S/S 08 Thoughts pt 1: Legacies
There's no institution more fascinating than that of a fashion brand. Designers and the houses they design for, their own names or not, strive to create or uphold their own institution with every collection they present. How do you handle the burden of a legacy, spin it into something new, build one into something covetable, or simply maintain the potency of past grandeur?
Rei has built her company, Comme De Garcons, on the premise that fashion is a medium that can nurture and also demand a reactionary voice. She shocked the 80's and the stuffy fashion establishment of the time and this cause has been the theme of her label ever since. But since then we've seen so many alternatives come and go, it brings into question the relevance of her ant-fashion/anti-pretty rigor. For a generation that regards deconstruction, full black ensembles, and uncomfortable allusions old hat what else does she have to say? Does it go beyond a clatter of color and technique? Does it resonate beyond making something challenging and creative for the selective few that will appreciate it? I went into the CDG store in Chelsea recently while waiting for a friend at a nearbye bookfair. It's appropriately settled amongst the notorious galleries, the whole area bleeds a concious effort of art. But like the institution Chelsea has become the clothes on the racks seemed just as stagnant as the art (in all it's good intentions) across the street.
And then you have the stuffiest and most moribund institution in fashion, Yves St. Laurent.
St. Laurent quickly built his name into a juggernaut force. And as time went on his own acuteness waned. It's fair to say that St. Laurent was not at the top of his game the last 10-20 years of his career. Of course it's neither here nor there, my point is not to discredit his greatness. It has more to do with the conundrum that Stefano Pilati inherited. What is he to do? His challenge is simple but strenous, to resubmit the creative force and chic aura that the young St.Laurent triumphantly crafted, and he must sell. He's gotten a hard time with the editors, some expecting too much or simply not evaluating him on the right merits. But I find that when Pilati trusts his own instincts the most is when the nexus of his own talents and that of St. Laurent becomes so engorged and bares the most sincerity. Pilati has proven himself over and over and this most recent collection is perhaps his finest. But does it make any money? It's a "but" that stings and I'm sure one he's infinitely aware of. How does he fill the footsteps of a giant? Perhaps he can't, but he's certainly making his own.