Networking. Handshakes. Hugs. Kisses.
Afterparties. Alcohol. Sex. Accolades. Confrontations.
It’s all there.
Year after year, the propensity to enjoy the catwalk both rises and soars and bursts into a glittering shower of dazzling, emotionally charged confetti.
Why then, does a seasoned fashion week attendee often tend to get bored after a few seasons?
Edging across (and sometimes finding myself in the crux of) the field, I am admittedly still continually entranced by the industry, having worked and networked with friends and designers and models across all lands between oceans. Having seen the mirrored catwalks, celebrity showtoppers, the teetering models with flamboyant head pieces, the designers varying from placid to proud, and chatted relentlessly with the makeup artists and photographers, the well rounded perspective naturally taints my perceptions slightly. Having attended the hubspots of in New York, London, and even with stints in Milan and Paris, hence the big four, I sometimes find the boutiqueness of Amsterdam’s week or the freshness in Mumbai’s more appealing. Laundry list aside, it has struck me that whilst I do bite my lips in anticipation, I have slowly become a bit weary of the styles of the seasons. Something seems amiss. It’s almost like watching the same movie repeatedly, over and over again, albeit perhaps in a different cinema. Or watching a string of increasingly glamorous but undoubtedly awkward remakes. Not that the clothes are the same, nor are the models, and sometimes even the designers differ. Then why, and how, can one be bored?
Fashion Sans Wearability
Many critics have now realized that designers often overlook their consumer. Unwilling to create clothing that is too mass market, the spectacular designs remain somewhat restricted for only the catwalk. Whilst an artistic feat, they forget to fulfill the purpose of wearability. Which is why we see ladies strolling in outfits highlighting matchstick legs and being globulously unflattering around the abdomen, or men in fluffy skirts or shards barely covering essentials. And sometimes a girl with a pink fringe, or a sheer fabric explosion giving voyeurs a peeakaboo into more than necessary, which may be used as evidence to get closer to nature, or resemble eco friendliness. At this rate all that is missing is the apple and the serpent.
Sheer stepped into vogue in 2010. But transparency does not qualify as sheer. Particularly when wearing plastic (that looks banned) akin to a trash bag, or when posing it off as outerwear for men on a golf course! (Photo Courtesy: Yahoo! for New York Fashion Week)
Airport-like Waiting Times
You know a waiting time is descending into madness if compared to that of waiting at airports for flights stuck in polluted air traffic. Things may not be so different at fashion week, as there are crowds of people exuding nose punching fragrances from musky or aromatic families, interlaced with other odors, all squirming in the audience, backstage amidst redressing models, and even outside the facility. For popular shows with an entourage of invitees, lines snake around in keen eyed circles with the coveted invitation clutched with utmost anxiety. And even when inside, ushers camouflaged in black outfits often nudge one into painstakingly small crevices between chairs and seats, unless one is on the A list celebrity roster. Thankfully having always gotten seat tickets (even after standing strategically close to a vacant arena), I have still managed to sustain myself when standing. The sitting and waiting is sometimes marginally worse than the standing and waiting, as all one views is backs, hair, cell phone screens, and huddles of people crowing around pseudo celebrities, sometimes even around larger-than-life on screen personalities who look surprisingly petite off camera. But, as history has proven, even eye candy cannot make waiting fun.
Creditless, Expressionless Models
Models are not hangers. Yet, the sheer quantity of well sculpted bodies mannequinizes them. Sad really, since some of them are so much more articulate than the notion of dumbness that ensues all. Not to mention how makeup artists talentedly vanquish all signs of real youth, aging these kids to unfathomable levels. And yes, even they get excited when the show stopper is a celebrity, or on the off chance that the smile that lights up their face at the finale is genuine. I have so often chatted with friends and acquaintances who grace the ramp and heard their tales of wearing precariously put together clothing to strut down the walk, clutching on to nerves for dear life, cursing the designers for wriggling them into unwearable material that itches or yanks at sensitive spots. Top that with the state of being unfed and exhausted, but always zapped by the glitz of the shutterbugs and inevitably beaming in the photographic aftermaths that plague these candy bodied mortals in magazines, the web, their Facebook pages, and for life. Life is a tradeoff, after all.
Expressionless models are a known facet; yet hiding the faces altogether makes it simultaneously artistic and tragic. A wounded party goer, a faceless skull, and a face strapped warrior. A wounded look for Narendra (Photo Courtesy: India Fashion Week), Alexander McQueen’s skull sans face (Photo Courtesy: Alexander McQueen at Milan Fashion Week), and an outfit at London Fashion Week (Photo Courtesy: the Guardian)
Old Wine in a Champagne Bottle
It’s not just that old wine is recycled and rebottled and resequinned, but it is placed where it does not belong. Which is why we have humongous bowties under midriffs, turtlenecks that rise above breathing zones, dresses on dudes and clashing marriages of polarizing fabrics and textures. Hence the feeling that what one sees is not only déjà vu, but also an uprising in the wrong place. It can relay excitement and mask a cloak of newness, funk, and innovation, but few would laugh if the Eiffel miraculously erupted in Egypt, or if the Taj Mahal landed in Norway. Yes, the comparison is that paradoxical. And yet, we all somehow live on the notion that paradoxes are addictive and appealing.
