Thursday, September 18, 2014

C'Mon, Barbie, Let's Go Party: Moschino's Spring '15 Collection and the Kitsch Question

Subtle he is not. That we've known about Jeremy Scott for years, he of the snuggly teddy bear-tongued Adidas, Shrek-themed tees and sweaters, leather jacket-shaped bags, and Pink Poodle collection, which happened to be his gloriously tacky breakthrough back in 1997 (enter Elle Woods four years later). Also known as the reigning king of "junk culture," when California-boy Scott started at Moschino last year, he said, "It's the closing of one chapter and the beginning of a new one." McDonald's-themed pieces followed, and suddenly Ronald was having a moment.

Come to think about it, we should have all seen this latest collection coming. After tackling fast food and performing a play on the concept of fast fashion, versus painstaking ready-to-wear and far more meticulous couture, in the process, Spring 2015's subject (it's impossible to correctly call it inspiration, as this is as literal as it gets) is just as commercial and just as ingrained into the all-American psyche as the Big Mac. Hello, Barbie!

Moschino has always been about elements of humor. Now with Scott at the helm, that sense of humor has been super-sized (no pun intended) and then some. Irreverence and rebellion reign supreme here, and those are some of the cornerstones of fashion, or at least what it takes to push the envelope in the fashion world. So looking at this, basically, part of you wants to say screw it and embrace this stuff with big, shiny, plastic arms and the other is saying, "Come on. Yeah, I get it, but this joke is just too easy. And too silly."

It's superficial, it's pop art (well, minus most of the "art" element), it's wearable toys for grownups. Over-the-top elements like chunky peace signs seem only natural for Scott, who at 40 years old today came of age in the nineties, when there was little ironic about wearing excessively magnified chain-link belts and matchy-matchy everything. Now anyone who ever had a Barbie doll when she was a little girl will recognize these neon squiggle prints, snap-on plastic bikini tops, and earrings so big they ought to make your head drop. Especially if your head is full of air.

He is begging us to ask the question, where does playful irony end and plain, old bad taste begin? Scott isn't a dumb guy; he knows exactly what he's doing, even if that's merely flipping an emphatic middle finger to designers who are founded and focused on craftsmanship, sobriety, and maintaining a healthy balance between high-end art and commercial desirability. Certainly what he is doing is more respectable, perhaps deceptively so, than the four-figure baby doll dresses, combat boots, and leather jackets Hedi Slimane is defiantly churning out at Saint Laurent (and who can argue with him, either? That shit's selling). At least it's good for a chuckle, even if the only girls who are going to be dressing like Barbie come spring are the top bloggers who are well-versed on the topic of how to get your picture taken. By then, either we'll be laughing at them or the joke will be on us.

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