Day 135 / 365
This week marked the start of weeks of Fashion in Paris.
Back when I considered myself a 'fashionista' this would have excited me, but for the last few seasons, I've felt nothing for it.
My husfriend is a photographer, so this season means work and lots of it. It's good for our bank accounts but not necessarily the type of work which excites either of us. Generally, the fashion folk, especially those who participate properly in any Fashion Week in any part of the world are pretentious people who loose interest in you the moment your vocation or family name offers them no recognisable step up in the world. That said, there are plenty of interesting, artistic, conscious souls who have dedicated their lives to this industry, the people who do it for the artistic expression rather than the label alone.
On Friday I got called to go help a friend set up her showroom in town. She'd had a mental week leading up to the event and was well deserved in her need for a few extra hands, especially a few extra hands that spoke enough Franglish to find places and things.
The same day, My husfriend was called in to help with the lookbook shoot which occurs after the models leave the runway at the Givenchy show.
So we both set off to spend the next 12 - 16 hours working for the cash this cause promised. Hustlers that we are.
The designer I was helping was Roni Ilan, I'd met her the previous season through a friend but had known her designs since her graduate fashion show at Saint Martins. Her collection when I met her was truly beautiful and I found meaning in her creations. This season was no different, but as I zipped around the city on a Velib grabbing bits and bobs for the display's construction, I forgot, on some levels, how extraordinary this bi-yearly tradition can really be.
Just before 7pm when her showroom was scheduled to open, I returned to the space with the last few props. The clothing, which was aesthetically completely different from her previous season was displayed in such a way that it forced you to admire its structure, texture, colour, and design, creating something meaningful and mighty within a space I had expected to be meaninglessness.
A video played on the walls, repetitious but unwaveringly moving. Timely too. It was the day of Brexit and spirits were low, but in this video loop lived love in its finest, sweetest, most ethereal place. That precious purgatory which occurs before a kiss, something most let pass without realizing it's treasured place: the eroticism offered by no touch at all. It was energy, it was intimate, and so heartbreakingly romantic that it spoke louder than words ever could about everything and nothing all at once, lay bare for the beholder to digest at will.
All this in the name of fashion.
I found it utterly curious how affected I was and how quickly I looked to rename it. This type of fashion couldn't possibly be meaningful. That was the doctrine I had been drumming for the past few years and I had committed myself to that truth - because most of the time it is true - but as I'm learning so quickly to accept, even the truth doesn't encompass the whole truth. The truth is a matter of perception.
The designer I was working for was not exploitive in her creations, nor is she pretentious as a person. She's generous, she's creative, she's kind, she's loving, she's inclusive, she's humble, she's modest, and she's conscious. Her clothing was created ethically, with a slow fashion model, all handmade in her studio in London. The only person exploited in its creation was Roni herself. She'd worked long and hard towards her goal in the same way any artist does, with passion as her driver through the exhaustion she chose for herself in the name of exporting her creative expression. As all artists do.
Her clothing is most likely not strictly ecological but is no more un-ecological than any art piece which exists on the walls of the finest galleries. It had been made for the purpose of sharing her vision, it wasn't really 'for sale', it wasn't 'ready to wear'. It might eventually lead up to that, but for now, I realized rather startlingly, I could find no quarrel with it. I was appreciating the full circle story which had lead to its creation.
Artists are given freedom to use what they want, however they want,regardlesss of waste, because "it is art", but when it comes to the fashion industry, it is considered wasteful, yet I considered what I saw art more than fashion, and her as an artist more than 'just' a designer.
Conversely, my husfriend was shooting a very ready to wear and (in my eyes) un-conscious collection by Givenchy. Big name brands are the fast fashion of the luxury industry, adding season's nature didn't even bother to create just to keep the money flowing. They differ so severely to independent brands, blindingly going where no man needs to go. Their collection are created without the slightest of concerns about the ecological effects in its creation. It is also, most definitely, made by exploited workers, only for the runway shows they aren't far away in a third world country chained to a sewing machine being paid pennies, they're children of Europe, exhausted and adderalled, being paid barely a living wage (for Paris) to work around the clock in the name of this folly. Sure, they're paid miles better than those 3rd world workers, but they aren't being treated with much more respect. The formula is the same. Just completely accepted.
Interestingly, the designer of the Givenchy collection, Riccardo Tisci, claimed his inspiration for this SS17 season was based on his 'spiritual research' and went so far as to print the Tupac quote "Realize / Real Lies" on the back
of his hats and sunglasses straps. At the time of writing this, I'm not sure if that choice of words was meant as a satirical, or not. But I've never heard of a more fitting statement for a brand of its ilk that to splay across themselves in confident hypocrisy. It was as if activist had snuck in and had their way.
Slow fashion is quietly making its way up the highest ladders of the industry, fashion will eventually return to its inspiring artisan routes. Those who put their heart, soul, creativity, and kindness into their work in any industry will discover and display depth and meaning in what they produce. And anywhere you see it, the true honest art of creation, it deserves to be celebrated, for it is meaning that we're missing from our commerce, and meaning, like those moments before the first kiss, that we're fast forwarding and missing from our lives.
photos: Morgan O'Donovan
video: James Wreford