Call me nostalgic, but when I think of female fashion icons the first images that come to mind are from Yves Saint Laurent’s last show. He walked the catwalk escorted by his models with two special guardian muses to each side representing the old and new generations: Catherine Deneuve and Laetitia Casta. From this mental image I go to remembering all sorts of muses coming from any part of the artistic world, music or cinema regardless.
But I’m wondering if the fashion world is losing its charm. There are no more Yves Saint Laurents in the woods with Lauren Bacall – no more intense artistic and platonic love stories between icons and designers. Sure, clothing and accessories continue to be created around personalities but that specificity of the thought behind the creation of that single item is no longer exclusively related to the icon. There’s a critical inspiration drought.
Take the famous Birkin Bag for example. That bag has been for decades the undisputed best seller of the Hermès maison. But it wasn’t conceived with that purpose in mind – it was not created to jump the luxury charts. It was created after a pure coincidence. In 1981, then-Hermes chief executive was sitting next to cool girl Jane Birkin on a flight from Paris to London. She was placing her bag in the overhead compartment over her seat when everything fell out, much to her annoyance. Birkin told Dumas that she couldn’t find a weekend bag that she liked so after an initial design, in 1984 he created what is now history. The Birkin bag is one of the most longed for accessories in the world.
But back to the present and Cara Delevigne’s collection for Mulberry. Apart from astonishingly resembling the design of the Birkin bag and being sold with the appealing equation of being beautifully practical and practically beautiful, Delevingne’s collection was created with polar opposite aims. Her popularity has been used as a marketing tool to guarantee the success of the product. Props to Mulberry, really, for capitalising on this. But it seems that fashion increasingly needs the support of the famous to survive. I miss the romance between designer and icon. I’m sorry, I can’t help it.