Monday, March 07, 2011

Dust Off That Dead Horse.

In response to Rhonda Garelick's Op-Ed piece in yesterday's Times: As an aspiring fashion historian involved in the academic pursuit of a Masters Degree at FIT, I respect your desire to look at current fashion events through an historical lens. However, I take serious umbrage with your overreaching comparison of my field, fashion, to a Nazi collaborationist government. Yes, as anyone who knows the facts of world events past is aware, after France fell to the Germans in WWII, their interim government of 1940-1944 was allied with some of the harshest of Nazi Germany's policies. It's a dark time to remember and hard to fact swallow. Even darker and harder to swallow is why you are bringing this up now, which is to elaborate on the ravings of one inebriated man with a giant ego and questionable morals. John Galliano's disgusting remarks were horrendous. They were also hastily dealt some serious punishment, and may stand to warrant more. He's been fired, his opinions have been damned by his employer, and denounced by those who trusted and adored him. He's about all wrapped up, until French law deals whatever fines or imprisonment it sees fit. He's the source of the strife, but in your article, it's not he alone who is being dealt the blows.

With some thin evidence you flippantly bring fashion in line with Fascism. While digging up ideals, quotes, and circumstances from over 70 years ago to support such a claim is problematic in and of itself, there are some details that need to be addressed. Your assertion that fashion magazines began to publish diet and exercise features to maintain a physical ideal upheld by Aryans doesn't hold water. I am currently reading Carmel Snow's autobiography where she discusses popularizing diet pieces as a lifestyle feature in Harper's Bazaar as one of her first orders of business when she became editor of the magazine in 1934. It was an idea that caught on quite quickly after that. Also, yes, some French fashion folk are rumored or documented to have been sympathetic to the Vichy cause, but your assertion that "many in fashion were eager to play along" should be elaborated with more than one name, Lucien Lelong, whose quoted statement is far from damning. In the circumstances of war, who wants to look afraid? Who wants to appear anything but serene to the world? And, does your personal reading of Karl Lagerfeld's fashion as reminiscent of "a Goth interpretation of an 18th-century Prussian officer" make him fascist? Why are we bringing Karl into this? He didn't say anything in a bar, and other than being an imposing force in the vein of nearly any head of any major corporate capitalist venture, he's not behaving badly.

Here's the thing, your feckless lobbing of heavy comparisons is irresponsible. No one, not one person in the French fashion industry (even making such a delineation in today's global economy is absurd) is causing you actual physical harm if you do not adhere to the youth and beauty ideals proscribed in a magazine, or by a designer. No one is forcing you by threat of death to take up residence in couture, wax your eyebrows, strap on stilettos, or lose a few. As much as it blatantly promotes pretty, fashion, especially of late (see Gaga, see skeleton tattooed models, see transgendered campaign stars) is widening its breadth. Its inclusiveness is about on par with any other major field of business. So yes, "fashion has moved far beyond the worst of the Vichy years," very far. Far enough that comparing fashion to fascism is lazy and grasping. Sensationalism knows no bounds, I guess. I'd rather see it in a designer's beautiful work than your ignorant words.

For your edification (and perhaps irritation) here is a link to Rhonda Garelick's piece, "High Fascism."

1 comment:

Claire said...

Wow, Anna. Well said, well said.