Halston looking through the window of a 1976 display, photo by Malan Studio Victor Hugo created the Halston store window displays on Madison Avenue starting in the mid 1970s. Warhol called it street theater, New York magazine called it mayhem, and Hugo simply called the windows his "weekly paintings." Most themes leaned toward the Grand Guignol, with mannequins being used as a site for fantasy, melodrama, and violence.
Just like the style of brutal eroticism in 1970s fashion photography (Bourdin, Newton, Von Wangenheim, Turbeville, etc), many NYC retail windows echoed the same sentiment. Along with Hugo, there was Candy Pratts Price for Bloomingdales and Robert Currie for Bendel's, who all constructed bold narratives that asked more questions than they answered.
Luxury and terror in a fashion image: an unlikely or now obvious pairing? Often appealing nonetheless. Shock and seduction as an allure to purchase.
Parka by Irving of Montreal at Saks, Vogue, Dec
1950 | Waterproof mittens by White Stag at Lord & Taylor,
"zippered so you can keep mittens on, still get at cigarettes, tow
tickets," Vogue, Dec 1950
"Paris, this winter, gives a new ballet flavour to the ski-run. Offers: a new look to legs, in pants of black gabardine, tight as tights. A new look to ankles, in red leather straps laced high like a dancer's." Carven, Vogue, Dec 15, 1946
"White rawhide thong (like those in your boots) threads the sack-neck of this black nylon parka; easily pulled on, pulled close." Vogue, Dec 1950
Nylon jacket with removable hood by White Stag at Bloomingdales, Vogue, Dec 1950 | Parka with emblems of Swiss cantons by Irving of Montreal at Saks, Vogue, Dec 1950
"A lift from a Swiss milkman's jacket" by Picard of Sun Valley Idaho at Bloomingdales, Vogue, Dec 1950
Alpaca cape coverall "worn between runs. With collar that's almost a hood." Vogue, Jan 1947
Vogue Paris, 1953? | Lanvin ensemble, Vogue Paris, Jan 1938
To reach Spring/Summer
2015, the ghost of the Dior femme fleur gets sucked into a futuristic game
of chutes and ladders through a cherry blossom tree lake reflection. To reach
her present she must travel below into the depths of the unknown (M.C. Escher)
waters. The traditional game rewards for virtue and good deeds. In this
version, gatekeeper Raf Simons calls for a reversal of innocence. Reform and
liberation is the goal.
Plastic opera coats printed with
cherry blossom trees are the literal watered reflection from the beginning of
the voyage. They represent a timeline of Dior’s history with Japan: 1950s
Galliano for Dior, as well as Raf’s recent Pre-Fall 2015 collection.
The coats are symbolic wrappings; the tinted glass in which you look to see the
past as well as Raf's crafted future.
Through Simons’ kaleidoscope lens, Monsieur Dior's delicate woman is
transported and transformed. Both tradition and purity are challenged: dense
silver sequins and paillettes overgrow fragile guipure lace like mold.
Psychedelic shapes and colors swirl and fuse onto the body. Legs are violently
strapped in fetishistic vinyl
boots. Organic innocence is defiled by the synthetic, by the new.
Flower's lace is literally being "torn" off | candy cane
fencing traps purity
R: A tile mosaic of “Onde,”a 1969 Pucci scarf print inspired by the
fluid motion of the sea
More bodysuits: 60s op-art + early 70s Bowie as Ziggy Stardust
With traces of the past still on her skin, she emerges liberated, wild
and free. She is a reflection, a historical mirror image—changed by natural,
wild force (time).
André Courrèges blue/pink dresses, L'Officiel, 1969 | Pierre Cardin red
vinyl dress, L'Officiel, 1969 | Elsa Schiaparelli "glass" evening
cape made of rhodophane cellulose, Harper's Bazaar, 1935
Her newness is dependent on the past—but it’s not a direct reflection.
It’s a translation, AKA a glide reflection/transflection.
With ornamentation, a romantic notion of progression is married with the
mathematical. It’s a subtle but powerful comment on how modernism often exists
through a reflection—and a shift—of what came before. A common name for a
glide reflection is also termed a “walk” (referencing the placement of foot
prints). Too fitting when applied here since the future is reached by moving
forward and clothes are given life when we step into them—walking them into our
Taking an abstract form, it’s unclear
what the embellished figures actually are. Commas? Amorphous blobs, matter from
the depths of the lake? Fish? (Look at
the orginal lake reflection from image 1, right-side up.) While they
are meant to be ambiguous, it's interesting to note that some are actual
transplants from educational geometry texts.
Regardless, their movement on cloth is significant and relates to the idea of
the mirror itself, which is re-iterated on the walls and ceiling of the venue.
As the models walked along the circular, winding space, their reflections
appeared and disappeared in a serial repetition. It was a dizzying experiment,
exploring yet confusing the possibilities of time and space.
This fixation on reflective surface can be seen in the presentation spaces
throughout Simons' design history-- from his own menswear, to work at Jil
Sander, and now at Dior.
M.C. Escher, Hand with Reflecting
Sphere, 1935 | Raf Simons SS99
IRL we use mirrors to look at ourselves. Whether it's for the sake of
vanity or understanding, it's a form of self-evaluation. Mirrors allow us to
figure out who we are as well as who we want to become. This possibility of
self-transformation goes hand-in-hand with clothing, as it can do the same.
