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16-04-2012
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Alexander Fury - Journalist, Editor, Love Magazine
*I'm shocked and surprised there isn't a thread for him already!


Quote:
LOVE has appointed Alexander Fury to the role of editor, where he will oversee both the print and online sides of the magazine. Fury leaves SHOWSTUDIO.COM - where he has held the role of fashion director for the past five years - and will take up his position at the Condé Nast publication later this month.

"I feel as if I'm bucking the trend in moving from digital to print - I'm incredibly excited by the opportunities both online and on the page at Love," Fury said. "It's rare that a magazine manages to foster a unique presence across both mediums and I'm thrilled to work with the Love team, especially at such a pivotal moment in the relationship between magazines and the internet."

And it seems editor-in-chief Katie Grand is equally thrilled at the prospect of welcoming Love's latest recruit.

"We've always given as much attention to what goes on our website as to what goes on the shelf, so for us it has always made sense to have the same person overseeing both print and online editions of Love. Alex's skills as a writer and his extensive experience in digital make him the perfect person for the job, maintaining a consistent voice across both platforms."
*Vogue.co.uk

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Interviewing Lady Gaga for ShowStudio... (There are 10 parts to be seen on Youtube if you click the link)


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Alexander Fury is Fashion Director of SHOWstudio. Following his foundation in art at Manchester Metropolitan University, Fury studied Fashion History and Theory at Central Saint Martins in London. In 2006 and 2007, Fury acted as curator on the exhibition ‘Princess Line – The Fashion Legacy of Princess Margaret’ at Kensington Royal Palace and worked with fashion designer Marios Schwab. He contributes as journalist to a number of magazines, websites and newspapers, including ELLE and ELLE Collections, Vogue Japan, 10, 10 Men, Wallpaper*, the Financial Times and the Independent. Fury has lectured at institutions including Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion, University of Westminster and The Design Museum and also as part of the 2011 Rotterdam Film Festival. Fury consults for various brands and individuals including the BBC and the University of the Arts, most recently working as creative consultant for London designer Mary Katrantzou since 2010. Fury sits on the panel for the London College of Fashion's Centre for Fashion Enterprise scheme, and also as part of British Fashion Council's NEWGEN selection panel.
*ShowStudio.com

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Essay - Alexander Fury
Power Dressing
BY ALEX FURY ON 7 APRIL 2008.

Fashion is inherently political. The choice of what to wear each morning marks you out as a sentient being. It is a manner, albeit tacit, of advertising a point of view, a belief system, like scrawling your cultural affiliations across your chest. Fashion, in short, is sartorial propaganda. In a modern world where we afford fashion the status of the politic it is perhaps inevitable that politics in turn are subject to the vagaries of fashion.

Of course one can argue that complicity between fashion and politics is old-school. Louis XIV used fashion as his foremost tool of government: following the Fronde, the civil war that tore France apart, Louis made his nobility so fashion-conscious within the rigid hierarchy of Versailles that they couldn't think of overthrowing him. Elizabeth I used fashion to reinforce her mythical status as virgin queen, expressing the power and wealth her country did not really have. Even her contemporary namesake uses fashion as a political tool, her coronation gown emblazoned with embroidered emblems of the Commonwealth she was barely holding together. What is different now is that it is the system of fashion, the conspiracy of fashion, rather than its sumptuary frills and furbelows, that is being used by politics and politicians to further their power.

Today, politics and fashion are in cahoots. Fashion, the ultimate spin-doctor, has been seized upon by politicians as a way to further their endeavours. David Cameron's recent appearance on the cover of GQ was striking because it was accepted as perfectly normal. The only other time a Conservative Party leader appeared on the cover of a fashion magazine, she was played by Vivienne Westwood in Tatler's notorious 1989 'April Fools' edition. If we consider fashion the ultimate means of manufacturing desire, it is only natural that politics should seek to harness its power. Politicians are now airbrushed, sliced and diced into their own propaganda, political campaigns run with the slick gloss of a fashion show, candidates styled, buffed, preened, their answers polished to a sheen.

Jean Baudrillard argued that in a post-modern world, fashion penetrates domains of experience outside of itself: it is perhaps inevitable therefore that in a culture dominated by quick fixes - fast food, fast fashion, fast promises - political policies become short-term. One week it is immigration, the next terrorism, the next monetary union, each one seized, milked and spat out, barely masticated like a cheap high-street trend. We no longer have left or right, black or white, just this season's ever-fashionable middle-ground in a fetching shade of grey.

