FASHION, DISTINCTION, DEMOCRACY

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IT’s possible that Fashion’s power reached its zenith when Kate Middleton married the heir to the British dynastic throne of the United Kingdom in April 2011.

Prince William had fallen in love with her, it was said, as she paraded down the catwalk at a charity Fashion show in their shared university town of St. Andrew’s, near Edinburgh, in Scotland.

Roland Barthes, the 20th century French philosopher and voyeur would have been fascinated by how the signs of the harem had transmitted themselves to a virile young royal.

Realising that the written garment is made by publicists and journalists, created through words, Barthes was interested in the way sign systems produce not clothing, not women, but the abstract notion of Fashion. He saw any number of extra meanings in everyday gestures and images. His genius was to write about them in a kind of reverse poetry; to reconstitute rather than condense.

Arch flâneur, he was consumed with a passion for observation. Speaking of Fashion as a ‘cross-subsidising organism’, he was enchanted by its vivacity, seeing it as a living thing. He thought it could do two things at once; extend everyone’s access to clothes, while making each wearer feel distinctive.

He writes of modern democracy, as if it were a universal given. In mid 20th century Paris it may have felt quite near.  Now not so much!

Paris – City of flowers and lights!

‘I want to be there, NOW!’ to quote Axel Sheridan.cafe-de-flore

It might have been fun in 1954 with Barthes but in Summer 2015 I was on my way but I had to cry off.  I will make do with a Chanel presentation in London this July and maybe I can make Paris somehow, before 2018.

‘What was it about her face?” thought Roland Barthes sitting in Café Flore, Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris, after seeing Audrey Hepburn in the first French screening of ‘Roman Holiday’ on April 4th, 1954. Surrounded by Alain Robbe-Grillet, Michel Butor, Françoise Sagan, Nathalie Sarraute, Romain Gary, Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Bergé, Marcel Rochas, Gunnar Larsen, Givenchy, Lagerfeld, Paco Rabanne, Guy Laroche, Tristan Tzara, Alberto Giacometti, Dali, Jacques Lacan, inspiration came thick and fast for Barthes.

Between 1954 and 1956 his stunningly provocative and most influential text, ‘Mythologies,’ observing cinema, advertising, fashion magazines, motor shows, began challenging ideas about Hollywood, striptease, steak, wrestling, wine, and film forever.

 Born in 1915, Barthes has become the ‘go-to’ guy for story angles and inspiration for 21st century art, media, advertising, fashion professionals and his reputation today rivals that of any of his Parisian contemporaries.

Of Fashion he wrote that it became an industrial synthesis between its making, and its selling. He recognised the contradiction, inherent in the industry, of Fashion being readily available for the many, without losing its ability to raise stakes or status for an individual.

Tomorrow I’ll write about Parc Citroen, Parc Asterix and the pack of peanut butter sandwiches!

Most Photographed

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It’s official! Audrey  Hepburn is the most photographed woman of her generation, BBC 2, yesterday and on iPlayer.

So it’s no wonder Anton Storey  and I had masses of scintillating images to inspire us when we collaborated to feature her in print  in 2009.

So lovely is she in her movies we have at least two wonderful reworked pieces to publish in each part of ‘IMAGES OF PASSION Audrey Heburn and Breakfast at Givenchy’s’

Last week we published part 1 PARIS  as a tribute to her greatest fan, Roland Barthes.  He described her face as an ‘event.’

http://tinyurl.com/zjb6ors

SUCH FUN!

Do any of us have enough ‘fun’?

The last time we can be sure we were glimpsing the idea of fun’s potential seems to have been the 1960s.  So now the word is the super signifier for that decade.

Used by Barbara Hulanicki on her ‘Desert Island Discs,’ by Miranda Hart’s fictional mother, often in interviews with Mary Quant; it expresses the possibility of freedom  and pleasure.

Fizzing with the excitements left over from the take-up of Modernism, in the 1950s, by the 60s for the first time in history the young had money to spend.  Quant, Hulanicki, et al were there waiting for their Art School educations to liberalise the rest and so we began to spend every night, ‘out’!

The moment when it was possible to be having the most fun is surely when Modernism morphed into to its ironic younger sister, the multifaceted, ducking, dodging, diving, diva, post-Modernism.

The revolutionary, tone-setting, Biba brought in well-designed clothes and accessories for a new object-of-desire-hungry demographic.

Brighton Art college graduate Fashion illustrator Barbara Hulanicki opened a mail order clothing company with her husband, Stephen Fitz-Simon.  Their Postal Boutique was overwhelmed with orders for a sleeveless gingham shift dress featured in the ‘Daily Mirror.’

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