I love clothes. I was once an extreme fashion whore…I had magazine subscriptions, waited for fashion week with bated breathe (and volunteered at it while in college), would walk around high-end boutiques dreaming of the day I would make my first purchase, I wanted (for a very long time) to get engaged for the express purpose that I would have Vera Wang custom make me my very own wedding gown (that dream went with the fact that I thought I was rich or would be marrying someone who was).
Then I started working within the field of fashion. Slowly those rose colored glasses I wore began to fog and needing to see more clearly, I took them off – finally seeing the industry for what it really was: I worked at a fashion magazine where original ideas were laughed at and so was individuality; everyone must drive themselves into debt to wear the newest thing, fresh off the runway, only to be told in a month that that is old news. Worked as a buyer for a department store where it was all just about the numbers; fashion was an afterthought. And they don't sell couture at Macy's. Don't even get me started on telling stores of the insanely rich Europeans who can afford to shop at high-end boutiques but have no fashion sense. If the tags say Moschino or Dolce & Gabbana on it they automatically think it's fabulous (and must put it on head to toe). Ugh…the only fashiony thing I'm involved in is Project Runway and I moved on to a light obsession with movies.
But every now and again, I need a fashion fix and when you live in the city during fashion week, it hits you hard. Everyday, I get endless emails about fashion parties happening about town, read about the fashion shows that happened the night before or decide to finger this months Vogue or Elle while standing at the checkout line at CVS. Last night, in honor of fashion week, I watched two great films about designers – Unzipped (the life and times of Isaac Mizrahi) and Valentino: The Last Emperor (the title says it all).
I saw Unzipped when it first came out in '94 and LOVED IT!! I had such dreams of meeting Isaac some day where he and I would go skipping through Soho, arm in arm talking about our love of fashion, old cinematic treasures, chocolate and Paris. I was to become his muse and fav fag hag…everything would have been right with the world. My heart broke when some years after the film his career went down the crapper and it resurged when he started designing for Target. I would run to whichever Target was nearest me to see what super cute clothes he made for me because he knew my sense of style (and very empty pocketbook) well (we were connected spiritually if not personally).
Then the prices of his Target line kept getting higher, he had the talk how which (I didn't find very interesting) I watched until it was pulled off the air, then he decided to start a new super expensive clothing line (by appointment only) and critics began to debate how he could do both, the clothes at Target began to get be – how to put it nicely – umm, ugly and slowly he began to faze out his line for Target. I would see him on talk shows and read his interviews and well, his head seemed to be getting way too big for his little neck to carry but I tried to hold on to our friendship. Then he did the most unforgivable thing to me – he sided with Bravo (which was having a major dispute with Project Runway) and helped create one of the worst fashion design shows ever with 'The Fashion Show' (Isaac your co-host has worn some of the most atrocious outfits EVER, but I digress).
Watching 'Unzipped' reminded me of who we use to be. Me – young and fashion optimistic, where I believed the right outfit could change my life; Isaac – young, vibrant with a great sense of style. We've changed but I'll always remember those days with fondness. And I'm waiting for him to come back to me…
I'm not into huge names and many of the French and Italian designers don't do it for me but watching 'Valentino: The Last Emperor' was amazing. Here is a man who knew what he wanted to do at an incredible young age and did it with such intense fervor you couldn't but want to be a part of it. He was 72 when this docudrama was made and I swear he seemed to have more life and vigor than I do right now. And though, I've never given a moments notice to couture (with the exception to my imaginary wedding dress) watching his room full of seamstresses sew on beads by hand gave me an increased admiration for such things (and all of my overly massed produced clothes pale in comparison).
Then there was his relationship with Giancarlo Giammetti who he had met in his early 20's and had a business, as well as, a sexual (and deeply loved based) relationship with. As they remarked (on separate occasions) how they, in the last fifty years, hadn't been apart from each other for more than a few hours a day (Giancarlo remarked that if you took all that time and put it together it would probably work out to be 2 months it total) is remarkable when most couples I know would probably kill themselves if they saw their significant other every minute of everyday and yet these two men built an empire around it and wouldn't have done it any other way
I wish to be as lucky as Valentino – to have such an intense passion for what you do that the thought of retiring at 72 seems like the craziest idea in the world (and had his company not been purchased by an investment firm, he'd probably still be at it) and to find someone who'll stand by you as you do it (despite the tantrums, fits, fights and tears) because of love. I'm sure I'm not the only one who can agree on those points.
The saddest thing is there simply aren't that many great designers left. Valentino, Armani, Lagerfeld, Balenciaga…those are the names that are fading away and what are we left with? Sean John and Baby Phat? Yes, those are at the worst level possible but the fashion you get excited for is slowly going away.
Dear Universe, in my next life, I'd like to come back as one of his dogs because they are surely livin the life and they have no career worries. It seems lovely!
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