Wednesday, July 8, 2009

bankrupt glamour

Lacroix Couture Fall 2009, Images from

In the last few years we have seen quite a few Edith Beale clones walk down the high fashion runways. Designers are frequently inspired by the reclusive and eccentric mother and daughter duo, first brought to the worlds attention in the 1970s documentary Grey Gardens and agin in the past few years with a Broadway musical and HBO movie based on their lives. Their aristocratic heritage and upbringing combined with mental illness and loss of wealth and a proud refusal to leave their Hamptons mansion resulted in an ecletic and iconic sort of decaying glamour. Yesterday, when Christian Lacroix presented what might be his last couture collection, his models walked down the runway with the same sort of pride that the Beales possessed. A 'we may be broke, but we have more class and refinement than the rest of you and we don't care what you think of us' strut that highlighted the beauty and craftmanship of the couture collection.

The headscarves, the prevalence of black all over coverage, and the historical references of the collection do look like something little Edie Beale might have put together for her wanderings around the grounds of Grey Gardens. However, the similarities are not just the visual. The Beales had existed in quite seclusion while the rest of the world progressed without them, although they had always tryed to break free from the mores of their blue blood family they seemed like holdovers from the past when their story broke in the '70s. Simiarly, for the past 40 years the relevance of the couture industry has been debated. Many have hearlded its death, or argued that couture is necessary to uphold the artistry of fashion and the concept of brands, when most of their income comes from licensing. Perhaps Lacroix was one of the best examples of this, having never even turned a profit in the houses history. But Lacroix is alos one of the last designers and coutuires to have studied under the great couturiers of the 20th century, having worked for Jean Patou before starting his own house in 1987. With last years retirement of Valentino (he worked under Jaque Fath and Cristobal Balenciaga) if Lacroix retires that leave only one designer who learned from the pre-WWII and mid century couturiers Karl Lagerfeld (he worked under Pierre Balmain and Jean Patou, but really made his name in ready to wear not couture).

With the economic woes of the last few years, many have been saying that is is time for the fashion industry to restructure itself, to break away from the luxury and brand name consumption mania that over saturated the early 2000s and return to the artistry of fashion. Perhaps the fact that, despite the "luxury" craze we lived in for so long, true luxury, such as the beauty of a custom made one of a kind couture dress, a wearable work of art, had been forgotten. Lacroix's collection, made entirely by unpaid workers, reminded us of the beauty and the skill and complexity in a couture gown that it is truly a labor of love.

No comments: