In Saint Laurent suits and shiny helmets on the cover of this month’s i:D, Daft Punk sum it up. Mystery trumps reality.
From the start, way back in the late 90s, no one seemed to know (or really care) who the renegade French house disco pioneers were in real life, but it’s a truism that if teamed with a face-obscuring visor from the future, tailoring can really come alive.
And so now we are presented with the romantic enigma of the ageless disco boys. Like shadowy artists, Stickman or Banksy, who famously said: ‘In the future everybody will be anonymous for 15 minutes.’ Their art primarily exists to speak for itself.
Plus, it would be a vague disappointment if those supposedly leading the creative youth charge looked like Darth Vader when they took his helmet off. Or on a slightly less terrifying level, suburban wedding DJs. Perhaps a more jaded French version of Norman Cook, still partial to wearing ironic Hawaiian and iridescent coated shirts from the 90s.
Anonymity saves all these pesky issues from day one. A simple solution it seems for some celebrities who Instagram every breathing moment of their lives whilst at the same time, demanding draconian control of their own image. With Rihanna rumored to be suing Topshop for using an unauthorized portrait on a t-shirt this week, perhaps it would have saved everyone a bit of bother if she’d just thrown on her disco helmet that day.
And therein lies the issue. For the Rhiannas and Caras of the world, their occasionally gurning faces are an obvious fortune. Would Rii really be a globally stratospheric, multi-platinum award winner if she obscured her pout?
Seemingly men are getting away with the inversion of self-promotion. Simply creating a name, keeping their pajamas on behind closed doors and taking the money. Conversely, modern women don’t seem to send out imposters or keep the crowd guessing. They turn up a little bit late, wearing lipstick.
As we know, the fashion world is broad series of tightly controlled illusions. Thus, the anonymity trick really comes into it’s own with modern designers. Self-deflecting characters with little visible theatre surrounding them let their myth and collections take center stage.
Fashion legend, Azzedine Alaia, virtually vanished from the fashion scene after his sister died in the mid-90s. He signed a partnership with Prada in 2000, and a resurgence in the popularity of his label followed.
He is still for the most part elusive. Free of the constraints of having to show every season, Alaia shows ‘when he has something to show.’ Like an artist who has a hiatus, a creative flourish and then retreats, there is an authenticity to his creative process that contrasts with our fast fashion, ‘buy now, wear now’ culture.
Anonymity in fashion is like reverse marketing. The type that appeals to a customer who distains the easy status recognition that comes with a conspicuous label. Discreet celebrities, supermodels on the school run and industry insiders know their peers will know what label it is. They will appreciate the craftsmanship, the exclusivity that comes with a (bank loan) Bottega Veneta woven bag. Or (a thousand pound) laser cut Alaia leather sandal. It’s (rich) thinking women’s fashion, if you will.
Even if the closest a normal fashion lover can get to it is Margiela for H&M’s ironically ubiquitous sweetie bag. Or a Celine-esque winged tote in neutral leather from Zara. In it’s own way, this trickling down the fashion food chain means that discretion effectively becomes more defunct as quality is compromised for large buys of signature cult features. Which of course were originally intended to be (whisper it) subtly considered and obscure.
Demand however for the product, the brands and the elusive mystery is still apparent. As Pharrell’s warbles in the Daft Punk smash, Lucky: ‘We’ve come too far to give up who we are.’
Indeed. That would ruin everything.