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Tuesday, 8 March 2011
happy fashion week
Ceci n'est pas John Galliano
Hat-tip the Normster for this from the New York Times. It is almost too annoying to read to the end - it is written by an academic who is also writing a "cultural biography" of Coco Chanel, go figure - but its premise, to save you the bother, is that there is something inherently fascist about fashion (yes, yes, John Galliano, on whom I have refrained from commenting), which is why more than one French fashion house collaborated with the Vichy regime during the war. You know, charismatic leading figures, the cult of fitness and the body beautiful, cool uniforms, that sort of thing. First, not every business which stayed open in Vichy France should be described as a collaborator. There was the small matter of making a living. And didn't French women living in occupied France deserve nice clothes? But leaving that aside, why fashion? Why not sport? Hitler thought sport was political, and so, most of the time, it is. Why not the car industry (turning out identical machines to enslave the population) or plastics (robbing the people of their artisan heritage)? What bollocks. The article suggests that John Galliano, in dressing himself like a pirate or a highwayman and purporting, at least when drunk, to be the arbiter of what people in Paris bars should look and dress like, and Karl Lagerfeld, in dressing like an 18th-century Prussian officer, are promoting a fascist ideal. Quadruple bollocks. Fashion isn't any more fascist than coal-mining or software development. Or any less. It is an industry.
French people mostly dress exceedingly boringly. Chic there is, but boring there also is. I put it down to French schoolchildren not wearing uniforms. They can wear what they like to school, but "within reason" (there is a debate every year about what slogans might be unacceptable on T-shirts), so they play safe. Coats are black, and scarves (worn from La Rentree in September till at least April) are Very Big. Jeans are skinny. The cultural notions around underwear are hard to understand. I read an article in French Marie-Claire recently by a working mother, who said she was so busy and hard pressed she sometimes didn't even wear matching bra and knickers! Imagine that!
Fashion. Fascism. The two words start with the same two letters in English, but that is all they have in common. So there.