Paris was its usual gray and cold, a kind of weather for which “discomforting” is the best word. They are still short on comfort in Paris, 21st Century be damned, and maybe there is a kind of purpose in that, lest we humans get too self-satisfied.
This year amidst the usual barrage of “news” about collaborations, must-cop listicles, and the importance of Dad sneakers, a few articles in the press aimed at fashion and streetwear actually tried to address something worthwhile, namely, what’s happening to today’s youth, specifically in the cultural space, and even more specifically as it relates to style.
Graduates of the prestigious Antwerp Academy fashion program, the Capara sisters have worked with Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela, and Raf Simons, before launching their eponymous line out of Antwerp.
If you find yourself in Antwerp in the coming months, or need a reason to go there, a visit to the “Olivier Theyskens: She Walks in Beauty” exhibit at the ModeMuseum (MoMu) will take you back to the time when fashion with capital “F” was still important, when that fickle enterprise still had sweep and grandeur, before the paralyzing effect of irony and false self-deprecation that accounts for much of fashion’s blandness today had set in. It was a time when couture was made thoroughly modern by the likes of Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, and Martin Margiela, those designers who still bothered to learn the fashion playbook before tearing it to shreds, sometimes literally.
It was with great trepidation that I first walked into the Ann Demeulemeester flagship store in Antwerp in 2001. It was on my first trip to Europe. I was twenty-five, and I was backpacking, reclaiming my American right of passage, about seven years too late, but I had no money before that. It’s safe to say that I was probably the only backpacker this summer to stop over in Antwerp to go shopping for fashion. But it was the highlight of my trip. I stuffed my backpack into a locker at the magnificent Antwerp train station, and made a beeline for Louis, followed by Dries Van Noten, and then a long walk down Nationalstraat to Ann Demeulemeester, saving the best for last. I don’t remember why, but I only bought a belt there, which I still wear. “Just the belt?” the salesperson ask, probably not meaning to embarrass me.
“My images are meant to straddle a strange line, where illusion becomes delusion, fact is fiction, and the conscious merges with the unconscious. Dreams become real, the real becomes a dream, the dead is alive, the alive dead,” says the photographer Roger Ballen, who lives in works in South Africa, in a video accompanying his new book, Ballenesque.
Some time ago in Tallinn, Estonia, I went to a Depeche Mode bar. That such a thing exists is emblematic of the deeply devoted fan following that the band has commanded since its inception. That Depeche Mode is a phenomenon that is hard describe is old news – it’s essentially a pop band that has blundered into the zeitgeist, instinctively grasped it and has held it tight to its chest for decades, more often than not not knowing exactly how or why. Depeche Mode is simultaneously surface and depth, lightness and darkness, seriousness and silliness. Its range of work runs from the cringe-inducing to awe-inspiring. It’s a band that has often been bewildered by its wild success, one whose members who for the first time knew they had a sure hit in “Enjoy The Silence,” ten years after they began making music. In other words, Depeche Mode is a band that despite its mostly electronic sound is quintessentially human. Perhaps this is why the world has been so generous to it, so patient with its failures, and so richly rewarding in its successes. Not to mention that the band’s influence on electronic music, from techno to industrial, cannot be underestimated, but that’s a whole different story.
In the following Op-Ed we examine why fashion criticism will always matter.
I am going to assume that you are into fashion photography, and if you are, I am going to assume that you undoubtedly know the groundbreaking work of the French photographer Guy Bourdin. And even if you don’t know the name, you’ve seen the photos, the sexy without being cheap, the playful without being tacky images in which color burst off the page, the perspective questioned the conventional wisdom of your line of sight, and the careful staging let you know that photography is way, way more complicated than simply pressing a shutter button.
This past summer Raf Simons held a show in New York City’s Chinatown that was ostensibly based on the movie Blade Runner. The presentation had plenty of Runner-esque elements; the darkness, the wetness were reflected in the umbrellas and the raincoats that Simons showed. But there was one element in the collection that made no sense at all – the New Order and Joy Division graphics that Simons used liberally throughout have nothing to do with Ridley Scott’s iconic sci-fi film, at least nothing I could discern. Simons showed the same graphics by Peter Saville, whom he is friends with, that he showed in his seminal Fall/Winter 2003 collection, “Closer, “ named after a Joy Divison album.