I regularly get letters and have read reviews of this site that describe to what I do (to quote one visitor) as “exposing” fashion designers as “unoriginal frauds.” I do have enough common sense--just enough--to fully expect a wide variety of interpretations of the site, but my own interpretation is quite different, and I would say that to see this all as just a “catalogue of creative thievery” is to not only misunderstand this here online museum of lovely ladies in foxfur-flanked frocks, but it also misunderstands my overall intentions, and really, the wonderfully complex and deeply intercommunicative tradition of high fashion itself.
As with any art-form, the work of new designers, artists, writers, or musicians can only ever be a response to the work of both previous and contemporaneous ones. What do I mean? I mean that it is impossible to learn anything in any field, artistic or otherwise, without automatically internalizing the rules, even the most basic ones of which are decisions that were made by the most successful individuals in that field, some time ago. You can try to ignore the works of those individuals, to curse the names, or disparage or dismiss the various different strains of that art-form’s history, but they are always there, nevertheless, and whatever work you do will exist - and be viewed by others - within the context of that continuously unfolding history. It is, as the proverb goes, a history written by the “winners,” that is, by the individuals who successfully redefine and reconceptualize the art-form for each new time and each new generation. I paraphrase Emerson’s essay on “Quotation and Originality” when I say that an inventor is someone who knows how to borrow, who knows how to re-combine, and who then, later in his or her career, knows how to then re-invent what he or she has done before, as well…. What I do and intend to do is show how current designers have responded to the work of past and contemporaneous designers (themselves included), as well as the work of past painters from all different centuries and all different nations.
“We cannot overstate our debt to the Past, but the moment has the supreme claim. The Past is for us; but the sole terms on which it can become ours are its subordination to the Present. Only an inventor knows how to borrow, and every man is or should be an inventor. We must not tamper with the organic motion of the soul.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, 19th Century American essayist, from “Quotation & Originality,” in Letters and Social Aims, 1876.
And, as for the part that I play in all this as an restless researcher, I take as my credo the statement that -
“The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious.”
-Marcus Aurelius, 2nd Century Roman emperor and philosopher
The Chinese word for computer (电脑 - diàn nǎo) literally means “electric brain.”
In an interview from 2000, Karl Lagerfeld said:
“One needs a good general education. Know everything, forget everything. However, know all the references that can come back to you in a second, which they do in my case. The computer in my head works fine. That is why I don't like computers. I get the feeling of my brain being outside instead of in my head. You get more out of life with general education, language skills...as it gives you the possibility to draw comparisons.”
He then added that, “[In fashion design], there are no standards. It depends on too many uncontrollable coincidences and circumstances. Even a computer couldn't tell you.”
-From the documentary “Karl Lagerfeld is Never Happy Anyway,” 2000.
In an interview about Dior, Spring 2004 Ready-to-Wear Collection, John Galliano spoke of his particular inspiration at the time, namely the legendary 1940’s German actress, Marlene Dietrich (pr. “Marlayna Deetrik”):
“Marlene, the mother of all ambiguity, artistry… And I was very privileged to be able to see the clothes that Monsieur Dior created for her, and all the tricks of couture to make her look amazing. There were things, suspenders and strings and things that kept her in and up, which we tried to not demystify, but to glorify in this collection.”
Question: Are you more conscious now that the spectacle has to have substance to it?
“Yes, I mean, I’ve always said a little bit of theatre goes a long, long way, but we must never lose the magic or the poetry, ‘cause that’s why I’m here.”
-John Galliano, in the FashionFile interview for 'Christian Dior - Spring/Summer 2004'
Note: If you want not just one, but several concise descriptions of what this site is all about (in the words of its very webmeister), you can say I am "Etymologizing the Language of Fashion and Revealing the Creative Unconscious," or you can do as a few other bloggers have done, and use any of the dozen or so different descriptions provided in the first half of my “Introduction to the Culture Superhighway”: http://www.thefashioniste.com/57.html