Shock and meta-irony: Haute Couture seeks a new fairy tale for digital advertising


Text: Marina Alvitr

Shock and meta-irony: Haute Couture seeks a new fairy tale for digital advertising

The last fashion week in Paris gave once again various conservative people the opportunity to write something like: “Have they all gone crazy? Disgraceful, degrading, horrifying…ugh! It’s disgusting to look at, and that’s what you call high fashion?” Animal Rights Activists railed against Schiaparelli, Viktor&Rolf seemed too ironic and not very interesting, Robert Wun dressed the models so that the poor rejoiced when they left the catwalk (the feminists showed up immediately), and only Mugler came out on top showing strong women and top models. But what was it all about anyway?

Modern Times — Modern Mythology

The fashion world is overcoming the Covid times and is trying to figure out how to evolve. “What is a haute couture collection today?”, asked the designers. During the pandemic, the world has learned to buy online, especially accessories. 80% of sales are made online. As a result, the fashion shows began to speak not only to the front row critics, but also to the digital audience. They are the ones who should be posting, reposting, liking, commenting, admiring, so that everyone can see the show. But what is needed to make it happen? Surprise, laughter, shock. On the other hand, the current crises aren’t going away. As one of the fashion influencers said: “Now we’re sitting at a fashion show, and tomorrow there will be a war”. Anxiety and digital madness, shock and plausible fakery — these are the hallmarks of today’s fashion shows.

The Queen of Shock is Back in 2023

Elsa Schiaparelli has always been known for provocation. No wonder she was friends with Salvador Dali. Her shade of pink was called “Shocking Pink”. Her autobiography was called “Shocking Life”. The designer separated art from fashion, saying that a dress only lives when you wear it: it may look like a masterpiece to one person, but it may be tasteless to another. Art exists independently, as an object, regardless of its surroundings. Schiaparelli’s friendship with the Surrealists introduced this trend into the fashion world in the early 20th century. Today, this trend is back, albeit in a slightly different way. Logically, after all the surrealist exhibitions that took place in the art world in 2022, the fashionable Queen of the Surreal has attracted a lot of public attention.

But what is Surrealism today? It would be quite weird if the movement were to broadcast, all the same, the problems of subconscious and psychoanalysis, expressed by Jung and Freud. They seem to be almost innocent for a modern person. Surrealism today is a kind of digital madness. It is the world of Alice in Wonderland where nothing is as it seems. Thus, the heads of lions, panthers, and tigers on the dresses are very similar to the real ones, even too much so, which caused a wave of indignation among environmental activists. But they’re made of plastic and rubber. The impossibility of telling the difference between the fake reality and the real one is the idea of this show. And there is also the question: “Do we really have to kill animals in order to prove one’s worth?” Inevitably, new ethics enter fashion, …