I must admit that, at the moment, the things I’m missing more are the power of disagreement and dissent and the ability to think critically and objectively.
Indeed our society tends to accept everything in a passive way.
Do most critics/magazines say that an album, a book or a film is great? Well, we’ll probably go along with what they say, rather than sit down and listen, read or watch and then come up with our own opinion.
Fashion is just one of the industries in which criticism has almost disappeared. There is one main and very simple reason behind this and that’s the fear of losing advertising money.
Printed magazines know very well that, if you don’t keep advertisers happy, they will turn to somebody else – under age bloggers included – so, while to keep their jobs the more established and professional fashion journalists seem to opt for a safe neutral language, younger writers go for celebratory exclamation marks and words like “amazing” and “genius” even when the designs they are describing are a jumble of collaged pieces of fabrics kept together by glue.
Lack of criticism also means that every few months we are literally pushed around into buying something by demented events purposefully organised to brainwash us. Every September we are now bullied into spending by “Fashion’s Night Out”, allegedly “a global celebration of fashion” which mainly consists not in educating people into spending, looking at fashion or being inspired by it, but essentially in leaving shops open until late and lure customers into buying things they don’t actually need.
The reverse side of the “Fashion’s Night Out” coin is the first “Fashion’s Night In” (on today), the banality of the name hinting at the fact that this event consists in staying in and shop online.
Extremely exciting isn’t it? Now, rather than doing it from your office while the boss is not watching, you can do it from your own house.
Cleverly created to convince us to spend with a purpose before Christmas (because in a couple of weeks’ time there will be more pressure to spend in the name of Christmas…), “Fashion’s Night In” can be held responsible for generating a massive amount of fashion dementia among many different brands and labels.
While some of them are offering shoppers discounts, style services, vouchers or are promising to donate part of the proceedings to charity (mind you, they could have done the latter without “Fashion’s Night In”…), others are offering tantalising and vitally useful presents such as goodie bags, beauty products or free scented candles (actually, a useful item for a rite to launch a curse on the fashion industry…).
Our lack of criticism is responsible for allowing companies to bully us around into buying and spending, but also unleashed another phenomenon, the rise of the obnoxious instant icon.
The latter usually consists in a bizarre man or woman endowed with questionable talents who suddenly turns into the next big thing. We have hundreds of examples even in the music scene, though so far the fashion industry has definitely produced the most redundant and, at times, simply embarrassing icons.
Take for example Anna Dello Russo. According to the fairy tale, this “icon of style” laid dormant like a rare dinosaur’s DNA preserved in an insect trapped in amber, for something like 18 years spent at Italian Vogue/L’Uomo Vogue, before waking up again at Vogue Nippon in the role of Fashion Editor-at-Large. The Sartorialist cemented her fame by completely opening the lid of this Pandora’s box and unleashing upon us this orgiastic crossover between Lady Gaga and the over the top decorations of a Baroque church.
Dello Russo’s rise from anonymity to “Internet Icon” status (a self-proclaimed title) is puzzlingly fascinating. Is it possible that after 18 years spent working for the same publisher, nobody noticed her flamboyancy? If she was so talented, why didn’t Italian Vogue give her more space and tried to keep her with them? Surely, if you have a very bright member in your staff you try to keep him/her with you at all costs?
I actually think that, if we were all a bit more critical, Anna Dello Russo wouldn't even be filed under the “icon of style” category. Say the three magic words – “icon of style” – and my mind conjures up visions of Anna Piaggi or Iris Apfel, women who seem to effortlessly mix outlandish clothes and accessories, market finds, vintage pieces, plastic toys and designer coats, achieving their own look and refusing to abide to specific codes.
It’s only natural then that people like Piaggi or Apfel often turn into inspirations for designers or even artists mesmerised by their bravery, flamboyancy and extravagance.
Dello Russo essentially goes around in extremely expensive designer clothes and accessories, regurgitating many looks seen on the main fashion capital’s runways, matching expensive clothes with expensive accessories, thinking “vintage” is a designer’s garment from last season (so out of fashion that should be locked away in a forgotten wardrobe).
Apparently, Dello Russo owns an entire flat full of clothes and shoes (the fairy tale says she owns 4,000 pairs of shoes, which means even more than Imelda Marcos - hey, quick, reform Big Audio Dynamite, I can see a hit here...) and often states she only wears an outfit once for the benefit of bloggers (which is simply immoral when people out there are starving).
Unfortunately, Dello Russo’s addiction for clothes and accessories, hasn’t left much space for books in her house, this is why her language is reduced to the Dior-esque slogan “J’Adr!” (see, this is what happens to your language after years using text messages and Twitter - you forget about the importance of vocals...) and the superficially minimalist “Beyond”.
Now, if all of us were a tad more demanding and critical, Dello Russo would probably buy fewer clothes and more books and maybe come up with more intelligent answers in some of her interviews (Q: “When was the last time you helped somebody you didn’t know?” A: “During Milan Fashion Week, I helped a guy who was looking for Stella McCartney’s store.” - dear oh dear; Q: “Which comic book characters do you identify with?” A: “Pippi Longstockings” – Pippi, a comic book character?).
So dementia definitely got a hold of most of us and Dello Russo will now have her own fragrance – "Beyond" (since "J’adore" has already been done…) – released in December (wonderful...just in time for the Christmas spending session...) and only available online. The perfume will be packaged in a gold shoe bottle reminiscent of Cinderella’s glass slipper because apparently nobody noticed Dello Russo until now, and the poor girl worked like Cinderella at the bottom of the pile (look, I'm almost crying here...).
There is still hope, though. Dello Russo would like to do a record in future (as if there wasn't enough music dementia with Lady Gaga...), but, in the meantime, we can cure her out of her madness by buying her a basic ticket on a Ryanair flight.
The destination doesn’t matter, as long as the plane leaves from London Stansted or Frankfurt-Hahn, the sort of airports where ground staff has been trained to bully, mistreat, humiliate and manhandle those passengers carrying ANY extra weight. Believe me, this is the only way to teach her to buy less and stop her explaining us how to pack haute couture (because we all own haute couture gowns, don't we?).
As for our critical consciences, we'd better wake them up now and I would like to urge especially young women to do so. While they are bullying us into buying things we don't need, telling us that a designer bag will give us iconic status and that fairy tales still exist, equality between the sexes has decreased rather than increased. Have you also noticed how we have a growing number of male journalists writing about womenswear nowadays but not many women writing about menswear (and why's that?).
As women we are expected to shop and buy, own a huge wardrobe, only talk about shoes and behave like bloody Cinderella. We are still not expected to complain, criticise, dissent, dissect, analyse and - eventually - destroy what they are trying to feed us with. Why are we treated like shoppers rather than thinkers? Anna Dello Russo wants to be an "Internet icon"? She's welcome to do it, but she should remember that there is nothing lasting in the fashion industry (remember the quote in the previous post from the Gia film about "being of the moment"?) and on the Internet.
Even this post that I still haven’t finished writing is dying under my typing fingers and will be already dated by midnight. Dello Russo wants to be "of the moment"? Well, let her be. We should instead aim to be forever and say things that last forever.
René Descartes said "Cogito ergo Sum", that is "I think therefore I am", he didn't say "I dress/have a huge wardrobe/get my picture taken during fashion weeks, therefore I am". I guess many other women like myself prefer thinking we exist in the real world rather than as ephemeral digital entities. Above all, we probably prefer knowing we have a critical conscience, a beautiful mind and an extensively rich language rather than 4,000 shoes.
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