Wednesday, July 15, 2009


There’s been buzz about Agyness Deyn possibly leaving the world of modeling. This news saddens me for several reasons. Not in the least is the fact that she is my neighbor, and the thought of her packing up her East Village digs and heading back to Manchester or somewhere random like Bangladesh (she would do that) is just depressing. I like bumping into her on the street and seeing her in Mudd and Veselka. She is like a walking work of art for the neighborhood; one which never fails to excite me upon sight. (Admittedly, I’ve followed her into bars, and twice changed direction on the street so I could walk near her. If only I’d been blessed with similarly 3-mile long legs, I’d have been able to keep up!)

Reading Cintra Wilson’s profile of Aggy in the Times last week (which took place at my favorite Ukranian diner – noted above!), I started thinking about the shift in cultural ideals of beauty, and decided that it just might be a good time for Ms. Deyn to take a brief hiatus from the fashion world – for her to record a cover album of The Clash greatest hits, or something.

Cintra got me thinking here:

When war fever cools, hot new looks become less sex cue-dependant, and “unconventional” models — Twiggy, Erin O’Connor, Kristen McMenamy, Ève Salvail (Jean Paul Gaultier’s skinhead muse) — are free to rise. Ms. Deyn’s look captures a collective desire to return to the “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” pogo-punk unisex spirit of the irreverent and permissive early 1980s, when girls could wear combat boots and boys could wear eyeliner, and everyone could wear magenta.
While we’re still inundated with invariably edgy influencers like Erin Wasson for RVCA and JT’s William Rast, and while magenta is one color certainly not disappearing from the runways, there is also a brimming backlash.

We’ve seen it in the forms of Alexandra Shulman’s anti-size zero model crusade, and staring at us through the eyes of the Brigitte Bardot-reincarnation Lara Stone on the latest W magazine cover. Then there’s Christian Dior’s latest couture collection – a series of looks that could easily have waltzed through the very same salon in 1947 when Mr. Dior unveiled his heralded “New Look.” A real sense of femininity is creeping back to high fashion.

There were gloves and hats and A-lines frolicking down the runways of Fall Couture 2009 – but some shows had the power to transport me to another world. Elie Saab created an ethereal wonderland of white gowns and cocktail dresses – what Jessica Michault wagered may be “a youthful haute couture alternative to the shimmering, after-dark ready-to-wear made popular by Balmain.”

Valentino and Givenchy may have kept it dark, but the gowns shown were long and luxurious – oozing with ruffles and girly accolades – none, however, were quite so decadent as those dreamt up by Mr. Karl Lagerfeld. Chanel’s couture collection embodied all that it must have been to be female circa 1950. Gloves and tights made of lace; suit after perfectly tailored suit in varying shades and textures of tweed; LBDs to make even Coco swoon; plus hats and hair bows and winged eyeliner to put the frosting on the proverbial fashion cupcake. And, lest we forget the gorgeous white ruffled concoction that was Lagerfeld’s Lara Stone finale!

Even hard-assed Jean Paul Gaultier – whose collection vacillated from futuristic diva to 1920s flapper – seemed caught in the midst of our schizophrenic fashion shift. If, like Ms. Wilson wrote, our perception of feminine beauty is guided by the effects of war, then perhaps it is President Obama’s domestic focus that’s wreaking havoc on a collective vision. War may still be raging abroad, but we’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Photo credit: Photographers Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin for V Magazine, September/October 2008.

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