Monday, 2 August 2010

Keep Cool

While talking to a very talented jewellery designer the other day, we came to discuss how the essence of fashion has changed throughout the last decades. "The problem right now", he said, "is that it's all about being cool, rather than being original or elegant or shocking; and that seriously jeopardizes creativity". His words stroke me as a revelation; it's so true! And not only in the fashion industry, but generally in the whole Western world.
Shortly after our conversation, I witnessed a strange event: during the same week, I saw three people (very well-known people in the Paris scene) wearing head-to-toe the exact same (very modern and very cool) look. Each one of them was remarking on how the others were completely style-less in a rather crude way. But what terrified me was the fact that I couldn't tell those three people apart, and neither could my friends! I know how the fashion world is, but, frankly, when it starts to look like American Psycho, the best thing one can do is pack a toothbrush and a passport and get away fast as lightning. Which is exactly what I did (except I also packed several pairs of shoes).
Is that what "cool" is about? Being all ultra-modern clones and praying to God that no one will be able to tell you're an impostor? And just what exactly is "cool"? I don't think there's just one definition. In this globalized, multicultural world, everything and anything can be cool, depending on the kind of society you move around.
For instance, I couldn't start to tell you how many girls still think Carrie Bradshaw is the epitome of cool - No, seriously? With those reflective aviator sunglasses? She's so gangsta! She's so 1998! She's so... uncool! Well, that's how it goes: what is extremely cool to one person is a nightmare to another. And talking about nightmares, take a look at the next picture...
I'm wholeheartedly thanking the police for putting these hideous rags away (there should be a law against clothes which fit this badly), but there are actually tons of people who think you can't get any cooler than this. Like, really. They wrap themselves in these tinfoil-like "clothes" which, like Samson's hair, seem to have special powers to transform any nerd into the coolest thing in town, and they go out and actually own the town. Me and my friends think they're all pretentious twits. But that's OK. They also think me and my friends are pretentious twits (I actually think that's how the war between Montagues and Capulets really started).
Then again, apparently there are even people who think this woman is cool. But I can't seriously believe it. And I can't believe she thinks she's cool. And I can't believe she manages to keep a straight face whilst wearing dresses like this.
For most of my friends and the people I know from work, one of the cool icons would no doubt be Daphne Guinness (pictured above). She is fabulous in the eyes of everyone. But don't think all the veredicts about what's and what's not cool are that easy; everything is just as entangled and confusing in the fashion industry as everywhere else.
If I had to name the three coolest designers of the moment, I would say the following (although I'm not guaranteed to be on the edge of cool so I could be making a mistake in which case I would be exposed as embarrassingly uncool):

3. Céline. They have almost achieved a miracle by turning clogs (the ever-so-uncool-yet-paradoxically-popular trend) into one of the most coveted shoes of the season. And Céline's clogs are not even pretty. Even less than that. Yet some magic cool wand has turned them from "eugh" to "faaab".
2. Givenchy. Once cool, always cool. And going up.
1. The one, the only... Rick Owens. You really can't get any cooler than that. And this time I actually mean it.
At first sight, it would seem the pattern to make cool clothes is to use strict, architectural lines, work a lot on leather textures and shove in lots and lots of all kinds of blacks, whites and neutral colours. But that doesn't really guarantee coolness. There are some anomalies, for example:

When did Gareth Pugh stop being cool (with shapes, textures and colours like these) ? People give all kinds of vague excuses as to why he has "lost it". If you ask me they simply haven't understood his latest collections. Gareth is still one of my favourite designers. Ever. But then again, I don't think I am so cool.
How come a brand with a classic, ladylike concept of femininity like Lanvin gets to be uber cool? The pattern clearly breaks here. Good for Lanvin though, I think Alber Elbaz is one of the coolest people on earth.
How the hell does Balmain get to be cool? Oh please...
What is the big problem with Dolce & Gabbana? Why are their designs invariably considered to be the uncoolest things to ever have set foot on a runway? How come this dress is hideous on the catwalk...
... and then when Anna Dello Russo wears it, it miraculously turns into Oh. My. God.? This clearly draws to one conclusion: cool is completely separated from taste, and it's a totally irrational thing. As I see it, it's a bit like being back in high school: it's a constant pressure and feeling of personal insecurity caused by the fear of making style (and lifestyle) choices that the majority your peers will not approve of. Unless of course you have reached the status of too cool for school, in which case you can even make a dress out of a garbage bag à la Debbie Harry and everyone will think you and the garbage bag are it. I, for one, think she was "it"... Destabilizing, isn't it?