There is something more sinister in these assertions. If fashion uses politics to add weight to its arguments - whether rebranding their catalogue as 'Manifesto' or using clothes themselves as tools of tub-thumping didacticism - fashion is a convenient distraction and disguise for the more dubious machinations of government. Walter Benjamin described Fascism as “the aestheticisation of politics”: today, the flash and scintle of fashion distracts from policy otherwise too dark to stomach. 'New Labour' branded themselves like a top advertising campaign - a fashion campaign - jumping on the bandwagon of 'Cool Britannia' and using it to consolidate their power. At the same time, Labour's broken election promises (on education, health, crime...) were craftily wrapped in a Vanity Fair veneer of hip. In America, Hillary Clinton appeared preened and poised on the cover of American Vogue as dewy-eyed diversion to her husband's indiscretions and perjury.

Fashion is politics' lambs clothing: if you can dress it up and make it look pretty, maybe people won't notice the ugly things it's saying. Again, this may be ages old - propaganda is hardly a modern conceit after all. But in the past, there was some kind of substance behind the sparkle. Today, image is as good as reality: if you can't have the real Hermès Birkin, a fake looks just the same. If you can't have a real politician, does it matter as long as they look the part? The real influence of fashion on politics is the sad, stark reality that image is everything and policies come a distant second.

Propaganda, propaganda, propaganda. All that matters is propaganda.

...Who was it that said that again?
*ShowStudio.com

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Lady Amanda Harlech: 'I really like getting my hands dirty'
By Alex Fury


Easy to say from a dressing-up suite at the Paris Ritz – but fashion's first lady is no pampered muse, as Chanel's new couture collections are set to prove.

Lady Amanda Harlech is the victim of many misconceptions. First and foremost is the fallacy that fashion really isn't much work at all – something with which a hard-nosed professional working through nights to pull together not one but two major collections for a four-week catwalk circus can wholeheartedly disagree.

There's also the misconception about Harlech's actual role in those collections. The popular myth has her jet-setting from a vast country pile in Shropshire to a vault of a couture wardrobe at the Paris Ritz, where she galavants about a capacious suite frocking herself up to inspire Karl Lagerfeld, at whose right hand she has sat for the past 15 or so years.

Perhaps it all arises from the label most often attached to Harlech: muse. "People think of me as a stereotype: muse, privileged, decorative," she says wearily, and warily. "Classically, the muses were the inspiration. They'd come and go – they wouldn't actually make things, get their hands dirty. I don't think I'm a muse, although I think I can help pull a trigger. I really like getting my hands dirty."

Harlech has been getting her hands dirty for nearly three decades – first alongside British design genius John Galliano during his tumultuous first decade in business (she was with him long before the scandal which led to his dismissal, from his graduation through to his appointment to Dior in 1996), and more recently as Lagerfeld's "outside pair of eyes" (his words) at Fendi, during his occasional consulting stints for luxury brand Hogan, Coca-Cola and Macy's, but primarily at Chanel, the most celebrated fashion house of all. Certainly, Harlech's influence will be felt when that great name unveils its spring/summer haute-couture collection in Paris this week.

So let's shatter some of those myths. First of all, the suite is in fact a spacious but serviceable fourth-floor room – Harlech herself shouts out, "Tell them about the glamour of me washing my hair in the sink and getting changed in the bathroom!" while doing just that. Why the Ritz? It happens to be across the rue (Cambon, that is) from the headquarters of Chanel – so conveniently placed that Mademoiselle Chanel herself lived here.

The "decorative" epithet Harlech complains of comes, perhaps, from a lingering Anglo-Saxon puritanism about an obvious love of appearance. It's not to say that Harlech is vain – although she's strikingly handsome, hair pulled back from fine-boned face with a jaw line you could facet diamonds on – but she definitely loves dressing up. While I'm sweltering in a black T-shirt on an unseasonably warm winter's day in Paris, she is dressed in a plissé slip of Chanel chiffon as underskirt to a billowing broderie anglaise dress and Edwardian whitework jacket.

