Musings on Glamour in 2018
Recently, it was my great pleasure to rediscover the live video rendition of Grace Jones’ La Vie En Rose. This may seem arbitrary now but do stay with me - grab a colourless wine and muse with me. Having had the limited pleasure of working in and around various parts of the fashion and beauty industry over the past few years, I have witnessed two things repeatedly. The first: there are only a lucky few who don’t seem to have lost their personal joie de vivre in creating art. The second is that as a general note for my contemporaries; glamour doesn’t exist anymore… not in millennial 2018, that is.
It is from within this haze of realisation that I came upon Ms Jones’ performance. The surroundings are obscured and dark, leaving her center stage as she two-steps and swirls in a metallic pink strappy shift dress. This being shot prior to the birth of Instagram (we can call it B.I.), the camera carries a natural graininess that both obscures and highlights her like the idol she is. This imagery, simple yet bold, brought about a reaction within me. I wanted to run around like Natalie Portman in Paris, liberally spraying Miss Dior on my charming lover. There would be an air of mystery about it all, and my clothing always would be tailored and never machine-washed. Trying to cling to this daydream left me thinking about how it is so much rarer now for art, music and visual media in general to make the spirits lift, and transport one to their most aspirational plane.
It seems an accepted reality that we are not and cannot be excited by anything anymore. There is an engrained cynicism in all those who would have been entering university around 2010 two years after a global recession. This narrowing of everyone’s income and opportunities served to collide with the expansion of every social media platform that we frequent today, and thus created an entirely new light to see and be seen in. There is a cost, in that the saturation of these mediums has arguably deadened the masses to what it is like to experience luxury and iconography in its truest form. How can someone become an icon with complete transparency? How can a lifestyle be aspirational when, through gaining enough followers and striking the right chord with your own audience, you can obtain the same adulation? Furthermore, there is the question of authenticity. Because Ms Jones’ entire career was not documented in full with a Netflix documentary explaining her neuroses, you can retain a sense that she was living and enjoying performing in the moment. There is a void that allows us to imagine and strive for that moment ourselves. Without a tangible downside - a reality, if you will - there is space to aspire.
There is a reason that the supermodel movement of the eighties and nineties hasn’t been repeated – a group of models couldn’t be created from scratch now and carry the public’s fascination. We need more. The phenomenon of celebrity has been diminished because, like Icarus, we’ve gotten too close. They are civilians with more access in public life, nothing more. I have often thought about which public figures I would be truly excited to meet, and it's genuinely difficult to settle on one. How does one choose if the implication is that that person is simply normal too? We live in an era where the public is savvier, they are aware that chat shows are pre-prepared, stars are dressed by stylists and music is often handed around between artists before one deigns to sing it.
Donald Trump is still President.
So, with this all in mind, what does one do? To quote Andre Leon Talley, “it’s a famine of beauty!” and I cannot help but wonder if part of the reason that the eighties and nineties were so much more socially mobile was because people still had icons. We cannot have this discourse without including Kim Kardashian West, of course, but one could argue to an extent that she has superseded the pitfalls of being known to her public. Due in part to her being a businesswoman and having a large family to diffuse the focus on her, she remains a partially veiled mystery. Having seen their family live out life in a reality format while occasionally having well-kept secrets emerge on their own terms a la Caitlin Jenner sets a precedent; we don’t know everything about them, but simply what they choose to reveal. This is unique, however, and it is surely unrealistic to expect the same from all of the other burgeoning social media presences. It also has to be said that Kimberly is not a celebrity in the classic sense. She is not famous for a conventional talent or art form, but rather for being a social phenomenon. How do we retain our collective want to strive for more through others, when so few are remarkable?
It is not lost on me that in lieu of these musings, the print bibles of luxury and glamour continue to downsize around the world. Glamour Magazine itself now ceases to exist and, forgive my colloquial tone but, big mood. It seems that every bastion that one would have looked to for inspiration is dying out to be replaced by nothing. All we can do is wait to see where the zeitgeist lands next to spark the public's imagination. In the meantime, running through my fantasy Parisian landscape while Grace singes and shimmers will have to do.
- Words: Nicholas Hayden