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We’re dancing as fast as we can – The way it looks from here

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor chill with the paparazzi.
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor chill with the paparazzi.
Mary Wells Lawrence

This Examiner has been away for some time – we’re quite aware – while the fashion world continues to swirl unrelentingly at near tsunami force. It can get a bit overwhelming – but that’s not why we’ve been away. We’ve ‘been away’ in part because we didn’t go away – as in, on assignment. A New York-London-Milan-Paris assignment didn’t pan out; and, well, we get tired of trying to judge sometimes complicated layers, textures and colors from a laptop screen. (And I think you lose the rhythm of the cities and season when you’re completely removed from it.) In the meantime, life presents fresh challenges that alternately chain you to your desk or take you down roads you had no idea existed. In the meantime, my arts blog (awol – art without limits) has been re-launched on the Artillery Magazine website – which means that my calendar has been twice as crowded. I sat out much of L.A.’s own fashion week essentially because of the schedule conflicts. But I have some sense of what I have to look out for; and I certainly know what I’m looking for. (Yeah – I have a few things in mind; but they’re going to have to wait for another post.)

Too much stuff

You don’t have to be locked into the arts/TV-movies-digital/entertainment/culture/fashion mindset of Los Angeles to know that there’s really too much going on. I think FOMO (‘fear of missing out’) is rapidly giving way to FOMYFL, as in ‘fear of missing your finite life’ (or the point of it anyway). We’re essentially a global culture; but there’s too much going on globally to remotely imagine that we can take some coherent compass of it. There’s always something new cropping up and it all changes too fast.

Retail seems to be expanding in all sorts of new directions. While there have been some serious retrenchments in mainline middle/mainstream market retailing (think various department and big box stores, as well as certain chain reorganizations), there have been exceptions (especially coming out of the UK and Asia). Consider recent expansions of Cross Company (Thom Browne) and Uniqlo. In the meantime, designer boutiques and luxury emporia seem to be spreading far and wide. Chanel is just about everywhere now. 10 Corso Como is in Shanghai and Seoul, South Korea and may add still more Asian outposts. And while Italian and French luxury brands are sinking their feet deep in Asian turf (to think they once simply printed their fabrics there), South Korean fashion designers and labels are no longer flying back to us under the radar. We’re hip to them and seek them out. The same goes for a host of small labels from across Eurasia and South Asia – to say nothing of South America and Africa. It’s all great and it’s all a bit much. Oh – and can we talk about just where the purchasing power lies?

Things are also falling apart. It’s a turbulent, uncertain environment – even before we consider the contingencies of war, environmental disasters, climate catastrophes, and mass migrations. Lost connections, faulty deals, flawed details, unreliable partners, broken agreements. It’s a high-pressure business at every end – from Paris showrooms to Third World sweatshops. Scanning the headlines – from the latest South Asian factory collapse and fatalities to the €600,000 robbery of Colette just the other day – you wonder: something’s gotta give.

L’Wren Scott

L’Wren Scott was one who clearly felt the pressures. But then she always seemed to be one to rise to them – to her statuesque 6 feet 4 inch height. She certainly understood negotiating the pressures of the red carpet; and, to some extent, the pressures of celebrity itself. As it turned out (in the wake of shipping snafus that led to the cancellation of her London show, losses between $5 and $6 million, etc.), she had intended to close her business. But I’m not going to reduce this tragedy to a simplistic rise-and-fall business disaster story. There was a good deal of speculation beyond the business and personal dimensions of the story. My own inclination is to let Cathy Horyn’s New York Times story stand for the moment as the last word on this painful loss to the fashion world. She was a designer embraced by fashion quarters in Los Angeles and, naturally, the celebrities she styled and dressed; and to say she will be missed seems a grotesque understatement.

The KKKwover

What else is there to say? I don’t hold it against Anna Wintour, et al. that she put that ridiculous hashtag on the cover – though there’s not a kernel of truth in it. (Really?? #TalkedAboutByWhom???) You’d think that Twitter was practically invented for such a phenomenon. The problem is not celebrity, per se. Vogue has featured celebrities on its covers for years (though of course it was Wintour herself who ushered in this wave). What is the “People Are Talking About…” section about, after all, if not celebrity in one form or another? Nor is there any problem with a celebrity couple. (I mean, why not? And the entertainment world is full of them – from Lunt and Fontanne to Burton and Taylor to Brangelina) But there’s a difference. These people were celebrated for something they had achieved – artistic breakthrough, watershed discovery, an original way of thinking or looking at (or hearing) something, a theatrical coup (or sometimes a coup d’etat), a physical feat, or (yes) an original style. Inevitably there are anomalies. Political figures occasionally appear. (But then once upon a time, we actually had such things as legislative breakthroughs.) So did certain society figures once upon a time (and still do), but only in their capacity as arbiters and exemplars of style and fashion – which after all is what Vogue is supposed to be about. If your principal achievement is producing records, an argument might easily be made (and even then, I’d argue against a cover). But if your mystery achievement (‘where’s my sandy beach?’) amounts to little more than Hollywood clubbing and partying, compulsive shopping, plastic surgery, personal styling and adornment with an emphasis on the bling, you should probably content yourself with that bible of the B-list, US Weekly.

The shape of things to come

I was going to give you a few of my notes from the far side (of the runways) – shapes, colors, textures; the best of the looks. (There were a few surprises among the collections.) But it will have to wait for the next post. It won’t be too long. (And it won’t be this long, either.)

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