All images except Baptiste Giabiconi: Sally Menezes | Zoltan Tombor | Twill Spring 2011
Note| Nudity Global fashion brands and the Republican party in America are battling for control of women’s bodies. Karl Lagerfeld sums up the situation, saying at his recent Chanel Couture show: “We are living amid such an invasion of the flesh that we yearn for refinement, for restraint.”
We are politicized today at Anne of Carversville, as the “men of South Dakota seek to legislate the right to kill not only abortion providers, but we believe a mother trying to arrange a legal abortion for her daughter can be killed by her husband.
It fascinates us that Karl Lagerfeld urges restraint for women but luxuriates in the voluptuous images he produces of his friend and muse Baptiste Giabiconi. The truth is that Baptiste — who we like quite a lot — is a man, and Karl Lagerfeld sits at the top of fashion’s design patriarchy.
The need for refinement and restraint among women has never delivered freedom, only burqas.
This all feels very Greek to us. And while we respect Lagerfeld’s penchant for modest women, and being sexually discreet is high on our agenda, the global morality police are scaring the living hell out of us. The push to control female sexuality rages on every continent and perhaps even in France, although that would be news to us.
France is our sensual beacon.
We know that Tom Ford pissed off the French with his guest editorship of Vogue Paris’ December 2010 issue. Loathe to criticize Tom Ford, even Anne said he probably went too far with his ‘Jeune Fille Innocente’ editorial that allegedly sent Bernard Arnault through the roof.
As women, we’ll be honest. Tom Ford has never caused us to worry one moment about his fashion for females motives. Fashion patriarch is not a word we will ever use for Tom Ford, a gay man who truly loves women — including our sensuality — in every aspect.
Reeling from Republican-led legislation to make miscarriage in Utah a felony and exercising our abortion rights a reason to be murdered as a “justifiable homicide” in South Dakota, we’re not interested in Karl Lagerfeld’s suggestion that we need to become proper women.
At this moment in time, we’re unable to think clearly about the true motives of some men in fashion, a subject I write about frequently.
We’ve pulled those Tom Ford words that resonate the most strongly with us tonight. In Tom Ford we trust.
John Currin: But when you’re making a sculpture or image of a woman, is there a sexual aspect to it?
Tom Ford: It is never even calculated. When I’m making an image of a woman, or dressing a woman—I have a reputation for sex and making a woman sexy, and men as well—but I don’t start out saying, “Oh, I’m gonna make this woman look sexy or sexual.” I simply stand there and put her in front of me and say, “What can I do to make her more beautiful in my eyes? Let’s pull in the dress here, let’s do this, let’s do that.” The end result is something that other people consider sexual, but for me it’s just beautiful. My expression of beauty is something I do naturally. I love the human body—the female body, the male body. I work in a way to try to enhance the body, and so you often see a lot of the body or the silhouette or outline, and that’s what people equate with sex. But I’m very comfortable with sexuality. It’s not anything that’s ever freaked me out. I’m very comfortable with naked bodies. Someone asked me recently about male nudity, and I brought up the subject that, in our culture, we use female nudity to sell everything. We’re very comfortable objectifying women. Women go out and they are basically wearing nothing. Their feet and toes are exposed, their legs are exposed, their breasts are exposed. Everything is exposed—the neck, the arms. You have to be really physically perfect, as a woman, in our culture to be considered beautiful. But full frontal male nudity challenges us. It makes men nervous. It makes women nervous. Other times in history, male nudes have been regarded in a different way. The Olympics were originally held nude. The reporter I was explaining this to said, “This would make a great story.” I explained how when I come home I actually take off all my clothes, and I wear no clothes until I leave. I eat naked. I do everything completely naked. He said, “That would make a great interview.” I said, “Fine, we have to do it nude.”
CURRIN: How old was the interviewer?
FORD: Oh, 55 or 56. [Currin laughs] He was in very good shape. Anyway, we did the interview. The interviewer was straight, and I made it a point to desexualize the interview even though I was sitting with my legs wide open, completely naked. At the end of the interview, I put on a dressing gown and he put on his clothes, and I sat next to him on the sofa and said, “Was that sexual?” He said, “Absolutely not.” And I said, “That’s because I didn’t make it sexual. Sexuality is in the eyes, it’s an expression, it’s in a look.” Then, all of a sudden, I looked at him in a very different way, and it made him very nervous.
FORD: I lust after beautiful women. First of all, I love women. But I lust after beautiful women in the way that I lust after a beautiful piece of sculpture—this will probably get me in trouble—or a beautiful car. I believe everyone’s on a sliding scale of sexuality. There are moments where I am sexually attracted to women. But it doesn’t overpower my first impulse; my lust for them is the same as my lust for beauty in all things. It’s not like I ever think, “Oh, my god, I’ve got to spread her legs and fuck her.”
FORD: But as an adult working in the fashion industry, I struggle with materialism. And I’m one of the least materialistic people that exist, because material possessions don’t mean much to me. They’re beautiful, I enjoy them, they can enhance your life to a certain degree, but they’re ultimately not important. Your connections with other people are important, our connection to the earth. And that’s why I go to New Mexico as often as I can. And what I find to be the most beautiful thing in the world now is nature—sunsets, trees, my horses.
It’s Tom Ford’s comment from his 2009 Gus Van Sant interview that resonates this evening. While we love fashion and style to bits, we also find it unusually influential over American women, often making us insecure creatures when we must be strong.
I believe strongly that fashion’s role in the last two decades has been to disempower women, even stripping away a vision of strong, sensual size 4-6 fashion bodies with a new edict that to be beautiful, our bones must be showing and no breasts are allowed.
FORD: First of all, I think people who are attracted to the fashion industry are people who are really insecure and looking for a certain identity. I think that’s initially how people are attracted to it.
In America — which is different than in France, Scandinavia, and Brazil (plus many more countries) where women have more confidence and individualism — we strive to please and do as we are told, two-thirds of us believing that God is a man and knows our every move.
Many Asian women are also accustomed to taking orders, often living in misogynistic societies of which Japan is historically among the worst.
Fashion is political at Anne of Carversville because in the coming years we expect one assault after another on women’s rights and control of our bodies. Any man or woman who sounds like the morality police is suspect in our ears.
As American women, we are responsible about our conduct and we don’t need monitoring and a stack of new laws invented by Republicans who seek to take away all our rights. In many cases, even our right to birth control which is also not permitted by the Vatican is on the table for discussion.
Smart fashion people won’t lecture American women about modesty right now. Such a well-intentioned gesture on women’s behalf could well blow up in the fashion patriarchy’s face. Anne
Zoltan Tombor images via NoirFacade