Isaac Mizrahi

Sweet Nothings: Fashion Week 2011

The fashion industry, both high fashion and ready-to-wear collections, shapes our perception of what is acceptable in apparel presentation and how we express our individuality through dress. It can be summarized as the expressionism of the female form through an extremely intimate outlet that emphasizes the relationship between garment and figure; how the two intertwine to create a unique artistic medium of expression. Ever knowing of the female figure, one would think that women are designing for the woman’s body, however, those individuals dominating high fashion, both historically and today, are, most frequently, men. The apparel industry’s structural standing as a male-dominated culture heightens a pre-established, sexist, social existence as it simultaneously creates an acceptance of the beautification of an industry (as well as countless generations) through the female muse to create a constantly evolving hegemonic viewpoint within the subculture of fashion design.

The art of dressing is a tribute to the body in the purest form, a pertinent form of expressionism that encompasses the way we, as humans, convey our inner emotions. A colloquial dance with the body, attire goes hand in hand with expressing our thoughts through color, fabric selection, pictures, and shape. In Jennifer Craik’s work “The Face of Fashion: Cultural Studies in Fashion,” Craik quotes Bordieu (1986) when defining bodily movement: “the way in which we clothe the body can be regarded as an active process or technical means for constructing and presenting a bodily self.” She reiterates this statement of bodily function in describing it as a relationship that can further be suggested as the designer “playing the role of the definer; he forms the “life” of the body through clothes, adornment, and gesture.” Craik defines the body as the naturally physical form that is trained to manifest particular postures, movements and gestures, culturally primed to fit its occupancy of a chosen social group, stating that “body trainings create certain possibilities, impose constraints in the process of acquiring a range of body habits that are expected and taken for granted in a particular cultural milieu.” Bodily habits form a certain sense of being in a social setting, creating rules of what is acceptable or not. Fashion design often colors outside of these lines in undermining certain expectations and conventions of expressionism using this bodily form. Apparel construction encompasses the body’s vectors by creating a second skin of a fashionable garment that fits the contours of the body an expresses an inner sense of being.

Today is day three of 2011 Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, presentation extraordinaire. Artists are bearing it all for the world to see and those designers abroad are chewing at their fingertips in anxiety to see what American-based designers like Jason Wu, Richard Chai, Marc Jacobs, and Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez have are bringing to international pallette of textile and garment design.

I’m dying to go to Japan. Having programmed my weather-bug (out of curiosity) to give weather reports of Tokyo, I wonder if the grass (should I instead be using asphalt and city-lights instead?) truly is the deepest green over in the East. What can we read from Japanese trends, and WHY are they so far ahead of us egotistical “cutting-edge” Americans? Let’s closer look at COMUNE, an affordable street-wear company that born out of Ambiguous Clothing. Founded by Frank Delgadillo, Comune has grown exponentially over the past five years to become an international company of high regard to Japan’s fashion culture. So what is it that the Japanese see that we do not? In an interview in the September issue of Transworld Business, Delgadillo gives us his insight on the Japanese market. “Back then in ‘96, maybe a little earlier, I was travelling [to Japan] four to six times a year. Everyone was talking about London and Europe, but I was really keyed in on the Japanese fashion market. I [saw] it as a dumping ground to a lot of people. People were like; “we’re American made” and Japan would buy it, but no one was paying attention to that market. The only brand I saw that was, was Stüssy, [and] I saw this huge almost cult-like following and was so intrigued by it. Most of what we did early on was pay attention to the Japanese market and see exactly what they were doing and not just viewing [that market] as a paycheck and selling things that just said “American, U.S.A….Everything I ever do revolves around the Japanese market; from design to my motorcycles—everything. It’s funny, people call me the most Mexican Japanese guy they know. I’m really into the Japanese culture. I love how they do things, how they pay attention to detail. From furniture designs, to motorcycle designs, to the way they design their stores—it’s just a huge inspiration every time I go there.” Western- born, designers have tapped into the Japanese market, making me question just how far ahead of us the Japanese are. What does Japan have up their sleeve in terms of reading the design aesthetic? Is it engraved in the culture so much that it is obvious amongst the city-dwellers and we must visit  Tokyo to see for ourselves? Tokyoites like Yohji Yamamoto have so much to offer the sartorial community that many of us can not even see.

Digressing from Comune’s aesthetic, I have to become mildly feminist to question something that I’ve always wondered about women’s wear and design origins rooting from a masculine (and often a homosexual) mind. To play off of the joke of having impeccable “gay-dar”, I feel as if homosexual male designers have an impeccable eye for women’s wear and this is something that I envy oh so much. Look at Valentino, Marc Jacobs, Isaac Mizrahi… the list goes on. Though each of these women’s wear designers’ garments are all beautifully contrived, what do we read of the large majority of them being of the mastermind of a male designer? What does this designer see within the woman’s form that the hetero-sexual female designer can not? Are women of today too absorbed in a self-conscious perfection of themselves to free their minds in order to embrace the natural form? Are we too distracted with the body as the object as opposed to allowing it to be merely the form to which art is molded?

A sneak peek at what’s been seen within the past three days; hopefully there lies more treasure in the cold between now and the 17th! Jason Wu certainly hit a home run.

Jason Wu:

Richard Chai:

Organic by John Patrick:

Joy Cioci: bringing runway fashions closer to ready-to-wear.