John Galliano returns, in a stupendous coat, to his childhood neighbourhood in east London and takes the bus
[Arena Homme+, Fall/Winter 2017]
This editorial is brilliant, its title is even more brilliant, seeing Maurizio Cattelan reading a torn newspaper is brilliant, Haley Baldwin’s boredom is brilliant and Stevie Dance living in Paris is brilliant.
About a month ago Alexander Fury, one of the important voices in the fashion media today – one might even dare to argue, the most important of them all – penned a succinct manifesto regarding the Future of Fashion. Yes, with double capital F.
This is really and truly an event, first and foremost because each of Fury’s texts, especially those published in the past two years during which his voice has become clearer and louder in the best possible sense, can count as a micro-event. Our fatigued minds, wary of the still-exploding big bang of opinions, views, hot and cold takes, might stray and succumb to the relativist illusion of “everyone matters”; and yet it is exactly this multiplied background noise which makes real voices – if and when they are able to reach a crystallised state – echo and reverberate more influentially than ever before.
Also, not just another text by Fury, this is a full-fledged manifest – besides Fashion and Future, its third key F-word is Freedom – and as such, it calls for considerable attention.
So, how do we go about when our Favourite Fashion Frère has laid before us the grounds for a new kind of juncture, asserting that “revolution is the only way to jolt us out of complacency”? The declarative form demands a committed response, and so it is only natural to take directions from a pivotal pop-culture format which perfected the art of committed responses: the reality index by Chris Rovzar and Jessica Presler.
Emerging exactly a decade ago, every week the index obsessively graded the plausibility factor in the latest episode of Gossip Girl, which was then widely – well, depending on your ideological stance towards the definition of ‘widely’ – considered as The Greatest Show of Our Time, back in those 2007 naive days, predating the Netflix nation.
Following that journalistic achievement, here is a truth index tallying up Fury’s roaring Mishnah. Because remember, dear boys and girls, in this world there is right and there is wrong, and don’t you let anybody tell you otherwise. Here we go.
Right: Fury begins his article by emphasising the nature of fashion as change itself: “[Fashion] is, by its very nature, malleable and mutable, each season transforming itself, and hopefully you, into something new”.
Wrong: It is vital to adjoin technology to this distinction, not just as means or as medium – which Fury obviously touches upon later in his text – but technology as, besides fashion, the other pure form of change.
It was about five years ago when Kurt Andersen published his too-long essay in Vanity Fair, basically suggesting technology consumed the newness aspect of fashion. Even though his thesis is wrong, and has never proved more wrong than in the recent Spring 2018 show season, trying to understand these two superpowers as adjacent is indeed a critical intuition. Not in the poor sense of “wearables”, and not even in the deeper sense which Fury duly refers to, the sense of being utterly transformed by the digital experience. Abstraction here is key, as there is nothing more abstract than The Future.
Right: When tackling the character of the Designer of the Future, Fury is considering Alessandro Michele and his method of “pulling from a wide-ranging and esoteric landscape of references” as a possible mould.
Wrong: Michele is the designer of the very near future, as in the next-second future, as in the now – and yet the present in this discussion’s context carries zero value. Michele might geniusly perceive how to treat the past as his own to take, but this creation mode is fascinating only as a mode, not as creation. He does not produce clothes, he produces posts. And while it is interesting to watch a major fashion house goes full-on millennial, relating to the real world solely as #content, it is neither a sustainable future nor a welcomed one. It is no wonder that the last Gucci show was adorned with one literal message, “resist”: Michele is effectively resisting his role as a fashion designer, replacing it with the position of a social media manager. Looking further than the immediate present, the visuals from the Gucci runways will be as relevant as used fuckjerry memes. To include Michele within the supergroup of designers who light the way forward isn’t just wrong, it’s a sin.
Right: Fury notes that a key element in this überdesigner – not the sleazy company, the Nietzschean concept – is that for all those who subscribe to this definition, the novelty is embedded in the culture surrounding the clothes, all the while circling back to the clothes themselves. “It isn’t just about the clothes; it’s about the entire universe each of them has been able to create […] Yet those worlds all lead back to the clothes”.
Wrong: In 2017, you cannot talk about the circle of clothes-culture-clothes and not include Demna Gvasalia as a crucial force within it. If Michele, as we already alleged, is mainly treating clothes and culture as an ongoing joke, then it is Gvasalia who has the real guts to face it all. It might be interesting to note here that Fury himself had in the past posited those two in another text with a declarative title, “These Two Guys Are Changing The Way We Think About Fashion”. While it is usually Gvasalia who is being misjudged for his cynicism, he is the one who aroused newness that cannot be mistaken.
We can start outlining the circle anywhere. For example, a starting point can count as the “COLLAR” collar, opening in basic black the Spring 2015 show. Culturally speaking, you can just about blindly pinpoint anywhere across the globe, around which spreads a universe of images that show how completely changed is even the way in which people choose to present their clothes – it suffices to take a look at every giant fast-fashion site, and note how the body pose itself has morphed into a burned-out sort of standing, almost falling, profile position. Feel like closing the circle, before opening it up again? It’s that red huge tent, which might also be referred to as a puffer coat, which is a Gvasalia’s Balenciaga creation, shabbily eternalised by Mark Borthwick. Joining the Cristobal glory of radical construction with the most frowned-upon touristy item is newness by definition, which must not be overlooked.
Right vs Wrong, summing it all up: Inspecting The Future of Fashion, the right thing to do would be to see technology, history and politics not just as influential or even critical in the way they relate to fashion, but to see if we can elevate fashion as an equal force within these spheres.
Then again, that might not be the most appropriate material for Harpers’ Bazaar. And so, once again and as always, Alexander Fury is right.
[Something Wild, 1986]
Sex, Lies and Videotape, 1989