THE WAY THINGS ARE
Colette NiReamonn Ioannidou
I was on my way for my daily endorphin fix at the little flower shop near home where Nikki the owner lays her beguiling array of plants on the pavement. On a drab wet morning with spring trying to convince winter the show was over, that small patch was like stepping from black and white into Technicolor. I met Andreas musing to himself as to which blooms to buy. I have sun-sensitive eyes and, post cataract operations, my great surgeon gave me a pair of dark glasses. These unglamorous things are terrific sun shielders but they do tend to evoke good natured taunts such as, ‘You look like a bee/beetle/Ari Onasis/Bono in drag’ etc. I knew one was brewing by the glint in my friend’s eye; he had his own slant.
‘You look like that light beer fellow with those.’
‘Light beer fellow?’
‘You know who I mean, the strange looking one who took over that Kakao brand.’ He was still grinning.
Light beer fellow, Cocoa brand, was my friend losing his tavli pieces? Then I remembered his penchant for giving derisory nicknames to people or things he didn’t much care for or found pretentious, and fashion designers came under that reference index; he meant Karl Lagerfeld and Coco Channel.
Karl Lagerfeld departed the catwalk of life in February. He established a personal ‘look’ that was immediately identifiable, dark glasses were part of that. Some folks are slaves to fashion; yours truly could never apply for a license to use that title neither could Andreas. Our attire might give the impression that we tumbled into a bargain box in a final clearance sale and came up for air with whatever stuck to us. Mind you, there was a small shop in Kilburn High Street in the Sixties that always had interesting items of clothing at very reasonable prices where I bought smart Mary Quant-ish copies that made me feel good. For the ordinary mortal who can’t afford authentic brands what’s the point of being fashionable in pretend if clothes aren’t practical as well? As I listened on the radio to devotees sing the praises of the late designer I wondered why it is that certain people feel above the rest of humanity who do not wear what the gods they admire designate as ‘fashion’ or measure up, literally, to what the designers feel is the perfect female form.
Before passing on to the great fashion house in the sky, Lagerfeld caused a ripple of tuts by using the ‘Nice face, pity about the fat’ remark. However, from what admirers said, he seemed to be a man who gave as much interview time and attention to small-press reporters as he did to the larger publications. And he revitalised the Channel brand by sheer fashion savvy and business sense, crossing the lines between what was high fashion for the rich and famous with brand-affordable for the rest. Cut and cloth can produce fantastic results in the right hands when fabric folds itself onto the body like a comfortable second skin, is wearable and not just for show. He got that.
Many of us, I imagine, have seen The Devil Wears Prada based, film critics suggested, on Vogue’s Anna Wintour, a wasp of a woman in tongue and manner it is said, who has dominated fashion trend setters for a long time. Much of what prowls on the catwalks is unwearable in real life. Then there are the monstrosities worn by movie stars on red carpets, think Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind tearing up curtains to make gowns, while others resemble granny’s chintz sofa covers. Yet there are fashion journalists that try to persuade us of how amazing these creations are. And why, I ask myself, do models have to walk pigeon-toed, throwing their feet out ahead as though trying to trip themselves up? Do they train in flippers?
I once heard Vivienne Westwood belittle a highly intelligent interviewer by telling her in not so many words that the rag she was wearing was awful. Miss Westwood ought to take stock of herself. At times she looks as though she has wandered off the set of a Mad Max flick. I am all for individuality but, come on, where does fashion end and nonsense acceptance begin? I guess it’s when someone starts to feel that slavishly following trends, no matter how silly, makes them superior and ahead of the pack. Sometimes being too ‘with it’ shows just how much they are without in other departments.