Monday, February 4, 2008

No One Here Gets Out Alive

Rachel Comey is back to gravedigging. After a spring collection of clambake-plain shorts and dresses, the former director of Exquisite Corpse art gallery exhibited a gallery of downtown ghouls in her Fall 2008 ready-to-wear show.

Forewarned is forearmed: Autumn will be the season of the unemphatic undead.

If you've ever wondered about the closets of the undead (honestly, who hasn't?), Comey provides the answer in 31 thrifty looks.

The undead shop at the Valparaiso, Indiana Goodwill store.

Before you clutch your crucifix, you need to know that the Valparaiso Goodwill outlet is unlike any other thrift store. Last October, a vintage Marii-pleated Mary McFadden evening gown sold for a whopping twelve dollars plus tax. The purchaser removed the original Bergdorf price tag before selling it on eBay for nine-hundred dollars. The gown was sold to a nebbish fashion curator who has one of the most eccentric collections of vintage couture in the world.

Comey has tapped into the vein of the recycled and the timing couldn't be better. This makes Comey an acute modernist, someone perfectly in step with the pressing need to cut out and cut back. If there ever were an antidote to the fantasia that is Paris Fashion Week, this would be it. As imagined by the designer, downtown has no special effects, no trompe-l'œil, and no hubris. On the other hand, there was a hint of depression, a wonderfully paralytic mood usually represented by a mournful bassoon.

Just as Röntgen's wife saw her skeletal future in the x-ray of her hand, so Comey's models foreshadowed a thriftily sepulchral September.

The Lower East Side artist bent on purveying the hippest artistic vibe would applaud Comey's subtext: Daylight is for the birds. This artist would also smile at the collection's economy. A giant sweatshirt left behind by last night's overfed date lost its sleeves before being repurposed to cover a nightgown. A tablecloth was turned into a jumper and worn over a scavenged Persian green blouse.

No matter how one might feel about Paris, New York can be a bit of a letdown even as it gives way to deliverance, and, in Comey's case, culture shock. One can only dine on foie gras for so long before wanting a humble Saltine. The indigestion is soon soothed by the realization that New York is about individuality (and here, survival) in a way Paris could never be. Paris is about beauty and glamour, so much so that it can cease being beautiful and glamorous and wind up banal. Such is the plight of the overstuffed and the overly stimulated. One more forkful of Pommes Dauphin and the rationale of hitting the bum bin for your fall wardrobe suddenly becomes an exciting and vivifying possibility. Students and poets have been doing this for centuries, as have those who cling tenaciously to their indie cred even when well past an age where it is becoming or beneficial. The very best of these creative dressers have created new art forms. Their makeshift street styles have obviously influenced Comey, which is just about how things are supposed to happen. Not in ateliers or grands salons or in the first-class section of an Air France 747, but on the corner of Bowery and Bleecker.

So Comey doesn't indulge in joie de vivre. This makes her a brutal, soup-kitchen realist, even if she is still employing last year's beige lipstick trend. The Lower East Side is gentrifying at an alarming rate. Soon, the remaining artists will be forced out by megadevelopments and Whole Foods Markets. Manhattan is reaching the end of the line. That leaves the artist with New Jersey, which last I heard wasn't quite the same thing. Gentrifying does not automatically imply renewal. This was a quietly intuitive collection whose larger message will probably be overlooked. Points to Comey for recognizing how dire the situation really is.

Images: Style.com

16 comments:

WendyB said...

Ay! Now I've got "Five to one, baby,one in five" stuck in my head!

Suzanna Mars said...

Sure beats today's music, WB!
(Am I showing my age? "You kids couldn't tell a good tune from a bad tuna. Hmmmph.")

riz said...

The more I see of her, the more I like her stuff, even though it's not immediately my aesthetic. Oh and btw - "This makes her a brutal, soup-kitchen realist..."

You brilliance ASTOUNDS me. Toujours...

You do realize one day we will HAVE to meet!

Suzanna Mars said...

Riz, thanks for the lovely comments.

I have to confess that when viewing the photos from the weekend shows, this one really caught me eye and made me think of you!

I thought, Riz would grasp this collection, even if said collection isn't really (what shall I politely say?) flattering.

I also hopped over to your blog to see if you'd written anything about it, but I figured you for Rag and Bone and I was right!

Thomas said...

Why do I feel like I need to revisit my English days just to understand your posts? Who what where when why how...

I tried to sign up for the sewing classes near my work. I'm going to keep trying until I get in, and then I'm going to buy a ton of thrift clothes and see what happens. I worn you now - eyes may be offended.

Brilliant as always.

Suzanna Mars said...

Thomas, the sewing classes sound GREAT! There is no offense with attempt. I am looking forward to reading about and gazing upon your creations.

You're very clever and I admire that.

enc said...

I'm glad there is someone reminding us that we need more grit, anti-whatever, subculture, and rebellion. It's a breath of fresh air, in black.

Sometimes, I don't even care what you're writing about, I just like to read . . . .

C.J.B. said...

Love that I don't have to wait for my Vogue to come to beable to read intelligent, creative and most importantly honest reviews. Brava!!

Suzanna Mars said...

Ladies of the initials, thank you!

enc, this collection really stood out for me, even if it wasn't to my personal taste (there was another that was, nearly in entirety). Knowing Comey's history in the downtown avant-garde, the collection seemed to have a greater significance and situational relevance.

c. j. b, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I wonder if you sense, as I do, some clever dissembling in certain mainstream "reviews."

susie_bubble said...

I witnessed the growing gentrification of LES today... but there are whiffs of a fight yet me thinks...
I somehow don't think it will go the way Angel in London did 20 years ago....

Suzanna Mars said...

SB! I forgot you were in (nearly) the same time zone!

Any time a Whole Foods Market goes in, there's going to be trouble, unless it's in Berkeley. It's a sign of the coming Apocalypse for the rent-controlled. Maybe not this year, maybe not next, but that end of the city will be gentrified. The increased income comes with increased vocal power with the local politicians.

Glad to hear your observations! I have the old hippie's view.

I see you're getting oot and aboot! Good deal!

Blue Floppy Hat said...

NY Fashion Week for me seemed to be (in past years) dominated by collections meant for the Park Avenue set- lovely, but a bit tame. But this is something else...

Suzanna Mars said...

Absolutely, BFH, there is a huge split occurring between the fashion free agents and the classic names. It seems generational to me as well, which is of course reflective of the huge number of Gen X'ers relative to the number of the Boomers.

Thomas said...

"I worn you now..."

What an interesting, unintentional pun. Yes, I just called something I wrote "interesting."

Claire said...

I loved this collection too. There is nothing worse, weather it be in *fashion, art or film, than anything that is overtly goth, as it has such and obvious and played out quality and Comey was perfectly subtle with her reference here.

*Except when Dazed took the cyber goth and turned it into flat out fashion, I remember enjoying it at the time.

Suzanna Mars said...

Thomas, you wear it well!

Claire, yes, the word is subtle. Too bad the world isn't.