LONDON, United Kingdom — It was almost old times in fashion this week.
First, even better than the Oscars, came the inauguration outfits. Vogue.co.uk even put up a slide show of what people were wearing on the big night. I can’t remember that happening when George Bush was elected, and then subsequently re-elected.
Michelle Obama made some inspired choices. Isabel Toledo, who made the green beaded dress and coat the new first lady wore during the day, is one of my favourite designers and, although a darling of the fashion set, was under appreciated in the wider world. (Certainly no longer.)
But not everyone was pleased. Although Jason Wu, the 26-year-old Taiwanese designer of the cream evening dress Michelle wore, is a member of a minority group, co-founder of the Black Artists Association, Amnau Ele, took Mrs. Obama to task for not wearing the work of a black designer, telling WWD, “It’s one thing to look at the world without colour but she had seven slots to wear designer clothes. Why wasn’t she wearing the clothes of a black designer? That was our moment.”
Wasn’t this election all about breaking down these sorts of barriers?
Moving on, the following night, Hussein Chalayan, not black, but as a Turkish Cypriot certainly the member of a very small minority in fashion, had his moment at the Design Museum in London. Puma, the company who both backs his label and employs him as creative director, sponsored a retrospective of his more inventive runway collections.
Without any signage to explain the philosophy behind each collection (apparently leaflets will be given to attendees), only collection title and season, it was a chance for the fashion cognoscenti at the opening to test their memories.
“I think this was the Victorian dress under the Edwardian dress, under the 1960s,” I heard someone explain.
In any case, the Puma-Chalayan hook-up is one of my favorites. Puma gives Hussein not just the money, but the room to let his imagination run wild. When he was creative director at Asprey, it was clear from the rather mundane clothes that he was being hemmed in.
The last retrospective I saw at the Design Museum was that of Manolo Blahnik in pre-credit crunch 2003. The place was even more packed now than then. There was a line around the block waiting to get in to see Hussein and his work.
People may not have the money to buy clothes, but it seems the interest in fashion is alive and well. Or maybe it was the free champagne?
Lauren Goldstein Crowe is co-author of a book on Jimmy Choo to be published by Bloomsbury later this year