As that outfit suggests, however, there is no misconception about her vault of an haute-couture wardrobe. I saw a small proportion of it scattered across Harlech's room: a silver-embroidered column of black taffeta, a few flawless tweed jackets and a chiffon sheath speckled with seed pearls, like dew. It's an utterly Harlech part of her Chanel contract that part of her wage includes a piece of custom-made haute couture from each collection. With neither the will nor way to take it back to Shropshire, Harlech keeps most of it chez Ritz. k

That's also a neat comment on the divided life Harlech leads: half on the Continent as the woman behind the man behind two of the most successful fashion houses in the world; the other half in deep rural seclusion on the Welsh borders. How does she square the two? "The head is still the same!" she states. "I'm not a schizophrenic, I don't change personality in the middle of the Channel."

That, however, is exactly what everyone expects. And Harlech hates to disappoint. A case in point: the first time we met she was in a geisha get-up to be photographed by Nick Knight for i-D magazine. The second time – again for a portrait sitting – she wheeled in a suitcase, wrapped herself in a vintage silk-and-velvet robe and Chanel couture lace blindfold and became something halfway between Nancy Cunard and Marlene Dietrich. It's more than dressing up; it speaks of the transformative fantasy of fashion – and it's not something you see every day.

It could balloon into pretentiousness, of course. But there's something surprisingly no-nonsense about Harlech. She's down-to-earth and incredibly funny, as far from the couture matriarch stereotype as possible. Few women would describe the hallowed ateliers of Chanel as "a lot of clucking, a bit like chickens. It just gets faster and faster and louder and louder without anything getting done. And I always feel like: 'Don't panic, Mr Mainwaring!'" Her role, an essential one for Lagerfeld, is to be the level-headed one, the calm amid the clucking.

Lady Amanda Harlech was born plain Amanda Grieve in Camden, north London. In fact, scratch the plain. "Where we lived was a nest of writers," she recalls. "Nick and Claire Tomalin, Jonathan Miller, Alan Bennett, VS Pritchett – as well as the Conrans. It was the most exciting place to be a kid. We all did plays and dressed up. It was fantastic." Her father, a solicitor, founded the charitable, artistic Jerwood Foundation, while her well-dressed mother allowed the young Amanda to indulge in her love of dressing-up. That liberal, art-filled upbringing led her down her first path, to Oxford University, where she planned to write a thesis on Henry James and moral bankruptcy. "My voyaging through literature led me to a writer who questioned every truth and intention," says Harlech. "And I find I'm doing the same at Chanel: questioning every surface, extracting the truth of what a designer is trying to articulate."

The leap from Henry James to haute couture is one that few would fathom – but Harlech vaulted it with ease. That said, her first experience of fashion was as a junior fashion editor at Harpers & Queen, where "we didn't work with the Chanels and the Saint Laurents. You had to do it with a T-shirt." Alongside her duties at Harpers, Harlech freelanced for London's junior style mafia – the inventive and arresting magazines that boomed in early 1980s London, i-D and The Face. "It was making something out of nothing, really, with scissors, pins and double-sided tape." Harlech's shoots from the period leap out: girls wrapped in brocades, tousled hair full of twigs and cobwebs like Miss Havisham.

Brocades? Twigs and cobwebs? Miss Havisham? It was only a matter of time before Harlech hooked up with John Galliano, who, in 1984, had just graduated from St Martins, unleashing his French Revolution-inspired Incroyables collection on a New Romantic-crazed London. How Amanda met John has since become a fashion fairy tale. "We sat and had tea, as the light thickened outside and the sky turned navy-blue," she recalls. "It was probably one in the morning when we finished. He brought his drawings, his paintings and his scraps of fabric, his story. Suddenly it was someone who was talking, speaking the same language as me. And my feelings were: 'I don't want to let him go, I can't possibly exist without him,' because he electrified everything that I had felt. Here was the stuff that I dreamt of."

So began a 12-year fashion love affair, as Harlech collaborated with Galliano every step of the way from original sketch to set-dressing. (It was her exquisite lace lingerie which hung on a washing line, "creating a mood" at Galliano's spring 1995 show – and was unceremoniously stolen.) Galliano himself remarked that Harlech was "more than a muse": indeed, years ahead of the now-standard "creative consultant" role allotted to many a stylist, Harlech was an essential cog in the Galliano machine.

