On “Je Ne Sais Quoi” and Louche-Baggery

November 19, 2013 • Fashion

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There’s no fashion event as assaulting as the trendy designer x mass retailer collaboration. Hysteria erupts, lines queue, the internet breaks, and every aspect of modern media is overwhelmed with the advertising dollars afforded by hungry consumers’ fast fashion cash. So this past week, when Isabel Marant launched “pour H&M,” we witnessed a 21st century phenomena form a complete circle from high to low under the guise of “limited time/run/prices” and a sense of belonging at the cafeteria table with the popular kids.

And as the goods were delivered onto every editor’s doorstep, the bohemian/masculine/rock ‘n’roll mash-up that Marant is praised for became an accessible reality to Franco-style-philes the H&M-dominated world over, so that every woman, regardless of nationality, can look as though she mistakenly claimed sartorial French citizenship. But why? [Warning: sweeping generalizations ahead for hyperbolic effect.] French women have bed head and smokers’ skin and under eye circles, they don’t wear bras or properly deodorize their underarms or eat sweet potatoes. Hell, they drink wine by the bottle and devour butter without remorse- like God’s gift that it is- and show off their slim ankles in cropped jeans with pointed stilettos, tucking their t-shirts in halfway, like jocks prepping to see Elvis- in Ibiza. The mystery! The suspense! Are you too asking, who could possibly want to look so cool?

Or, rather, should I say trite? In the six years since Emanuelle Alt’s styling star was inducted into the [currently existing only in our collective psyches] Fashion Walk of Fame, the look of the louche tomboy has been the wardrobe of choice to many a French girl and/or wannabe. Six years, people- that’s like an eternity in the fickle world we call fashion. Who has the attention span for that? Or, when future generations look back at the noughts for their decade-themed Halloween shindigs, will this particular “trend” (or can it be deemed, a basics-lifestyle?) remain a sartorial hallmark of the era?

At my first Paris Fashion Week, which I attended as a backstage model mom, er- sister, for my BFF sibling, circa the Spring/Summer 2008 collections, I was first introduced to the burgeoning brand that was [note: past tense used as it is currently beyond that “burgeoning” cusp] Isabel Marant. [Little known fact: the casting directors almost pulled me onto the catwalk because one unnamed Spanish model was three hours late courtesy of Galliano’s Dior.] My sister informed me that every girl in the show wanted to steal the clothes, styled by one Ms. Alt, who was also responsible for the similarly rising Balmain, in addition to half the editorials in Carine Roitfeld’s Vogue Paris. In the seasons following, not only have I watched the label become the unofficial sponsor of the Model Off Duty, but a contributing catalyst for the current Emanuelle Alt syndrome, in which androgynous, rocker styles take precedence over all else and in their effortlessness aim to profess a sort of who-cares sexuality- and surprise, surprise, everyone has been infected.

Do I blame Alt, or Marant, or even Christophe Decarnin? No, no, it’s not their fault the public loves a lazy glamour. Is it Yeezus, the God of us all, and his goddess Kim, whom he dresses like a bootyful incarnation of “le cool Parisienne”- if a vulgar one- and as such lands in each and every American towns’ checkout lines, regardless of populations reading like a Coca Light’s nutrition facts? And finally, can I flash back to that grand master of louche-baggery, Serge Gainsbourg, the king of fashionable carelessness? Sure, they represent the yin to the avant-garde’s yang, wherein artistry and meaning are embedded within a piece’s very fibers, but, although the visual “so what, who cares” vibe might not jive with my own fashion perspective, is that contrast really such a shiver-inducing narrative?

Of course, there are worse things than to look like a Daria Werbowy fan-girl, or as though your foot’s stuck in a heeled cast (cc: Marant 2009), or as if you smoked a pack instead of sleeping- you could be dressed as a teenage Japanese hoodlum clown or a gothic Lolita, like me!- but for heaven’s sake, Isabel, did you really have to reintroduce the sneaker wedge?

Read more:
Melissa Stetten Says F*** You To NYE
A Fond Farewell to Cathy Horyn
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