The aesthetics of several fashion shows recently held in Paris have captured my attention. Fashion is something that’s held my interest for a long time. By “fashion” here, I tend not to mean everyday style, though I enjoy thinking about that as well. Much of my interest rather lies in the designing of garments that are pieces of art in themselves, like those displayed in fashion shows worldwide.
Why appreciate fashion design?
I’m fascinated by the artistic process that lies in creating incredibly detailed pieces, from the way designers and makers produce a garment to the life that the garment takes on when a person wears it and gives it movement. The world of fashion is one that I’ve often seen dismissed by those seeking more “serious” art. Fashion often has a reputation for being shallow, vapid and petty. To an extent, that can be true (the competitive and social aspects might have those qualities).
I want to focus, however, on the art itself. Fashion design is woefully underrated, I think, yet is worth our consideration. I think that it warrants our time and attention because there are few other arts quite like it.
clothing is art, brought to life
We view most of the other art in our lives from a distance and with a certain kind of stillness. In fashion, we can engage so intimately with the art itself. More than that, even, it is necessary that we interact with it. Clothing requires a wearer! This means that beautiful garments take on unique lives of their own, and are animated in a certain way when they are worn. No designer creates garments that are meant always to be still. Much of their thought, in fact, lies not in how the garment appears when still, but rather how it moves and looks when worn.
One of the shows that prompted me to think more these things was Rodarte’s Spring 2018 presentation in Paris. Rather than present on a typical runway, designers chose to hold the show in the gardens of a 17th-century Parisian abbey, backed by the quiet music of Yo La Tengo. I love the intention to create a meaningful experience in a show like this. The ethereal profusion of baby’s breath in swathes around the models connects them visibly to the life in the gardens. They become like flowers themselves here, enveloped in tulle and lace. Such a presentation makes the garments come alive beautifully.