Wednesday, August 20, 2008

couture BLAH

Living in New York City, I see "fashion" everywhere I go. I used to be somewhat into it, because it is no doubt a form of art. However, since there's not exactly an abundance of nice magazine shops or newsstands in Syracuse (much less Binghamton), the most exposure I ever got prior to moving here was the pages of "Marie Claire," "InStyle," and their ilk.

Since moving to NYC, and since commencing my attempt to work in the field of magazines myself, I've read a lot more "serious" fashion rags. In addition, I see actual stores selling the stuff from the pages of those magazines, occasionally get to see pieces in action during NY Fashion Week, and probably see women wearing the stuff on the streets regularly without even realizing it. However, the dire seriousness with which these upscale magazines treat fashion really unnerves me. It's gotten to the point that I no longer pick up fashion magazines at all, not even the ones whose photography I really like, because I can't stand sludging through all the pretentious, snobby articles, especially the ones demanding that I buy the season's new "it" item--every damn season! How are these items "must-have" if I only must have them for three months??

The fashion industry is racist, sizeist, and elitist. How does clothing, of all things, command such respect? Why do people (allegedly) quake in their boots when Anna Wintour enters a room? How do designers justify charging hundreds of dollars for a plain white tee (and why do people pay it!)? How can any industry that considers Rachel Zoe a celebrity (much less an asset) be taken seriously?

Ok, enough with the ranting. The point is, some part of me still likes the idea of fashion as art, which is why the Metropolitan Museum of Art's fashion gallery is always the section I hit up first when I get there. Currently, the Met is exhibiting "Superheroes: Fashion And Fantasy." Now, being the comic-obsessed little nerd that I am, I thought, Comic books and fashion together? Awsome!

But man, was this exhibit disappointing. It's not the exhibit itself that disappointed me, though. On the contrary, I thought the setup was fantastic. They had costumes from the original Super Man movie (!), Batman Returns, Batman: The Dark Knight, the original Wonder Woman tv show (again, !), and others. Then there were couture pieces from the likes of Jean-Paul Gaultier, Gianni Versace, and John Galliano that were "influenced" by the superhero costumes.

Here's the thing that bugged me: The couture pieces less "referenced" the superheroes, and more blatantly ripped them off! To be truthful, some weren't that bad. The couture pieces related to the X-Men were not obvious homages. The superhero used as example was the movie version of Mystique (Rebecca Romijn's blue, scaly character), while the designer pieces included feathers, metal, and rubber. The centerpiece was a technicolor feathered mermaid dress with a gold metal plate over the stomach. Likewise, the costumes that were related to Ghost Rider and The Punisher included dark, almost violent imagery, such as this cheeky motorcycle-themed ensemble:

The Superman, Batman, Catwoman, and Wonder Woman costumes, however, were not the least bit original. Check this out:

This is a piece from Rossella Jardini for Moschino. Changing Superman's S into an M does not make this an original idea! I see the parallels between Superman and branding, but this is a too-obvious way of pointing it out. How much thought really went into this? It's exactly the same as Superman, right down the the Clark Kent eyeglasses and the little spitcurl in the center of his forehead.

Here are Wonder Woman and Batman/Catwoman:

The Batman and Catwoman "references" bothered me the most. They were the least original pieces of clothing there. Add ears to the costume above and it would be Batman. Some of the couture pieces actually included bat-shaped harlequin masks. Catwoman was just as bad. Take Michelle Pfeiffer's "Batman Returns" costume, erase the white stitches, and you'll have the couture pieces. This all seems very lazy. And practically illegal. What about copyright? Why is it acceptable for high-end designers to rip off pop culture icons, but shops in Chinatown get raided for selling counterfeit handbags and Forver 21 gets sued for making cheap knock-offs?

Now I can add "hypocritical" and "unoriginal" to my list of angry adjectives above. The more of the fashion world I'm exposed to, the more I disdain it.


Scott Perez-Fox said...

I used to have a closet affection for fashion magazines — mainly from a graphic design standpoint — but after having worked at some fashion companies and fashion-focused advertising agencies, I realise that, yes, it's all a load of bollocks.

Luckily, New York is the one place where nothing is out of bounds. Fashion these days is about personal statements. If everything you wear is mass-produced crap, that makes a statement. As does the elitist, over-priced, artificially-scarcified coutoure collection stuff.

twingomatic said...

I dunno. I don't really believe that what people wear necessarily says anything about them. (Usually the weather dictates what I wear, for example.)

Yeah, there are a lot of "looks" that are based on a character (punk, prep, thug, socialite, hipster, etc), but it's too easy to find multiple interpretations based on the same outfit. If a woman's wearing all knockoffs, does that mean she likes designer stuff but can't afford it, likes designer-LOOKING stuff but doesn't want to support the overpriced designers, or just happens to like the clothing without even knowing it's a copy of a high-end design? What if she's wearing real designer clothing, but it's from two seasons ago. Is she still a fashionista, or is she behind the times? What if she makes her own clothes, from scratch, that are based on designer pieces? Again, is she a fashionista or an unhip Holly Hobbie?

Though there are occasionally pieces of clothing that strike me as being beautiful and/or artistic, most of the time I just want to throw up my hands and scream, IT'S JUST CLOTHES!!! :P