REALLY Impossible Conversations 

Left: Yohji Yamamoto &  Right:  Mme Gres

Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda, Curator and Curator-in-Charge, the Met’s Costume Institute, admitted that long before Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, they had wanted to do a fashion exhibition featuring the works of two designers (specifically women), one that would take the form of a conversation. They have indicated their interest in doing this again, sometime in the future.

Of course, this current Met exhibit focuses on the almost uncanny similarities between the two creators, (in fact, it is often hard to tell which design is which in some instances). Still, Miuccia admitted she was never inspired by Schiap’s work, and they did not necessarily see eye-to-eye on everything (most notably where fashion as art is concerned).

Left: Valentino & Right: Comme des Garcons

This got me thinking about future pairings. I thought it more interesting both visually and verbally (in a wicked sort of way) if the duo to be featured were completely different, or even at odds in their design philosophies and aesthetics (in fact, the more diametrically opposed, the better!) Below are some examples of those I think would make for REALLY “Impossible Conversations” (the ultimate design ‘Odd Couples’, if you will), as illustrated by their words (a signature quote). And yes, this is meant to be tongue-in-cheek!

Christian Lacroix: “I was often accused — when people did not like my work — of doing couture that was too ‘theatrical, yet when I was a child, I never thought about fashion but only about making costumes.” AND Vera Wang: “Fashion offers no greater challenge than finding what works for night without looking like you are wearing a costume”.

Bob Mackie: “We live in a jeans and T-shirt world but we all want to live in a palace … We’re not trying to attract the masses here. We’re looking for a special person who’s looking for something special.” AND Yves Saint Laurent: “I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes”.

Tomas Meier (creative director Bottega Veneta): “The It Bag is a totally marketed bullshit crap. You make a bag, you put all the components in it that you think could work, you send it out to a couple of celebrities, you get the paparazzi to shoot just when they walk out of the house. You sell that to the cheap tabloids, and you say in a magazine that there’s a waiting list. And you run an ad campaign at the same time. I don’t believe that’s how you make something that’s lasting—that becomes iconic as a design.” AND Karl Lagerfeld (creative director Chanel): “Logos and branding are so important. In a big part of the world, people cannot read French or English–but are great in remembering signs.”

Mme Gres: “Perfection is one of the goals I’m seeking. For a dress to survive from one era to the next, it must be marked with an extreme purity.” AND  Yohji Yamamoto: “I think perfection is ugly. Somewhere in the things humans make, I want to see scars, failure, disorder, distortion.”

Christian Dior: “The tones of gray, pale turquoise and pink will prevail.” AND Andre Courreges: “I believe one can make women happier by bringing both more white and more colour into their lives. I’m sure that someday Paris streets will be as full of colour as one can see now on African and Asian streets. It’s ridiculous to focus on hemlines. Wearing my clothes is a question of spirit.”

Rei Kawakubo: “My intention from the start (of Comme des Garcons) was to show what I thought was strong and beautiful. It just so happened that my notion was different from everybody else’s.” AND Valentino Garavani: “I know what women want. They want to be beautiful”.

Isabel Toledo: “My jersey dresses seem to drip off the wearer’s body yet retain a structure that sometimes appears to challenge gravity. I deliberately build these dresses so that they cut away from a woman’s body rather than cling to her. AND Hubert de Givenchy: “The dress must follow the body of a woman, not the body following the shape of the dress.”

Alexander McQueen: “I get my ideas out of my dreams… if you’re lucky enough to use something you see in a dream, it is purely original. It’s not in the world — it’s in your head. I think that is amazing.” AND Helmut Lang: “Fashion is an expression and a reaction. It is a reflection, and even a proposal, on the current situation of our society.”

Betsey Johnson: “Take a leotard and add a skirt” AND Donna Karan: “For me, starting each collection is always about what I really want, what I really need, and I was personally dying for sensual comfort. I think when you think of Donna Karan, you think of sensuality, but it’s a different kind of sensuality. A kind of comfort sensuality that is one with your body and the way clothes feel (when they’re) on. ”

Arnold Scaasi: “My idea of sportswear was a sable lined coat” AND Ralph Lauren: “People ask how can a Jewish kid from the Bronx do preppy clothes? Does it have to do with class and money? It has to do with dreams.”

Ralph Rucci: “One thing stands out in my mind forever. Years ago I was at an event in New York filled with women in couture and jewels, and Elsa Peretti walks in wearing a black cashmere toga and a jumpsuit, carrying a small brown paper bag as an evening bag (and wearing, of course, 85 carats of ‘diamonds by the yard’). But the brown paper bag stands out as a symbol of individuality.” AND Zac Posen: The media is constantly redefining what luxury is. Luxury can be a dirty sock if dressed up in the right way.

Marc Jacobs (one of fashion’s most notable quick change artists) “The only time anything ever changes is really when you’re respectful and disrespectful at the same time”. “As part of a group of designers, we are all as passionate about change in fashion as ever…we trust our whims, and maintain integrity in our approach to make stylish clothing for now! AND Geoffrey Beene (one of the most consistent creators of all time) :”This change of seasons, change of silhouettes, it’s so dumb to me because a woman’s wardrobe should be just like a man’s – you keep adding to it good pieces. If you change every season, it simply implies that you didn’t have much faith in last season, so you leave it and go on to something else. It’s a very discouraging thing.”

Giorgio Armani: “I design for real people. I think of my customers all the time. There is no virtue whatsoever in creating clothing or accessories that are not practical.” AND Rudi Gernreich:, “It was just a whimsical idea that escalated when so many crazy ladies took it up.

As you can see by the last two quotes, regardless of the degree to which one designer may seem to radically differ from another, there will always be profound, basic points of agreement. Each is tapping into his/her creative soul, and seeking to address the needs, dreams, and desires of their customers. Or at the very least, they are striving to CREATE those needs, dreams, and desires.

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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