When we change our clothes we change ourselves.
And who understands the art of transforming more than David Bowie? Raf
admittedly looked to Bowie’s chameleon quality as an inspiration for the
collection. With 40 years of tireless creation, new sound and new personas
under his belt, he embodies the true spirit of effortless change.
Applying Bowie’s knack for masterful
self-reinvention, Simons aimed to reinvent the classical Dior woman (through
transreflection) while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of couture and its
inherent codes of tradition (in the style of 1960s futurist couturiers).
To tie together this idea of
reaching modernity, another important geometric design motif is used.
The rings that are melded onto dress bodices and interwoven and linked
through hair are not ordinary. Upon closer inspection, they subtly twist into
curious form known as the Mobius strip.
Maybe you made the classic paper version as a kid? You start with a
simple rectangular strip of paper (note that it obviously has two sides), give
it a half-twist, and then tape the ends together. What you end up with is a
never-ending loop surface with now one side, one edge. Its inside is its
outside. Front is back.
How does this apply to reinvention, past/future?
1. Transformation occurred through
using its own structure (same way in fashion design where you look at its
history for new design reference).
2. It can form a figure 8 infinity
sign and is an endless cycle (so is fashion).
3. It's history can be re-created
further by cutting along its middle line into thirds to produce two separate
yet linked forms.
Grand finale sequin boots | Chambliss Giobbi, Mobius Beltway, 2013
The Mobius has also appeared in commercial corporate logos. Raf has
subverted corporate logos in his menswear past (SS 2003, an exploration of
consumerism). And now for his namesake, concurrent FW 2015 collection, a
graffitied coat showed a Raf self-portrait wearing a scarlet A 8 on his sleeve. Past, near-past,
past-future—where does it end, where does it begin?
Seems as though the Mobius'
grid-like "topology" is deconstructed (with M.C. Escher's 1954
engraving in mind) and given new life. On dramatic flared skirts, grid
informs pleating and the circling of embroidered striped ribbon. In true Raf
form, the end product is nothing short of a beautiful abstraction; complex and
considered, yet always grounded in a commercial reality.
While couture is a very specific
reality, tailor-made for a very privileged elite, in three short years at Dior
(this being the 6th couture collection), Raf has managed to strip back
couture's usual air of stuffy and haughty excess. Gone is a precious and
untouchable woman. In her place is an independent one who seeks emotional
(albeit luxurious) clothes that show strength and intelligence.
In a trippy experiment of time travel and reflection, Simons' ultimate
suggestion is that time and creation are cyclical and never-ending. His erotic
liberation of the Dior woman occurs as past and future are in a constant
dialogue with one another. The dependence and tension between the two become a
visual structure of the collection, as modernity comes from a backwards glance
and an altered nostalgia relevant for the present time.
Similarly (or better yet retrospectively) Christian Dior's 1947 "New
Look" followed a similar path. His offering of wasp-waists, padded
hips and sumptuous flowing skirts wasn't exactly new, but a revival and reconfiguration
of the past. The past being the kind of Belle Epoque silhouettes Dior's mother
used to wear. It felt shockingly new and was dubbed as a global fashion
revolution because its proposition was so relevant for a post-war Paris that
had been outfitted in military uniform and utility-fashion. The New Look's
opulent hyper-femininity had not been seen for years because of brutal wartime
restrictions and shortages on clothing. If a fashion revolution occurred it was
because of Dior's astute, reactionary vision that time called for change.
Fashion worth celebrating requires this kind of zeitgeist intuition, which
Simons himself has undoubtedly demonstrated.
It’s not an easy feat at a time when fashion becomes meme the minute it
is modeled on the catwalk and risks becoming stale by the time it enters the
shops. The fact is that fashion's immediacy is also its death. This
collection happened to embrace that fact and turn it into a poetic notion.
And so the visual metaphor of the
tail-eating ouroboros symbol comes to mind.
MC Escher, Dragon, 1952 |
Ouroborous “all is one” illustration, c. 2nd century AD.
With origins tracing back to ancient Egypt, the ouroboros is a symbol of
eternal progress and evolution. Portrayed as a snake or dragon, it devours its
own tail to sustain its life in a constant cycle of renewal and rebirth. It's
an emblem of infinity and often appears as a figure 8 (like in M.C. Escher's
Writer/poet, Wole Soyinka has made a connection between the Mobius and
the ouroboros as a philosophy of the "eternal return." Etienne Galle,
a French translator of his work, explains:
"Truth is made up of
contradictions in the Mobius strip as in the ouroboros...the cyclical
pattern...the repetitiveness is not a sameness but a re-creation uniting the
old and the new in continuity."
This reflexive "return," the flowing of backward and forward,
is the transition to new progress. It's a process comparable to the beast that
is the fashion cycle. We may be in a post-trend
universe, but fashion will forever continue to look back on itself in its
search for newness. References aren't optional, they are the framework of
creation as mutation. The present is the focus, but it's up to designers to
retrieve and recombine. Foresight might just be something that has been with
them all along.
Steve Ditko's Dr. Strange from Strange
Tales #138, November 1965 | Passage from Wole Soyinka's A Shuttle in the Crypt, 1972 | Final
lyric of David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream" (which was Raf's title for
this couture collection)