Discolored or simply spectral, its blonde crest has haunted the halls of the Paris metro for several months already. The grainy black-and-white of the photo proposes a partial dissolution of the subject, rendered complete by the striking letters on its printed poster format: Margiela. On the poster announcing the retrospective of the couturier at the Palais Galliera in Paris, few recognized the features of the face crowned by the crest in question – or headdress, with Margiela we cannot be sure. Most would not have found much to see, the name and a fortiori the appearance of Catherine Chevallier being unknown to them. As for the others, they would simply have never thought of the convergence of two domains that in spirit oppose each other totally: fashion and art. The art critic and publisher, member of the editorial board of the magazine MAY and co-author of an anthology devoted to the prestigious German magazine Text Zur Kunst participated in the Margiela fashion shows as did many other players in the cultural ecosystem of the 1990s. What to do with this anecdote? For the field of fashion, not much, apart from giving a historical basis to a phenomenon today become commonplace: to endow the creations of a brand with a face that we do not know so much for its features as for the activity carried out by the person.
Fashion poses itself few questions, turned entirely towards an exterior that it absorbs, remix and regurgitates. Its strength resides there: its capacity for wholesale absorption of cultural phenomena and its often involuntary quality of acting as a seismograph of the zeitgeist. Whereas art poses itself too many questions. Art is an introspective and sometimes timorous creature that observes the outside world from afar, preferably wearing the glasses of critical attitude – glasses that resemble more those of the welder wishing to protect himself from too-lively sparks than the symbolically-charged and self-affirming accessories that are luxury frames. That fashion can have a body and that this body can be that of an artist, art accepts only as long as the spirit of the artist in question doesn’t venture there too much. The opposite – the indiscretion of artists in the field of fashion – proves immediately far more problematic. More precisely, that the artist claims not to collaborate punctually with this outside that is the fashion industry, but rather that he indeed wishes to remain an artist and to make artwork by appropriating a certain story, gestures or structural functioning, that’s what rankles.
Certainly, things are changing. For the elders who still maintain awareness of this border, the rapprochement between art and fashion is a subversive gesture. It shows the way art becomes industrialized; the way the standardization of identities and the marketing of individuality are criticized. “We think that the connections between fashion and art come more and more from the application of various conceptual strategies – parasitism, the abandonment of the individual artist in favor of a collective work or of flirting with anonymity, the diversion and the format of institutional criticism.” So we read in the editorial of the themed issue devoted to fashion published in 2016 by the magazine Text zur Kunst. This copy of the magazine is historic enough to be today totally out-of-print and unfindable; and if it is historic, it’s because we find in it a first theorization of these relations, one which does not take so much take a side as it decodes fashion and the interest it brings as a phenomenon of the period. After some figures as isolated as they were stellar to have carried infiltration as a banner, the
Bernadette Corporation or Reena Spaulings of the years 2000, the magazine would draw in the 2010s profiles like Telfar, Eckhaus Latta or DIS Magazine.
For these newcomers, fashion was not approached so much as a story of forms than as a certain temporality, that of the event. Yet fashion finds itself perfectly adapted to echo the debut of the era of accelerated traffic and of the hyper-event-driven reality that is now ours. The fashion show undertook to bring the performance out of the institutional justification of the white-cube; meanwhile the diffusion of images in lookbooks, advertising campaigns and video-streamed fashion shows reinvigorated the legacy of pop but especially of the Pictures Generation. Fashion made it possible to envision a discourse that would be situated more in sewing confusion by mimicry and infiltration, escaping the sterility of a criticism still threatened by a nostalgic past-ism. “Do Not Iron”, Sans titre (2016) and Unemployed magazine’s project applies to this stage. The selection of garments or jewellery of artists is also considered as comprising the objects’ being put back in circulation in the format of an event. These works of twenty-seven artists, mixing both historical and contemporary, are presented through their mise-en-scène, photographed by Reto Schmid. If the shots roam the interval between the pack-shot aesthetic of DIS magazine and more stylised fashion photography, the fanzine itself hovers in the uncertainty between the glossy magazine and the mail-order catalog. A hybrid object, furtive and nomad, destined for the dissident bodies of the post-medium generation.
A collaboration between Sans Titre (2016) and Unemployed Magazine
Photographed by Reto Schmid
Styled by Helena Tejedor
Assisted by Garance Chaplain and Julie Lally
Designed by Charles Levai Casting by Ibrahim H. Tarouhit
Text by Ingrid Luquet-Gad Translated by Aaron Ayscough
Special thanks to Bonny Poon, David Fleiss, Union Pacific, Sundogs and La SIRA.