Petrovich worked at the cloak two whole weeks, for there was a great deal of quilting: otherwise it would have been finished sooner. He charged twelve rubles for the job, it could not possibly have been done for less. It was all sewed with silk, in small, double seams; and Petrovitch went over each seam afterwards with his own teeth, stamping in various patterns.
There is a tendency, across fashion exhibitions and publishing, to portray the fashion designer as a creative genius. The ‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty’ exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2015, for example, emphasised its demonstration of ‘the extraordinary talent of one of the most innovative designers of recent times.’ Such a depiction positions the designer outside the realities of the fashion system, as a uniquely autonomous figure of otherworldly measure: as god, or king. While this mode of representation may be customary, even habitual, it is deeply misrepresentative of the designer, and the contemporary fashion system in which their work resides.
Filled with mentions of Renzo Rosso’s personal relationships with political and religious figures (the Dalai Lama and Shimon Peres are ‘proud to call Renzo as a friend’), sartorial anecdotes (Rosso’s home-made pair of bell-bottom jeans) and charity philanthropy (‘He helps people help themselves.’) Colin McDowell’s gushing recent profile of the OTB industrialist leaves the probing reader with the distinct feeling that the Business of Fashion article has a hidden agenda. But what is it?
In 1920, a group of youth leaders walked out of the Boy Scout movement in Britain, disillusioned with the increasing militarism of its methods. Led by the former scout commissioner and artist John Hargrave, the pacifist styled themselves as The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, adapting a term from archaic Cheshire dialect meaning ‘proof of strength.’ This new, all-ages group promoted creative expression, physical health and fitness through camping, hiking and handicraft.
Yohji Yamamoto’s autobiography, ‘My Dear Bomb’ (2010) creates a complex conceptual persona of a designer, that of the ‘insider/outsider.’ A composite autobiography; the text of ‘My Dear Bomb’ is a collection of multiple voices, writing styles and visuals. The designer’s own poetic writing dominates the text of the book, but is punctuated with other ephemera: recorded conversations with writer Ai Matsuda, lyrics to songs by Yamamoto, as well as short contributions and letters from friends and critics.
A handful of centimetres can have a lot of power in the business of shoes. Recognising a market for well-designed, well-made men’s ‘heels’, Jennen Ngiau-Keng’s began his company Taller Shoes in 2007 and now offers a range of over one hundred elevated men’s shoes. The company stocks a range, from black formalwear shoes to boating loafers, each of which add between five and thirteen centimetres to the wearer’s height with a reinforced insole.
‘To create a being out of oneself is very serious,’ wrote the late Clarice Lispector in her 1973 work, Água Viva. The personal branding needed to attain commercial success and visibility in today’s fast-paced, oft-intersecting fashion and literary circles lends Lispector’s words a strangely prophetic resonance. For women in the arts especially, the necessity to carefully craft a desirable public image – particularly by paying close attention to personal style – so often determines the content of the conversations that arise around their work.