Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Fashion Forward?

New York Times' Guy Trebay describes a provocative new trend on Paris runways.

Woman Masked, Bagged and, Naturally, Feared

Wearing woven hair masks that obscured their faces, the models at the Viktor & Rolf show on Monday looked a little like Hannibal Lecter in drag. On the soundtrack a woman's voice droned a series of threats from a text by the artist Bruce Nauman. "You can't have me," the voice said. "You can't reach me. I can suck you dry."

Suddenly from somewhere in the front row an editor piped up. "And I can eat you with some fava beans and a very nice Chianti," she said. Everybody nearby laughed, and that ripple momentarily swept away a developing sense that something truly creepy was in the air.

When a single designer chooses to efface his models, it's easy to slough off the stunt as creative license. But when a bunch of designers with no connection to one another are moved to eliminate the faces of the beautiful creatures they hire for the catwalk, it's clear something ugly is going on.

Picasso took a similar approach when depicting certain former wives and lovers. If one cares to see a man avenging himself on womankind, a good place to start is the retrospective here of Picasso's portraits of Dora Maar. The bitterer their battles, the likelier that he would depict Maar's head cloven. The less she interested him sexually, the more she was atomized into sharp Cubist planes. Sex wars get played out in many ways, even in fashion, and there is clearly one taking place now that has the odor of misogyny.

Comparisons have already been made between the clothes shown on the runways (five days remain on the schedule) and the obscuring garments of an observant Muslim, the abaya or chador.

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