Paris Couture week is the pinnacle of innovation and experimentation. The fashion industry can be both a welcome distraction from these politically tumultuous times, and a powerful reminder of what we need to do to change that. Here are the highlights:
It seems unfair to reduce the Armani Prive Spring 2017 show to an Orange is the New Black joke, but they didn’t give me much more to work with. To read more about this new trend, check out my blog entry here. With Nicole Kidman and Isabelle Huppert on either side of Roberta Armani, it seems pretty clear that making orange the new black is exactly the prerogative at Armani Prive.
Orange is the New Black is a powerful cultural symbol on which to base a collection of designer duds. The show does a great job of representing women as actual human beings, as opposed to sitcom mothers and daughters. The designs were as lavish, loose, and markedly feminine.
In contrast, the Maison Margiela Spring 2017 Couture show was raw and reduced. Admittedly, this collection is a commentary on social media. The first few garments are cage-like and minimalist. Reducing a garment to its seams is the fashion equivalent of posting a no-filter, no-makeup selfie. In this analogy, the flashy decals that appear later in the show are Snapchat filters; once the novelty wears off, you realize you have more followers on Instagram and they’d probably rather watch your Story there.
Technology is changing our society, for the better, or for the worse. Which models we see on the runway has been permanently altered by social media; some designers still refuse to cast them, but in this day and age, it seems girls with large social media followings can pick up one day and decide to become a model. Givenchy received a little bit of heat and a lot of press in the fashion world for it’s star-studded lineup.
Social media has changed the air of mystery that used to surround celebrities. We have become more privy to their personal lives than ever before, and this has impacted how we receive their work. These days, celebrities have a public persona behind the many characters they play. These personas have replaced the magic of Old Hollywood. The same thing is happening in the fashion industry.
The look at Givenchy was Victorian version of the “it girl”. By hiring models with personas, designers are adding another dimension onto their shows. Instead of imagining ourselves in the clothes, we imagine what sort of character the model would be when she’s wearing those clothes. This is really important because it draws the focus away from the self and unto the collective consciousness.
Givenchy imagines a universe and our job, as the audience, is to populate the universe with details. The details we can imagine are limited because very specific individuals have been placed in the Givenchy universe. Very subtly, the fashion world is changing how we think by placing celebrities at the axis of our focus.
Controlling how people think and what they think about is one of the trademarks of dystopian fiction. More Americans are picking up a copy of George Orwell’s 1984, but our present condition is actually much more like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
In Brave New World, the citizens are controlled by inflicting pleasure. Huxley would fear our current predicament because we are given so much information that we are reduced to passivity and the truth is lost in a sea of irrelevance. In these politically tumultuous times, becoming a the type of culture that Orwell warned us about is a common fear, but we became the culture Huxley feared decades ago. In a trivial culture, man’s infinite appetite for distractions distracts him from changing the system that constrains him.
Art can be a vehicle for change, but it can also be used to reinforce the status quo. Armani and Maison Margiela debuted collections that reflect the former, and the Givenchy collection reflects the latter.