Did you guys watch the live runway show for Mara Hoffman’s new season? No? Just me?
Let’s begin at the beginning. I’ll try not to sound like the art school kid that I am here, but art is innately connected to time and space. Yeah, bye. Unsubscribe below.
If you’re still here, thanks. I promise this won’t be douchey. What I mean by the above is that yes, styles come and go, and the “best” art should be transcendent, but works of art – fashion included – are inextricably linked to the time they were made. The influence of the environment, be it social, political, personal, really all of the above, on the creator is what makes something objectively worth a shit to people.
I say “objectively” because of how often I hear people say, “Art is so subjective. How do I even know if it’s good?” (This is usually alongside comments like, “my four year old niece could draw this,” and “it’s just a urinal. I don’t get it.”)
While we’re all entitled to our opinions, there’s no substitute for learning the context of a piece of art when trying to understand why this particular hack got his scribble drawing in a famous gallery selling for the GDP of a third-world country.
Fortunately for all of us, contemporary art – again, fashion included – is, as its name implies, of our time. It’s happening right now, being created by people who are still alive. Therefore we can at the very least appreciate it as it relates to us and our own lives, and if we really give a shit about it, we can even ask the artist what they were thinking.
Steering the conversation now specifically toward fashion, I released a post yesterday about how frustrated I am with my own wardrobe. It struck me as interesting in hindsight, though, because it seems the real issue is that what appealed to me when I bought the pieces isn’t as important to me now.
Could it be that in a happier time – when my parents’ insurance was safe, when we all felt good about the pace at which LGBTQ rights were progressing, when Muslim US immigrants didn’t feel at odds with their adoptive homeland, when we as Americans felt protected by our government – my approach to my appearance reflected the same whimsical vibe?
By that logic, it makes perfect sense that I suddenly feel betrayed by my disproportionately cheerful closet. It doesn’t feel right to act like everything’s okay, even when it comes to what I wear.
My initial “attending a funeral” approach aimed to bring the inside out after the election of our current oligarch. But it wasn’t satisfying. I want to be LOUD and angry, not shrink into the background. I want to be unforgettable, un-overlook-able, and yet, unmistakably serious.
So back to the Mara Hoffman fashion show. I opened an email on February 13, inviting me to watch the show live. I sat at work – tried to work – while streaming the show with the other half of my brain, but it quickly commanded all of my attention.
Four women stood in front of the crowd of spectators and photographers, dressed in humble black outfits, one of whom was now ubiquitous activist and Women’s March on Washington organizer Linda Sarsour. What followed was a stark and sobering statement women’s rights, and I encourage you to watch it here.
It would be easy for a critic to dismiss this ceremony as a sort of appropriation of Hoffman’s platform – sure, great, show us the clothes. But what no one might have expected was how Hoffman’s collection, as it came into focus, was itself a statement on public sentiment.
Fans of Mara Hoffman’s lines are very accustomed to blinding colors and busy patterns. She began as a swimsuit designer and thereafter succeeded in making her name synonymous with buoyant, happy clothes. I partially dreaded her new line, anticipating the same cloying taste in my mouth I got when YouTubers continued to post saccharine sweet content and tweet blithe platitudes while our nation suffered blow after blow at the hands of a naked emperor.
But this was different – it is different. I’ve often said I have a greater appreciation for things that are ugly on purpose and beautiful by accident than the other way around. That’s how I would describe this season.
The models in equal parts walked with purpose and danced with abandon around the stark concrete room. The clothes were decidedly demure, but decisive in their details. This was not a sad woman who had given up in the face of injustice – these were not the uniform for depression. The collection was entirely Mara, but at the same time definitely not fucking around. This woman is beautiful, she knows it, and she does not have time for bullshit.
A year ago, I would have seen this collection and audibly uttered, “huh?” But a year ago, I’d have responded similarly to the idea that our country – the world – would look the way it does right now. This is what I mean when I say art is innately connected to time and space. The meaning of this collection is inextricably linked to the double-edged battle intersectional feminism faces – one of an intimidatingly unworn path with a great deal of resistance, and one of emerging leadership in spite of the odds.
We decide with our every day. We become more of how we will be remembered with the small and seemingly meaningless choices we make in real time. In the face of austerity, of scary change, of the bad guys winning, art does not become less meaningful. To the contrary, it will be the creatives, the misfits, the weirdos who will speak for our generation in history, relay through expression the ways we related to our own adversities.
And, as promised, the pieces I REQUIRE (when they go on sale I hope), from Mara Hoffman F/W 2017.
This article probably wasn’t what you bargained for – thanks for bearing with me – it wasn’t what I thought it would be, either.