When the fantastic world of Sci-Fi meets the hurly-burly automation of the cyclical fashion machine, magical (and not-so-magical) manifestations can be conjured. It’s not to say that there aren’t aspects of the genre in everyday clothes, but when a prominent designer, or at least one with some press, chooses a subject with a selective, dare I say cult following, to show in the spotlight, the fashion press tends to glare over it as a mild flirtation for the season, and nothing more. Fashion is, after all, a cruel mistress, and genuinely doesn’t care about anything except your next collection, so it remains that the majority of these inspirations go unnoticed or have long been forgotten.
That’s where I come in.
I want to do a series of posts based on my understanding of the fashion world as it relates to the genre that we all know and love. I’m not sure how many of these I will get through; Heck, this might be the one and only, but I’ll try to crank them out on a semi-regular basis. Maybe once a month? I dunno.
I PROMISE NOTHING!!
This is not going to be a philosophical treatise on the merit of the clothes/collections, nor will it be a love letter to the designer. These posts will simply be expressing an opinion and explain (within reason) maybe what the designer was trying to accomplish at that particular season. Any and all opinions are welcome, and I’d be happy to explain anything about cut or construction, as much as I can.
Having said all that, I am not claiming to be an expert on all of the given genre inspirations; Hell, it was only last year that I watched all six of the first Star Wars movies, but I do understand researching a collection. It goes well beyond just copying a costume for cosplay. It involves dissecting a subject and filtering the found references through your eyes, and reinterpreting them into a workable line of clothing.
So, if I miss a fact about why the model’s ponytail should have been on the right side and not the left, or a point about which Dr. Who character spoke with a Cockney accent that one time in episode 5 of series 4, please inform me in the comments section.
Questions? Problems? Hysteria?
Please let me know what you think of this piece.
Now, on with the show.
For this first go-round, I thought we should look at one of the more prominent examples of genre-spiration (yeah, I’m still working on a catchy bon mot): Alexander McQueen for Givenchy fall 1998 ready to wear.
You really don’t have to look too far to understand that the reference point for this particular season was Blade Runner, in particular, Sean Young’s character, Rachael.
Since his installation at the house a year earlier, McQueen’s collections for both the ready to wear and the haute couture had been an ever-maddening roller coaster ride of inconsistency. His spring ’98 collection, a tribute to Dolly Parton, was met with mixed, if not less than excited reviews, so it was up to him to knock it out of the park with a collection that blended both his own sensibilities and that of the storied history of the house of Givenchy. Not an easy task, especially since, at the time, McQueen was pretty much a rebel and rejected anything that resembled cohesion and marketability.
Fashion houses need to make money to justify the expense of both production and presentation, so If McQueen couldn’t deliver the cash, he’d be out of a job.
Consider it a testament to the production and costume design of the movie, because he didn’t stray too far off the established, sartorial path. The cuts were, as they were in the movie, inspired by a strict take on 1940’s suitings. This was a good jumping off point for McQueen because both he and Givenchy built their foundations on marvelous tailoring. The color story, as dark and mysterious as Blade Runner’s cityscape, was punched with bright shots of near day-glow colors – much like the light shining through a darkened skyscraper’s window.
Where McQueen excelled with this collection were the little details that defined his bucking of (if not utter respect for) Saville Row traditions: Soft draped lapels, geometric insets (that drove production insane), beautiful fabrics and above all, the rigid structure of the silhouette.
He enlisted Philip Treacy to design the reflective, fishbowl hats, and set to the beat of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough,” the models stomped their way on to a disco-floor catwalk after winding their way down a series of ramps lit like building skyways.
This is one of my favorite collections from McQueen during his tenure at Givenchy, and the reviews spoke to his attempt at navigating the treacherous waters where creativity and marketability collide:
“…the fall collection he showed here Wednesday brought the trophy within reach. He managed to produce enough clothes in the classic Givenchy tradition to please longtime customers, at least those who are willing to be updated for the late 1990's. And he provided sharp-edged aggressive clothes to attract a more daring woman. And he did both with great style.” - By Anne-Marie Schiro, NY Times
Here is a clip from the collection: