PRINT March 1996

Q & A

Style to Come

ONE NEED ONLY hear the terse incantation by which a disciple of the fashion religion summons the daemon (e.g., “It’s all about marabou”) to appreciate the abracadabra through which a trend can be set in motion. While fashion’s biannual pronouncements may have lost a bit of their power where the business of selling clothes is concerned, the spell of their cyclical epiphanies remains as bewitching as ever for industry initiates. Of course, the high church of the new, however obscure its commandments, has an undeniable charisma. Whether inside the industry or on the street, we all like to stay a step ahead, so we asked a range or respondents from across the fashion spectrum to do their best Polly Mellen. The question for all is this: fashionwise, what’s next? What is it all about?

PAT HEARN (gallery owner): Right now I’m partial to webbed gloves and recently saw a young woman in a skirt with quilted padding in front. I thought this was a chic yet practical way to protect one from skinning the knees in case of a fall—or for praying. One other thing I like is the fact that I’m seeing more bustles. I saw a bustle worn under powder-blue satin shorts. The great thing about bustles is that they need not be exclusive to dresses or skirts; you can also wear them with shorts or slacks! Colin [de Land] has been wearing a quite attractive thick gold chain accessory—I would guess about an inch and a half thick—around his neck, then double accessorizing with a necktie, untied, worn like a towel. That’s also a good look. And do you know Musty Chiffon? I was watching her nightclub act and had to compliment her on her butt, and she said, “Oh, it’s fake.” Now that’s a good accessory—the fake butt.

MATTHEW WEINSTEIN (artist): Birdwell Beach Britches. Happily colored nylon trunks, which have not changed since I was very young. I ordered mine from a surf shop in Laguna. A friend covets a pair he found in a garage sale in Maui. They’ve been impossible to find in New York, but yesterday I saw them in the window of a shop in the Village. As Mrs. Clinton says, “It takes a village.”

RICHARD MARTIN (curator, Costume Institute): One thing I’ve noticed is punctuations of elegance or luxury worn with more mundane things, like a Prada bag or Gucci accessory worn with Banana Republic standard issue. We are seeing some of the glamour and luxury reintegrated into fashion, not as a complete look, but as styling elements integrated into a wardrobe of basics. One can have the unabashed elements, but you’re not buying the whole Chanel ensemble. You have the bag, but you wear it with other stuff you bought at the thrift shop, or at the Gap.

FRAN LEBOWITZ (writer): I don’t think there’s any interesting trend right now, if you mean trends, and not recapitulations. Nothing springs to mind. But if you want to know what I hate the most, it’s knapsacks, and I don’t just mean Prada. I don’t care what they’re made of. What is the point of living in a city if people are going to be carrying them? I don’t like the recently old things that are new, either. There used to be a point to living in New York, but now we’re paying eight million dollars a month in rent to see the same things we saw when we were growing up. I shouldn’t have had to live through platform shoes twice. I hated them in the ’70s, and I’ll hate them when they come around again.

GLENN O’BRIEN (writer): I think the new style for men is permanence, a return to bespoke tailoring, Savile Row. Having your suits made for you the way you like them and well enough to last as long as you do. I like wearing white shirts, especially at night. Ties are a good look for work. Especially on Friday. The new ties tend to be a little wide to endure decades, but you can always have them altered.

DAVID LACHAPELLE (photographer): Dressing like you don’t have any sense of style is the next thing. We’ve sort of been in mourning for ten years. You don’t have to wear some hideous black overpriced suit. Throw out your drab colors and burn your black Japanese crap. Dress like you don’t care. Do your laundry once a month. It will force you to be creative with the few remaining clean items you have. Only shop on 14th Street. You should dress to make small children laugh at you.

JON SAVAGE (writer, music critic): Silver is in. In Britain, there’s a 23-year-old singer named Babylon Zoo, whose song went to the top of the charts. He wears a silver sari. Silver is pop, spacey, and androgynous. Spacemen are back.