"She really starts with me at touch base," said Galliano back in 1996. "Touch base? That sounds like a game of rounders!" shouts Harlech now, laughing. "John would say, 'I've got this idea for little pinstripe suits,' and I'd say, 'Well, they're little honcho girls and they're there in the bar, and they've rubbed up against the brick of the wall – and the brickwork made a mark at the back of their jacket.' That's how we'd work together." It sounds esoteric, until Harlech herself grounds it: "I'm interested in stories. I think I'm a bit of a pathfinder." Hence, Harlech's narratives with Galliano inspired the clothes they created. Take the old-fashion chestnut of X meeting Y (Ancient Egypt meeting hip-hop, for example); for Harlech and Galliano, X couldn't meet Y unless they knew when, where and why. "John created whole worlds for every woman, no, for every girl, boy, woman, man to explore," says Harlech, affectionately.

In 1986, amid the craziness of the Galliano years, Miss Amanda Grieve became Lady Amanda Harlech, marrying Francis David Ormsby-Gore, 6th Baron Harlech. It was their divorce just over a decade later that prompted a creative and professional separation with Galliano, as she shifted alliance to Lagerfeld, Chanel and a wage to support her family. "It was very different and I felt very isolated to begin with. At first take, I felt Chanel was incredibly ritualised, like a court, where everybody had their roles. We all curtsied and kissed at the same time: and if you don't kiss that person, you're considered very rude and you'll have your head chopped off. Now I understand more. Karl is incredibly warm, generous, hysterically funny, very challenging, extraordinarily bright, a maverick genius, never confrontational; it's as vivid in its way as it was with John."

Despite the regular wage, the question of what Lady Harlech actually does from day to day is tricky, because no two days are the same. In Paris, we meet in the afternoons because Harlech has been working through the night with Lagerfeld to accessorise the spring 2012 Chanel collection. Later that month, Harlech's BlackBerry messages reflect her path across Europe: shooting the Chanel campaign in the South of France with Lagerfeld and former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld; to Rome for Fendi; back to Paris to prepare Chanel's pre-collection; and then to Shropshire for a few moments' respite.

Speaking to Harlech, it's easy to see why designers want her around: she's inspiring. Listening to her talk about anything from a book to a piece of music to a particular fashion collection fires you up. (She tries not to look at other shows, but is currently fixated on the "white drama" of Rei Kawakubo's spring Comme des Garçons collection.)

As to what fires up Harlech, that's simple: "Couture has a power that ready-to-wear can never have; the attention of les petites mains as they sew, all that love and belief goes into the cloth. That's what you feel when you wear it," she explains. Her eyes shine as she says this, but it's not the acquisitive glisten of the fickle fashion fraternity, but a true love.

"I'm anti-fashion. I really am," she adds. "I don't want people spending their money on It bags." At Chanel, home of the 2.55 handbag that launched 1,000 knock-offs, that seems nothing short of heresy. But for Harlech, fashion isn't about the easy answer. "I think the most destructive thing is fear: when people don't want to say what they think," she says. "The chorus of 'Oh, that's so beautiful' is very dangerous. I want to ask questions. I find the whole process of fashion a fascinating quest of discovery."
*TheIndependent.co.uk

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^Same as above

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Club Tropicana: Totally tropical fashion comes in from the cold
By Alex Fury


Bright, bold and brash, the tropical print is back from fashion Siberia thanks to designers with a taste for the exotic

There are two images that spring to mind when you think of the Hawaiian shirt.

One is Elvis Presley, airbrushed to matinee-idol perfection on the LP cover of – appropriately enough – Blue Hawaii. The other is the archetype of the American abroad, as brash and overblown as, well, the Hawaiian shirt across his back. Think of the pop artist Duane Hanson's hyper-real Tourists. Could the American everyman wear anything other than a Hawaiian shirt? That's the tussle in considering this oft-maligned, mostly reviled garment. In fashion terms, the Hawaiian shirt is less Wallis Simpson, more Homer Simpson. It's mass, crass and terribly bad taste. And for spring, it's just about everywhere.

There's no single place to pinpoint the upsurge in interest in the Hawaiian shirt – but, when you examine its composite parts, it's simple to see how it slots into fashion's current obsessions. It ticks the eye-popping print box first – and, loud though it may be, that's perhaps the easiest part to understand. Lush desert-island foliage is a small leap from standard florals, and an effortless way to zing up a T-shirt or basic shift dress.

