Nov 6, 2009
The beautiful people, not so much
It's been fashion, fashion, fashion at the Shone residence of late. It's always fashion, fashion, fashion, of course, but particularly so in the last few weeks. First we watched The September Issue, the documentary about Anna Wintour, then it was The Last Emperor, another documentary, this time about the designer Valentino. "What's his first name?" I asked my wife. "I don't know. Giovanni?" It turns out Valentino is his first name. His last name is Garavani. All this time spent with the beautiful people was certainly interesting, if only because it turns out the beautiful people aren't very beautiful after all. I don't wish to be ungallant but the people who work in fashion are, by and large, a strange collection of characters, at least judged by the standards of the industry they promote. A massively overweight black man. A fabulous red-headed crone. An orange-colored man with a stringy pompadour. Mullets. Comb-overs. Cruella Da Ville noses. Nuclear-winter tans. Ghoulies, ghosties and other assorted gargoyles. It's like a casting call for the Addams Family. The people most keen to foist standards of physical perfection on the rest of us are, it turns out, just as imperfect as the everyone else. This makes them both more human — it's all too easy to imagine the teasing some of them got in school, and also to construe their subsequent careers as fabulous acts of over-compensation — but also strangely unsympathetic, since the creations they put out into the world will only cause more kids to get teased in turn. I liked both documentaries, but found the Valentino more compelling. The clothes are breathtaking, although I was struck by how uncertain of his own instincts Valentino was, fussing and fretting and even reversing himself on occasion. At one point Karl Lagerfeld slings his arm around Valentino's shoulders and says "Compared to us, the rest are just making rags," he says. Wow. I wasn't surprised to find that level of insecurity among such global colossi but it was salutory nonetheless. There's no escape. Good information to have.