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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Art, Postmodernism, Warholites and the High Fashion cabal

It's fairly easy to understand why "hip" fashion models look a certain way, if you know about the people who influence the fashion modeling biz and their mentality. NYC "high fashion", ever since the late 70s, is controlled by a particular group of people who have one thing in common - they are Andy Warhol groupies. For many, Andy was the greatest artist the USA has ever produced, so it's logical that the NYC fashion cabal iconises Warhol. The group includes characters like the infamous S Meisel and the lesser-known Paul Cavaco - responsible (along his his daughter) for Allure, and also Harper's Bazaar in the past. People like Cavaco regard little-known biz figures like US Vogue ex-editor Kezia Keeble as very important, perhaps more so than A Wintour. It was people like Keeble who got them in the biz, a decade before AW became the US Vogue editrix in 1988. Keeble is the K in KCD - one of the top NYC fashion PR houses since 1985. Meisel was working with KCD from the very beginning, with clients like Versace. Today, the same people and their minions control all NYC fashion publications, with the exception of US Elle - which is run by French interests and is seen as an outsider.
After the cabalists realized that high fashion was a dead end and beauty/cosmetics offered the best financial opportunities for the future, they infiltrated that biz sector in force - although they used to claim that beauty/cosmetics work was suitable only for retiring fashion models and routinely made fun of "unchic" mods working for beauty brands like L'Oreal. Today, the cabal has conveniently forgotten its past critique and is getting into L'Oreal too, with people like J Kaliardos from V and Garren/Pita from Meisel's side working for the brand.
Meisel and his pals remain avid Warholites - it's important to understand Warhol's philosophy in order to figure out how high fashion operates, especially since 2000 when biz control passed to NYC, with Paris and Milan playing a next to zero role.
First of all, people should know that the fashion cabal's "artists" (photographers, stylists, etc) have nothing to do with real art, and especially its avant-garde side - they view whatever "art" they do as simply a successful business, just like Andy W did. This is the reason the hardcore artsy crowd in NYC and London treat fashionistas like lepers - AW has struggled for years to get NYC museums and art centers to even bother with fashion, and succeeded only recently, thanks to help from people like the Lauders, major donors of such institutions but also her clients, since they own Estee Lauder.
Andy was a postmodernist - an useful excerpt from a paper on the subject:
...The end of the Twentieth century marked a change in American society with the mass consumption of goods. From this mass consumption spawned a new cultural era in art. This new era was dubbed postmodernism. One of the leading artists of this new era was Andy Warhol...
In essense, postmodernism is the enemy of modernity in everything - and avant-garde art, which is always after something new and original. Warhol did not take art seriously - he himself said that "Making money is art, and working is art and good business is the best art."
In its Warhol form, postmodernism is the father of today's "trash" culture. One example - celebrity gossip in fact started with the foundation of Interview, a mag Warhol intended as a vehicle which could make money by selling trash celeb/socialite gossip. The aim was to guarantee employment for his party friends, many of whom worked for the magazine.
The fashion cabal shares the same mentality - selling trash labelled as "fashion" is for them a sarcastic joke on the clueless middle/upper classes, who will buy hipness enthusiastically without realizing that they are in fact making fools of themselves. Miuccia Prada, a cabal fellow-traveller, has openly said many times that her fashion designs are simply a joke on the bourgoisie...
High fashion is always retro, and never attempts to offer anything novel - pastiche is the code word here, one which Karl Lagerfeld likes a lot. This is the reason the NYC cabal (along with their London and Paris allies, who always depended on hype and theatrics to sell their inferior products) hates Milan - Italian fashion grew to an 80 billion dollar business by offering technically superior and novel products rather than depending on retro trends or "fur trim on everything". The cabal knows that people will always choose quality when they are offered an alternative to trash - which is why they will never allow quality models to appear in the mags or campaigns they control. Quality is bad for business - in their world.

If you like to see a movie that ridicules the philosophy - which manifests, as someone notes, in "...gender bending, camp, masquerade, varieties of cross dressing, collapsed high/low dress distinctions, proliferating anti-fashion genres and pastiche styles..." check out Robert Altman's 1993 Pret-à-Porter - a movie universally hated by high fashion "professionals".
The funny thing is - these characters tend to see themselves as social subversives...Rowland has pictures of Che Guevara in his agency...
On a lower level, the Warhol influence appears as the "inspiration" Andy's famous transvestite stars bring to S Meisel's model selection (Karen Elson looking like Jackie Curtis, according to the NYT), Meisel again shaving the eyebrows off his fave mods, or the fact that every other male model looks like Joe Dallesandro, the star of Warhol's Flesh and Trash...


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