The mood fashion shows inspire is a far cry from the one many women feel in the morning while getting dressed, when a series of realities must be addressed and decisions made.
During the hundreds of shows we editors see over the course of four weeks, we can become a bit like bored children: Give us a spectacle! Some magic tricks! Loud music and flashing lights! If models were to walk back and forth across the runway in everyday clothes it might inspire a riot. A fashion show is just that: a show. It is a place where ideas are pushed, risks are taken, where the fantastical or the ideal or the outrageous is engaged. While it is a bit of a caricature, an exaggeration, it is not without purpose. At its most commercial, the goal is to create the kind of desire that moves less expensive products like handbags, perfumes or cosmetics.
At best, the shows inspire subtler forms of desire that permeate our culture — shifting our thinking and the way we dress. Designers are oftentimes artists or seers who can reach into our collective psyche and either pinpoint a nascent longing or create a new one.
And yet the standing-in-front-of-the-closet-with-nothing-to-wear problem arises because when gazing at lovely racks of clothing in a store, rarely do we consider those days when we will be running late, feeling fat, or tired or just want to feel cozy. In the shop, we envision our best selves. In the mirror in the morning, we are faced with our actual selves.
We chose Phoebe Philo, the creative director of Céline, as our cover subject for this issue because she somehow manages to compress the emotional distance between the runway and the daily ritual of dressing. At her shows, most editors feel a sense of seeing powerful ideas about what it means and looks like to be a modern woman — cool, confident, smart, a little edgy, no fool — and yet the clothes themselves are easy, comfortable, luxurious, not frivolous or silly. She is a visionary and a practical woman at the same time.
But even sensible women with busy lives can still love the mystery and fantasy that fashion affords. And so when you’re looking at runway pictures and thinking, That is absurd, no one dresses like that! — remember that while there is indeed a disconnect between the catwalk and your closet, it is not absolute. There is also a connection. It is not literal or even linear. It is ephemeral, but no less real. There is a piece of that dream that comes down the runway, of that longing it inspires, that finds its way into our minds, and onto our bodies, even as we fly out the door.
Deborah Needleman | T