Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

The Haunted Houses of Fashion: What Does It Mean to Conjure the Spirits of Departed Designers Now?

Posted by on Oct. 29, 2015 at 2:13 AM
  • 0 Replies
  • 78 Total Views

I would like to take the opportunity of this Halloween-tide to share a recurring fantasy I’ve been trying to repress about fashion houses and labels that have a “departed” one in the background—you know, all those places where there’s a designer or couturier who has in some way “gone before.” Sometimes, as companies are feeding us with reverent reminders of their heritage, I find it hard not to wonder: Has the corporate séance become a thing? Are the Ones Who Control constantly huddling around their executive Ouija boards, asking, “Tell us, O Great One, what would you be designing today if you were with us?”

Naughty thought, I know, but this is my question: How long should the spirit of a designer be kept alive? When should it be put to rest? And how can today’s living, breathing designers who step into all the storied houses of the world be expected to get along with their former inhabitants?

The most hilariously enacted example of this recurrent designer dilemma is Visite Nocturne, Karl Lagerfeld’s new film for the “Mademoiselle Privé” exhibition that is running at the Saatchi Gallery in London through November 1. Geraldine Chaplin plays the ghost of Coco Chanel. She rises from a nap on her quilted couch in her apartment in the Rue Cambon, climbs the stairs to her old studio, and discovers, to her apparent chagrin, Karl Lagerfeld sitting there. And then she and Karl proceed to have a spat.

Coco tetchily “remembers” Karl taking over in 1983. “I turned in my grave,” she growls. “Are you still turning?” Karl retorts. “I’m keeping you alive. It’s very limited, what you left!”

Karl Lagerfeld’s witty vignette—part scripted, part improvised, he said—makes the sharp point that a slavish attitude to the aura of heritage, even to one as gilded as Chanel’s, isn’t the way to keep a house relevant. “I don’t repeat, I quote,” he remarks to the indignant Coco. “Times don’t adapt to us.”

Lagerfeld’s skit is certain to delight, and maybe strengthen the nerves of many a designer who finds him or herself in the tricky position of looking at a vast pair of empty shoes and wondering how far they should be pressured into fitting into them. As a matter of fact, the firmament of fashion is studded with plenty of designers who have—in a manner of speaking—successfully gone for the full exorcism of a founder’s body of work. In some cases, it’s a matter of so much time having elapsed that no one young—or at least, who is still actively a buyer of fashion—can retrieve quite what the original designer or brand was supposed to be about in the first place.

Savannah Sarkisian-Barrozo, 29, photographs a dress as her son Royce Barrozo, 2, plays in the background at her home Oct. 23, 2015 in Emeryville, Calif. Sarkisian-Barrozo works 60-80 hour weeks from home buying and selling clothing through an app called Poshmark. Her business is called
picture: cheap plus size wedding dresses uk

Alber Elbaz, who is leaving Lanvin, has appreciated Jeanne Lanvin in books and a stunning museum retrospective, but nothing he’s achieved in his 14 years of tenure at the house has referenced her forgotten work. Do Olivier Rousteing’sBalmain customers even know there was once a Pierre? Hubert de Givenchy is alive, of course—but Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy of today has navigated light-years away from Audrey Hepburn and little black dresses, to great success. Hedi Slimane, at the re-branded Saint Laurent, successfully does his own youth-culty thing, with only a glancing reference to Yves when he feels like it.

In all those cases, the past can still be admired, but it’s been separated, and respected in its rightful place, as history. In many other instances, great designers of our own times have built mega fashion entities on the foundations of companies whose histories were bags and luggage: Tom Ford at Gucci; Phoebe Philo at Céline; Marc Jacobs, followed by Nicolas Ghesquière at Louis Vuitton—and lately, Jonathan Anderson seems to be on the path to doing the same kind of job at Loewe. All of those companies are still major sellers of bags and luggage—but who, really, is enthralled into buying these days by hearing about brand history? It’s the energy of the designers, their talent for producing relevant fashion for now that keeps us interested.

So really, I am not keen on the corporate ritual of designers always needing to be cast as in-house mediums. It can be too heavy, too limiting, and too hampering to a healthy imagination to be constantly checking whether so-and-so is dutifully complying with the corporate séance method. Alessandro Michele has been making a roaring start at Gucci by doing his own thing, rather than pretending to be a latter-day Tom Ford. The minute Alexander Wang liberated himself from speaking in a “Balenciaga” voice, he came out with the best thing he’d ever done in the role. Creative freedom takes us places.

The future can’t always be designed through the past. It’s fine, if the referencing comes up through a designer’s natural affinity for a time or a material (like, say, Julien Dossena’s absorption of Paco Rabanne’s chain mail into his own larger story line)—not fine when codes and shapes and the finding of evermore obscure links with the long-departed becomes a plodding duty. I think we can all tell the difference when that happens. It’s awkward. It doesn’t make sense.

So, on this day of days, when the whole wide world of fashion is feverishly speculating on who’s going to be hired for the most-historied of houses, Christian Dior, I wonder which way it will go. It’s educational to remember how Monsieur Dior revolutionized women’s lives after World War II, but salutary to remind ourselves that he worked only for 10 years and was dead by 1957. I respect that history, and it’s wondrous to see it preserved and documented in exhibits and books. But must the past of fashion haunt the present all the time? I’d rather see someone who could do what Dior did for women in his time—that is, capture the emotions of his generation in the form of clothes. To me, that’s fashion, and to make it takes a strong and empowered creator to do it for us. Halloween it may be, but I don’t really believe in fashion ghosts.

read more: bridesmaid dresses uk cheap

by on Oct. 29, 2015 at 2:13 AM
Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Replies:
There are no replies to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)