PaperCity Magazine

May 2019- Dallas

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Page 59 of 95

the wealthy to dress in a way that can be shared with the masses. With the '90s came that abrupt kind of snap — both economically, with the recession that hit in the first year of the decade, as well as in fashion. Gone were the embellishment and look-at-me manner of the previous mode; in came a moment of minimal linearism. We had a man from Arkansas in the White House, with a wife who would become fa- mous for her demure pantsuits. When dressing up, understated elegance was the trend of the day. Take Carolyn Bessette's Narciso Rodriguez wedding dress — a bias-cut silk sheath — that she wore in 1996 when marrying John F. Kennedy Jr. Its modernism could not be more emblematic of the 1990s, espe- cially when compared to the dramatic gown worn by Princess Diana when she wed Charles, Prince of Wales, in 1981. Princess Di's cloud of a dress, designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, was layered with a weighty amount of silk taffeta and embroidered with lace, sequins, and at least 10,000 pearls. Such 25-foot-train level of excess would never have felt right in the '90s — a time when the perfect symbol of wealth was a simple black nylon bag, nearly logo-less but still recognizable as Prada. The It-designers of the period were members of the Antwerp Six. Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester were working in a silhouette of deconstructivism. Elongated and streamlined, Demeulemeester was one of the first to embrace the notion of punk rock, which was spreading like wildfire through the Northeast. Nirvana's Kurt Co- bain was the heartthrob du jour, and his style of grunge made an unprecedented foray into high fashion. This was the first time androgyny and a rejection of silhouette were seen in luxury. And, like the trends that came before it, what we suddenly saw on the runways was a reaction to what was happening in the streets. The cultural and musical influences wove into fashion, with an unshowered look of faded denim, tattered tees, piercings, and combat boots. Who could forget when Marc Jacobs sent grunge down the runway for Perry Ellis in 1992. He was quickly fired for showcasing the rebellious collection — but he would ultimately have the last laugh. Not long after, Steven Meisel shot an iconic portfolio for Vogue (at the hand of creative genius Grace Coddington), under the headline "Grunge and Glory." The look would rule the decade — and Marc Jacobs would go on to become one of our modern era's greatest designers. This brings us to the cacophonous order of our day: The first two decades of the 2000s are nearly over. This noisy new millennium could be catego- rized as one of fear. It started with the shiver we collectively shared on December 31, 1999, when we all thought end times were upon us with the dawn of Y2K. A year later, disaster and tragedy would strike lower Manhattan — in the middle of fashion week on September 11, 2001. The War on Terror would ensue — as would a subsequent economic crash so damaging it would take more than a decade to recover. Our government would, from there, become increasingly disparate; even the presidency has now become emblematic of a kind of bipolar disorder, veering from the good-old-boy Texan in George W. Bush to the symbol of hope in Barack Obama to the caricature of a president in Donald Trump. Fashion, no doubt, has responded. It is Spring 2019, and volume, distorted shape, and exaggeration have flooded our visual references. Again, we see outspoken silhouettes as a response to the state of our chaotic world. Japanese designer Tomo Koizumi caused a stir in February, when he showed new and archival pieces from his body of work in the showroom of Marc Ja- cobs. His massive cotton-candy confections seemed pulled straight from a carnival midway. In the U.S., where designers are expected to create wearable garments, this work becomes the stuff of childhood dress-up games. Koizumi's organza garments are armor-like — his foundation of ruffles, a fantasy by which to turn away from class warfare — as ours is a world where the gap is ever-widening between the one-percenters and those living in poverty. Val- entino's atelier has been churning out drama-worthy dresses for the past few seasons and continues to do so, as apparently customers are ravenous for more fantasy. These clothes, no doubt, create a cocoon-like shell to protect our privacy in an age when it seems to be seeping away. The alternative is to think of layered maximalism as a response to the demand for more modesty in fashion. The rise of a wealthy consumer base in Asia and the Middle East would certainly account for this, as those cultures have a history of modesty in dress, unlike the western hemisphere. In this case, to cover oneself and still make a statement requires a certain level of stylistic expertise: The clothes must speak loudly, defining the wearer's personality and originality. No matter the stem of demand, fairy-tale fash- ion interpreted through an alien lens of reinvented shapes creates an alternative universe where one can live in fluff and imagination, free from Trumpian tweets, riots in Paris, and talks of nuclear armament. Indeed, the choices we make when dressing now — and the clothing designers suggest we arm ourselves with — is not much different than the theory by which we were dressing in a post-war age. The re- action of design to the world events as spewed to us in our 24-hour news cycle is the same phenomenon we saw when cultural shifts influenced fashion from the '80s into the '90s. What goes around always comes back around. Wherever the interpretation may fall, as we look back on this moment years from now, with volume and exaggeration comes excitement — for what makes the heart race more than looking at something that is, quite literally, larger than life. Escapism sprinkled with a dash of drama is what we need to maintain a level of optimism in our polarized times, when no one seems to be able to have a conversation outside of their chosen political lines. Think of it as our Marie Antoinette moment — though we must all hope for a better ending.

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