Valentin-who? A Particularly Un-dedicated Follower of Fashion
Without knowledge of the industry or indeed, near anything other than bile, Sam is challenged by Beth to write about the Spring/Summer 2008 Collection from conker-faced Valentino, shown at Paris Fashion Week. What follows has little to do with fashion and a lot to do with general anger and ignorance.
Not only do I know almost nothing at all about fashion, I am even partial to a moderate, often expletive-strewn rant about the industry purely due to its existence. Here lies a money-spinning machine of cartoonish failed artists ‘creating’ dresses that no-one can wear anywhere but in an exotic Chanel advert directed by David LaChappelle. These people exist in plains of life only they can dream of for no one else on the planet would want to stay around them. The fakeness, the callous nature of its half-life for models, it glorification of people who simply sketch whatever they thought Betty and Wilma would wear on acid and call this work genius. This is not a part of civilised society to be in love with.
It is aspirational? Do people want to look like these men and women? Do women sit and look at Lily Cole and Agyness Deyn (really? that’s a name? oh no, her name is actually Laura which is quite a nice name) and think, ‘hmm… I would just love to wake up and look either emaciated, frightening or like I’ve just dipped my face in garish colours’? Apparently they do, but that’s perhaps their problem. More odd, and I’ve never really met anyone like this, is men who may want to look like our model counterparts. Looking like a male model, specifically catwalk here, is not something most men would get in line to do. It’s not that they look effeminate, it’s that they don’t really sell the clothes. Male models tend to be deeply tanned without any of the basic flaws a normal human has. They don’t really seem to have aged at all skin wise and so you can’t see yourself wearing the clothes. Therefore, for us, they are rendered pointless.
I suppose the key issue may well be expense. Valentino, who I’ll discuss more in a while, makes clothes for women to wear to nights on the uber-expensive tiles. In that sense its aspirational; giving women watching the chance to imagine the day when they’ll be able to purchase a Valentino and steal the show. But its so aspirational, so utterly beyond reach of the vast majority that I can’t justify even looking at something like that. The men’s collections too are so stupifyingly beyond my price range that I can barely look at them without giving out a chuffing exhale to express my displeasure at so many different numbers after the currency sign. Expense is perhaps the thing that riles me most about the fashion industry. I’m not talking on a global, ‘how can they sell this stuff for that much when people are starving’ scale. More on a ‘how can they justify selling this for this much when I bet it won’t last as long as my stuff from M&S?’. I just cannot understand why something from Gucci or Prada warrants a price tag approaching a familial income when, when push comes to shove, is not all that different from anything else on the market. So it looks good. So what? Does it really justify paying a portion of your savings just to have the name?
But these are all questions asked before. Questions and statement many hold true to their hearts and so they need not be further explored. Instead, I must complete my assignment from my co-editor and discuss the new collection from Valentino.
Valentino himself, and it appears this is his only name, is apparently “a master of elegance and opulence”, kind of like Dracula. Unlike Dracula however, he looks like he is made of conkers. The signature look of his design, the philosophy of his work if you will, is “you can never be too rich, or too thin”. Before I hurl this computer across the room or track down a way to scratch the varnish off his forehead, I’ll take a minute to calm. While I would have to agree that you can indeed never be too rich (although Biggie did always say ‘Mo Money, Mo Problems’), I think you can be too thin. I’m fairly sure there is an entire medical industry devoted to such things.
Okay, so we don’t agree on our philosophy. My reading has also come to show me that, apparently, Valentino is considered a very conservative choice compared to the outrageous nature of fellow designers. So not only does he charge enormous amounts for his ready-to-wear garments, he doesn’t even go crazy with them. This could make me like him more, given that rather than give in to the ridiculous excess of the catwalk, he only dips his feet in, concentrating on actually making his creations wearable. Yes, I like that.
So maybe it is come time to look at the dresses and suits he’s put forward.
It’s not even that the dress is bad, although the salmon-ness of it all doesn’t endear. It’s the girl. I can tell you that this young lady is among the more voluptuous of the women chosen to show off these dresses. Looking at this on a purely literal level, what must women think when they see something like this. Is it out of the realms of possibility to think that this would cause women to think, ‘if I want to get into that dress, I need to be that size’. I don’t know what size this girl is but I would imagine is not far above a US zero which essentially means that hugging her would be the equivalent to having a cuddle with hat stand. And let me reiterate, this girl, in fashion worlds, would be considered curvy.
Look at this one in the yellow. Her head is of that odd oval shape only people who become models or extras in X-Files have. Her arm, hanging solemnly at her side, looks lonely, and is around the size of your average hoover attachment. There is not an ounce of meat on her and that’s a sad, heartbreaking truth of fashion and what this industry does to wider society. Girls will look at this and want to look like her.
It’s even happened to celebrities. Two of my major celeb crushes, Angelina Jolie and Rachel Bilson, both have barely an sliver of meat between them now and why? Is it because this is what they have to put up with?
Perhaps more pertinent, following yet another tangent there, is that the clothes are deeply unspectacular. This in some respects is not a bad thing. If you take a scroll through the pictures in the link at the bottom you’ll see some dresses that, even to the untrained, even partially fashion-retarded eye, would look good. The issue to keep at hand is not so much though that the dresses will look good. They should look good. They’re made by a professional designer and if they all looked truly shocking, he’d likely have to be culled with special seven-inch pumps.
No, the problem is exactly the fundamental issue I take with the industry. By the same token, the issue is exactly the reason the clothes sell according to the designers. You see, I can see that some of the dresses Valentino has shown for next year will look amazing on someone who has, well, a figure. Someone whom you could sketch without using a ruler. But the designers don’t want that. They want to give you nondescript, tiny girls who don’t fit the dresses so the clothes do all the talking. The clothes are the main event because the beacons of aesthetic pleasure (breasts, hips, butt, thighs) are cancelled from the equation. You’re essentially seeing the clothes on animated dress-horses.
Now I’m going to take a minute here to just say then, in summation of the actual premise of the article, that Valentino’s designs both please and disappoint me. I can’t tell you what the philosophy of these designs are and I can’t tell you what the colours and shapes signify. I can just tell you that about half of the dresses would make beautiful women at the Oscars look incredible and half would bring them to be the scorn of E!.
The true summation though, the higher purpose here, is that the fashion industry is both inherently evil and the epitome of commerce over all else. The health of these girls plainly matters not, just as the health of the greater nation outside the bubble of the industry does not matter. This is a place, just like so many others that provide ridiculous celebrities, where everyone is overpaid and overloved by everyone around them and can’t imagine life on the outside. It’s an industry in which women waste away and men skirt the line between feminity and hyper-masculinity. It’s barely even the real world. I don’t understand, like, or even have sympathy with anyone in it and, through the core of my being, I hate it deeply. If this reads like something redeeming is about to be listed, it really isn’t. The only thing I could give to Valentino is that that on occasion, truly beautiful people don’t look any worse in his dresses.
If you’re really interested in the old gent, check out his Wikipedia too.