Often Transcending Gimmickry

I did something yesterday on the train I never do anymore: I read a print copy of the newspaper. I was reminded how, by scanning the page, I used to discover articles about fascinating new things, insights, or perspectives, things that I never would have taken the effort to click through on. Not that anything like that happened to me, of course; since what I picked up from the seat next to me was the Style section of the Washington Post.

In the absence of many facts, Robin Givhan, the Post's Woman In Paris, threw her analytical hat into the ring, attempting to put fashion shows by Miu Miu, McQueen, and Theyskens into context for readers with an actively hostile, anti-fashion fashion sense:

Prada excels in merging creativity and logic, a rare ability in the fashion industry. The most exuberantly imaginative designers are often the least reasonable. They don't care if a woman can't sit in a dress as long as those giant mirrored discs on her rear end look "fierce."


At Hermes on Saturday, the collection from Jean Paul Gaultier emerged as a blur of luxurious materials: crocodile, cashmere, glove leather. The theme was biker chic, but it really could have been anything at all so long as the house's handbags -- Birkins and Kellys -- were prominently featured. The ready-to-wear at Hermes serves as a mise-en-scene for the handbags. The clothes are beautiful but not especially memorable. They don't define an Hermes ready-to-wear aesthetic; they simply imply wealth.

Contrast that with the ready-to-wear collection at Louis Vuitton. It, too, is a brand defined by its handbags. But while Hermes bags are about longevity and the idea that a woman might pass one down to her daughter, the Louis Vuitton brand is focused on trends. It is an absurdly expensive disposable fashion.

The clothes at Vuitton are fashion-conscious. A wearer may not necessarily feel rich, but she'll feel hip. They are unveiled with blaring fanfare. The grandeur of the show is in marked contrast with the availability of the collection, which is generally limited to flagship Vuitton boutiques. But the point is not to sell the clothes, but to sell Louis Vuitton as a fashion brand. Subliminal message: Go buy a bag. Or two. Or five.

And even so, Miuccia got off better than John Cage. Here's a review of a recent all-Cage concert at the National Gallery:
Cage's work often transcends gimmickry through unmistakably musical rhythmic drive highlighted by prominent percussion. The dancelike "Amores" came across as ideal music for a love scene. Percussionists Thomas Jones, William Richards and guest Michael Zell drummed softly with their hands and effectively conveyed a gentle but vital intimacy. They brought virility to the jungle sounds of "Third Construction," using cowbells and conches with equal abandon.

"Nocturne" featured poignant performances by Johnson and violinist Lina Bahn.

Throughout, the Contemporary Music Forum displayed uncommon scope and sensitivity and brought out the best of an important and still underappreciated composer.

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: March 7, 2007.

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