"You felt it starting in people's pre-collections," Kate Phelan, creative director of Topshop, says. "Stella McCartney's pre-summer started with that tropical feeling, as did Givenchy. There was an exoticism I think that was coming through." McCartney and Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci both succumbed to jungle fever, splashing hibiscus prints and suspiciously idyllic sunsets across cotton T-shirts, sleek pencil-skirts and buttoned-up blouses. After all, the Americans call those collections Cruise – the perfect excuse for a Palm Springs-ready palm-frond screen print, a mood picked up by Altuzarra and Proenza Schouler in New York's spring collections. By the time of London Fashion Week, the jalapeño-hot hues of Peter Pilotto's prints and newcomer Maarten van der Horst's out-and-out ode to Kid Creole were less jarring and more intriguing. The decidedly wrong Hawaiian shirt had started to look right.

Before we go any further, there are a few things we should clear up. Firstly, the name – it's really an shirt, although when they began to be exported in the 1950s they acquired their region-specific moniker. Most high-fashion "Hawaiian" shirts over the past two years have come from Milan, courtesy of Miuccia Prada. Her September 2010 womenswear collection was awash with Hawaiian shirts, splodged with prints of sketchy monkeys clutching pineapples. The latter, alongside bold humbug stripes, came closest to a Hawaiian print true, but the boxy, simplistic shape in classic cotton poplin was bang-on. She revived it for her spring 2012 men's collection, splashed this time with Lily Pulitzer-inspired florals – last summer, it even ended up manufacturing those banana and baboon-emblazoned shirts for men.

Mention that "Chiquita Banana" spring 2011 Prada collection to the stand-out Fashion East star Van Der Horst and his eyes close painfully in a flashback to designing his MA collection: "It was horrible – I was working with the Hawaiian shirts and then Prada did the Hawaiian shirt!" Central Saint Martins MA head Professor Louise Wilson pushed him to carry on (via an expletive-laded speech) and in February 2011 Van Der Horst's collection leapt off the MA catwalk.

"Perfectly tailored separates, those deliciously lush tropical prints, topped off with enough absurd frills to put a big smile on my face," is how Fashion East's Lulu Kennedy summarises Van Der Horst's graduation show, hibiscus-prints hula-ing their way across boxy, frill-packed separates that seemed to cross-breed the Hawaiian shirt with petticoat nylon. Or maybe that should be Polyester – not the fabric, but the John Waters movie that Van Der Horst could well be recostuming. "The Hawaiian shirt... it's not John Waters, but it's so John Waters!" Van Der Horst says.

That's part of its appeal. Over the past five or so years the shirt has been subject to many an ironic revival, vintage shirts splashed with lurid prints snapped up for a song. The Hawaiian shirt is the very nadir of naff, which for many immediately rendered it credible. In layman's terms, it's so uncool it's cool – the key to all the best fashion moments. But this summer, designers' Hawaiian moments are set to go mainstream, not just in the inevitable high-street "homages"to the designer prints, but in full-blown collaborations. Van Der Horst's graduation show not only caught the attention of Kennedy and just about every fashion editor in the Western hemisphere, it also attracted Topshop, which put its money where its mouth was and enlisted Van Der Horst to created a collaborative collection. "Maarten's choice of the tropicals is totally on-trend with how everybody is thinking," says Kate Phelan of Van Der Horst's seven-piece high-summer Topshop collection, which is launching in-store and online on 19 April. "The clever thing he's done is making the Hawaiian shirt a jacket and a Bermuda short, making it into a cool boy-girl feeling... it's very easy, it's very lo-fi design. It's based on the principles of quite a simple idea, but the print is what makes it feel special and right for this season."

Van Der Horst's printed blooms have been specially designed for his Topshop pieces, but for his own-label spring 2012 collection, he looked closer to the home of the shirt. "We found a souvenir shop in Hawaii – and we just bought everything!" Van Der Horst says, explaining that he bulk-buys his cottons in Waikiki. "I thought we would find a factory that could make it, but no. We bought everything from a souvenir shop – the owner had no idea what happened to her!" Couple that with Van Der Horst's designs, true-to-classic shirt shape with turn-down V-collar, a loose-fit and transparent buttons, this is an authentic ode to that so-wrong-it's-right shirt.

Van Der Horst's clothes may share an aesthetic heritage with Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez's spring collection for Proenza Schouler, but the approach is different. Rather than true Hawaii, Proenza Schouler looked to middle-American Tikki culture in their raffia-embroidered skirts, eel-skin leathers and burnt orange and chartreuse Polynesian prints halfway between an shirt and beach-motel wallpaper. "It was the idea of these land-locked people re-imagining primitive life," Hernandez says. "Artifice, total fantasy." Bang – escape. That's what fashion's always searching for.

