Fashion Comes for Books

In his 1967 classic critique of late capitalist society, “Society of the Spectacle,” the French philosopher Guy Debord posited that the West has reached a new stage of relations between commodities and people. Whereas before the laboring classes were alienated by capitalism from the product of their labor, now they were also alienated by it from their entire lives, from their surroundings, and most importantly from each other. He posited that during early capitalism the process of alienation occurred only during the workday. Once the factory lights were out the worker could at least go home and engage in his or her communal life. Now, however, leisure time became completely monopolized by what he called “the spectacle,” a mode of life in which fetishization of commodities has “moved the focus of existence… from having to appearing.” If that sounds like Instagram to you, you are not wrong.

Dior Images: Paolo Roversi

Paolo Roversi’s dreamy images have sent this reviewer’s heart aflutter for many a year, so if this review is biased, don’t shoot the messenger. The painterly quality with which Roversi imbues his soft-focus photos takes them out of our age and puts them in one not so much defined in historical terms, but in terms of literary fiction, of worlds made up by the sheer force of human fantasy.

This Italian – and according to Roversi himself, he is very Italian in the art historical sense – has produced a stunning number of stunning photos in publications ranging from Vogue Italia to Another. A source of constant consternation for me has always been the lack of books about Roversi’s work. This past January, during my visit to a Roversi’s exhibit at 10 Corso Como in Milan, I spent a significant amount of time in nail-biting anxiety in front of a table strewn with Roversi’s books, some rare ones, weighing the heft of my wallet and the capacity of my luggage. What I am trying to say is that any time a Roversi book comes out, it’s an event. And so the new book of Roversi’s images of Dior’s haute couture, newly published by Rizzoli is a welcome gift, incredibly well executed to give Roversi’s otherworldly images their due.