Like a suit, a uniform of jeans, T-shirt, New Balance trainers and sporty jacket relies on invisibility. The person (usually a white man) who wears it is virtually indistinguishable from a non-far-right guy in a casual everyday garb. Style is then either thought of exclusively as a tool to assimilate or paradoxically discounted altogether as irrelevant to one’s political beliefs. For white supremacists ditching the skinhead image means leaving behind their status as subculture, which defines itself in opposition to the mainstream, to reaffirm whiteness as the mainstream.
Fashion, as an industry, survives because of commerce, and commerce is the result of carefully planned media exposure: everything that gets in the way, true criticism in primis, is seen as nothing less than danger, a menace to avoid at any cost. A case in point is the discrepancy between the frank and open, if studious and cautious, after-show talk and what actually filters through to the subsequent written reports. Fashion reporters have become masters of insinuation and understatement, and the subtle critiques that materialise often become nothing but passing frissons – background noise for corporations that have understood the value of column inches.
Having your ashes placed in a handbag by Louis Vuitton is another way of writing a love-letter, not to a man, but to commerce. If Marilyn had only meant what she sang in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,’ she and Zsa Zsa and Anna Nicole would have been in agreement. There was never any question of landing a man until death do us part in ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’; the part that mattered was having the diamonds to die in. The thing that people without a great fortune always say about riches is: ‘you can’t take it with you.’ The thing that rich, dead women seem to say is ‘watch me.’
Where women are concerned, then, minimalist clothing advice is aimed at tamping down on overabundant desire. Rather than taking your inspiration from that awesome scarf on the woman at the coffee shop this morning, you’re to restrict yourself to sensible basics. Are you A Woman? You require The Navy Blazer, The Pencil Skirt, and so forth, and be sure to pay full price for each.
While messages of disaster might grab readers’ attention, they come with the same problem as technical and scientific writing. Both communicate through environmentalism, not creation. Sustainable fashion is perpetually presented differently from what is considered ‘normal’ fashion, so much even, that it has come to represent its opposite. It’s as if there are only two camps – either you write about hemp and trees and farmers, or you write about silk and champagne and popstars.
If Hilfiger had a genius, it was less about saying something radically or interestingly new with clothing than about understanding how to curate, translate and market niche aesthetics for a broader audience. His enthusiasm for countercultural fashion, it soon became clear, was opportunistic rather than philosophical. His was a fundamentally pop genius, dependent on his ability to give the mainstream just as much edge and titillation and fantasy as it could handle, but no more.
In 2017, the collaboration has become as common as the collection. It generates unfailing press, both critical and laudatory. In both scenarios, interest tends to hinge on the brands’ differences, on the inherent edginess of uniting them. In the case of Louis Vuitton and Supreme, the story is that the former brings to the table old-world prestige (and high prices), the latter irreverent youthfulness (and fans rabid enough to pay them). Yet it’s worth asking: how different are Supreme and Louis Vuitton, actually?