Fashion Week has come and gone. Thousands of people attended hoping to get a glimpse into what we all might be wearing for Spring next year—or that is how it used to work. Now it’s performance art.
It is still fashion but frequently the fashion is veiled by the production itself. The untethered imagination of the designer concocts a sometimes brilliant and other times chaotic theatrical performance that is anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes long.
Rick Owens, who is known for pushing the envelope when it comes to fashion shows, sent women strapped together down the runway in 2015. He explained the use of the straps this way. “Straps can be about restraint but here they are all about support and cradling. Straps here become loving ribbons.” Hmm? That wasn’t quite my takeaway. Was this collection any good? Watching two women strapped together in this manner nullified any reckoning with his collection.
Rick’s Spring 2019 show was more Mad Max and less Behind the Green Door. His show notes state,”they are all symbols of hope, dread, serenity, nihilism”. He further suggests that his collection was designed for witches who cast hexes and spells while looking for order in the world.
You cannot argue with the fact that designers need to have a fluid imagination to remain in the game. There is so much development in design from creating a mood or silhouette to fabric and color choice to producing the real product. Fashion shows are the platform which gives the designers a way to relate their true vision through the use of lights, music and props.
However, sometimes the spirit of the collection gets lost in the message. Instead of evoking an appreciation for beautifully crafted garments we are suddenly wondering what it is we are supposed to be looking at. As we begin deconstructing the elements of the fashion show and strip away the superfluous flourishes we are left exhausted instead of exhilarated.
Take for example the Spring 2019 fashion show of Thom Browne, who is without a doubt a masterful designer. His tailoring skills and ability to transform a beautiful piece of cloth into something exquisite would not escape anyone who has seen his collection. But in order to actually see this for yourself you will need to find a store that carries his brand because you will not see anything other than the spectacle of his recent show in Paris.
There is a lot to unpack here. Some models with their arms tied to their sides balancing on incredibly high heels invoked a rather horrific sensation. What if a model was to lose her balance and fall? Without the benefit of arms to break that fall the outcome could be a face plant, broken nose or worse.
In addition, several looks were accented by models wearing disturbing masks which inhibited their ability to speak. One model walked the runway in a mash-up of a fur coat accessorized by a watermelon propped onto her head—the model was black. In light of the #metoo and #blacklivesmatter movements aren’t these depictions tone deaf?
The political references aside, the looks being paraded were confusing and complicated. But Thom explains the concept for his show by saying, “I’m taking iconic, very understandable ideas and heightening them.” “Good requires bad and bad requires good: the two go hand in hand.”
Fashion is a wonderful construct. It can be transformative and has the ability to change how we move in the world. But it also has the ability to illicit disorder. Perhaps it’s time to change the narrative with less chaos and more clarity because I think we all could use a break from the angst of the world around us.