For the uninitiated, fashion can seem like a world of oxymorons, misplaced ironies and mixed metaphors, especially when you hear the cognoscenti talk about trends, inspirations and cultural references. If you didn't know any better, you might find yourself scratching your head by the seemingly contradictory ways fashion insiders dissect and discuss the clothes. Tim Blanks' brilliant and insightful video reportage of the fall/winter 2011-2012 shows for Style.com provide many interesting, if slightly mind boggling, talking points.
Let's start with one of the more dominant themes for fall. There was a "boy-girl dynamic" observed Blanks at Dolce and Gabbana, where there was an abundance of tailored pieces made from feminine fabrics like lace and brocade. This was seconded by Style.com's Nicole Phelps calling it a "masculine-feminine mix." "It's female dressing as a male," said another editor. In Paris where Stella McCartney shows her eponymous collection, the designer described her use of traditional men's clothing techniques with feminine fabrication as a "combination of the masculine and feminine." Olivier Zahm said the same thing of Stefano Pilati's Yves Saint Laurent collection: "There is the masculine-feminine of the clothes." Listening to these descriptions, you could almost here Carrie Bradshaw saying, "I couldn't helped but wonder, are the dresses for a manly woman or a feminine man? Are they for Victor or Victoria? Ellen or Portia?"
There's also the discourse on femininity and sexuality. Is the fall woman a virgin or a vamp? She is "womanly and young at the same time" said Marc Jacobs of his woman. "Girlish although the silhouette is grown up," said another at Fendi. Angela Missoni's looks were "very, very feminine, very romantic but very tough" especially the diaphanous skirts paired with vinyl rain boots. For the singer Florence Welch, who was front row at Givenchy, "it's panthers and pansies, the aggressive and the fragile." But what does this all mean? Are women to dress like a hybrid of Lolita, Brigitte Bardot and Angelina Jolie as soon as the temperature drops?
The other themes for fall include the "aesthetic of restraint and release" said Simon Doonan at Thom Browne. The fashion photographer Inez van Lamsweerde said, "there is playfulness but strict, hard-soft, push-pull, repulsion-attraction," at Givenchy.
What colors should you look out for for the new season you ask? What is the new black? "We wanted to use a color that is like black but is not black," according to the creative duo at Valentino who used a dark almost murky color. At Bottega Veneta, "there is a red that was not really red," according to the editor of German Vogue.
How do you sum up the offerings of fall? Sally Singer of T said "commercial but very editorial," of the clothes by Joseph Altuzarra. They convey the attitude of "look at me but don't look at me," said street style blogger Tommy Ton of Isabel Marant's studiedly unstudied clothes. A guest at Givenchy described Riccardo Tisci's designs as giving off an "I see you but I don't see you" vibe. "Fragile but strong at the same time," said the designer Olivier Theyskens of Prada's mix of paillettes and fur. "An element of perfect imperfection," said another of Bottega Veneta's frayed and burnt lace.
What would Lisa Kudrow's Dr. Fiona Wallace character think of all this schizophrenic-sounding fashion verbiage? Of the is it or isn't it tug-of-war? This is standard lingo for the Celine-wearing, Birkin-toting, Vogue-reading tribe. But what can the layperson, who is not used to the duality and mixed messages of the fashion world, take away from this? Simply, that you shouldn't read too much into it. That fashion is all about having fun, experimentation and self-expression no matter how extreme the elements are. You also shouldn't take it too seriously because even those in the business of fashion don't.
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