N°34 SS20 , Rhita Cadi Soussi

It’s theoretically a matter of appearance, a way of being in the world. But fashion, or at least the fashion image, has turned towards interiority, emotion and feelings. Here are a few clues in order to understand this change in direction.

“And I still can see blue velvet Through my tears.”Bobby Vinton, Blue Velvet, 1963.

The right number of teeth on a smile. The perfect crease of an eye when it blinks. The perfect gap between two heels, between the ankle and the ground, between the chin and the neck. The right light reflecting off a hairless leg. The sleek wave of an eyebrow under a forehead smoothed by barrels of anti-wrinkle cream. Red lipstick, red varnish, cigarette smoke in the wind. Crossed legs by instinct. Simple, basic, chic hair. Timeless women with eternal youth, they are filled with the desire to fulfil themselves so they appear not to give a damn. By admiration or by imitation, our frail hands skim the faces of these women on the glossy pages of fashion magazines.

Vogue Paris, 12/2001-01/2002

The year 2000, I was ten years old looking at Carine Roitfeld’s very first issue for Vogue. The cover said, ‘Step into a dream.’ What fashion was imposing on us then was the obvious tranquillity of a direction we either follow or reject. Magazines were filled with orders in the form of advice, embodied by our idols. There were 10 ways to wear shorts, 5 ways to achieve great abs and 20 ways to stay young forever. In this era we were told through images to direct our dreams into the present. Clothing was merely an accessory that served to add value the ideals and fantasies of the fashion editors.

manufactured faster and envisioned without a view of tomorrow, fashion says every day what everyone is thinking: it is becoming a reflection of a society that by consuming is consumed

Then these images began to fade, losing their vibrancy and meaning. With its ever-increasing rapidity, fashion began to feel divided between the celebrities, the drugs, the pomp and madness and the financial ambitions of a discipline that had shifted from a hobby to a business plan. Behind her perfect smile, the woman of our dreams began crying tears of gold and diamonds as the pressure around her began mounting and the dreams that put her to sleep were being cut short. To explore the power of popular culture is to question truth, interrogate the seduction of language, and above all, expose the emotional instability of the human being. Francesco Vezzoli scorns these women through whom we lived vicariously. In his portraits that pay homage to them, Vezzoli suggests the end of an era: it seems they have disappeared.

©Revue magazine, #8, photo: Vito Fernicola

“This spring’s fashions, more than in any era in living memory, seem inextricably linked to the times in which we live. They are hysterical, scatterbrained and lunging toward extreme opposites.” 1 In his critique of contemporary culture, Alexander Fury2 explains that current fashion is caught up with reality. Manufactured faster and envisioned without a view of tomorrow, fashion says every day what everyone is thinking: it is becoming a reflection of a society that by consuming is consumed. It’s seen in Marine Serre’s Spring 2020 collection3 titled ‘Oil Spill,’ the last Balenciaga ball, or the poetic burn-out of Miuccia Prada who said, “the person should be more important than the clothes.”4

Elle US, 10/2019

Now, it is the human being above all. In a climate of generalized anxiety5, fashion then finds refuge in bodies camouflaged by the reassuring volumes of unwearable dresses and oversized track pants, reflecting our discomfort in our own existence and a need for a permanent diversion against a world run by corrupt leaders who frighten us. Fashion helps us fight against this feeling, just like Elodie David and Julien Martinez Leclerc for Vogue Italia, or the Pantone 2020 colour of the year: the Classic Blue 19-4052, a hue that “evokes the immense and infinite sky at dusk.”6

the new form of capitalism? Capitalizing on feelings

Anxiety also has its idols: writer and influencer Caroline Calloway7 and singer Billie Eilish. One is almost always naked, the other never showing skin. Billie Eilish is 17 years old with 44.1 million followers8. She is the antithesis of Britney Spears who, at the same age, was dancing in the halls of a traditional American high school in a plaid miniskirt. Billie’s form of rebellion is wearing oversized tracksuits and neon nails. With her colourful hair and dark ideas, she is the new American Cover Girl. She expresses her anxieties through the formlessness of her clothes, avoiding the public gaze by hiding her body under a mass of colours, prints and logos. Her look is a diversion from the norm and her songs are anthems for anxiety. For her, clothing again plays a role in echoing the discomfort of a carefree generation. Likewise, the label Madhappy has capitalized on this new shapeless uniform, embroidering smiles and images of optimism on sweatshirts. In less than a year of existence, they’ve already received investments from the LVMH group9. The new form of capitalism? Capitalizing on feelings.

©Vogue Italia, Julien Martinez Leclerc, 12/2019

Before, it was fashion that made the money. Then, it was money that made fashion. Tomorrow, it will be feelings that do it. The inability of publicists to sell an ideology to a jaded generation has led the industry to question itself, and this sense of doubt is becoming the only common ground on which brands seeking growth can find equal footing. However, they question without giving answers. Faced every day with an onslaught of imagery on buildings and screens, a mass of lonely people are crammed into cities looking to the sky for answers. Humans no longer believe in images, they believe only in themselves and in people who look like them or who are interested in their small destiny.

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So, how are you today?

1 Marc Bain, “The battle between minimalist and maximalist fashion has reached a new equilibrium”, Quartz, 7/12/2019.
2 Alexandre Fury, “In Extreme Times, Extreme Clothes”, The New York Times, 14/03/2018.
3 Joelle Diderich, “Marine Serre RTW Spring 2020”, WWD, 24/09/2019.
4 Sally Singer, “Prada Spring 2020, Ready-to-Wear Collection”, Vogue Runway, 18/09/2019.
5 Jane Larkworthy, “Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2020 is Anti-Anxiety Blue”, The Cut, 5/12/2019.
6 Jessica Testa, “Pantone Declares Another Year of Blue”, The New York Times, 4/12/2019.
7 Choire Sicha, “Who is Caroline Callow ay? An Explainer”, The New York Times, 11/09/2019.
8 8 Dhani Mau, “Fashion and Beauty Brands Are Using Mental Health to Connect with the Anxious Generation”, Fashionista, 13/12/2019.
9 Jake Silbert, “LVMH Luxury Ventures Invests in Madhappy”, Hypebeast, 14/10/2019.