Fear and Clothing
Clothes for the one percent
A reflection on the vagaries and charms of fashion
This last week has been a feast for the eyes and proof positive (if anyone actually needed any more proof) that the world is indeed segregated by income.
If you want to understand what the disparity between the one percent and the rest of humanity looks like then haute couture season in Paris is your visual starting point. I have attended some of these shows. Not as a client you understand. Just a lowly member of the press. By press I mean pressing my nose up against a window to a world that is unimaginably beautiful and almost absolutely impossible to enter. Like the little match girl in that fairy tale. Tragic really.There is no greater divide than the social one. As Maria Grazia Chiuri explained to the people with their nose up against the glass after her Dior Couture show, nobody buys couture on Instagram. Take that ye olde fashion bloggers and Instagram influencers.
This is the one space where the so called fashion democracy that has prevailed over that past few years is immediately annihilated.
It is as if Putin or Erdogan and the little Rocket Man all joined forces to squash all the pretty fashion flowers blooming in their innocent belief that everyone can have everything they want as long as they put a perfect filter on it.
It’s a fashion democracy up to a point and then it is a full blown medieval caste system. At the top of the pile sit about 1,500 people with oodles of cash and a penchant for expressions of individuality and personal freedom.The price is hefty for that sort of thing. If you want to be the only person on your continent wearing a Dolce & Gabanna confection from their Alta Moda collection this season you better be prepared to pay the equivalent of the weekly GDP of a small state on the periphery of the global economy. You will share that confection with seven other people, who come from the other land masses on the planet – but hopefully you can all co-ordinate your diaries to ensure that you do not manifest in the same outfit at the same debutante ball, Davos or event ceremony.Couture has a role to play in fashion I am told. And I believe it. Once all the clothes were made with this sort of care and precision. Some at home by your mother and your sisters, others in Paris at the couture houses where the “petits mains” (magic little hands on magic little elves) created clothes for the one percent. I looked at a morning suit for a young nobleman at a museum in Lisbon recently and could not imagine how many hours had gone into the sewing of the elaborate gold cord never mind the astounding cut of the cloth. No wonder the idea has prevailed that the clothes maketh the man. If you saw an apparition of a man in an outfit like this you would believe he was almost godlike. Certainly he was a member of the one percent.Now the clothes that used to be made by your mother and your sisters are made in gigantic factories, often in very poor countries for very little remuneration. I don’t think much has changed. The only difference is the fantasy that we are all dressed the same.
Yes the ideas you see on the couture catwalks trickle down into the world at large, in broad brush strokes, cheap fabrication and universal sizing that drives everyone to dementia, because it never really is one size fits all – is it?
But we are just all wearing the hand-me-downs of the grandees and their insane wardrobes that happen so magnificently on these catwalks and like the little match girl we are all still just looking in at the window.