Art Without Austerity

March 13th, 2011 § 0 comments

Wandering through the Scope, Pulse, and Armory art fairs this past weekend, in that order, I was reminded of the fashion buzz after Oscar night. The Fashion Police bantered and bickered over the different colors, gowns, styles, and designers on our stunning leading ladies, with Joan Rivers lamenting the lack of flashy, eye-stopping gowns and jewelry. Even Hollywood in its finest hour, however, followed the fashion trends of the past few seasons by scaling back and pairing down. Minimalism, a kind of toned down sobriety, has been the dominant fashion trend since the recession began. Though there must be irony to arriving in a designer gown to walk the red carpet, and being called “austere” for not being covered in diamonds, the Sex in the City fashion of the early aughts has since been deemed inappropriate for our current national mood—unemployment is still above 9 percent. Though at the Armory I overheard a couple disdainfully commenting that artwork masquerading as fashion had no business being shown, I can’t help but compare the art I saw to the recent trends of fashion. While some sense of austerity descended upon the fashion market over a year ago, it seems to have missed the art world completely. With my mouth slightly ajar, I wandered Scope and Pulse feeling as though I were living through the great depression while stuck within a Shirley Temple film of never-ending happiness—which is not to say the art wasn’t fun and entertaining.

» Read the rest of this entry «

“Après moi, le déluge.”

April 11th, 2009 § 0 comments

valentino-the-last-emperorMatt Tyrnauer: “There are a lot of people who say no one could replace you.”
Valentino Garavani: “Après moi, le déluge. Do you know what that means?”

I wondered as he said it if a king of France, Napoleon, or another figure of wealth and power had been the author of such a sentiment—it was Louis XV who said, “after me, the flood.” Valentino: The Last Emperor is an indulgent documentary about the Italian couturier Valentino Garavani. The film has shown with unsurprising popularity for the past few weeks at one of Gotham’s independent film houses. The screenings have been coupled with a Q & A with the director Matt Tyrnauer, and the editor at large for Vogue, André Leon Talley. Though the film itself does not address any aspect of the couturier’s life—his role in fashion history, his style, or his notions of beauty—in a deep or terribly engaging manner, Valentino’s life seems to be about two things; beauty and excess, and in that order.

Valentino’s sense of beauty reminded me of visiting Europe. I remember traveling through Italy with M, and her amazement at the obsessive and undeniably extravagant effort that went into creating the works of art, architecture, and ornament that were gloriously scattered from city to city. Watching Valentino fuss over his designs I thought of the different colored marble lining the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica. Every stitch, seam, and embellishment on a Valentino dress is done carefully and thoroughly by hand. It is a certain kind of beauty that Valentino fell in love with as a young man, a certain ideal he evokes with his garments, and it is a beauty that transcends the ordinary, it is an ageless, timeless beauty. Despite his tantrums, his ego, his fussing and frustrations, it is undeniable that his dresses sometimes resemble works of art rather than new pieces of runway fashion. “I love beauty,” he says, “it’s not my fault.” But it is not simply beauty that Valentino loves, he loves a certain class, glamour, and character to go along with his sense of beauty. What do women want? “They want to be beautiful,” says Valentino, stressing all the syllables of the last word.

» Read the rest of this entry «

Thirty as The Perfect Age

March 29th, 2009 § 0 comments


Last week my co-worker and I deserted our desks to catch a lecture by one of the “creative directors” of the company. He happens to work in our photo studio, and is the only one with a nice roomy office full of windows. David is an older, very knowledgeable, friendly man who spends very little time working in his office, and more time out lecturing or attending events. The receptionist calls him “pretty boy,” much to our amusement, and hounds him about his comings and goings. We know of them by the tokens he shares with us; samples he does not want, books he has picked up, a gallery catalog for us to peruse. Doing a Google search for his name brought up a variety of results, but my general impression of his job is that a lot of people, designers, vendors, and students alike, consider his opinion necessary and enlightening.

I eavesdrop a great deal on his conversations when I hear him being interviewed as I am interested in how he talks about fashion. He treats it as something other than frivolous, and therefore expects it to be something other than frivolous. His comments concerning retail and the economy have been interesting to overhear since last year, as the industry shrank, posting losses one month after another. He has been suggesting fashion needed the change this recession is bringing, seems hopeful about shifting toward practicality and necessity, and enthusiastic that fashion is (at least temporarily) moving away from expensive excess and trends that are divorced from everyday life and people. He argues there is no reason we can’t still have glamour and beauty—“deluxe but not flashy”—pointing out that depression era style had both, but that it should be of a different kind.

» Read the rest of this entry «

Inside the Big White Tent

February 22nd, 2009 § 1 comment

While I can’t really say I love my job, I do appreciate my co-worker with whom I share a small part of her photo studio. An additional member to the art department, or “creative services,” I am a somewhat odd fit at times among the other fashionable girls who sit in their cubicles and in front of their new Mac’s all day long. I used to joke when I first arrived that they put the less fashion forward employees in the dark photo studio to do their work. A veteran illustrator has an office behind me, though he travels and lectures more than he sits in it, leaving the photographer for company, and my days at work usually pass uneventfully and without the usual work stresses—npr, the constant background to our sporadic conversations, tends to aggravate me more than my job.

Outside our building, located in the heart of the fashion district, is a gold plaque—like the sidewalk stars in Hollywood—of Oscar de la Renta. Talking with a friend of a friend the other night, a graduated fashion designer, I discovered that the company I work for is an important one, and that the books we have been working on these past months are an expensive and treasured resource—who knew? The upstairs of the company looks different from our department, where fabric samples and trend storyboards are propped against the walls. The “second floor,” in office lingo, resembles a scene from The Devil Wears Prada, rolling racks of vendor samples line the walls, and the “assistants,” regular faces in the photo studio, remind me of the movie as well—they are pretty, efficient, and obsessed with fashion.

» Read the rest of this entry «

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Fashion category at Escaping Artist.