Friday, October 12, 2007

There is nothing new under the sun.

While looking at the spring 08 shows, it really hit me hard that contemporary fashion designers are taught to recycle. Sometimes they simply recycle their own label, as this years Calvin Klein designers reworked the minimalism of the '97 collection (I heard from a little bird in the archive) and Nicolas Ghesquière's of Balenciaga drew heavily from their own textile archive as well as the design principles of Cristobal Balenciaga (albeit very successfully and in a non derivative way). Many designers however pull heavily from fashion and art history. Although this does show that at least formally many contemporary designers know their elders it has begun to feel a little heavy and uninspired (as in the case of CK) than it does refreshing and inspired (something Ghesquière's achieves by updating Balenciaga's design philosophy to contemporary shapes and structures.)
to illustrate: a 1950s perugia plus a 1959 delmanette equals a marc jacobs, spring 2008.

The world of fashion has a short memory, but fashion critics shouldn't.


kristen said...


Raquel Laneri said...

Yay!!! You wrote this!!

Raquel Laneri said...

Sorry, I'm responding more...

I am wondering, what's the REAL problem here: is it that MJ is "drawing (quite obviously and directly) inspiration" from another source; is it that he doesn't acknowledge his sources and passes off the idea as his own; or is it that critics don't recognize or acknowledge the source and thus hail Jacobs as some kind of creative genius?

I think MJ is a genius, of another sort -- the marketing, putting finger on the zeitgeist sort. There has been lots of fervent discussion at Cathy Horyn's blog whether MJ is a "stylist" or a "designer." And critics have called him out on referencing other designers (Comme and Margiela, specifically). The dresses in his latest collection certainly looked like Comme!

BUT...people do all this referencing in the art world (and literary world) all the time. It's called, I think, post-modernism. I mean, think of Richard Prince -- who takes photographs of paintings/ads/other-photographs and blows them up. He was the perfect person to collaborate with MJ on the LV bags.

BUT, here's another big but, everyone realizes that Prince is referencing other work and is reflecting on existing images and artwork or is calling us to reflect on them. People don't seem to recognize this about MJ. This might be where the problem lies. But is that his fault? The critics' fault? The consumers' fault?

What do you think?

(Btw, I was planning on writing about the MJ/LV shows, and I plan on elaborating on some of these points and talking about your own post.)

julianna.rose said...

well, there is more i even didnt get into my post (school is overwhelming right now). such as the recent YSL collection, which pulled rather directly from YSL's last coture show (spring of 02 or 03, cant remember right now).

in response:

I feel that critics should hold designers accountable when they pass inspired things off as original, i feel that is part of the role of the critic. I also think designers should openly acknowlegde their inspiration, but sometimes things may be subconsiously inspired. how do i even know Jacobs even saw the perugia and delmante shoes? (they are both published in Colin McDowell's "shoes: fashion and fantasy" by the way) Either senerio is of interest and something a critic should discuss. if MJ never saw the shoes, what is it about the 1950s and 2007 that has inspired designers towards this mode?

in fashion post modernisim often refers to the combination of unlike things. 80s fashion is an era of particular post modernisim, becuase you have 80s does 20s dress with a 50s shoe and a 30s belt, and many fashion theorist state that we are still stuck in this post modern cycle when it comes to fashion (something that is incredibly complictaed and inbeded in the demise of coture and the growth of fast fashion and globalization and technology and the shift to "casual friday" etc...) Jacobs indeed excels at this juxtaposition, especially when it comes to combining the elements of previous ages that have become "classic" and as you put it his ability to tap into the "zeitgeist." in his marketing in particular (and maybe this is more related to Jurgen Teller- his photographer) he captures a nostalgia associated with americana and clothing. and often tapping into issues of anti fashion, which historically has been a foretelling of popular fashion, it was the anti fashion astheites that incorporated uncorseted forms and bold modern motifs at the end of the 19th century and in the 1950s when popular fashion was suspiciously out of sink with the rest of fine art, the anti fashion beats fit into the landscape better than the wasp waisted new lookers. by the end of the 1960s high fashion was out and designers had to look to below to remain relevant. i have said before that the last powerful anti fashion movement was grunge, and who led the commercialization of it? Marc Jacobs.

so this might be completely rambly and a bad response. but i have to get to a paper on Maria Guy tonight!

perhaps we should colaborate on a post/article on the subject?

