Naomi Campbell by Peter Lindbergh for Harper’s Bazaar, Jamaica 1992
From the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Irony is typically associated with the literary and oral; I intend to explore visual irony, specifically within Surrealist fashion, where puns are conceived and presented as optical double entendres, adding layers of meaning to deceptively simple forms. Inconsistencies between expectations and realizations of fashion are often humorously absurd– but what initially seems silly can effectively question functionality, gender, art history, politics and social standards. The Surrealists were, after all, affiliated with the French Communist Party (before they were kicked out!), but their focus was on an emotional revolution that they believed would achieve the same ends as a strictly economic one would.
Elsa Schiaparelli was the first and arguably the most influential designer to explore irony in dress, collaborating frequently with fellow Surrealists Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali, and Man Ray. Following the tenets of Surrealism such as the banishment of false rationality and restrictive customs and structures, she conflated tropes of music, optical illusion, classic statuary and traditional fashion, deliberately presenting incongruity and discordance.
Thierry Mugler: Fashion Fetish Fantasy, 1998
Thierry Mugler 1989-1998. Photos by Patrick Stable and Jean-Phillippe Decros.
Helmut Newton, Thierry Mugler, Monte Carlo 1998, Polaroid,
Claudia Lynx in the Thierry Mugler robot suit photographed by Helmut Newton, 1992.
From what little I’ve seen, today’s collections seem to me a bit backward-looking, though I don’t wish to be overly critical.
I have the distinct impression that what I consider a minimum service of our profession — knowing how to make a woman beautiful and allowing her to look her best through my clothes — is less of a consideration by designers today.
- Thierry Mugler in response to being asked his opinion on Nicola Formichetti’s revival of his fashion house