To Fashion and Beyond

Photo by David Fisher / Rex Features ( 1117702h )

The veils, the hair pieces, the sunglasses, the insane high heels – for Gaga it’s all part of the performance; it is theatrical, ridiculous and begs for attention. Gaga is no style icon; not only does no one really desire to emulate her style all that much, but more so in the sense that Gaga isn’t all that unique. She’s a mish – mash; a caricature of other avant garde dressers. What Gaga does bring to the table, however, is avant garde fashion to main stream culture – no mean feat in a society so committed to conformity.

It is no coincidence that Gaga wears head – to – toe Alexander McQueen and hats by Philip Tracey. For any fashion enthusiast, McQueen and Tracey instantly call Isabella Blow, the tragic fashion editor and their mutual patron, to mind. The late Blow fascinated all and sundry with her kooky hats, stilettos and lipstick and continues to be an icon for all those discontent to follow the masses in the sartorial department.

Likewise, Blow’s close friend, heiress Daphne Guinness, continues to dress in a manner that defies our society’s narrow notion of what is style. Daphne with her vertiginous Westwood heels, Cruella de Vil hair do, diamonds, hand armour, furs and sculpted dresses is an avant gardeist in the most opulent sense.  Vogue describes her as the ‘darling of modern couture’ and for Daphne dressing exceptionally is a life’s work. That’s exactly it for these rare fashion creatures; it’s a way of life. As Daphne says: ‘I cannot bear the thought of being the same as everyone else. Uniformity makes me sad’.

©Purple pr and Dafydd Jones

Daphne’s sentiments are inevitably shared by British fashion’s most famous eccentric, Vivienne Westwood: Stand out!..It’s heroic to stand out. My clothes have always been heroic… So much of modern fashion is ordinary but I notice young women in the street and I think they look very good – because they know it’s not about fashion, it’s how you put it together…First you have to know who you are – or want to be. Then you have to use your clothes to tell your personal story. And be confident. I’ve never worried about what other people think of me. I’m only interested in how I want to feel and look. You have to cut a figure. Step off the treadmill of fashion.” As the uncontested queen of punk, Westwood was a trailblazer in the 1970s’ rejection of conservative British society. Westwood, a former primary school teacher, opened her shop, ‘Let it Rock’ (later ‘Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die’ and ‘Sex’) on the King’s Road, London, hung out with the Sex Pistols and made headlines with her aggressive clothes and even pornographic accessories. Nowadays, however, Westwood is more famed for her exquisite tailoring rather than S&M inspired regalia.  Westwood’s fashion remains absurd and frequently volatile and continues to push boundaries of what is considered style. Westwood is fearless in her lifelong dedication to the avant garde.

Lady Gaga certainly isn’t the only mainstream devotee of the avant garde. London fashion blogger, Susie Bubble, aka Susana Lau of Style Bubble has earned legions of

fans for her unusual mode of dress. Susie comfortably wears transparent trousers, clashes colours, prints and textures, cage skirts and whimsical hair pieces. Susie’s peculiar but fantastic fashion sense is not only awe – inspiring but brave.   Susie

reminds her readers that the clothes we wear do provide a message and that we should take the time to consider and to think about what we decide to wear.

For fashion’s avant garde, clothes are not merely something we throw on in themorning to shield ourselves from the elements but something much more than that; something to utilise, to use to our creative advantage, a method to challenge. Susie, Vivienne, Daphne, Isabella, even Gaga remind us that clothes can be a means to question and provide commentary and a chance in our largely typical everyday lives to contest the norm of world we know. After all, to quote Cecil Beaton: ‘The truly fashionable are beyond fashion’.

- Kathryn O’Regan

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