Monday, November 1, 2010

In which bloggers continue to take over the (fashion) world.

Annabet Duval as Jane and Brad Goreski as Tavi at the Lanvin Halloween party. Too good.

O. And somehow between her classes, Tavi found time to write a screenplay for a short film/perfume advert starring Julia Restoin-Roitfeld as Medusa. Wanna check it out? 'kay then.

I watched it without sound the first time and I have to say I liked it better that way. I find the music oddly distracting from the lush visual imagery, and the synthy piano reminded me of the kind of music they'd play in a spa while you're getting your feet pumiced. The part where she is kneeling inside a charcoal rectangle in her lace burqa is my favourite.
I feel conflicted about the way that what is essentially a tale about a rape is rendered so lovely and sad- and I'm not sure about the jump from feathered wild woman to Coco Chanel (whut in the whut?) But hey. If we take it purely at aesthetic value, it's lovely to watch. And I'll tell the grumbling misgivings inside that it's a myth (and a perfume advertisement) so maybe realism can be sidelined...? Hmmm.

EDIT: OK so I posted this post and then kept thinking about the video. Something's not sitting right with me and perhaps my words were flippant because I kind of wanted to post the film but was too tired to dive into a discussion of why I'm unsettled. To mentally unpack onto this page: fashion has a history of aestheticising disturbing or controversial concepts-you need only to look to Vogue Paris under Carine Roitfeld's editorship to see that (editorials on young goldiggers marrying decrepit billionaires? Tick. Models in blackface? Tick. Models as saucy nuns? O sure.) That's not to mention designers who have glorified heroin use (the glamour of teetering on the brink of life), golden showers (one of McQueen's more memorable shows?), and indulgent opulence in a post WWII world where even the amount of fabric used for a Dior New Look ensemble was obscene. To be shocking, provocative and memorable is part of the spirit of fashion. And yet it is always visual- the ethics of what is being created and represented are rarely, if ever, reflected upon. So we have a very short, very beautifully rendered video in which 'Medusa' waters her garden, worships at Athena's temple, is attacked, reflects on her attack and comes through the other side with a fierce face of feathers and a compact mirror. Or we have a rape story in which the victim is beautiful and gently in distress, voiceless, whose terror is akin to that of any defenceless beautiful creature. There's no violence or horror to it, only careful choreography. Is it fashion (or perfume? Or advertising?)'s place to commentate on issues like violence against women? I say if they brought it up, sure it is. Is it ethical to turn rape into a beautiful picturescape to be consumed alongside perfume? My gut feeling is absolutely not. And yes, I am well aware that they are representing a myth not someone's lived experience. And yet, violence against women is shockingly commonplace and I think that this film does a disservice to its target clientele by beautifying something that is an aberrance. You could argue back that it's not the rape that's at the heart of this- that it's about a woman's transformation through suffering, or heck, even about the ingredients used to make a fragrance. But I think those are easy arguments that neatly sidestep the issue. I don't think there's any romance in being attacked- none at all. I'm all for discussing issues over a range of platforms, including fashion, but please can we be reflexive? And maybe acknowledge that some things are too ugly to be beautified.
Halloween image from here


  1. I'm generally indifferent (or jaded?) in the case of controversial subjects depicted in art for arts sake (ars gratis aris). It sits less well with me when it is intended and rendered for a commerical purpose, since a subsequent purchase of the item is akin to a reward, or tacit approval, for and of that depiction.

  2. I think I agree with you. I feel like art invites discussion, even welcomes it, as a response to what is being depicted. Whereas a commercial art venture like this invites the response of consuming which, as you say, feels like rewarding. It seems that if an artist made a piece like this film as an artwork, that that itself would be a comment upon the consumer-driven values of our culture ('it's ok, it's just an ad) whereas this film just... is. It's like a joke with no punchline.