Richard Martin

  • “Zeitgeist Becomes Form”

    The ritzy aloofness that once pervaded fashion photography is gone. Taking its place are the Springtime-for-Hitler, Toys-‘R’n’t-Us Guignol of David Levinthal’s fantasy images and the purported Rent realism of Nan Goldin’s careless mode. As politically correct journalists admonish fashion for its pursuit of flawless beauty, fashion photography has shifted from dream to psychosis.

    “Zeitgeist Becomes Form: German Fashion Photography 1945–1995,” Curated by F. C. Gundlach, a former fashion photographer, observes the baleful transfiguration in German fashion photography in particular. Especially early


    Most of life is so dull that there is nothing to be said about it, and the book and talk that would describe it as interesting are obliged to exaggerate, in the hope of justifying their own existence.
    —E. M. Forster, A Passage to India, 1924

    INVENTIVE IN CONCEPT, prosaic in its reiterations as a clothing standard, dazzling in its transmutations through ordinary and extraordinary textiles, the sari is an ancient device and decorum of Indian dress. Clever at its matrix, it is a fixed template, allowing no meddling or whim to its fundamental form. We Westerners are clumsy and colonial in our inevitable

  • Couture Culture

    IN 1995, THE C WORD was uttered: couture once again expressed itself, but this time with discretion. The same high style that had previously been predicated on tulle, feathers shaved and dyed, artificial flowers, and lace (haute tattoo, after all, when laid over bare skin) returned to the image of fashion, minus the vitiation of ’80s-style conspicuous consumption. If high fashion had become pompous, lampoonable by drag artists, a Cindy Sherman–esque baroque burlesque, couture assumed a new validity this year, rising above the miasma of fashion and visual-culture uncertainties that typifies our

  • the Menswear Closet

    FASHION DESIGNERS ARE fashionably out, unafraid of declaring themselves gay. Or so one might believe on reading the April issue of Out, or recent issues of other gay publications like The Advocate or Genre, all of which have run spring articles on fashion designers. Today, clearly, a New York womenswear designer like Marc Jacobs or Victor Alfaro can acknowledge publicly that he is gay. And besides designers themselves, Out included a gay and lesbian fashion power lineup: Interview editor Ingrid Sischy, Council of Fashion Designers of America President Stan Herman, publicist Ed Filipowski, and

  • Judiciary Drag

    IN AN ERA when fashion arbiters and downtown types are addicted to judicious black robes, ideally from Comme des Garçons, the usual attire of the chief justice of the Supreme Court would seem to put him ahead of the game. Instead he has gone D’Oyly Carte. As the Court sat for the first session of the new year, William Rehnquist sported a black gown with four gold stripes on each arm. A spokesperson would explain that the judge’s outfit was of his own design, inspired by the Lord Chancellor’s robe in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe.

    Unfortunately, Rehnquist’s démodé whimsy signals something more

  • Ready to Wear

    WITH HIGH-TESTOSTERONE ART STARS of the ’80s decamping to film, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner forever being mentioned as prime parts yet to be cast, a gallerist smitten with gorillas and mambo kings, and the likelihood of Mike Ovitz holding sway at the Museum of Modern Art, a spate of films about the art world cannot be too far off. Let us hope that the art world is better served than fashion is in Robert Altman’s hateful Ready to Wear.

    Altman’s contemptuous film lacks the expertise of his best works—when he skewers Hollywood in The Player, say, or analyzes country in Nashville. This time he



    The worst fashion trend of ’94 was Anna Nicole Smith’s ascension as Seventh Avenue’s preeminent physical symbol, in apparent response to the worst fashion trend of ’93, Kate Moss’ hungry-looking waif skeleton. This was a case of replacing one tasteless stereotype (undernourished human coat-hanger) with another (big-busted vavoomy tart). Either way, women were made to feel inadequate. And suddenly the WonderBra became popular in accordance with this new urge toward full-figuredness, and the pressure was on Vogue readers to wipe away decades of feminism and go back to being