When Does a Fashion Review Transcend Fashion and Become Commentary About Life?

I don’t know if you care about the nuances that make a show special, particularly if you’ve never attended a fashion show and simply come here to read the reviews as a sort of chore or action to check off your to-do list. For what it’s worth, I wasn’t at Céline either, and when I initially saw the collection (first through Instagram, then online), I thought how cool it was that Phoebe Philo had presented a wardrobe for women who just want to feel rich (not fiscally, although, obviously, the clothes aren’t cheap) — no ifs, ands or frills. But that was pretty much it.

The dominating silhouettes were sleek, skinny suit pants covered by tuxedo jackets. Models held enormous handbags (so did those at Balenciaga; this could be the next big recycled trend to hit us hard) and there were branded blankets slung over some of their arms. Vogue Runway called this a security blanket. I’m assuming they were alluding to protection needed from the political climate.

In a review in WWD, Jessica Iredale made a really compelling point about how the models were presented: walking through one another as if passersby on the street. This brought home the previous point about clothes for the modern, rich woman. Even more interesting was a detail that has not been left out of a single Céline show recap: reporters were invited backstage to say hello, but could not ask questions about the collection.

Historically, designers have journalists backstage to avoid misunderstanding by making the pursuits of their design intention clear. Yet here, Phoebe Philo is inviting misunderstanding. Only she’s not, because the clothes are both straightforward enough to speak for themselves and personal enough that they could mean anything that a thinker wants them to mean. For one writer, that’s a political statement, for another, its genius plebeian wear. For you, it might be another thing and for me, smarter than the actual clothes is this installation that Philo always puts on.

The conversation starts to revolve around the collection, but it is never actually about it. Clothes are just clothes, after all, right? It’s the story you tell with them or the life you live through the clothes that sell. For Fall 2017, Céline has perhaps surrendered to the rapid-fire change fashion is undergoing, which can sometimes make you feel like you’re chasing the Concorde on foot. She neither wishes to impart an opinion in words nor explicitly withholds from the conversation (no matter what Philo is to do, her collection will be a topic of debate). It’s the ultimate tension and a status that you earn — having people talk around your clothes instead of about your clothes. It makes me wonder if it makes sense to refuse to comment on your collection, to let your viewers have the philosophical debate. They’re going to do it anyway. Why bother adding your two cents? Didn’t you do that when you made the clothes?

Runway photos via Vogue Runway; feature photo by Catwalking via Getty Images.


Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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