Depending on practical circumstances and philosophical outlooks, life can have different values. Life is good, life is bad, life is short, life is hard. But no experience in the realm of earthly existence can proclaim, with more certainty, that life is weird, than going to Fashion Week.
I recently attended a major fashion event at a European capital. My original conception of Hell on Earth involved aerial bombings, widespread hunger, unstoppable disease, and the constant sound of automatic weapons. That conception has now changed. I have stood before the gates of Hell and I have seen its true shape: it is not below ground, it is above — and its name is Fashion Week.
The things I’ve seen, the things I’ve witnessed have now permanently changed the way I interpret human interaction. It was not one thing. It was everything. The whole experience felt like I took LSD and then went to an adult high school. What was weird about it? Just about everything. A group of people came together to sit on fancy bleachers to watch plastic mannequins brought to life walk around like bipedal dinosaurs with clothing that screams insanity like the leading lady in a Hitchcock film.
What was more weird was that the clothing — the reason why we were all there — seemed to be about as important as news of political instability in Tanzania. During the actual show, there was not a cohesive mob of collective attention. I’d venture to say that about 40% of those present were actually there to watch the show. Most people there spent their hours biting their fingernails, checking their phones, smoking e-cigarettes; taking selfies; petting their tiny, squirrel-like dogs; and judging, always judging.
But those who actually watched the show found themselves in pure disbelief. I honestly don’t know if this is someone’s idea of art, or if someone, somewhere, is laughing his ass off at the idiots who actually take this seriously.
I know what you’re going to say. It’s fashion. It’s not meant to make sense. It’s supposed to be conceptual. It’s supposed to be experienced. To those people I say: bullshit. Chanel could use the stomach lining of Chinese aborted fetuses in their clothing and these people would probably commend them as practitioners of audacious biological recycling.
The clothing was not simply bad. And it’s not that the clothing didn’t make sense. It did. It was very easily understandable. It’s just that it wasn’t even clothing. It was a piece of cloth designed by people without ideas who think that being random is the same as being artistic. I was dumbfounded, but reassured by the notion that so was almost every person on those bleachers. I recognized the look on those faces: confusion, indifference, shock.
And the people. Don’t even get me started on the people. Biology and Geography might put the origin of Man in Africa, our cultural landscape might project the African continent as a mystical land of primitivism and primal human behavior, but it is here, along the runways and catwalks, that you can see the most natural expression of Man as an ape, a distant cousin of chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans.
It is probably the place with the highest concentration of glitter by square foot. If those who were present have souls, they have either sold them already, or their souls are screaming in despair inside. Here the Devil is in the details. And in the accessories. That which is seen is not care or zeal, but obsession in its purest form. I can see every single one of these people spending hours in front of mirrors, surrounded by mountains of clothes, searching for a miraculously compatible combination. The choices are not made with the goal of captivating, impressing, or attracting. They are made with the clear intention of subjugation, intimidation and scorn.
More often than not, eyes are described as “windows to the soul,” mirrors that reflect our true intentions. Here the mirror reflects unmerciful judgment. The eyes of those present scan the room in horizontal movements (identifying the target) and in vertical movements (judging the target). The status, the castes, the reputations — everything that sociopolitical systems try to nullify, have their maximum expression here. Separate entrances for Very Important People. Famous people who arrive late are simply led to the beginning of the line. The hierarchy of seats — who sits where, in which row, next to whom.
I found myself becoming afraid of dark corners and empty hallways. Everything seemed to indicate that, given certain conditions, someone would stab me in the back and abandon my body in a back alley, just for the sake of it. I mistrusted everyone — the photographers, the waiters, the security guards, the Jurassic socialite permanently wearing sunglasses, the fashion students dressed with clothes even more implausible than the ones being shown on the runway, the serious and busy women who typed on their smartphones with the repetitive violence of jackhammers.
When I left, I realized that my sphincter had been squeezed the entire time. My breathing had become shallow. Everything in my body seemed to indicate that I had just been through a potentially lethal ordeal. Everyday people do their best to hide their true emotions and to repress any judgmental instinct. Over there judgment is done shamelessly above-board. In a weird way, I found that very refreshing. Disturbing, but refreshing. I can’t wait for next year.