There is an exhibition at Somerset House in London entitled: Valentino: Master of Couture. My wife and I went to see it over the weekend, and I would certainly recommend it to my lady readers. The exhibition includes a ‘catwalk’ where the visitors walk down a carpeted aisle about sixty yards long. On either side of the aisle are female mannequins – about 130 of them – each dressed in a Valentino dress. It is absolutely stunning! The quantity of dresses! The detailed innovation in each one! And the beauty of them. Now, I have to say that I didn’t like all of them. Some were a little too fussy for me, and I don’t particularly like beige. But the overall effect was amazing! The exhibit also included photographs, letters, invitations and press releases. Valentino was certainly well connected. The other section of the exhibition which caught my attention concerned the techniques that Valentino used to make unique decorations like roses, unusual ruffles, lace effects, etc. There were videos of ‘le regazze’ (the girls) who are the seamstresses in his workshop. What they can do with a needle and thread can only be called pure art. Finally, there is a stunning wedding dress for Princess Marie Chantal of Greece which took something like three man-years of seamstress’ time to complete. Imagine what that cost!
Here’s an example from Valentino’s website:
This dress would not be for every woman, but if she was young and pretty, with a large bank account, it could be ideal!
As you’ve probably guessed, I did some comparison’s between the fashion designer and the writer. Both are clearly artists, working in different media, and they have different objectives. The fashion designer wants to make his customers look beautiful, while at the same time appealing to their egos. The writer’s objective is to entertain and perhaps to provoke his/her clients, without caring particularly about the customer’s ego. In both cases, there are issues about trends and trendiness: what is ‘in’? In most cases, the designer and the writer have to go along with what’s ‘in’ to achieve a following. In fictional literature today, it seems to me that one trend is to write about quite dysfunctional people. Perhaps I have gone along with this trend. In Efraim’s Eye, Efraim is clearly dysfunctional, but wouldn’t we expect a terrorist to be dysfunctional? In The Iranian Scorpion the Scorpion is certainly dysfunctional as a corrupt, egotistical dictator. I rather like creating unusual characters, like Naomi, the idealistic, lonely, beautiful nomad in Efraim’s Eye. Or like Rustam, the poor, intelligent Afghan boy desperately searching for love in The Iranian Scorpion. I can’t comment on the trends in fashion; for that I would refer the reader to Vogue. To me it seems clear, though, that some fashion designers (like Valentino) and some writers (like Hemingway) can create their own trends. These are the giants in their respective fields.
One difference strikes me. This is that fashion designers, particularly who that serve celebrity clients, can become celebrities in their own right. Very few writers become celebrities, unless you’re a Salman Rushdie with an Iranian fatwa on your head. I think some of the reason for this may be found in the respective personality styles of writers and fashion designers: writers tend to be introverts, while fashion designers are, in my opinion, likely to be extroverts. (See my post about the writer as an introvert.)
I’ve written about a fashion designer: Ellen in Sin & Contrition who becomes a minor celebrity in New York City (and very wealthy).