There is like an autumn’s feeling about fashion weeks these days, magic flown away like leaves lying on the ground. Almost lost and forgotten deep within Instagram’s meanders and Snapchat’s short memory, collections run out the catwalks, faster than light speed itself. It is not to say innovation and quality are reflecting capitalism’s mistakes or consumerism’s violence. The story bizarrely repeats itself: present is just a space between yesterday and tomorrow, appreciation does not deserve consideration. Unless garments look gorgeous and sell, it slightly feels like “tais-toi et sois beau“ was not far from telling the truth.
Shut they are, if we want them to be; as soon as they get listened to, they are able to tell us things that define an individual from head to toe, brain to soul. Stripes width on men trousers used to differentiate a banker profile from exposing a gangster crime. The detail is subtle, its message significantly different.
What is joyful about watching clothes flowing down the runway is the whole process of collection-making, from a curatorial perspective. Far more only allowing imagination to wander, it takes part in knowledge production. A Romantic would probably depict that social institution as an aesthetical attempt to a better understanding of the world. Its contradictory however obvious trait appears to be temporality: an ephemeral painting of a body soon to be dressed for trends later to be forgotten. That game with time and place might actually illustrate society’s fast pace, from communication to consumerism. To keep artefacts for an undefined amount of time, while facing an awareness of an oblivion constantly chasing us. Definitely romantic, if not surrealist, as they are making us their archives. The paradox is real.
Unfortunately for the few Romantics left alive, the creative world, including the fashion sphere, has starting disobeying its romantic conventions from the twentieth-century shift implying the viewer as doing half of the work, explained Hans Ulricht Brecht in his book “Ways of Curating“. Originally supposed to offer images for an elite only, fashion shows have now become the open space for imagery’s saturation, loosing in depth and soul. Although the collection making process obviously still survives, its interpretation got lost in translation, almost sold for appearances’ sake and material satisfaction. There are however houses like SHOWstudio that try to keep exploring the abyss of aesthetics through film but also illustration. As clothes get printed both on paper and in time, the result has contradictorily some ephemerality to it, calling for the viewer to extend his/her observation of fashion and its broader signification. Fashion weeks were meant to do so but seem to have been forced to leave it aside. Time could justify why the situation has developed this way. Or fashion executive Nina Garduno might have been right stating in a Times (September 2015) article that “fashion wants to die so it can have a new birth.“ While Milan keeps being blamed for its boredom on the catwalk, SS17 Italian trends found themselves being repetitive. BoF has spoken and apparently, MFW has always been good at copying. Bad student in the class spotted. Obviously, the most awaited and desired remains Paris, full of lights and dreams à la Frenchie.
Repetition however does not concern only the catwalk and its curated collections. Back in fashion history, it was a matter of models too. Described as “creatures of pure repetition” by Villiers’ Hadaly, they have embodied, roughly put, the copy of the original; “endlessly walking and going nowhere, lacking in variety or theatrical narrative and using a limited repertoire of movements“, according to Caroline Evans in “The Mechanical Smile: Modernism and The First Fashion Shows in France and America, 1900-1929” (2013). A minimum of fashion vocabulary overhaul is here necessary, as from mannequins to models subtleties arise. One trait however gathers both terms: they have always been representatives of the relationship between reality and representation, as states Caroline Evans about the history of modelling. Bringing with it the differentiation between “mannequin” and “model”, the 1870s offered a new perception to fashion customers: women who appear. The anthropo-sociological debate on the modern body got started, involving dichotomy when it comes to analysing fashion model’s nature and function. Referring to the universe of boudoirs and some vaudeville play, Worth truly believed the term mannequin as an insult, while the article “The Entrée de Mlle. Mannequin” in La Vie Parisienne dared to use it as depiction of a living model. First of its kind.
As a result from a century of modernisation, fashion models were in first place living mannequins presenting collections twice a year, in April and November, to private clients in couture houses.
Seeking to enter without invitation was considered with great suspicion. End of the story. Nowadays, additional spectral individuals appear to have joined the club, peacocking around the corner of every fashion show, gesturing some inexistent telephone calls for strangers acting as streetstyle photographers, and tirelessly walking back and forth the same pavement without mentioning an absenteeism from every fashion week’s show.
Trying to enter elite parties, now paradoxically exclusive to the public, fashion influencers are stealing the show. The attention is all on them, or their Instagram page might be more suitable, as front rows do not even need to actually watch looks passing by anymore.
Romeo died because he believed Juliet dead. Juliet died because Romeo believed that she was dead. Communication should win over information, allowing minds to recover a dash of sanity and eyes to get open again. Perhaps then the fashion bible might hopefully make things clear and separate female walker from mannequin. La marcheuse is going nowhere, simply walking between the tables in some provocative costume. The mannequin transits from one dimension to another. Serving dreams and interpretations is far from being paid to walk up and down, without going nowhere.