In Defense of Ugly

January 20, 2014 • Fashion

defense ugly

I would not consider reviews and analysis one and the same, especially since fashion reviews are essentially press thank you notes. Have you ever read a fashion show review and practically felt the sweat running down the face of the writer? “Careful, Phelps for gods sake, we have to be careful,” I can imagine an editor whispering into the ears of a writer who has just witnessed an utter mess of a show. I believe this is called bureaucracy, wrapped in FASHION GPS invitations and some fabric cut on the bias.* Nevertheless, I find reviews hella important. Not necessarily for what they tell me about the show (honestly, it’s nothing you can’t figure out from the show notes on the seats and the photos themselves)¬† — but what they tell me about the writer and how they’re building up the mythology of the designer.

Right now, the mythology of fashion designers is neat, though listless. We’ve got the “smart” ones: Prada, JWA, Kawakubo, Chalayan. We’ve got the sexy, Tom Ford being king and conquerer. We’ve got the young bucks who’ve been kissed by the queen to succeed. It’s all a bit neat and very very¬†coherent, you know?

Trying to find an interview or profile or even review of the last few Prada shows – or any profile of Kawakubo – that doesn’t reaffirm or tokenize them into a neat category to reference, is impossible. A frustrating idea I’m seeing come up again is that the ‘smart’ designers are making ugly things. That ugliness is the new luxury.

I don’t think this criticism is going far enough. This is the grind: there is (surprise) more than one vision of beauty, and these designers are just presenting their vision of it. It’s not ugly, it’s just not fuck-me pumps. It’s coming from somewhere else. Somewhere where the visions of beauty aren’t the same as ours, and where our opinions don’t even matter. What a cool, scary place to visit. It’s not about ugly! It’s about alienation. You’re out of your depth, but that doesn’t make it a monster.

Re-evaluate the ideas of what beauty means. Before black there was 80’s superpower glamour and before 80’s superpower glamour there was some other new look. Now we’re operating in a fashion cycle where all of those are happening at once, because we can all operate on multiple levels. We’re got power in different parts of the world, and the influence and pull of different cultures is shifting whose taste values matter the most. You think Chanel would have host a show on the Great Wall of China ten years ago? While we’re following the money to wherever it goes, I don’t know if our brains are following close behind. Fashion’s idea of ugliness in the luxury realm is just a lil bit too focused on Western World fairytales of the vague notion of a “modern gal”. You’ve got to give it more room to breathe, more room to have it’s own history, it’s own journey. Tom Ford can be sexy and smart. Prada can be smart and beautiful. People are re paying too much to be considered “luxurious” but also “ugly” — and why is different considered fugly in the first place? Why can’t we be all the things at once?

defense ugly

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