BALMAINCIAGA it was pronounced of the Rodarte show. Balmain plus Balenciaga, and don’t forget Miuccia’s Prada. As the fringe came swinging down the runway, déjà vu kinetosis tickled at my frontal lobe. I’ve seen this before. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much. The forms were familiar, unthreatening. I’d already decided I liked Trekkie suits and American Indian-ish thigh grazing fringe at, respectively, Balenciaga and Balmain, not so many seasons ago.
Of all the great looks yesterday, we’ve seen it all before. This is usually proffered as a putdown. But let’s try something else. Fashion is a language. As in word languages, fashion works from a limited set of signifiers (ways to put material on the body). To create, to communicate, we must rely on existing signifiers (pants, skirts). Innovation comes through new ways of assembling these signifiers (Marc Jacobs in a skirt, innovation circa 2009). Semiotics 101. Are we bored yet? This is basically my argument that, aside from technological innovation (which brings us novelties like transparent leather and A-POC), everything in fashion has been done. We’d be wearing gobbledygook if we tried otherwise. There are, however, infinite possibilities for new arrangements. See: morning mist.
Jessica Stam opens and we’re already in love. The smiling nostalgia of runways gone by. Balmainciaga pretty much sums it up (the shoes, the fringe) but let’s not forget that Christophe Decarnin at Balmain and Nicolas Ghesquiere at Balenciaga were themselves drawing from existing forms. The corseted pants were a welcome Rodarte redux, and the hairdo—with side parting like Gary Oldman in the Jean Paul Gaultier-styled The Fifth Element and ears decaled to Spock proportions—that was pretty cool.
Yesterday we saw Araks, and it reminded us of the voluminous classiness of MK and A’s The Row. And then we saw The Row, and the vest reminded us of Christophe Lemaire, while the rest evoked the fluid American sportswear of eighties/nineties Donna Karan, Perry Ellis, and Armani. I bought my first The Row piece the other day, and I feel like a twin billionaire in it. The Row isn’t about referent so much as it’s about luxury. That feeling is what counts.
Retro futurism. Helmut Lang and minimal nineties rave wear. Angelina Jolie in Hackers. Mod sixties shapes as reimagined in the nineties as reimagined in 2012 for 2013. We loved the bibs, the rib cage shaped crop tops, and the mesh underlinings of Laing’s line. We loved that Laing was reproducing this aesthetic because—polyesters deteriorate, mesh pills and pulls—you can’t thrift that shit.
Diesel Black Gold
Fringed footwear, Decarnin’s Balmain. Boxy coats, Proenza Schouler FW ‘12. “Downtown cool” vibe, Alexander Wang. Diesel Black Gold designer Sophia Kokosalaki was actually looking further back, to London in the nineties and Melanie Ward, Corinne Day, and The Face magazine. Our favorite innovation from Kokosalaki was the slice of skin revealed between the low slung pants and high-cut bodysuits; the hipbone as this season’s erogenous zone.
Perry Ellis by Duckie Brown
It is very Perry, or is it Duckie? Matthew Schneier’s review of this designer relaunch is so great (speaking of writing fashion good) that we need not supplement. But Duckie for Perry is a perfect place to close our tour of reference and imitation in yesterday’s runways because, not only do we like the collection, here we actually celebrate mimicry. Duckie Brown is not just allowed, but invited to paint with Perry Ellis’s muted palette, to make fashion under Ellis’ tone, to use his language. Rodarte’s Balmainciaga is knock-off, while Duckie for Perry is reverence and tradition. These days, the most celebrated collections are coming out of fashion houses. Is that because creativity flourishes within the constraints of the fashion house, or does it have more to do with our discomfort with quotation in “original” lines?