Monday, February 18, 2008

Milan Fashion Week: Molto Topolino

There are a couple of things you can say about certain collections at Milan Fashion Week, and one of those is: Che macello! This is the knee-jerk statement that arises from being exposed to the fashion equivalent of a cartoon slaughterhouse. All that gaudiness! That hair! Donatella!

The other is a narrow defense of Milan as culturally correct response to the saturnalia of Paris, to the sclerotic indie cred of London, and to New York as a hidebound gauge of commercialism. Poor New York; imagine being seen to openly troll for customers. The fact that Milan seems in part disconnected to the other three can be explained by philosophical stereotype: The Italians know being from existing. In other words, they know how to live with gusto. They have appetites and they indulge their rights to abuse bronzer.

Gross generalization aside, these are the people responsible for the comic minion Arlecchino and the Commedia dell'Arte, and what is that but improv theatre in its most enjoyably unsubtle form?

Comedy in whatever form is a matter of national pride, even as it crosses not the Tiber but the Rubicon.

So it's the Italians--or the Frankie Morello designers in particular--who make liberal use of epic and ad hoc comic simile while the rest of the world gets bogged down by pedantic discussions of the global fashion marketplace and one's obligations to its needs.

As the Frankie Morello collection proves, sometimes it's about having a good time in bad taste instead of the other way around. Morello makes Paris look depraved, London look arthritic, and New York look anxious. In all cases, the rest of the world seems unhealthy and far too serious. Who wants clothes that are manifestations of neuroses?

The Morello romp included eleven giant mouse-eared bows, some more literal than others; three bellboy caps; three sets of plastic google eyes either worn sensibly on the front of one of the bellboy caps or more incongruously at the waist. Plus transparent skirts, a sheath silk-screened with what appeared to be three quarters of Madonna's face, and a chic but inexpensive-looking collarless tweed suit with fake fur cuffs.

Besides Madonna, Maurizio Modica and Pierfrancesco Gigliotti took this opportunity to introduce the world to the rest of their imaginary pals. For Autumn/Winter 2008-09, these buddies included Mickey Mouse, Felix the Cat, Séverine Serizy, and Wham!

Wham!? Amen to that, sister. Pop culture has always been a slumgullion of disconnected idiom. In instances like these, where many of its brightest symbols seem to be disgorged at once, it feels both nauseating and liberating. The former occurs only if one allows oneself to get personally involved or to be preoccupied with intellect. The point is that there is no point. Scholars have wasted years on presumptive debate and other academic errata when there may have been nothing to evaluate in the first place. Frankie Morello does away with this nuisance speculation in a torrent of Belle de Jour hair, fake fur, and a peppy FRANK! emblazoned across another of the caps.

Culture here does not mean sophistication or anything remotely close to it. The Italians have always loved Topolino, Madonna, and evidently Wham! as well. The only people who will be upset are those who suffer fashion instead of suffering for it. The first of these two unrelated anxiety disorders is beyond the scope of the Morello aesthetic.

It might be prudent to view the Frankie Morello label as a nostrum whose purpose it is to relieve intellectual bloat, like a psychedelic antacid.

Mixing international kitsch from the Big Eighties with Kellogg's Americana from the 60's , the dynamic duo refuted the idea that fashion has to have purpose. Sometimes, all it needs is pop. And maybe a little snap and crackle.


WendyB said...

That shade of blue is divine.

Suzanna Mars said...

I agree, WB! What shade is it, Air Force Blue? Someone weigh in, please, we are tangled up in blue. Denim blue, Yale blue? Whatever, it is easy to wear.

enc said...

My father would have called that French Military Blue. I'd have to go with him on that one, but it's only opinion.

I like the sense of humor, of not taking oneself too seriously. Fashion can be such heavy lifting sometimes. A retro reference or mouse ears are a welcome relief. To me, anyway.

susie_bubble said...

I see good things happening in Milan again and their literal take on things can be refreshing in some ways...

Thomas said...

So the purpose of fashion is not to have a purpose...I would have said its purpose is to clothe us, and clothe us well, leaving room for individual interpretation of what "well" means. But this stance leaves me with far too many shaking my head moments. I find I cannot appreciate fashion as I simply do not understand it.

IM said...

Ah Milan it really is the Promised Land - I’ll add a hallelujah to your amen. Really, who doesn’t like the occasional popper and a transparent skirt? It was a fun collection that will be a huge miss for some but my inner teen says ‘right on the money’.

Suzanna Mars said...

Thomas, I meant that this collection in particular had no typical--and serious--statement, and that it was a relief to just enjoy something without sucking on some heavier intellecutal or artistic air.