14 June 2014

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months”, 

so said Oscar Wilde about fashion. If only he still lived, he might need to alter that to 'every three months'. Or perhaps every month, with capsule, collaboration, and one-time-for-charity collection that saturated the already-superabundant traditional fashion schedule. And as other things that constantly change, evolution in fashion is something inevitable, since fashion has been considered as a great borrower, either it's from both culture and environments. Or best described by Coco Chanel,

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”

In this case, it's easier if I limit the topic about fashion in terms of fashion houses, because, even though designers come and go, many fashion houses live on. Rich with history and heritage, with fashion houses' signatures and iconography, it is blatant to see that many things change. And that's what makes fashion interesting. Then, the billion dollar question pop out: How can a designer called holding the heritage of the house, but at the same time still relevant? And if they do show something far away from the fashion house signature, do they still deserve to be called the head designer of XX House, when there's no spirit of the house in his/her collection to begin with?

A small discussion yesterday with a stranger in a cafĂ©, there's a girl wearing  T-Shirt with prints, and suddenly a a friend of mine shouted; "That' sooo Givenchy!". A closer look, and I was pretty sure it was Givenchy, but it actually wasn't. It looked so close to this Givenchy t-shirt below, a red and blue Masai Quad Portrait T-Shirt. I couldn't help but wonder, is it really 'so Givenchy' as she said? It is so different than what they used to be known for. Givenchy was, undoubtedly with a big help from Hollywood and Audrey Hepburn (in spite of the predominance by Edith Head at the film sceneries), known for its pleated dress, with cutaway shoulder and a series of inverted box pleats placed at the small of the back, or a chemise silhouette in 1957 that emphasised purity of line and simplicity, which dresses were sculpted from a single block of clear colour. So, when Riccardo Tisci came to the house, and leads the house since 2005, a wave of invention changes all of that. Yet people admire him for doing so.

Then, what's the point of baring Givenchy name if it's not for Hubert's spirit?
This T-Shirt is so far away from what Hubert de Givenchy used to be famous for.

It is indeed a matter of branding and advertising. Givenchy is often called Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci. So Hubert's family name is used for the sake of marketing, and no longer of the aesthetic from his original vision and idea when he launched his label as he was 25.

Cate Blanchett wearing Givenchy Couture, Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy by Hubert de Givenchy Photographed by Norman Parkinson (Photos: Getty Images)

This Metamorphashion, the change and evolution of fashion, seem to be normal, but nonetheless, it is something senseless. Let's break it down.

Sitting on the throne? Chanel and Dior. People say that Chanel style is so strong that it's recognisable from a mile away. All thanks to the core of the house signature, that even though people notice it from the liberating straight shape  which offers women freedom to move, there's more important aspect to it that no other fashion houses have: the material. Tweed is certainly the thing. The use of pearls as well. The thing is, no matter what Karl Lagerfeld creates using tweed, people will say he's bound to the heritage of the house (and if people want to look Chanel, then the might just need to get tweed thing, either it's from Chanel or not).

From left to right: Chanel suir by Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, Karl Lagerfeld
Photo: Left: Getty Images, Middle and right:

Dior is another story. It was The New Look - the name given by Carmel Snow, US Harper's Bazaar editor - that rose Dior up in the sky of high fashion. The  glamour of voluptuous curvaceous and shape exaggeration of bar jacket, celebrating the the return of hourglass figure. In the era of John Galliano with his ebullient fantasy, everything was bigger than before; the point of fashion that many people missed from Monsieur Dior - glamour of 'more is more' - was resurrected, and brought Dior to the game. John Galliano understood it very well, and what he created was even more grandeur than Christian Dior himself. Hair was higher. Colours were bolder. Hips were broader. And especially in couture, he created what couture stands for: dream and fantasy, that was often unreachable for common minds. And after his dismissal from the House of Dior in 2011 (and strangely, from his own namesake label as well), Dior is helmed by Raf Simons, which, despite mixed reviews from the press, sells like hot chocolate at Angelina in Tuileries Paris. Dior couture strongly wriggles in the middle of gloomy economy. Highly disciplined and sleek elegance is blatantly in contrast to Dior in Galliano era, but again, the cash register at couture atelier is really the reflection - and not reviews - how this wave of 'New Couture' is well accepted by the public, thanks to the drama and scandal, but mainly because it reflects the best of what women really want; modern aesthetic of less-is-more luxury.

From left to right: Dior by Christian Dior, John Galliano, Raf Simons
Photo: Left: Getty Images, Middle and right:

The drastic change, inevitably, happened as well at Balmain. Pierre Balmain, founding the Maison Balmain in 1945 after being apprentice to Edward Molynoux and working along with Dior at Lucien Lelong, was gaining his fame by his simple designs, specializing in slimline dresses and jacket combinations, and pleated and draped evening wear in printed, decorative and embroidery. During the 50's, the "bouffant" skirt remained high fashion for evening wear, accompanied by the boned strapless top. But it was the troubled Christophe Decarnin who was responsible of turning Balmain into more street-esque, even though not pocket-friendly. Biker jacket never looked that chic, destroyed jeans and tank-tops became must haves and so en vogue that people start destroying their clothes on purpose to get the Balmain look. Strong shoulders with crystal frogging on a military jackets, diamanté-embellished sandals, creating rock-chic and edgy look. And since 2011, Balmain with Olivier Rousteing continues this colour of look, with even more roughness in every collection. Far far away from original Pierre (and people love that too).

From left to right: Balmain by Pierre Balmain, Christophe Dearnin, Olivier Rousteing
Photo: Left: Getty Images, Middle and right:

So, again, the endless conversation in my head occurs: why do they bear the name of the house? Just for the sake of marketing? Is fashion really going this far, crossing from more-artistic-than-business to the other way around?

And if fashion keeps evolving, how far would they go?

Signorfandi, thoughts?