STEFANO TONCHI (creative director, Self): I love the comeback of dressing with elegance—the end of shabby chic, especially in men’s wear. We went through this period where people thought, Why buy designer clothes when you can design your body? But in the end, everyone’s individuality disappeared. If everybody has the same body, then it’s as though we’re all wearing the same outfit. I think people are enjoying putting outfits together again. It’s funny, it’s like returning to a time when you were judged on what you were wearing.

SIMON DOONAN (senior vice-president, creative services, Barneys): More than ever, things that are extremely fashionable are also on the edge of being “naff,” and their resonance as fashionable things is a function of their naffness. Prada is a good example, but many designers have a quotient of things that are kitsch—prints, for example, that would have once been indigestible to people, or the use of thick polyester fabrics that would have once been unacceptable.

CYNTHIA ROWLEY (designer): There’s less excitement over designer labels and logos all over merchandise. That’s fine with me—it’s a lot of pressure to live in New York and be fabulous. To have the focus be on other merits is a relief, although it does take some of the sizzle out of the steak. For instance, I don’t do really serious evening dresses anymore, and I’m a Leo, so galas are in my blood. But fabulousness just isn’t so fabulous anymore. To me, it’s telling that more attention’s being paid to the couture at the Metropolitan than at the actual couture shows.

STEPHEN GAN (editor, Visionaire): I think dressing up and wearing labels is coming back. There’s been a long period of minimalism and avoidance of labels, which always reminded people of the ’80s. Now we’re bound to see Gucci, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel all over the place. I think we’ll be seeing more and more of label status, of not being afraid to show off that you spent $2,500 on an outfit. People are going to feel like polishing their shoes more and paying attention to finer things. So I guess this means in a couple of seasons you’ll all be poor again.

THE AD STORE (through spokesperson): Boxing’s “Everlast”—the classic symbol of the sport—becomes the next athletic logo of choice. A particularly poignant boast for the aging weekend warrior. The Savannah look will also be big. Women will be seen with their heels exposed, crushing the backs of their shoes—trailer in the Hamptons? The fashionable female will also wear her designer scarf bandana-style, halfway over the ears and knotted in the front (à la Snoop Doggy Dog).

KENNEDY FRASER (writer, The New Yorker): One thing that recently struck me was the scene in Persuasion in which Captain Wentworth finally declares his love for the woman, and she simply slips her little pink hand into his great, big, white-gloved one. To me that big glove is much more erotic than a thousand pairs of heaving buttocks on the movie screen. Everything’s become so commercialized that we tend to think that “fashion” is what’s taking place on the runways or in advertising. But what that scene said to me was that fashion’s still an incredibly personal, almost private thing. We exist in those private moments, and dress plays a very important part in them.

KAREN MARTA (associate editor, Vogue): There’s a trend toward androgyny that’s evident in the tuxedos Galliano showed at Givenchy, for example, or in designer Yeohlee Teng’s announcement that she’s making genderless clothes for men and women. You can also see this resistance to gender in art, with Alix Lambert’s male-pattern-baldness piece and Matthew Barney’s deconstruction of masculinity, and in A. M. Homes’ new book, in which the girl is a pedophile. It’s becoming hip to refuse gender identification. Where it was once un P.C., a lot of younger lesbians and gay men don’t identify themselves as gay or lesbian. These ideas seem to be breaking down, and younger people are resisting the cultural constructs inherent in them.

RYAN SUTHER AND JANE MOON (X-Girl): For spring and summer we predict: no more sexual ambiguity (heels, even if only small rubber ones, for the girls; nice haircuts for the boys); the perfect fit (tailored with a twist of trash—ladies are tired of the “ladylike” image); and big and bulky (skate/rave) is out! Look also for: hot colors—yellow and pink (from hot pink to petal); socks (you may think no one notices, but that kind of attention to detail counts); and cool jackets in light colors. And aluminum foil hats and clown outfits are also pretty cool!

ART CLUB 2000 (artists): Fashion being in art magazines—that’s a likable trend. It seems like the worlds of sports and celebrity and politics—and fashion, of course—are coalescing. Some people could see it as spooky or homogeneous, but if it’ll help us dress better or look more exciting, then we’re all for it.

David Colman contributes regularly to Artforum.