Of course, I’m going to write about Elton John’s online blow-out with Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, whose surnames combine to create one of the most famous fashion labels in the world. It’s been impossible to avoid said fracas – which I believe is the new, official, BBC-approved term – the designers’ reactionary views on nuclear families and IVF babies resonating as they have far beyond the fashion pages.
My takeaway from the whole thing is how foolhardy it is when designers overstep the mark and let their mouths do the talking, rather than their clothes. Dolce & Gabbana’s autumn/winter collection was titled “Viva la Mamma”, with a Spice Girls soundtrack and bambino-clutching models. It got their general gist across, and managed to avoid causing unnecessary offence.
Fashion designers have a long history of shooting their mouths off. Coco Chanel once decried Dior as a man “who doesn’t know women, never had one, and dreams of being one”. Karl Lagerfeld, the inheritor of her mantle, is also known for his pronouncements: in 2013, a women’s pressure group in France filed a defamation claim following the designer’s “defamatory and discriminatory comments” about weight.
Here in Britain, we have Dame Vivienne Westwood, who has always stamped her frequently outspoken views across her clothes. “I realised you need slogans on clothes if they are to be political,” she said to me recently, reflecting on the statement-scribbled T-shirts that defined her punk work. Generally, however, that subtlety isn’t reflected in her own words: from climate change and the death of culture to Scottish independence, Westwood has a view on everything.
I don’t believe fashion has nothing to say – quite the contrary. Fashion can be political, it can express points of view. Sometimes it does it better than any other means – think of that indelible image of Katharine Hamnett in her “58% DON’T WANT PERSHING” T-shirt. Fashion is powerful enough to get designers’ messages across, without the need for rhetoric. Although I hope we won’t be seeing “synthetic child” Babygros from D&G.
Mamma mia.Reuse content