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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Licentiate Column 13/01/11

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*Public Service Announcement over - on to this week's column...*

Today I picked up a nice, shiny magazine. You know, the kind of nice, shiny magazine full of nice, shiny clothes with nice, shiny prices. The kind of magazine that issues the most hallowed and anticipated of all biannual supplements (barring Heat Magazine's soul-crushing celebrity swimsuit pull-outs) - the catwalk report.

We'll just call this magazine a generic, vaguely evocative French word. Let's call it Haute. I love Haute because it is cover-to-cover with beautiful people, fairytale settings and clothes you and I can never afford. It is pure escapism. It inhabits a world totally inaccessible and separate to our own, albeit one that we can peer into just by briefly licking our thumbs and flicking a page corner, like a version of Alice and the Looking-Glass for shopping addicts.

Magazines like Haute publish the catwalk reports as a way of imposing themselves into our world. Haute has picked up the Looking Glass and smashed it over Alice's head. It's less assimilation - more indoctrination.

The idea is to pick and choose which aspects of which collection appeal most to you and blend it into your wardrobe; simple things like (a) bold block colours or (b) simple tailoring or (c) a pair of flared jeans. You're not really supposed to wear the catwalk look from head to toe, because if you did, you'd look a bit like (a) a lego brick, (b) an extra from Logan's Run or (c) a Studio 54 reject for whom the party has long since ended.

This season Haute is championing the Luxe Sportswear trend. 'Luxe' does not mean 'luxury', rather 'Luxe Sportswear' means 'Expensive Tracksuits... In Impractical Heels'. Popularised by designer Alexander Wang, Luxe Sportswear has been around for a few seasons and is defined by distressed shrunken leather biker jackets with leggings, oversized t-shirts, lace-up heeled boots and enough grey jersey to swaddle a million coltish-legged prepubescent models. Nothing we haven't seen before.

Luxe Sportswear is perverse; it pairs the practical with the impractical. Waterproof neoprene, traditionally found in wetsuits, is used to construct soft, shell-like bodycon dresses. Joggerbums are worn with towering heels.

The neoprene dresses I can understand. It's an unorthodox material and, because it's such a stiff fabric, it can hold it's shape and produce some unexpectedly beautiful results. The heel and tracksuit pants? Oho no.

Today I saw a woman walking down the street wearing a pair of billowing khaki jersey pants. The cuffs of said pants were tucked into spindly McQueen-esque lace-up heels of the same hue. Her gait was circumspect, possibly because every step she took would inflate a pant leg like a runaway wind sock in a wheezing gale.

Apart from that segue into the risible, Luxe Sportswear is fully representative of it's beloved grey jersey. It's boring.

Even the ringleader of the bland, sorry, grand circus, Alexander Wang, is getting tired of the monsters he has created. He is quoted in interviews, saying "If I see another distressed black leather motorcycle jacket, I'm going to shoot myself in the face".

That's a bit harsh, Mr Wang. Perhaps you should make your weapon a water pistol instead. When the time comes for that fateful splashing, pray that you'll be wearing neoprene.