By Benjamin Simmenauer
THIS PHILOSOPHER AND PROFESSOR AT THE INSTITUT FRANÇAIS DE LA MODE REVISITS THE SYMBOLISM OF PARTIES POST-PANDEMIC AND ANALYZES THE WAYS IT SHOWS UP IN UPCOMING READY-TO-WEAR COLLECTIONS.
WHAT PLACE DO PARTIES OCCUPY IN OUR POST-PANDEMIC SOCIETY?
The lockdowns cut us off from nightlife for the past year-and-a-half. Going out doesn’t seem like a given anymore. It was something commonplace, but now it has become exceptional, so we want to enjoy it as much as possible. With a certain nostalgia, we’re looking to rediscover this kind of carefree attitude. That being said, people are still cautious about getting together again. Sometimes, it even seems like a transgressive act to go out. It’s rather contradictory, but we’re doing it both more carefully and more intensely.
SOME PEOPLE HAVE REFERRED TO A CERTAIN SURGE OF EMOTION AND ENERGY, LIKE DURING THE ROARING TWENTIES THAT CAME AFTER THE GREAT WAR. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS?
I don’t have a sense that we’re seeing the same type of frenzy that occurred after the War or after a serious crisis. Society in general seems more convalescent than electrified. When we talk about having fun, there’s also this idea of freedom of movement, this ability to travel, which is yet to fully happen, with health pass requirements and some borders that remain closed. The overall atmosphere is one that has not fully emerged from gloom, contrary to what we’ve seen at recent, extremely enthusiastic fashion shows. I have the impression that the optimistic projections of the fashion world are a bit premature.
SEQUINS, GOLD, EVENINGWEAR…WHY IS FASHION SO KEEN ON THIS DESIRE TO GO OUT AND CELEBRATE?
It’s an industry that feeds on appearances, which means occasions to get dressed up. Therefore, it encourages us to go out by showing partylike scenarios, because if it sticks to a wardrobe for Zoom meetings at home, it loses all meaning. On the consumer side, this dressier wardrobe reminds us of this desire for a reawakening, a desire to reconnect with a more celebratory way of life that’s simply more enjoyable. It remains to be seen if we can still do it, because, at the same time, we can also see an opposing movement toward self-reflection, prudence and mutual distrust. It’s like the buzz around Kanye West’s balaclava, or the success of the Netflix series Squid Game, reflecting a society that still has trouble sharing or being positive.
IN THIS NEW FASHION CONTEXT, DOES LINGERIE SEEM TO BE STRUTTING ITS STUFF AGAIN?
Collections have highlighted the unbridled sexuality of the 2000s, with references to an objectified female archetype, yet which doesn’t have the same meaning at all twenty years later. We’re seeing a feminist reappropriation of sexualized apparel, especially since these ideas come from female designers. Visible lingerie, and high cuts or cutouts that reveal the body…What does this reappearance mean? It signifies designers’ desire to promote celebration, freedom and sensuality, but also to offer an antidote to doom and gloom.