"It's so 'Disney', isn't it?" Kennedy says. "An unrealistically brighter, cuter, less-messy version of reality." Oddly enough, that's what the shirt represented way back when – exoticism, fantasy and escape. To less-sophisticated eyes, this garment was an indicator of world travel, a jet-set souvenir, a true slice of island life. And today? It's still symbolic of escape, albeit into a kitsch fantasy of Americana past. "I love the escapism of the references," Kennedy says. "How it takes you someplace else, a happier place." Tasteful or not, isn't that what fashion should be all about?

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I won't post absolutely everything he's written because honestly, there's a lot, but you can read more of his (rather interesting) work here : http://showstudio.com/blog/blogger/alex_fury

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Alex has THE best reviews in the industry and I mean that. His writing and references are superb and I appreciate his honesty and not sugar coat anything. I'm always amazed by his intelligence. I'm going to miss his reviews at ShowStudio.com.
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10 READS: SURFACE TENSION

There’s an odd moment in the current scheme of the fashion seasons. It has been happening for the past three seasons when, in the space of a car journey from one Parisian arrondissement to another, the entire season changes. Not only the season, but its entire crux: from ready-to-wear to haute couture, from men to women. Incidentally, the switch is more of a leap between the polar extremes of those two worlds, from the skinny jeans and indie scenes of Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent to the sexualised slalom curves of Donatella Versace’s Atelier line.

As a viewer experience, it’s somewhat discombobulating. That isn’t due to the incongruous fluidity of fashion’s always-out-of-synch seasons. There’s something to be said about the Darwinian notion of adaptation, and the ease with which fashion’s eyes have become rapidly accustomed to seeing entirely different but near-simultaneous collections of clothes pitched at a troika of seasons at once, even if they’re all from the same designer. And yes, if you count the increasingly important womenswear pre-collections, we saw three at the same time from many designers in January.

The discombobulation comes not from climate change, but from something even more fundamental: the battle of the sexes, male versus female. The switch from Saint Laurent to Versace is only the physical manifestation of a profound shift in mood.

That all sounds very heavy and metaphysical. It sort of is. The easy answer is that there are fewer shows during the menswear collections; fewer publications attempting to jostle and oust each other for exclusives; not as many editors vying for the important seats and kicking up a ruckus if they feel their placement is inappropriate.

There is, generally, less of a fuss around menswear. Traditionally, that is because the menswear shows have had far less pomp and circumstance attached to them than their womenswear equivalents, and made up far less of the international rag trade’s all-important bottom line. The global average today is a 60/40 split in favour of womenswear. But that gap is narrowing: men make up at least 55% of the luxury-goods sales in China, and the proportion – as well as that superpower’s stronghold on the world market – is increasing. As per its visibility, calendars are swelling with high-profile, high-budget and high-impact shows. Menswear is a bigger deal now than ever before. Nevertheless, there is still decidedly less stress around the shows.

If it isn’t them – the shows, that is – then we must face the fact that maybe it’s us. Us being the fashion press, buyers and assorted hangers-on. Is there something about womenswear that brings out the rabid animal in their audience? For some reason, I find it difficult to imagine a menswear show instigating the veritable riot that closed the last Chanel ready-to-wear collection in March, editors literally ripping apart shelves of ersatz branded product with the frenzied ferocity of a pack of hyenas tearing into a fattened Chanel gazelle.

That isn’t a misogynistic murmur about the hysteria of women, or anything like that. It wasn’t just female fashion editors laying waste to the “Chanel Shopping Centre”: plenty of blokes got in on the act and filched a high-visibility vest or a feather duster as a keepsake. Perhaps it’s the hysteria of womenswear that does it. I wonder if the Loco Coco Riot of Le Quatre Mars (kind of like 4 Septembre, when Napoleon III fell, only with better accessories) wasn’t just a giant, cathartic explosion of the pent-up stress of the entire season. It did happen on the penultimate day of the entire womenswear season – which maybe is a justification for those scenes straight out of Lord of the Flies. “I’m frightened. Of us,” intones the character Ralph at one point in the latter. Maybe Karl Lagerfeld thought the same?