Raquel Laneri said...

We should!

All the points you bring up are solid. And those shoes look SO MUCH like those from the McDowell book (which is no obscure book, btw) that it's hard to imagine MJ not having seen them before.

What I found more shocking was the blatant ripping off of Balenciaga's last show by Proenza Schouler. Of all the critics I read, Cathy Horyn was the only one to acknowledge this. NYmag's fashion editors even said that PS was their favorite NY show. I mean, they are good clothesmakers -- the stuff they did with the gold leaf was amazing -- but come on!

Switching topics (sort of): Do you think an anti-fashion movement can truly exist in this current day with the democratization of fashion and commodification of street culture?

Raquel Laneri said...

Oh, I'd like to add that another problem we have is a dearth of well-informed critics. But it seems like well-informed critics are getting less and less desirable to the public and the media. Is it b/c of the democratization of fashion? Is it b/c of the link to fashion and celebrity culture? What do you think?

julianna.rose said...

the shoes are even on the same page of the mcdowell book!

in response to the switch: most days of teh week i feel anti fashion has been completely and finally comodified-- and that it no longer holds any of ability to create social commentary it used to, parts of me still hold out hope, but thats only once in a blue moon. evben unfashion has been commodified- first as antifashion or "hipster fashion" (i am not sure if hipster or street style is really even antifashion anymore, so few peopel are aware of the once politcal, social, or cultural ramifications of their clothes) and then even into high or fast fashion. perhaps this was to be the eventual outcome of the fashion system. giles lipovitsky argues that the fashion system is inherently democratic in his work the empire of fashion (he also argues its intrinsically linked to the development of christianity, you should give it a read)... but i am not sure how i feel about that. i guess part of the system would somehow have to rbeak for antifashion to become a force again.

about critics: do you think that the lack of informed critics is related to the fact that anyone can be a critic in our new age of blogs, etc? or does it have to do with something else? we wax nostalgically about editors such as vreeland, snow, and ballard and while they are indeed very important, especially when it comes to creating the look of the period in the magazines they worked for and writing autobiographys full of juicy gossip about the designers of their era (and each other, but how much did they actually criticize? or was their criticisim silent- by their simple choice to ignore certain designers?

Raquel Laneri said...

Actually, I've heard the Christianity thing before... in my fashion history class -- I think it came up while we were studying the Byzantine era.

Re: "but how much did they actually criticize? or was their criticism silent- by their simple choice to ignore certain designers?"

No, there wasn't much criticism in those old, revered pages of Vogue or HB... and these pubs never aimed to be critical. The publications are aspirational or instructional (as in showing you what to wear and how to wear it), depending on the editor. And yes, the "criticism" in these pubs could be in their not showing certain designers.

But, I guess I'm just talking about fashion writing in general -- not even necessarily criticism. Blogs are part of it... but I feel like aspiring fashion writers are more into the glamor of the fashion world or enticed by the celebrity factor than actually interested in fashion itself. And I think many don't have a great critical and historical understanding of it. (Not that I think I do, but at least I try to read as much as I can... I think the best writers/critics are always striving to learn as much as they can about whatever medium they are writing about.) I don't think the EXPANSION of media is necessarily hurting fash criticism, I think it's that more mainstream media are inclined to cover it -- or more people are inclined to start their own fash magazines -- b/c fashion is all "cool" and "sexy" now. God, this is going to sound sooo snobby, but I think the "democratization" of fashion has a big part in this. The problem I have with this "democratization" isn't that more people have stylish options (that's great) -- it's that "democratization" has only made more people consume more and more. And it hasn't brought about understanding of design and fashion to the masses -- it has only brought about name and brand recognition. As fashion is more and more democratized, the more and more the brand is revered/coveted/given more cache. How messed up is that?

julianna.rose said...

right. if i have to read one more "who wore it better" or "get the look" or "are you you a mary-kate or an ashley" i think i'll vomit!