will be titled 1997, the year that summarizes the last great historical change that fashion remembers. There where the advent of creative directors, the script twist advocated by John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, the commercial triumph of Martin Margiela’s conceptual revolution, the disruptive haute couture of Thierry Mugler and Jean-Paul Gaultier come together. Not to be missed, nor is there a lack of drama, with the murder of Gianni Versace. The next exhibition at the Palais Galliera will give an account of all this (from March 7). “It’s a bit of an exercise in nostalgia,” admits the director of the Paris fashion museum, Miren Arzalluz (Bilbao, 45 years old). Trained in art history and politics, her incorruptible criteria and analytical gaze have been felt in the institution since 2018, after fully accounting as head of collections and exhibitions of the Balenciaga Museum of Getaria. We caught her in Tel Aviv, requested to develop upcoming exhibitions because “interest in fashion is more international than ever.”
If fashion is the reflection of its time, what will it tell about us to those who observe and study it in 100 years? Each era has its context, and clothing evolves in one way or another depending on economic, political and social circumstances, but what he is going to say about us is practically the same as three or four centuries ago: it is the fondness of belonging to a group while expressing the need to communicate as individuals, the need to build ourselves, to show ourselves and, sometimes, to hide ourselves. It is as much a reflection of society as it is of ourselves.
Margaret Thatcher said that society is not such, it did not exist. We must always talk about the individual perspective, what fashion means to each one, how we express ourselves through it, but without forgetting the tension with the collective. Today there is no prevailing canon, or we do not have that perception because there is greater diversity, more options, unlike other times; however, there is that feeling of global homogeneity. You go on Instagram and it looks like crazy expressions, but when you look at the big picture, it’s all the same. In that sense, fashion is as contradictory as the human being.
Since it turns out that we have not evolved that much either… I think we have not. Our defects and virtues remain the same. Change the context. It is also true that it is difficult for me to provide a photograph of these times.
Perhaps the question should be turned around: what do we say now as a fashion society. That sure has changed. Today it is recognized as important. Be careful, it has always been important, now and three centuries ago, but the relevance given to it is greater.
Has the entry into museums contributed to that relevance? The debate of fashion and art bores me. It is as if everything had to go through him, as if fashion needed art to legitimize itself. Otherwise, it remains frivolous. That’s why we don’t get out of the loop. Fashion is as complex as any other manifestation: it is economic power, a sociological tool, a symbol and a motor for change… Perhaps the success of fashion exhibitions in museums has led us to such a conclusion. In any case, organizing shows of this type is positive. In addition, museums owe ourselves to the visitor, we cannot be elitist, we are a public service and the programming has to be attractive, accessible. For a Balenciaga retrospective to be so blockbusters [éxito] As another one by Picasso, it doesn’t seem like a problem to me.
Speaking of blockbusters, have we turned fashion into another form of entertainment? Fashion is also escapism, they don’t call it the dream industry for nothing. Another thing is that it becomes just that. What happens is that we have made our lives pure Show, especially through social networks, with those fantasies that we build ourselves. In the end, everything is part of the same type of playful experience, be it gastronomic, artistic or clothing.
What would then be the role of the designer? We always link this question to the creativity crisis. And it is true that, since the 1990s, we have not witnessed a change of historical scope. It also happens that the industry has other priorities. But, of course, how is a designer going to express his creativity and develop talent with the pressures he is subjected to? The situation was supposed to change with the pandemic, but we are back to old ways. The system does not allow breathing, does not leave room for mental freedom. And the result is product and product. merchandising. What works economically.
Paco Rabanne maintained that the creator must preserve impertinence. Is it possible at a time like the present, in which anyone can mess it up to the minimum? The changes are brought about by those who act on the margins (without leaving them, because if you operate completely outside the system you lose the opportunity to influence). The vanguards have always emerged like this. And I want to think that there is still room for margins. Then things like Balenciaga happen, which I find unfortunate, and you realize how dangerous cancel culture can be. There is some fear, and it is normal to walk on lead feet. In the end, the window you have to express yourself is very small, even more than 20 years ago. There are things that cannot be done or said today, not even in fashion, that’s how it is.
Diversity, equity, sustainability… Are we being deceived? Any question has ideological connotations. But talking about these issues is already a sign of improvement. I don’t want to make a Marxist reading of what is happening, but if power responds, it is because there is pressure from below, it is forced. Fashion too. If we get cynical, we can talk about whitening, but the mere fact that the industry is being pushed into it already seems positive to me.
Olivier Saillard: “Designers make their collections for Instagram, not to help women”
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