Some things can look good without the companionship of others; the silver is sufficient without the pop Barbie attire; ditto for the plaid without the prisoner garb, or the corset and flare skirt without the snipped shreds of fabric! (Courtesy: Yahoo! for New York Fashion Week)
Retail Me Not
A fleeting shopaholic trip shows that retailers have gotten funky too. Armani with its sequined mens shirts, Calvin Klein with its runway hues, Topman with its provocative mens cuts, Desigual with its kaleidoscopic illusions on fabric, Guess with its new levels of distress, and many others that I have keenly observed in my Out of Hand Observations, over and over again. These retailer specimens are increasingly reminiscent of the abstraction seen on the runways. Are retailers getting more stylish? For that would leave fashion weeks in a tight spot, powerless in predicting and dictating the upcoming season, but rather seeking an alternative positioning in the world of haute. Perhaps this contributes to their well dimensioned unwearability, due to which the designers face the flak of critics and voyeurs, much like my own crib to lack of style. It is almost akin to the Gap syndrome, for until fashionaistas figure out who their core consumers are (these need not be who they aspirationally hope to appeal to), their clothes will be dismissed by the majority and lauded by the straddlers. Is this why designers have moved to newfound inspiration from objects, housewares, and even garbage to craft their new trends to air on the coveted runway?
Object inspired fashion, perhaps as an strategy to differentiate from retail. A shower curtain, used aluminum cans, fish net, and an inspiration from a messy picnic. Is this even marginally impactful for a coveted Fashion Week? Designer Gayatri’s shower curtain dress (Photo Courtesy: the Guardian), John Galliano’s fishing net, and aluminum soda cans for accessories (Photo Courtesy: John Galliano), Agatha Ruiz de la Prada’s messy picnic look (Photo Courtesy: Milan Fashion Week)
Normality becomes a Category
Themes and buckets of styles that distinguish one from another are a commonality. Yet, a clear piece of evidence depicts how how warped this entire concept is. In 2010, fashionistas touted the fact that there was a show segment for plus sized women (plus broadly defined as above a skinny seeming US size 2), and many mens only shows. Since neither group is a minority, it is only natural for an out-of-box thinker like myself to wonder why normality deserves a callout for being in a globally touted medium. Has normality become an oddity?
Menswear as a category may seem obvious, but when men need to wear rawsilk frocks and furry tunics, or a Philip Lim puffed blouse with harem pants, or worse a Coca Cola punk ripoff, perhaps we were better without specifying a line for men. (Photo Courtesy: Yahoo! for New York Fashion Week)
The Anti-Climax Time Frame
The model literally races across the walkway, exuding an attractive yet expressionless aura. And unless one is part of the paparazzi of photographers strategically crouched and uncomfortably placed between legs, hands feet, camera stands and chunks of lens, one may not get a satisfying peek. Yet for side gazers, forget a clear picture on your camera – especially the Iphone or a non-SLR – one will end up with a photograph capable of being in a Night Shyamlan’s series of movies where ghosts come to life; a blurry visage with a dash of surrounding translucent color. And the scarce time on the catwalk is only sufficient to observe a tassel, a scarf, the pumps, or the neckline. Or, as the colors have gotten bolder and brighter and zap you out of your seat, perhaps all that is left for memory to recollect is a power punch of Superman blue, competing with the Batman cape that flew by a few seconds ago, right by the windy carcass of a distressed yellow design. Perhaps all this is strategic, placed in fast forward mode to leave one craving for more. Which is why we often find ourselves reading reviews of favorite shows despite having been there in the flesh. Validation, verification, and reassurance, sans the hassle!
Despite anti-climaxes and hurried rushes, these wraparound yards leave no memory etched in the folds of the mind; not the sequinned Superwoman with a crepe cape, nor the armless yellow sheet, and the absurdity in between. (Photo Courtesy: Yahoo! for New York Fashion Week)
The purpose here was not to tarnish any charm of affection one may have for fashion weeks and shows, but rather to bring to light the feeling of déjà vu that is felt in doing things over and over again. Be it travel, date, eat, or attend fashion shows, after a certain point, things start looking similar. Thus the need to constantly reinvent and revitalize.
Or will it be yet another routine of the mundane elements sequenced together in a predictable way? Glitz. Glam. Stress. Networking. Handshakes. Hugs. Kisses. Afterparties. Alcohol. Sex. Accolades. Confrontations.
After all, It’s all there.