Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Curious, Exotic Ugliness

    With a grateful nod to Sissydude, for that title,  I want to look at our current state of design affairs.

   We all understand that part of the point and purpose of art is to challenge, to test, to unsettle and discomfort us. Design in fashion has that as part of its hidden manifesto as well.  If we are not routinely brought face to face with the unexpected and the difficult, we do not grow, not in any respect.  So it is then very much worthwhile to stop and ponder these things when they get presented to us.

    The most recent couture collections in Paris had among them many creations that do just that.  They address our notions of beauty, proportion, and functionality. It remains up to each of us as viewers, to form our own opinions about the fitness, and success of the work in those senses.

    Now, superficially you could look at this work and think that it belongs to a very wealthy woman who is clinically insane, but part of that is simply to get your attention, in a world that is fairly drowning in visual input, this very blog included.

    On closer inspection, of course, individual pieces of this ensemble are well able to be understood and considered wearable.  Its only the aggregate that becomes deliberately disjointed.  But what is this saying about us, that we need and want to manifest it in the first place?  Perhaps some of it is simply as I said previously, the desire to get, and hold our attention in a surging sea of input. Or is there something more here, both deeper seated, and darker?

    Part of the question is where does this disturbing vision come from?  Is it seated entirely in the designer's realm, or is the obvious angst on display merely an interpretation of a larger cultural trend?  For myself, I would tend to believe the latter.  As we all struggle to keep up, and at the same time try to find a way to be seen and heard in the now globe spanning conversations we routinely engage in, a desire to in some way shout our need grows stronger.  If I cannot get your attention with harmonious beauty and flawless construction, I will command your gaze in other ways. 

    This garment seems to in a single stroke embody the whole subject at issue here.  Both the screaming desire to be seen, a lack of freedom, and a curious inward focus that is at odds with it all.
The model cannot use her arms and hands, so she is restrained from expressing herself.  The coiling shapes seem to be literally consuming her.  But the color is bland and retreats from the eye.  All quite purposeful, I have no doubt.  And it speaks volumes about our personal social discomforts.

    This "notice me at all costs, but leave me alone" feeling is adroitly expressed in these works.  The huge padded volume both inevitably grabs our eye, but that same volume keeps us at a literal remove from the wearer.  The mass of the garments also impedes, to a good degree, a person's mobility, which is another manifestation of that constraint I mentioned before.

    The clashing colors and patterns too, express something of this social disjunction that we live with today.  Yes, disparate patterns can work harmoniously together, and there are elements of that here.  But the disconnect is real, deliberate and challenging.

    In the end we all have to find our way somehow through the difficulties and confusions; and apparel can sometimes help us both to express that problematic state, and alleviate it.  As a societal marker, avant garde looks of this sort present a unique opportunity to look inside ourselves.  We get an occasion to ask ourselves about what beauty means, what harmony encompasses, how we require our society to function, and what to do about it, if and when it doesn't.  Shall we navel gaze, and attempt to ignore the outer issues?  Shall we protest? Or shall we merely soldier on, hoping for other, better things another day? 
    Clothing design can and does contribute to the discussion of our inner conflicts and changes. Your assignment?  Study these, and let me know what you glean from them that is apropos of this post. Who knows what we might discover?

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