Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Giving Camel the Hump

When will this beige nightmare end? By John William

Here’s the situation. We at P&P totally understand our pseudo economic science (see Rae-Rae Bridge’s piece on hemlines for a sterling example of such important fashion journalism). We’re clued up on our trend maths and understand the equation how recession PLUS anti-bling new sincerity DIVIDED by not wanting to be too “showy” MULTIPLIED by the need for luxury after a period of Spartan sparseness EQUALS the past couple of seasons’ tunnel visioned obsession with what fashion editors creamed themselves declaring The New Minimalism (is it just us or is that quite the paradoxical phrase… surely Minimal with a capital M, in its most concentrate, untainted form should be about purity of design, with guaranteed timelessness…). We understand how lovely it must be to have a gorgeous wool coat that costs £3000, that is so conspicuously inconspicuous even its buttons are smug. We understand that it would feel nice to wear something with sleek lines and tasteful proportions after a decade of having to put up with St Tropezed cleavage, glittery Choos poking out from a pair of boot cut jeans, and WAG fever. Restraint can be a welcome relief and simplicity is a beautiful state, but if we see one more fucking camel coat, beige cape, suede shift… shearling something or other… we are going to have a full blown, Britney-head-shaving nervous breakdown.

The glossy horse-haired women at the top of Fashion’s Ivory Tower have gorged themselves of Celine’s caramels, Chloe’s creams and Burberry’s butter soft leathers to the point where minimal has become maximalist. After the sugar binge of the last decade’s fast fashions and trend mania, this high fashion stripping back (the anti-fast fashion) seduced the high street with it’s restorative blandness; a digestive biscuit after bucketloads of Haribo. Arcadia etc leaped on it- they couldn’t get enough of it fast enough. Like shit off a shovel camel was flying into window displays nationwide. The High Street’s version of this “slow fashion” sort of misses the point, still offering around 200 permutations and versions of a “simple “ beige coat. The high street could never accept the Donna Karen “7 easy pieces” philosophy to dress… more like 9 million difficult and poorly made options for those with fashion attention deficit disorder.

Minimalism has eaten itself. In becoming such a trend in a fast-trend-dependent time, perhaps Phoebe Philo isn’t having the last laugh… in making such as exquisitely wearable and desirable collection she has made everybody want a bit of it. Where the shoppers point, the High Street jumps to, and after hoovering up the ‘trend’ for minimalism and spitting it out again with a £24 price tag; essentially minimal has become a bit of a gimmick.

It’s difficult because there have always been and there will always be people who want to dress well, and who like to wear beautifully crafted simple clothing. It’s not as easy as saying Minimal is In. Now it is Out. You’re really messing with people who feel very strongly about their wardrobe choices. It’s the fakers who are the problem perhaps. Those donning the beige spectrum, on the cheap, because it’s what they’re being told to wear (well actually- then the problem is those damn editors. The glossy horse-haired women who by sample sale or from not returning designer garb after a shoot, are able to wear the genuine Celine article, parade around town in it feeling like a smug and very expensive pony, passing on the message to their readers that nothing feels as wonderful as all this new minimal malarkey.) Essentialy, here at P&P, we just think it’s boring. It’s not big and it’s not clever, it’s beige.

Looking forward there is hope. Change is blossoming on catwalks and sidewalks worldwide. Jil Sander’s colour-blocked snap crackle and pop: a gorgeously satisfying mix of no-nonsense bold colours; hot pink trousers with a deep purple suit jacket, palazzo pants in a spectrum as pleasing to the eye as a flick through a pantone book. Mark Fast presented a rainbow of showgirl fringe and feathers, however Louis ‘Las Vegas’ Vuitton and Miu Miu hold the prize for all out stage presence with gold leathers at Miu Miu inspired by Country Western Nudie Suits and a Marc Jacobs’ tacky sequin safari at LV. Prada’s bananarama extravaganza was a maximum volume “no thanks” to boredom. Stella swapped beiges for infinity blue and a citrus print so on the knife edge between chic and lemon pledge- If you were given a sample of the fabric you could easily mistake it for the PVC tablecloth printed with fruit and veg, sold by the metre in poundshops nationwide.

Hurrah! For the SS11 collections the lights had definitely been switched ON. I’m hoping that pretty soon, editorials (thus: magazines, thus: the high street, thus: Britain) will look like the bit in the Wizard of Oz when everything goes from Sepia into colour. To misquote Belle and Sebastian “Colour My Life with Chaos!” In the words of Maggie Prescott in Funny Face: “Think Pink!” P&P’s favourite new artist Sue Kretizman (A self-confessed Wild Old Woman who creates camp monuments forged out of broken jewellery and nail polish…more on her in our 2011’s Issue) perhaps puts it best, for now: “Don’t wear beige – it will kill you.”

Published in Pigeons & Peacocks Poster Zine Number 6: "Turn and Face the Strange"

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