In a sense, that’s an illustration of that earlier point: the womenswear circuit is infinitely more stressful than the menswear. Tension hangs heavy in the air. It’s especially palpable when you cross the threshold into that high-powered Atelier Versace show on the Sunday night of January’s menswear, when the womenswear shows for the year officially kick off.

I wonder if it all boils down to sex, like so much of fashion really does. Vivienne Westwood once stated that fashion is about eventually being naked. Without the corsets, crinolines and padding that still stiffen and stuff even modern women’s fashion shows (and, granted, quite a lot of Thom Browne collections), menswear is that little bit closer to nudity than women’s. It’s a step nearer the eventual goal.

Then, there’s exactly who we’re undressing. I’m hardly shaking your earth if I state that fashion is dominated by homosexual men and heterosexual women. Not monopolised, but certainly dominated. I don’t just mean designers, but every echelon of the industry. There are probably more straight men per square metre at the menswear shows than anywhere else at any other time in the fashion industry – press, models, catwalk photographers, and plenty more – yet they’re still a minority. Which adds a fresh frisson to the fashion mix: desire. Not desire for a dress, or a shoe, or a handbag. Desire for living, breathing flesh.

That isn’t something you get at the womenswear shows. Sorry if I’m debunking the biggest ruse of the entire industry, but womenswear is built around desire to get inside a dress, not inside a person. People want to wear what a given model on the catwalk is wearing. Some may even want to look like her – lithe, young, tawny skinned, and thin, thin, thin. However, there simply isn’t the red-blooded desire for skin-on-skin contact. Modern womenswear is abstracted from physical attraction. Jean Baudrillard argued that the loudly coloured clothes of contemporary fashion (he was writing in the 1980s, FYI) transformed women into objects with a purely flat, symbolic value, rather than living, breathing organisms. How right he was. Today, womenswear models are a fancy, attenuated conveyor belt. Kind of like the Generation Game, except less cuddly. Consider how few of those catwalk girls make it through to the likes of Victoria’s Secret – where attraction is a key part of the casting. It’s about sex appeal, not just hanger appeal.

Menswear, on the other hand, is still about flesh. It’s about men, and male models, on the whole, haven’t been completely abstracted from the rules of attraction. Take the furore over Hedi Slimane’s debut autumn/winter 2013 menswear show at Saint Laurent, and the denouncement of the skinny teenage boys he proposed as his ideal of masculinity. The fact that Slimane’s rake-thin silhouette was pretty much identical to the bodies of womenswear’s top models was ignored, even though among Slimane’s waifish boys there literally walked a smattering of female catwalk regulars such as Julia Nobis, wearing the selfsame clothes. It underscored the androgyny that is so quintessentially Saint Laurent. But it also made people feel uncomfortable because it undermined the fun of menswear: watching the guys rather than the garms.

Womenswear used to indulge in those kinds of tricks also. In the early 1990s, it was all about the supermodels – models who appealed to heterosexual men. In fact, models who had the kind of raw sexuality that oozed from every pore, regardless of the sexual proclivities of those in the audience. There was something rampant about the supermodels – you got a twinge of it at the end of the 1990s, with the Brazilian invasion of buoyant breast, butt and Bündchen. Despite her ubiquity and impact, what Gisele never managed to do during her time on the catwalk, contrary to the likes of Christy, Cindy, Naomi and Linda, was overshadow the clothing.

You don’t really have male supermodels. There are familiar faces (Arthur Gosse, Adrien Sahores or Clément Chabernaud, perhaps) and familiar bodies – those boys routinely trotted out with their shirts off, an interesting diversionary tactic that almost distracts you from the fact a designer has just paraded half a dozen pairs of budgie smugglers instead of a fifth of their collection. Yet that’s more down to weak design than the power of model over medium. Consider the fact that Naomi Campbell falling off her shoes overshadowed not only a Vivienne Westwood collection, but an entire era of fashion. Despite us being able to name the boys, they’re nowhere near that status.

Is that the simple answer to that shift in mood? Is it physical rather than metaphysical: namely physical attraction for something that isn’t dry-clean only? Probably. Fashion on the whole isn’t very deep. It’s all about the surface. And evidently things are far more pleasant when that surface belongs to something you fancy shagging rather than just bagging.

By Alexander Fury
10magazine.tumblr.com

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MENS Runway Model Showlists - Mens RTW S/S 2015
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