A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
I love fashion a lot more than most heterosexual men my age. It’s one of those things that happened early on in life (as a teenager, I was seduced by Coco Chanel’s “little black dress”) and it has continued ever since. You see, to me, fashion is more than adornment. It’s the vision and ability to turn a two dimensional material into a three-dimensional piece of art, using only colour and texture — while simultaneously being handcuffed to the standard contours of the human body. Plus, it’s all about sex!
Anyway, yesterday was the end of Haute Couture Week in Paris. This is when designers from all over the world gather in the City of Light to eat, drink, pontificate and play silly buggers with the female form. (There is a Homme Week, but nobody cares. After all, after Armani, what can you do with a suit?) The thing is Haute Couture isn’t about clothes. It’s walking avant-garde: the fringe of fashion that sets the tone for the middle. It’s the stuff that women don’t actually wear, because it’s outrageously expensive, 90% of it is hideous and you can’t sit down. Yet the catwalks are full, the streets are alive with fashionistas, the media is having multiple orgasms, and everybody from Marks and Spencer to Emmanuel Macron is taking notice. This is because (despite what virtuous sophomore millennials will tell you) fashion is a serious component of human society – and always will be. (Even the hillbilly Neanderthals wore baubles and beads.)
The truth is fashion is our most basic form of communication. Check it out! When you walk into a room and someone is standing there, you have no idea who or what they are – zoologist to axe murderer. You can’t hear, smell, touch or taste them, so you rely on your eyes for social cues, and a suit and tie send a different message from dirty jeans and a torn t-shirt. (FYI We can yip all day about being non-judgemental, but the fact is we all do first impressions — it’s instinctual — and it’s one of the reasons our species dominates this planet.)
Fashion is the shorthand we use to tell the world where we fit. Whether we shop at Dollarama or Dolce & Gabbana, we choose our clothes to reflect our personality, our status, our mood and, in some cases, our occupation, our sexuality and even our level of self-esteem. Fashion is our opinion of ourselves and our world without ever saying a word. That’s why puritanical societies that fear opinion restrict fashion.
There was nothing spectacular about this year’s Haute Couture: a lot of beads and sleeves and Karl Lagerfeld didn’t wave to the crowd (the guy’s 85.) However, like every year, it set the stage for February, a month of pret a porter (ready to wear) in New York, London, Milan (Berlin and Tokyo are in there somewhere) and finally back to Paris. This is where the big girls come to play– and I can hardly wait.