Does fashion still make sense?
While climate change threatens our planet like a ticking time bomb, can fashion continue in its delusion and pretend that nothing is wrong? Judging by the recent fashion week marathon, nothing much has changed: filled with its usual frenzy, calendars crumbled under the explosion of invitations and the exponential increase of new labels. Only a handful of brands seem to have questioned the future of this system, or have begun reflecting on the subject.
For this reason, it is worthwhile to mention that the Haute Couture week, the last step of January’s fashion marathon, finished with a funeral. It was for the career of Jean-Paul Gaultier’s , the icon of power-dressing that took off in the 1980s. On Wednesday night, they were all there: the “somebodies” of Paris and the entirety of the fashion world hastily made their way to the Chatelet theatre in order to witness the very last Haute Couture show of Paris’ quote-unquote problem child.
For the opening of his show, the designer chose to project black and white images of a funeral. They were from the movie Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?, a satire of the fashion world filmed in 1966 by the photographer William Klein, whose protagonist asks herself in the middle of a cemetery: “Is Paris dead? And by that I mean, Haute Couture…” A coffin then snaked its way through the crowd onto Gaultier’s podium, carried by six undertaker-dancers.
At the start of the season, it was the scenography of two other designers that caught our attention, namely Miuccia Prada and Alessandro Michele for Gucci. The former organized her show across two different levels, placing the public on bleachers on an elevated walkway and forcing them to look down onto the runway to see the models come and go. It functioned like a kind of mirror image, or mise en abyme, wherein the protagonists of the fashion world began to blend into the background as they observed the show from a distance. A compelling way to incite a necessary moment of reflection.
For the Gucci show, Alessandro Michele chose to have his models walk into darkness around an enormous pendulum. The message was clear: the countdown has begun, andnow is the time to act. At the JW Anderson show, some t-shirts displayed a house in flames. “There’s an imminent danger,” was the message Jonathan Anderson conveyed to us. His face was featured on several plastic mannequins, seated amidst the audience with a view of the show, and wearing the same t-shirt.
“There’s a strong sense that things are changing in a meaningful way, and our reaction is to slow down, out of fear,” says Patricia Lerat, the consultant who is currently heading the PLC showroom consulting firm. “Fashion has produced an excessive amount in the last few decades, and this overproduction no longer makes sense today. The whole system must evolve and confront this upheaval. Young designers are immersed in this and are much more aware of the new stakes."
With his collection named W.A.R. (Walter: About Rights), the artist-designer Walter Van Beirendonck was the only one to firmly make his views known, with a sartorial scream to "stop." To make his point, the first part of his show was dedicated to men dressed as hedgehogs, covered in giant spikes from their shoulders to their shoes, and even on their cheeks. This shell-like clothing is, in fact, well suited to fight the world of today and tomorrow.
The show ended with a procession of sandwich-board men in white leggings marked with the message “W My Planet, W My Future,” accompanied by a number of other political messages written on the signs: “Stop buying fast fashion,” “I hate fashion copycat,” “Save the Planet,” etc.
However, it takes more than this to shake up the fashion planet. This round of fashion shows seems to have been more frantic than usual. Particularly in Paris, where a record number of 80 shows was reached, between the official and “off” calendars, without accounting for the countless presentations and ever-growing showrooms. These all testify to the overabundance of new labels on the market.
“Today, there is no such thing as creative fashion design. Ready-to-wear has essentially become a product, a logo. The death knell of fashion, the kind that existed in the 80s with creators who were able to make us dream and crave their designs, has rung,” concluded Antigone Schilling, an expert and journalist.
The funeral evoked by Jean Paul Gaultier could not be more relevant, as if to emphasize, more than simply his own departure, the end of an era. The new generation of designers isn’t fooling itself. The party’s over. At Pitti Uomo, Telfar Clemens, the anti-fashion designer, made this perfectly clear by having his models walk on a runway made of a wine-stained banquet table, amid the remains of a great feast.
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