Sunday, 25 January 2009
Baa baa black quilt
Italy might have a reputation for being one of the fashion centres of the world, but you wouldn’t think so this winter, with two-thirds of the women and half the men kitted out in the same black quilted synthetic jacket, with a rather sad scrap of fur round the edge of the hood. I don’t know which captain of industry, by which I suppose I mean designer, dreamed up this one, a garment that makes even the slimmest and most attractive of mortals look like some sort of industrial by-product used to line boilers, turned inside-out and trimmed with dead hair. But it must have kept the Chinese cat farms happy for the season, not to mention the usual “special economic zone” Vietnamese and Indonesian sweatshops. It’s a source of constant amazement to me that a country which is internationally prized for its design, originality and quality should fall so easily in thrall to the dreariest of orthodoxies, even if they are dictated by Giorgio Armani or Dolce and Gabbana, or whoever makes their design decisions for them. Two or three winters ago, the rage was utterly impractical white puffa coats trailing almost on the ground, often combined with what we used to call winklepickers. This year, in the way these things happen, it’s padded nylon and scrotty pelt at the neck that are de rigueur, women and men of all ages happily discarding the perfectly good coats they were wearing last year to don the new, apparently without a whimper of complaint despite the parlous state of the economy. Such sheep-like conformity, if it could be turned to the common good - as it was in a sense under Mao -, might actually serve a purpose in Italy, a country which has long since lost any sense of society, let alone civil society, in favour of personal, familial and, at best, parochial interests. If people could be herded in the same mindless way towards paying their taxes, or even their bus fares, who knows what social value might be produced.