Antidizionario della Moda

In the early 1970s lead singer Richard Hell, during a performance of his band, The New York Dolls, wears a white T-shirt with the words “Please kill me” written on it with a black marker and a nervous, almost childish handwriting. His manager Malcom McLaren, like many other young people in the years after the protests of 1968, can’t stand the ideological militancy. However he believes in the slogan, screamed out, without barriers of any kind, even performed by means of powerful images. In 1976 Malcom and his partner Vivienne Westwood take some basic garments, deconstruct them and put them together again in a revolutionary way: unfinished hems, worn or torn fabric, visible internal seams. But above all, they make use of iconoclastic collages. On an irregular grey striped background pattern – a terrible reminder about the ghosts of World War II – they put writings such as “Only anarchists are pretty!”, “Chaos”, “Try subversion” overlapping a portrait of Karl Marx made in China and a Third Reich Eagle. On another T-shirt the word DESTROY is printed above three symbols: a reverse crucifix, a swastika and a Queen Elizabeth II one penny stamp. Here words and symbols take on a different meaning. Similarly to Dadaism, the artistic and literary movement that flouted conventional aesthetic and cultural values and with its mottos and short poems wanted to destroy the prevailing standards of art, McLaren and Westwood’s expressions violently overwhelme the fashion system and its pleasing mass messages. The same applies to the T-shirt “I groaned with pain” (1976), on which an excerpt of the novel The School for Wives (1955) by Scottish writer Alexander Trocchi is written. This novel deals with women’s role in society in the 1950s in a sagacious and preposterous manner. It is no coincidence that the fabric has two cuts at the breast. Since then nobody has combined slogans and fashion with the same violence and courage.
Vivienne Westwood has always been concerned with new languages, not surprisingly she designs her Autumn-Winter collection 1983 together with Keith Haring, who makes use of his distinctive writing, characterized by fluidity and symbolism, to combine and mix letters all around his “radiant baby” (akin to the “Wild Boys” by Borroughs) on sweatshirts, sweaters, jackets and pants. Twenty years later two Enfants Terribles, fashion genius Franco Moschino and Jean Paul Gaultier, do something similar, though with less anger and more irony. In 1994, inspired by the famous Eisenhower’s speech on the military-industrial complex (1961), the French fashion designer creates some men’s suits with military-inspired style and colours, but then he covers them with obscene writings, graffiti, tags, and, by doing so, he destroys the iconic personification of the rigorous soldier. This transfiguration of the army is not a question of a pacifist stance but rather it represents Gaultier’s sarcastic and queer revisiting of the stereotypes of masculinity (his marines are well-known) over time.
With his 1995 men’s collection (one of his last collections) Italian fashion designer Franco Moschino revolutionizes men’s wardrobe even more explicitly. Trousers, jackets and shirts appear as a chaotic alternation of some erotic ads taken from pulp fiction magazines and the red writing on a black background “Safe Sex!” which eventually becomes an essential cry of desperation if we just think about the designer’s cruel fate. This is a series of men’s suits that publicly proclaims flamboyant diversity against sex discrimination.
The common thread running through Westwood, Gaultier and Moschino is not the same aesthetic but rather the aptitude for irreverence, which is not easy to have nowadays, and thus for several reasons: many fashion brands are increasingly lumping together into large luxury holding companies, so that they lose autonomy and freedom; global markets get bored quickly and have great difficulty building the emotional components that give luxury status brands their value; and finally the new role given to words, which are now simple decorative signs (to serve as an example Stephen Sprouse’s graffiti for Louis Vuitton). Today in fashion bringing out an awkward narrative is a mission, perhaps already disappeared. (Antidizionario della Moda for ORNOT MAGAZINE - all rights reserved)

Mar 1
Slogan
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Shirt, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, 1976 (Costume Institute – Metropolitan Museum of Art)
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Shirt, Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, 1976 (Costume Institute – Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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Shirt (details), Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, 1976 (Costume Institute – Metropolitan Museum of Art)
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Shirt (details), Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, 1976 (Costume Institute – Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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“I groaned”, Vivienne Westwood, 1976 (Costume Institute – Metropolitan Museum of Art)
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“I groaned”, Vivienne Westwood, 1976 (Costume Institute – Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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“El Diablo”, Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren and Keith Haring,  1983 (Costume Institute – Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Mar 1

