Celebs degrade high art

What do we get when Lindsay Lohan is given creative responsibility over a runway? Well, as we learned last week at Ungaro’s spring/summer 2010 prêt-a-porter presentation, lots of gratuitous near-nudity!

Now, there are few things I like more than nudity, but Lohan’s brand, unveiled on the traditionally conservative Ungaro runway, came with brightly colored, sequined pasties taped over the nipples and foreheads of embarrassed models. Accompanied by harem pants and open, flapping jackets — similarly sequined, as if Lohan was inspired by her grandmother on a slutty Saturday night — the collection seemed desperately unknowledgeable about fashion, and about art.

This couture house, opened in 1965, has secured itself a position in the history of wearable art next to designers like Cristóbal Balenciaga and Salvatore Ferragamo. And now, Lindsay Lohan, noted child star of “The Parent Trap,” is heading the house as its Creative Director.

When asked later about the collection and her ubiquitous pasties, Lohan explained that she was trying to design clothing that she herself would wear.

What was Ungaro thinking when it hired the tacky, ruined wacktress? Did Tim Gunn, who suggested Lohan to the house, really think she would finally find stable footing and rise above her disheartening state of existence?

No.

Realizing Lohan’s incompetence, Ungaro also hired a legit designer, Estrella Archs, whose own eponymous collection closed this year’s fashion week. What the house saw in Lohan was a top-notch failure, whose appointment to any position of significance would garner mass media attention. And while she did end up giving more direction to the collection than anyone anticipated, Lohan also garnered, for the flagging atelier, a frenzy of journalists and photographers at the collection’s debut.

Within minutes of the show’s closure, critics were ridiculing the line’s sense of aesthetic over Twitter. But regardless, it’s speculated that the collection, given the media footprint it left, will sell well. And therein lies the crux of the design: Ungaro wanted high gains, not high art.

In the same economic boat, Chanel’s head designer Karl Lagerfeld also hired the help of a celebrity. Toward the end of the Chanel’s show last week, Lily Allen rose out of the runway’s stage to perform a 5-minute mini-concert. It was this spectacle that landed in the press the next day. In fact, noted fashion blogger Garance Doré wrote more about Allen’s performance than she did of the approximately 70 looks that were sent down the runway.

While the collection wasn’t ruined in the way of Ungaro’s, Lagerfeld’s designs were, without question, eclipsed by the production value of Allen’s radio singles.

In stark contrast, the focus of the Alexander McQueen collection was decidedly on the Art.

Stepping out onto a laboratory-white runway, a single model opened the show. Her skin was painted with shiny latex colors, her bone structure was pinched and sharpened by plastic additions to her face and her feet were bound in 10-inch stilettos shaped like elongated hooves. And McQueen’s dresses — notable for their reptile skin prints, gill-like appendages, and austerely cut techno-fabrics — were convincingly new, alien, high art. McQueen was able to materialize a layered, detailed impression of humans whose ancestors — specifically Eve, shown as a nude woman on the screen at the top of the show, writhing in bed with a white snake — travelled underground to live with Satan’s reptilian forces.

But during the show’s finale, as the models came teetering out for their last walk, the art disintegrated. A popstar’s masculine mezzo-soprano hummed over the venue’s speakers, “Caught in a bad romance.” Yes, McQueen decided to close his presentation by premiering Lady Gaga’s new single.

As her inane, irrelevant lyrics continued — “Rah-rah-ooh la la!/ Want your bad romance.” — it became clear that the two, Gaga and McQueen, were working together for no other reason than to capitalize on the spectacle and publicity of the show. McQueen was getting people to see his clothes, particularly focusing on those airheaded fans of Gaga who salivate at the sight of dresses that they diminish with snappy labels like “Fierce,” and Gaga was able to associate herself with art, to which her kitschy variety of pop has no relation.

Indeed, Paris Fashion Week was full of answers to paradoxes plaguing the industry. Like the Lohan Conundrum: tasteless celebutant + luxury art = ? This has become an increasingly pressing question, as struggling houses call on celebrities to land on Perez Hilton’s gossip blog. These designers are willing to degrade their fashion — their art — to something blatantly commercial, giving no regard to the impression these unrelated, disconnected celebrities have on their supposedly legitimate, uncompromising art.

Another noteworthy inquiry focused on the recent economic climate: luxury label – paying customer = ? As it turns out, the solution is (Lindsay Lohan + luxury art), which we just solved to equal cheap aesthetics. And we can further simplify that to ~ trash.

So pay attention, you trendy gals: the theme for spring this year is ruined, gauche clothes. Think ’80s!

Thanks for the insight, Paris Fashion Week.

Comments

  • oh lilo

    Fun article!

  • CC13

    Ergh, why did this article (interesting premise: celebrity-design complex) have to source its historical background for the house of Ungaro to Wikipedia?

    Since when does playing a pop song (Lady Gaga at McQueen) undermine a collection?

  • tk1984

    Why is this gentleman called a “staff reporter.” This was little more than mere opinion, albeit about as hoyte toytee as it gets.

  • mtl hoe

    leave him alone!!!! this is a really good article!!!!