Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Cult of the Fashion Persona

From Left: Diane Pernet, Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano

While I attended the wonderful lecture at the Met about fashion blogging, I couldn't help stare, mesmerized, at Diane Pernet's extravagant and bizarre hairdo, which seemed to me to be a cross between a royal headdress and a circus tent. When Harold Koda jokingly mentioned subtlety (then turning dramatically to Diane Pernet), she did refer to it as her "persona," which both suggests the psychological separation between self and surface and a kind of call to the fictional aspect of fashion: it is, after all, just a tool that one uses to create an identity.

I began to consider the popularity of the persona in fashion, and how designers like Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano, even Michael Kors (unabashedly boring in a black jacket and jeans) have turned to the "persona" as a form of marketing oneself as a concept, rather than as a real human being. What is behind the headdress, the tuxedo, the costumes? Do they function as masks to hide behind or as a kind of statement of one's unflinching identity?

I am unable to fully answer this question, being a simple observer. But I can question its application to real life, or to the "common woman," who has unknowingly or consciously decided to adhere to her own persona as a way of communicating, however subtlety, what she stands for. Even the so-called fashion challenged have communicated their blatant disregard of clothing as essential to self, or have spoken to a kind of tacit conformity in their Abercrombie and Fitch clothing. While I certainly do not understand Diane Pernet's decision to have a bee hive on her head as a kind of permanent extension, at least I can appreciate the drive to stand out from the masses, which to me is certainly more complex and creative than the clones who walk the street, afraid of finding what really lies beneath the surface.

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