Experience Fashion

Fashion can be experienced in countless ways, and each time it triggers a new conversation. Sometimes superficial and sometimes profound, from aesthetics to history to philosophy, sometimes engaging sometimes tasking, these conversations are as diverse as the material they cover. One experience that sparks a consistently unpredictable discourse is the Martin Margiela runway.

In true form, Margiela’s Fall 2010 collection left the same challenging dialogue hanging unfinished in the cold air. And the question of whether the spirit of the man behind the mask can be maintained put a punctuation mark on the importance of the Fall 2010 show experience. With the heat lamps burning orange, suspended like a field of blossoms from the exposed iron rafters and glass paneled roof of the warehouse space, we anticipated the start of the show. The Margiela team hurried to their places across the exposed runway carpet, their open lab coats flowing out behind them.

“Regardes les lumieres,” someone said. Before any of us realized it the show had begun. Approaching from either side, the models stopped and did a four point turn in the little alcove formed by the clusters of mismatched chairs. The cool blue spotlights shone down on the girls who seemed like apparitions from another time. A perfectly styled bun and perfectly applied makeup was just one of two faces the girls possessed. The other, of smeared lipstick and disheveled hair, created a tension between what should and should not be. Just like the pants top applied to the front of nude leggings: clothed and naked. The feeling of not-quite-right was the emotive direction of the show. Like she had gotten caught meeting with a lover in the stock room and did not have time to tuck everything back in or straighten her hair. But she remembered the box, the white stock box that several of the girls carried loosely like a handbag at their hip. Their laissez-faire saunter played into the voyeuristic quality of the before and after narrative. I know something you don’t know.

The color scheme was so neutral even the grenadine red seemed to feel neutral. Texture and weight single handedly developed the rich dimension of the collection.

The whole collection was challenging. The weight pulling at once forwards and backwards, the sheer and the opaque, the opaque that simulated sheer, the suspension of pant waists that defied the purpose of a pants’ waist, suspension and weightless under and over dense and heavy.

I want to put them on, I kept thinking. About the pants, the shoes, the hats-my god, the hats. The giant coonskin style hats in the last three looks played like a presentation: How to take this hat from day to evening. I can see the spread now.

To see the clothes was not enough. But to see the clothes move, was an enormous pleasure. Taking apart the outfits piece by piece, the garments made sense for experimental layering in and out of seasons. Square shirt-tails doubling as gowns, fantastic easy knitwear, and grey felt boots that put themselves on you they are so cool and easy to wear.

And so we let ourselves be taken to the place where we question things and our conversation about clothes become philosophical. Because this is a way that we experience fashion. Because we like having a man behind the curtain, whether he is really there or not.

Why Yohji Was Laughing

A friend of mine came over the other day and commented on the blouse I had in progress on the black foam dress form standing in my studio. She liked the detail of the slashes along the neckline, she said. I looked where the muslin was clipped away to shape the neckline, and fit the back panel smoothly over the shoulder. I explained to her that that was simply a function of the process. “Well I like it anyway,” she said. And so I looked at it again, differently. Maybe there is something there. Isn’t that how many fashion discoveries are made? The deconstructed and the inverted and the raw. Aren’t all of these results of re-analyzing the process? Seeing the beauty in the process? And who is to say it will not be appreciated by those who don’t know exactly where the idea came from?

At Yohji Yamamoto’s Fall 2010 runway show on March 5th, I was silently shocked by the humor underneath the navy and black. I wanted to talk to someone immediately about the brilliant insight. Or discuss how it might not be brilliant at all, but, rather, completely banal.

Sometimes, like in the case of my friend’s visit, it takes someone outside to look in and give you a new perspective. Yohji would appreciate my friend, though he was able, himself, to strip-down his approach and re-direct the formulaic process. Referring specifically to the slashes of the back panel around the armhole, Yohji transformed deconstruction into new construction opportunities. There might traditionally be a back dart, or tuck, or pleat, but Yohji used the slashing method to shape around the complex back shoulder. This was finished onto another layer of felt and integrated into a structured armhole, built up like a frame around it.

In another pun, the pin-tuck that traveled down the back of several of the coats was an homage to the “take it in at center back” command during fittings. Maybe this is fashion for dummies. Or maybe this is a thank you to those dummies who make you look at the same thing you see everyday as if you’ve never seen it before. And suddenly every part of it, every moment, becomes new. Offers new possibilities.

The pleated panels that circled the hem, too long for the circumference of the sweep, were left to hang, revealing hidden details such as a slit in the hem underneath. But the purpose they served, in the context of this collection, was to offer new opportunities, the chance to explore new constructions and new secrets. They spoke to the accuracy or the clumsiness of the process- and what happens when a mistake is made, or even exaggerated. What happens when we stop short of the end, and skip directly onto the next step? That development will come form a place to which we have never been. And so will inevitably take us somewhere we would not have otherwise gone.

In all, beneath the melancholy and deeply emotional collection, Yamamoto was laughing at the clever nuances of the development of a garment. And maybe the process of one coat can become the inspiration for multiple models, or even a lifetime of design possibilities. And maybe that is why at the end he came out with a wonderful smile, an enthusiastic bow, and a toss of his long silver hair.