Sunday, March 6, 2011

Reflections on fashion writing on shows

A simply yet moving article by the New York Times' Cathy Horyn on being at the latest Dior show in the wake of Galliano's anti-Semitic remarks and subsequent firing. How elegant and understated to have the seamstresses and tailors from the Dior atelier take the end-of-show bow.

What I always want from fashion reportage which is rarely forthcoming, though, is what it actually was like to be there in the audience. When I volunteered at Rosemount Australian Fashion Week as fieldwork for Honours in 2007, I was struck by aspects of the experience that had never been articulated in all of the writing I had previously read on shows. This realisation was of course deeply inflected by my experiences as a student of Performance Studies, but a part of what I saw and felt was shaped by my proximity to the shows: the way the concrete footpath outside the Overseas Passenger Terminal jumped under our feet during the Zimmermann show because the music was so loud; the complete enveloping black that swallowed us up as the shows began, only interrupted by the thin light pouring over the strip of catwalk (and seeing the eyes of all the editors of Australia's premier fashion titles flicker over the audience rather than up at the clothes- who is wearing what, sitting where. A contrast to their entrances which were invariably masked in black sunglasses a la Wintour and icy in their refusal to look at anyone other than their staff underlings.) The smell of make-up and hair, strangely glamorous, as the models swam down the runway through silk skirts, over chunky heels- I always thought they vagued out the audience and stared at the middle distance until I saw that their eyes arefixed on the prize, on the horde of photographers at the end of the catwalk whose cameras flash silent with white light, whose images spirit all over the world as each girl hopes hers will be the body inside the dress that encapsulates the collection.
These observations are fascinating to me- and imagine reading what it was actually like to sit in that room as Galliano's final collection for Dior walked down. Was the atmosphere sad? Were people stiff-upper-lippy or weeping or angry or wistful? What clothes jumped out at Horyn, and why? What did it all mean?

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