No matter how one chooses to redefine luxury, there is no denying that fashion is a luxury or an indulgence. The nature of fashion has been birthed and incubated amongst the trappings of wealth and power. Its history defined by “the haves and have nots.” Fashion is illuminated by its inaccessibility and we are lured by the unspoken, yet promised pleasures on display at every catwalk. We want to bathe in its glories and emerge reborn, more beautiful, more dazzling, and more powerful. Fashion’s ability to create and define distinctions amongst individuals is what draws each of us back to it season after season.
Luxury has been defined as either a: something that adds pleasure or comfort, but is not absolutely necessary or b: an indulgence (unrestrained) in something that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease.
So where does all of these lead us today? Quite honestly, nowhere, as the path has long ago been set and the journey outlined. Fashion is unmistakably the playground of the wealthy, and we, the mass consumers, have only been invited along for the ride. In our quest to blend in, to not appear too conspicuous amongst the wealthy, we have lost sight of fashion’s true meaning and its transformative ability. We must remind ourselves that “bling” does not directly translate to luxury, but is only a mode a fashion.
People often quotes that fashion is a whim or a folly…this simply is not true. Fashion is a luxury to be indulged and enjoyed for its ability to bring light and pleasure to a sometimes dark and gloomy world. What better time than right now to get lost in fashion, to indulge in its beauty, to take pleasure in its artistry, to be inspired by its ingenuity. You may or may not be able to afford to purchase any one piece from the runways, but looking is free and can take you to new levels in the appreciation of the sublime that surrounds us in the every day…and this is a luxury in its own right.
Shoulders are definitely strong for Fall 09. As shoulders become more dominant, jutting out or tower over, necks have been relegated behind intricate ruffs, fur collars, patterned scarves, or heavy, oramental necklaces. Maybe designers are telling us they have collectively decided not to stick their necks too far out for the Fall 09 season. Or perhaps instead of burying our heads in the sand, we should be covering our necks in an effort to hide from an ever-widening economic crisis that has not only closed its grips around our banking and retail institutions, but has also reached across European and Asian shores. There is an ancient Japanese saying that states that the man rules the head, but the woman rules the neck. In these times, it certainly feels the weight of the world hangs on our shoulders. Strong shoulders definitely require strong necks. In any case, designers, collectively, have decided we should hunker down for the long cold winter of this recession and cover up.
Kors has decided to tough it out with necks that disappear under heavy knitted turtle-neck sweaters, chunky 80s-inspired gold or silver chains, fur collars, and neon-colored wrap scarves.
Although Templerly showed her collection at NYC fashion week, Temperly London is a British designer who, this season, recreated the Empress of the Orient. Studded in hard metal and zippers, this woman is no shrinking violet. Temperly’s empress is prepared to do battle, her neck shrouded like the crusaders of the Middle Ages. The collection has an intensity that seems to echo the rage and discontent wrought from uncertain times.
Erdem greeted us with rounded, bouquet silhouettes. Colorful and fanciful florals fought against a backdrop of black, seeming to express cheer despite the sea of black in which petals in bright blues, yellows, reds, purples floated. Tulip-shaped dresses expressed a vulnerability and softness that definitedly would have warranted some type of protection and like Ralph Lauren, Erdem, wrapped his waif’s neck in wispy, floral ruffles.
Angela Missoni has proven a girl can cover up, but she can’t hide her sex appeal. The collection, in girly mauves, soft greys, apricots, and powder blues, was young and hip. There seemed to be an open exchange between obscurity with the use of cowl sweater scarves and transparency afforded by web knit layering.
Lanvin was severe in his judgement on the recession. His collection of 40s revival suits were highlighted by heavy, sculptural jewelry which rather than merely decorative enclosed the necks of his models in metal collars. The mannish cuts of his suits were dark; the embodiment of an austere, haughty–almost untouchable chicness.
Yes, Dior’s Fall 09 collection depicts women dressed in the Orientalism, hobble skirts reminiscent of Poiret’s reign on Paris fashion during the turn of the 20th century, but the true testimony is the overt act of rebellion shown in a collection that draws its inspiration from the bastion of upper crust women whose primary role was to remind the lower strata of society what they had not.
Poiret has been touted a fashion revolutionary for his part in freeing women from corsets and giving them freedom of movement with his “harem” pantaloons and “lampshade” tunic creations…although, many argue that he took steps back(no pun intended) with the hobble skirt invention. He made a straight, tubular dress in 1908 that became known as the Directoire.
In a time of rapid class stratification caused as a result of the recession, designers have to make hard choices and Dior has decided to step up, instead of down the ladder. This is understood as Dior is a design house that is historically associated with being extravagent and luxurious in a time of thrift. After all, it was Christian Dior who dared to shrug his shoulder at the war-time restrictions regarding fabric usage; creating a new bell-shaped look for women that was lavish in its use of fabric. Dior infamously used 20 yards of fabric for his New Look creations.
We are more connected. Computer technology and electronic social networking tools give us more access to information and more opportunities to join together. What impact does the lightening transfer of information have on the fashion community? There has been, in recent times, an outcry from designers, worldwide, that the internet is a tool for piracy…idea piracy, hmm….is there such a thing in an industry that feeds on the mood and spirit of its time? An industry that depends on the ideas and concepts of others in all areas of culture for inspiration.