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“El Diablo”, Vivienne Westwood, Malcolm McLaren and Keith Haring, 1983 (Costume Institute – Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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Jean Paul Gaultier, ensemble, 1994 (Costume Institute – Metropolitan Museum of Art)
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Jean Paul Gaultier, ensemble, 1994 (Costume Institute – Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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Franco Moschino, ensemble, ca. 1995 (Costume Institute – Metropolitan Museum of Art)
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Franco Moschino, ensemble, ca. 1995 (Costume Institute – Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Prima o poi doveva accadere. Che sia stato durante la recente settimana della moda milanese è un dettaglio da non sottovalutare. In un calendario sempre più fitto e globale New York, Londra, Milano e Parigi, per quanto capitali storiche del sistema moda, oggi devono tener conto di una semplice regola: all’affermarsi di un mercato emergente segue quasi sempre la nascita di una fashion week. In questo moltiplicarsi di possibilità e voci, reso ancora più confuso dalla cassa di risonanza della comunicazione web, la sfilata, intesa nel più tradizionale dei modi, è in crisi: la prima fila di celebrità, i flash, la velocità, il soundtrack da classifica a volume altissimo, tutto sembra perdersi nel brusio di fondo che accompagna i tanto attesi sette giorni - cinque a Milano - dedicati alle presentazioni delle collezioni. Dieci minuti di passerella valgono molto se alle spalle ci sono una storia e una struttura tali da trasformarli in un capitolo da tutti atteso e percepito come necessario (è il caso di Prada, tanto per capirsi), altrimenti bisogna rischiare e pensare a un’alternativa. Così succede che Arthur Arbesser, giovane talento nato e cresciuto a Vienna, formatosi come stilista tra Londra e Milano, decida non di far sfilare, bensì di raccontare la sua collezione autunno/inverno 2014-15 all’interno di un edificio anni 20, nell’appartamento dell’architetto milanese Luca Cipelletti. Lo fa lontano dal clamore attraverso una raffinata conversazione tra abiti e oggetti, aiutata dalle aperture nelle pareti che l’architetto ha progettato per permettere allo sguardo, in un solo colpo d’occhio, di attraversare tutti gli ambienti. In questa estetica totale niente è lasciato al caso: all’ingresso, leggeri reticoli stampati su capispalla e minigonne in alcantara, interrotti da fulmini lilla e ironici inserti di polka dots neri su fondo bordeaux, dialogano con le linee azzurre di un superbox di Sottsass.
Nei completi tomboy il lavoro preciso sui tagli e sui tessuti black and white richiama la street culture anni 80; l’epocale copertina di ‘Unknown Pleasures’ dei Joy Division è lì, basta saperla cercare. Un nero non banale che se osservato nel dettaglio rivela una consistenza inedita proprio come l’opera ‘Trapeziums’ dell’artista David Tremlett.
Il contrasto tra un radiatore in ghisa e il vetro sottile di alcuni condensatori per esperimenti chimici si ritrova in un completo squisitamente viennese: un severo cappotto oversized in loden abbinato a un abito e una camicia a righe bianche/nere. Non è un caso se penso all’incredibile facciata che Adolf Loos progettò per la casa di Josephine Baker nel 1928.
Accanto a una fotografia di Patti Smith troviamo capi austeri, ma trasparenti in organza di seta traslucida, mentre un cappotto in faux astrakan rosso chiude, insieme alla serie fotografica ‘L’attesa’ di Ugo Mulas dedicata a Lucio Fontana e all’opera ‘Compass’ di Olafur Eliasson, la prospettiva sulla camera da letto.
I gesti netti di Fontana ritornano nel taglio grafico di un paio di pantaloni neri e in una bellissima t-shirt di jersey lucido, in perfetto equilibrio tra rigore, underground e ironia.
Conversation piece, appunto.
Una collezione desiderabile che apre una riflessione molto più ampia sul come raccontare l’abito, inteso come parte della cultura visuale di un’epoca, che si spinge oltre il concetto di trend e cerca relazioni altre - gli “altri cataloghi” tanto cari a Ettore Sottsass - chiedendo all’osservatore di fermarsi, di capire da dove hanno origine quella stampa, quella silhouette, la scelta di quel colore. Un’intelligente messa in discussione dei modi di presentare le collezioni a cui le sempre più numerose settimane della moda ci stavano abituando.

Feb 24
Conversation Piece
CONVERSATION PIECE

Arthur Arbesser a/w 2014-15 (photo by Henrik Blomqvist)
Feb 24

CONVERSATION PIECE

Arthur Arbesser a/w 2014-15 (photo by Henrik Blomqvist)

CONVERSATION PIECE

Arthur Arbesser a/w 2014-15 (photo by Henrik Blomqvist)
Feb 24

CONVERSATION PIECE

Arthur Arbesser a/w 2014-15 (photo by Henrik Blomqvist)

CONVERSATION PIECE

Arthur Arbesser a/w 2014-15 - Artwork ‘Trapeziums’, hand-painted on the wall by artist David Tremlett in grease and graphite, Eames chairs, ‘Y-Tong’ block table designed by Luca Cipelletti and Bernard Dubois (photo by Henrik Blomqvist)
Feb 24

CONVERSATION PIECE

Arthur Arbesser a/w 2014-15 - Artwork ‘Trapeziums’, hand-painted on the wall by artist David Tremlett in grease and graphite, Eames chairs, ‘Y-Tong’ block table designed by Luca Cipelletti and Bernard Dubois (photo by Henrik Blomqvist)

CONVERSATION PIECE

Arthur Arbesser a/w 2014-15 (photo by Antidizionario della Moda)
Feb 24

CONVERSATION PIECE

Arthur Arbesser a/w 2014-15 (photo by Antidizionario della Moda)

CONVERSATION PIECE

Arthur Arbesser a/w 2014-15 (photo by Antidizionario della Moda)
Feb 24

CONVERSATION PIECE

Arthur Arbesser a/w 2014-15 (photo by Antidizionario della Moda)

CONVERSATION PIECE

Arthur Arbesser a/w 2014-15 - photographs of Lucio Fontana by Ugo Mulas, ‘Compass’ by Olafur Eliasson, chair by Marcel Breuer (photo by Antidizionario della Moda)
Feb 24

CONVERSATION PIECE

Arthur Arbesser a/w 2014-15 - photographs of Lucio Fontana by Ugo Mulas, ‘Compass’ by Olafur Eliasson, chair by Marcel Breuer (photo by Antidizionario della Moda)

CONVERSATION PIECE

Arthur Arbesser a/w 2014-15 - superbox by Ettore Sottsass (photo by Antidizionario della Moda)
Feb 24

CONVERSATION PIECE

Arthur Arbesser a/w 2014-15 - superbox by Ettore Sottsass (photo by Antidizionario della Moda)