Art and Beauty Standards at Fashion Week New York

BY BRENDA VONGOVA

Can fashion hold a political ambition? When creating a dress, the fashion designer must be sensitive to what society wants and the times they live in. Fashion is the most practical form of artistic expression. It is cultivated from the dress of art, emotions, and thought. According to Joshua Holdeman, international director of the photography department at Christie’s, “For a long time in the ‘fine arts’ world, fashion was a dirty word. We’re far enough away from the work now to realize it is a valuable cultural product that belongs in the pantheon of art history.”

The imagery created on the fashion runways influences everything from Hollywood’s red carpet events to political campaigns. During the Fall 2008 Collection of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City, fashion history continued to be made on its runways, symbolized by the Greco-Roman architectural façade of the entrance to the shows. The Fall 2008 Collection displayed fall must-haves: crepe dresses, hats, tunics, trenches, boots, thick leggings and leather jackets. It was a season of severe black, shine, cashmere, dark colors, sophistication, texture, silk and pure elegance.

Sixty-eight of the world’s most brilliant and intelligent designers were featured at the fashion week. Talent included iconic designers, such as Rock and Republic, BCBG MAXAZRIA, and Erin Fetherston, and emerging talent, such as Bravo’s Project Runway designer Victorya Hong.

Some designers offered inspiration for the cosmopolitan, socialite and jet-set woman, such as Iódice, Brazil’s leading high fashion line, renowned for creating sophistication in the fashion world and for gracing the most beautiful bodies in the world. The collection was art and graffiti-inspired, glamorous for the cosmopolitan and jet-set, mixed with modern prints and tailored to fit with the designer’s flirtatious, yet structured composition.

The event was produced by IMG Fashion and sponsored by numerous organizations, such as Mercedes-Benz, American Express, MAC Cosmetics, W Hotels Worldwide, Evian, The New York Times and Getty Images. American Express launched the live streaming of the “American Express Fashion Network,” which provided exclusive access to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

The runway models were young, fresh, lean and ethereal. However, three concerns have been directed towards the casting directors of the show. The first concern has addressed the minimum age requirements. This year, a great majority of the models at the New York Fashion Week were in their teenage years, some as young as fifteen, who may lack motivation to finish school when they take home hundreds of dollars per show.

Secondly, although it was refreshing to see a larger amount of black models on the runway, the majority still looked liked clones of each other from Eastern Europe: ethereally thin, porcelain-pale and ash-blonde. New York City is a multicultural city, and the fashion industry lives inside a global society. Some casting directors ought to be more aware about the importance of broadening diversity in the industry and producing multicultural fashion shows. On the other hand, in the casting session for Iódice’s Fall 2008 Collection, it seemed natural for the company to raise the Brazilian flag and cast models from their homeland; however, due to the company’s cosmopolitan DNA, the casting directors specifically picked international models from all corners of the world: America, Brazil, Russia, France, Ukraine, Belgium, Argentina and Africa.

Lastly, the models were predictably very thin, despite past rumors that “skinny” was supposed to be out of fashion. “If you look at the girls, they are not beautiful like models were twenty years ago,” said Jimmy Pihet, spokesman for the Federation Française de la Couture, the organization which oversees Paris Fashion Shows. “The girls are thin, they have strange faces….At first, you look at them and you’re not sure if they’re beautiful or disgusting.”

Even Adriano Iódice, head of operations and finance at Iódice, personally felt that the models are too skinny, however “this body type is the worldwide fashion model agency standard.” According to Iódice, the DNA of beauty is associated with glamour, sophistication, modernity, and strength. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder.

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