"Sometimes on a legendary night / Like the closing of the garage / When the crowd is calling down the spirits / Listen, and you will hear the footsteps of all the houses that walked there before," Malcolm McLaren's 'Deep in Vogue', based on an article by Chi Chi Valenti (Details, October 1988).
Quite often the key to reveal the final meanings or messages behind specific fashion designs is not in an entire collection, but in several details or in the way that collection is showcased. Take Miuccia Prada's Miu Miu's Resort 2016 designs presented last night in Paris: the collection was certainly a way to celebrate the arrival on the scene of the brand's first women's fagrance, yet the cues to unlock it were scattered here and there.
For the occasion the Palais d’Iéna (originally commissioned to house a Museum of Public Works, though it then became the seat of the Conseil Économique, Social et Environnemental (CESE), the third constitutional assembly of the French Republic) was turned into a club with an industrial scaffolding structure, bars and a DJ booth.
Invitation cards looked like club flyers and, for the finale, models stormed (and in one case fell...) down the dance floor from the scaffolding rig suspended above it, while Malcolm McLaren's 'Deep in Vogue' from his 1989 album "Waltz Darling" blasted in the background.
The track, as you may remember, paid homage to New York's drag-ball scene and to houses such as La Beija, Extravaganza, Magnifique and St.Laurent, and, very aptly, ladies from RuPaul's Drag Race (Pearl and Miss Fame among the others) mingled with the crowd at the Miu Miu event.
In a way closing with a track by such an extraordinary plagiarist was the final epiphany for this collection. Some critics defined the clothes as chaotic, but they were actually 12" extended and sampled remixes of previous designs.
The nude prints were indeed borrowed from Miu Miu's S/S 2010 collection; the floral motifs on jackets and coats derived from the big-shouldered leather jackets from the S/S 2011 collection; the birds and swallows had instead appeared in Miu Miu's Autumn/Winter 2011-12 designs, while the striped motifs and the fur stoles in bright pop colours were borrowed from Prada's S/S 2011 collection (not to mention the stripy shoes-cum-socks probably last seen at the Blitz Club somewhere in the '80s...).
The stripes also pointed towards something else, the heart of the UK's dance revolution in the late '80s, Manchester's very own Eiffel Tower - The Haçienda.
Characterised by a light and spacious architecture, with a high roof and bare brick walls, the club featured pillars painted in hazard stripes and traffic bollards around the edge of the dance-floor.
The hazard stripes replicated in Miu Miu's designs were probably borrowed from the interior design of this legendary island of music, drugs, and love, that has recently turned fashionable again inspiring also a master's course in music industry management that will be launched at the University of Central Lancashire.
There were only three new addition in this collection: images of grainy legs of mysterious ladies (imagine club flyers or photocopied photographs of sensual legs by Helmut Newton and you get an idea) or of disco flyers reading "Miu Miu Club - 4th July 2015" appliqued on skirts.
The rest was a bold and shiny remix of something that we had already seen, which is nothing to be surprised about since we already saw the transformation of the designer from DJ into a remixer in January 2015, so it's as if Miuccia was confirming us that contemporary fashion is not about an endless search for innovation, but a constant mash up of the past - in a nutshell "Old is the New New".
The presentation proved that designers with enough money can easily recycle themselves and avoid producing anything extremely new without damaging their incomes (the sales of the new fragrance will in this case cover the costs of an eventual collection flop...).
But there is something even more annoying here: the cultural appropriation of the club environment. Warehouse parties offered in the '80s rare opportunities for the working class, they represented indeed a temporary escapist disappearance from the day realities, and a way to experience a sense of collective identity and belonging in politically and socially bleak times.
We do live in critical times (what about the Greek crisis?), but the club space has been cleverly remixed and repackaged by the fashion industry that turned it from a release valve from a stifling and depressing everyday life into a one-off event for a generation of beautiful and wealthy fans, supporters and celebrities (all the others can enjoy their #miumiuclub tagged pics on Instagram...).
The irony of it all? 'Deep in Vogue'. The track recently resurfaced also in Alan Moore's graphic novel Fashion Beast, originally commissioned by the late punk impresario Malcolm McLaren.
The characters in this graphic adventure live in a dystopic and futuristic society, in a city that is uncannily dominated by a fashion house led by a mysterious reclusive, obsessive and ugly character (you wonder if this nightmare will become true one day?).
So 'Deep in Vogue' comes back from the recesses of your record collection to remind you that Vogueing, plagiarising, stealing, remixing, clubbing and the late '80s in all their horrid beauty are still in fashion, especially in a confused society on the brink of social and financial collapse mainly interested in mingling and engaging with beautifully vapid 24 hour party people with very little knowledge of the history of fashion, music and the clubbing scene, but with a lot of time on their hands to post useless pictures of themselves on Instagram.
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