approach was eventually borne out in the imitations.” (www.nytimes.com May 21, 2006)