Guests at Franco Moschino's Spring/Summer 1990 show found on their chairs a small gold box. Many of them thought a fragrance was hidden inside it, but in each box there was actually a child's toy that, turned upside down, emitted a sonorous "moooooo!". The toy reflected an in-depth crisis the designer was going through at the time: he felt indeed he had produced a collection of clothes with no meaning, as if he had nothing left to say but a blatant "moooooo!", yet, the press was enthusiastic about it.
Decades have passed since that collection, the fashion industry has radically changed, yet many things have stayed the same. A special guest at Pitti Uomo, Jeremy Scott showcased yesterday evening his Spring/Summer 2016 menswear collection for Moschino in Florence’s historic Palazzo Corsini and, in many ways, it felt a bit like a re-edition of that sonorous “moooooo!”.
Scott started from a motorcycle and a Formula One inspiration, with spoof race suit logos covering jackets and trousers (accessorised with crowns); then, thinking he was maybe in Venice, Vienna, the French court or on MTV, he moved into a Giovanni Casanova (as reinterpreted by Federico Fellini in his film)-meets-Marie Antoinette-meets-Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus" mood.
Tailcoats with gold embroideries, colourful shirts covered in frills and pants in which different patterns and colours all clashed together replaced the sporty pieces.
As pink, bright fuchsia and orange shades with some gold tones thrown into the mix triumphed, at times it all felt more Liberace (in his trademark Neptune costume...) than Fellini's Casanova. Fellini and his costume designer Danilo Donati reinterpreted the 1700s ampliflying the grotesque aspects of the Rococò style in the costumes for this film (such as Casanova's pink ensemble - View this photo), it remains to be seen if doing the same in a fashion collection (and making journalists believe it was all done in the name of Pop Art and fun) will be a commercial success.
The sport inspiration actually came back in the tailcoats with zippers that could be turned into biker jackets (a new hybrid of the modern wardrobe?), while a cotton shirt and denim pants covered in prints of precious gems were probably among the most wearable pieces.
Womenswear went from Marie Antoinette in damasked cycling shorts to cartoonish reinterpretations of Balenciaga's "Baby Doll" dresses (think about the 1958 dress in ivory silk taffeta with floral print in various tones of red and fuchsia to get an idea View this photo).
Just like Balenciaga's designs, Scott's dresses had a round neckline, were cut at the hipline, and featured a full pleated skirt, but the romantic fabric they were made of was hacked by an oversized print of Jeremy Scott's trademark cartoonish characters.
It was all supposed to be over-the-top, ironic, eccentric and witty and show that Scott is capable of suspending his designs between the tacky and the elegant, the casual and the formal, though in many ways Moschino fans never had any problems with kitsch. After all, one of slogans for a Moschino collection from the '80s read "Good taste doesn't exist".
As for lifting entire Balenciaga designs, well, if you go through the entire history of fashion, you easily realise that mixing details of costumes from different times together or plagiarising and modernising iconic pieces created by historical fashion houses are considered as everyday practices that at times can even bring innovation into a collection. Besides, Franco Moschino himself stated: “I've never created anything in fashion. I prefer to copy, because my copies have meaning. I scream 'Freedom, Wear what you want; do what you want.'”
In Franco Moschino's words we actually spot the core problem with this supposedly original, transgressive and multi-coloured extravaganza: it did not have any sort of message and it felt more or less like a box screaming "moooooo!" .
Franco Moschino actually had a cultural background that he wanted to destroy, and would do so by mercilessly poking fun at it, since irreverent joie de vivre must have a message. Therefore there was usually substance behind his designs that were often fed by his passions - cinema, opera and ballet.
In an interview published on the New York Magazine in December 1989, Franco Moschino stated: "Fashion is absolutely tacky. Being fashionable is not positive at all. (...) Fashion kills people. It is Fascism. As a designer, I have to convince you to change – to cut your hair, to change the frames of your glasses. You're a creature of the fashion system, a Muppet, not yourself". Scott is very much part of a global celebrity party, a creator of a type of fashion that references the present in all its consumerist incarnations, from fast food chains to Barbie dolls, but doesn't have a clue about the past nor can foresee the future.
The verdict on this collection? Fashion critics seemed all keen on giving it the thumbs up and call the show a success, but not because it will sell clothes. Moschino is currently settled on selling small accessories such as mobile phone covers and bags (and in this collection there were quite a few shoe-shaped bags of the kind you will soon see on Anna Dello Russo and Katy Perry...) or fragrances (guests at previous collections actually found on their seats children's toys that hid perfumes inside rather than real toys, so the joke has gone...), small merchandise that sells consumers the vision and the dream of the fashion house, but doesn't push them to develop their own individual taste.
Somehow, Franco Moschino had foreseen it all, as, through his anti-fashion slogan "fashion shows can be dangerous to your health", he alerted the audience about media manipulation and the potentially homogenising effects of fashion on culture.
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