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By Matthew Robinson
Is the world of fashion still haunted by the time old cliché of black never going out of style? Indeed it would appear that way looking at the hordes of Parisian editors peppering the Jardin de Tuileries with their “morbid chic” ensembles, resembling a congregation of mourners more than the front runners of the fashion elite. Paris may be renowned for its chic attire and sophisticated minimalism, but can this uniform morbidity and sea of black really live up to Paris’ claim as the fashion capital of the western world?
Black clothing is undeniably slimming, sophisticated, serious; it even perhaps represents the modern emancipated woman. Yet to me, rather than being a statement of their fashion prowess, these so called “fashionistas” donned head to toe in black, who construct their lives so entirely around their satorialist musings, do nothing more than merely play it safe. In a world of extreme scrutiny where these nervous editors daren’t put a toe out of line, it is no wonder why they fail to experiment with colour, for fear of being cast the judgemental eye of their discerning superiors or appearing on a notorious worst dressed list; ironically featuring some of the post progressive styles out there; Tilda Swinton or Helena Bonham Carter to name but a few. Paris fashion therefore leaves something to be desired; namely boldness and experimentation! The hidden rules of this fashion elite seem so incongruous with the notion of fashion itself; rather than being an outlet of creative vision, the Parisian ‘fashionistas’ have no more than an elevated uniform like any other mundane sedentary career. When even Anna Wintour, the editor in chief of vogue USA, infamous for her cold ruthlessness, successfully mixes tones and colour combinations, you begin to question why Western Europe is still stuck in this morbid rut.
Black clothing is undeniably flattering, and this muted minimalism may be just what older citizens need in order to reclaim their stature and seriousness in a society that so readily marginalizes age and idolizes youth. In a world where middle aged women resort too readily to degrading chintz and where middle aged men deem shorts to be acceptable in all seasons of the British calendar, black clothing is indeed a welcome return to sophistication and poise in an age where your position in society is increasingly put under threat. And yet, if youth is the idolized entity of our society, then the black clothing of these editors, who seem to be all in their twenties and early thirties, seems to me to be an alien concept. If youth, a period of time which is distinctly finite, provides us with the freedom of exploration and experimentation, young fashionistas donned solely in black are doing nothing but ageing prematurely; or in other words, wasting their time! Yet I’m not about to rule out a fashion trend that has steadfastly weathered the storm of years of fads metamorphosing around it; I’ll just think about it in a few decades.
We must however make the distinction between monochrome and fashion based purely on the colour black. Whilst monochrome trends may indeed utilize a palate of neutral greys, whites and blacks, the use of futuristic cuts, materials and textures, create a trend which is distinctly other, rather than unchanging. Monochrome, which so often reinterprets our understanding of staple items of our wardrobes, does anything but play it safe, but rather synthesises new versions of minimalist clothing we know so well. Black clothing on the other hand so often acts as a way of covering up or presenting an image of undefined chic and thereby quelling artistic vision.
One of the most exotic fashion icons, Anna Dello Russo, editor in chief of Vogue Japan, will scarcely be seen in anything less than a piece of art. Her notion is “more is better,” and has often been stated as saying that she “doesn’t do day wear.” Whilst she may seem brash, resplendent and somewhat theatrical, she breaks fashion boundaries and takes significant risks, and is perhaps one of the few people who can incorporate haute couture into their daily life. She in many ways encapsulates the idea of fashion as art vivant; the flamboyance of haute couture seeping into the wearer themselves, drawing a hazy line between the garment and the person. Fashion, as art, becomes something vastly more than merely static, but something dynamic.
The two poles of the fashion spectrum seem distant; from the theatrical and the ridiculous, to the morbid and the minimal. Whilst black chic may never go out of style, will it ever be anything more than merely safe fashion? There will always be hoards of fashion editors clad in black, but after all there is only one Anna Dello Russo!