The Fashion Playground from Chanel to McQueen…

Or… How I forgot to move on and am still on the Merry-Go-Round

by: Benjamin Kanarek

Looking around me during one of my fashion shoots, something struck me as very interesting and that was that those around me who were considered the Fashionably Fashionable were more than just Fashion conscious, they were attuned to a strongly codified aesthetic. What is it that those in the arts and in this case the creativity of those at the core of the Fashion “Mode” of expression have that gives them that proverbial sixth sense. Why is Anna Wintour, Anna Wintour? Why is Glenda Bailey, Glenda Bailey and Franca Sozzani, Franca Sozzani. Was it because of a heightened censorial aesthetic that like so many artists, is only reserved for the privileged few and has been lost in most “Adults”, remembered only as a far off beautiful imaginary place once inhabited but long abandoned.

As children, all of us were once incredibly creative, free flowing and unencumbered spirits. Expressing ones inner self was never considered a challenge. It just happened. When the inevitable iron curtain drops somewhere around adolescence, why do only a very few get through. Is it perhaps that those who did not exercise their childhood to their fullest, are able to get through? Well, rather than pondering this notion for too long, I would like to discuss what makes that artist, “That” artist.

Most great artists generally have a disregard for classic authority and consider rules for those that need to be told what and what not to do. The Greats never had to be told what to do to become great. They just flew, unencumbered by convention and the weight of rules. Now when I speak of rules, I am not referring to “Though Shalt Not Kill…” I am alluding to the “You must compose your painting using the “Rule of Thirds” or “You can’t mix THAT fabric with that Material…” or “Your photo need to be lit this way to be credible…” etc.

When you observe some of the great Fashion Designers one thing will become apparent, they broke with convention. But does just breaking with convention make you creative? I don’t think so. That is just being reactionary. The creative breaking of convention implies, I believe, in a new, radical or novel approach to perceiving reality and how you solve design problems within that new paradigm. I am not saying that one must create something to be creative. Of course a concept in the written form is a very powerful tool and mode of expression. But being that we are discussing Fashion, being able to create, concretize, discover and illuminate that creation in to a tangible form. That is what these visionaries were able to achieve. The concretization of play, of fun, of child.

From the visionary Charles Frederick Worth who created the first Couture Fashion House in Paris, to Paul Poiret with his Harem Pants and on to the legendary Gabrielle Chanel, who democratized fashion for women, there have always been creative visionaries.

From Christian Dior’s petticoats and tight waists to Cristobal Balenciaga’s multiplicity of sleeve design variations and onward to Pierre Cardin who became the first designer to license his product line.

Were these marvellous quirks of nature clairvoyant with an intuitive understanding of the human condition of their time? Or were they Adult Children, just playing, having fun and living through their creations? I believe it is all of the above and more.

Whether it was Yves Saint Laurent, Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, Claude Montana, Issey Miyake, Kenzo, Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix or Alexander McQueen. They all were part of the Fashionably Fashionable Elite group of Artists.

Now back to where I was in the beginning. Looking around me and in observing those in the studio I am working in, I come to the realization that what drives all of them is one very powerful attribute. That ingredient, not purchasable, taught or learned, is Passion. I believe that passion drives creativity and creativity drives passion. Most of… No, I would say all of them still know how to play.

That may seem rather simplistic and it probably is, but simply put “through the eyes of a child…”

About Benjamin Kanarek
Fashion and Beauty Photographer. Some of the magazines I have shot for include: VOGUE (China, Portugal, Brazil, Italia, Paris and South America & Mexico editions), RG VOGUE Brazil, Harper’s BAZAAR (China, en Español & Latin America, Hong Kong, Italy editions), L’Officiel Paris, ELLE (Spain, Portugal and Greece editions), Madame Figaro (France), Cosmopolitan (France and Italy editions), Glamour (France), Votre Beauté, Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode, New York Daily News, Fashion District News, New York Times Magazine, W (British edition), WWD, Fashion Magazine (Canada), Flare (Canada), Oyster, Tank, WestEast…