There are trends that come and go in fashion: one season designers may mention an artist, another an architect or a film, but there is a director who is always a staple in the fashion designer reference Bible, Luchino Visconti.
In a way, even when he's not mentioned, the moods from his films reappear here and there in catwalk shows. Among the most loyal Visconti fans there is Karl Lagerfeld who usually doesn't just borrow ideas, but simply lifts entire costumes from a specific film and turns them into a collection. Lagerfeld is a fan of Les Hommes' clothes and Tom Notte and Bart Vandebosch seem to have taken inspiration fo their Autumn/Winter 2013 collection from their fan's favourite director. The duo mentioned indeed Visconti's first film from the “German trilogy”, La caduta degli dei (The Damned, 1969) as main inspiration for their new collection.
Somehow this inspiration is pretty interesting: for this film Visconti looked at European politics and culture moving his perspective to Germany, applying his meticulous passion for historically correct films to the story of a wealthy industrialist family who begins doing business with the Nazi Party. The story is set against the rise of the Third Reich and, sadly, Nazism has become a sort of dark fashion fantasy with The Night Porter becoming a hip excuse for Louis Vuitton. Visconti tackled in his film different and disturbing themes, including ambiguous relationships (think about Martin, drag performer, child molester and sexually deviant nephew).
The film mainly covered the '30s and costume designer Piero Tosi took therefore inspiration for the costumes of the female characters from the dresses favoured by wealthy women in those times, gowns by Parisian fashion houses and designers including Vionnet, Patou, Desses, Molineaux and Grès. Even the costumes for the orgy in drag in the film were well researched while the uniforms came courtesy of the Munich-based Keller tailoring house.
When Tosi was asked to create the costumes for this film, he had some problems in tracing the right fabrics (rubberised and futuristic textiles for Courregesian dresses prevailed in 1969...). Yet this film sparked a new interest in soft fabrics and veiled hats.
Though there weren't any traces of Helmut Berger in his Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel interpretation, Les Hommes' collection featured a couple of ambiguous moments courtesy of an out of place long pleated skirt. Militaristic inspirations prevailed and included long capes, double-breasted narrow waisted jackets, military coats and flared-hip breeches matched with military boots.
Velvet - one of the fabrics destined to become a 2013-14 trend - appeared here and there in the jackets and the waistcoats that could be unzipped at the waist and reduced to a mini-waistcoat (probably one of the unnecessary elements of this collection together with a cropped padded jacket and a transparent PVC raincoat). Martin seemed to be a reference in the hairstyle and the anguished faces of the models, while splashes of violet were maybe hints at the decadent moods of the film (or maybe called to mind the lilac fur stole that appears in the background during the orgy scene?).
Somehow you feel happy the design duo didn't opt for the overexploited Death in Venice (1971), but then again you wonder why fashion keeps on going back to Nazism, appropriating and transforming the imagery of the Third Reich.
One answer could be the link between the icons of the Third Reich and capitalist icons - remember Maciej Toporowicz's "Obsession" film in which clips from The Night Porter, The Damned and Leni Riefenstahl's work were mixed with ads for Calvin Klein perfumes featuring Kate Moss?
While we wait to find a proper answer, you can be sure one of these days some fashion designer will say they have pilfered - pardon, taken inspiration from - Visconti's Ludwig (1973), so that we will have covered the entire "Germany Trilogy". We will probably have to wait longer instead to finally find a designer who will comment upon the doom-haunted times we're going through without using Nazism.
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