Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Russian young ladies, according to Scott Schuman

When Scott Schuman and Garance Dore received the CFDA Media Award, Vogue did a long interview with them titled The Hunter and the Gatherer, which bothered me for many different reasons but not the least because of its slightly misogynistic undertone.

Photo via Buro 24/7
For one, look at that title. Second, the interview is really with/about Schuman, and Dore just happens to be present. She is treated like a side-kick... someone who is only there to affirm and support the story about a genius man and his craft. Ugh. Please. But the most annoying thing about the whole piece to me is Schuman's complete inability to acknowledge that even though he is a forerunner and an innovator within a niche, his work is in many ways only possible within the context of that very same niche and there are many others involved in it, supporting it, creating it... Both subjects and fellow bloggers, their numbers and proximity reinforce each other. And for Schuman to pretend that his enterprise is a whole other thing of its own is 1) laughable and 2) untrue.

I got particularly ticked when he takes a jab at the "Russian young ladies" who wait to be photographed at the fashion shows:
When I started, there weren't that many people expecting to go to shows to be shot. They weren't going to build their career. Those people are unfortunately very obvious and really lend no mystique to me. How do I say this in a nice way? There's a lot of stylish Russian young ladies going and hanging out around at shows now that you aren't going to see on my blog. It doesn't draw my interest when they want it too much. [Once] Garance was going to shoot one of these Russian young ladies and liked her outfit on a particular day and asked, what's in your bag? And she goes, "Oh, nothing." And of course it was some designer bag—a really expensive bag and it's totally empty. To me, even though you can't tell it's empty in the picture I would know.
Ugh, ugh. I thought. You just can't stand other people's success, can you?! You are such an insecure little man that you get really pissed when some Russian "young lady" can send an entire industry into a frenzy by throwing on a little Proenza dress and a pair of Alaia boots, don't you?! See, I am happy about the success of the Russian "young ladies" in the last few years. They look like me, they talk like me. They read the same books I did when I was a child. I am happy to see my point of view represented in fashion, in some small, miniscule, ok, imagined way.

And then, just the other day, I am reading Buro 24/7, Miroslava Duma's fashion site. I don't recommend it, it's not especially good. They mostly cover fashion news that I am already aware of but I started reading it because I am trying to practice my Russian. They highlight Ms. Duma's style frequently and I don't mind because I happen to think she is beautiful and has interesting taste. So I am looking at some pictures of her from a few days ago. And there it is. Her romantic Nina Ricci dress, her Oscar de la Renta sandals and her fun pink neon Stella McCartney bag. EMPTY.

Scott Schuman – 1; Petya – 0.

11 comments:

  1. I think I really like her outfit. It's too young for me at this point, but super cute. Who cares if the purse is empty?

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    1. No one cares, exactly. its just that it indicates her thinking. All for show. If you don't mind that, then thats fine. But alot of people do. Including me.

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  2. I have no idea what you're talking about but I'm pretty sure these russian ladies don't talk like you. And they read books? Yeah, right. Are we living in Intellectualland already? This is not what the political map says. Since when the fashion is an indicator of the presence of an abstract mind? I find the empty bag to be a fine metaphor. And I love this phenomenon, when girls tend to assemble in large cooperative structures regardless of their social status, for the sake of justice. Simply amazing. But do nоt expect men to part with their precious war.

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  3. Women are expected to "answer for" fashion collectively, men individually. Hence, no individual woman is (ordinarily) asked to defend or explain the latest trend that she participates in, though she is expected to participate; meanwhile, no individual man is expected to adopt the latest style (or even know what it is), but he will be made to account for the choice if he does.

    This commonly results in the attitude that Schuman so perfectly typifies, and that finds its ultimate expression in the disgust over an empty bag (gasp!). How do (manly) men who care to defend fashion defend it? "If I must wear shoes, at least I should wear shoes that look nice/ are of fine workmanship/ say something about my values and tastes/ etc." This kind of male fashion is definitively not about ars gratia artis--witness the horror that attends the male summer scarf--but rather about displaying the markers of social status and sophistication.

    Petya - 1; Scott Schuman - self-loathing slimeball

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  4. And yet, what does the female's fashion attitude is telling us? "If I must wear anything it ought to be absolutely art for itself and not connected with any power symbol. This way, people will understand that I'm very artsy (free), therefore very expensive. Wait, I would never use such a plebeian word. What I mean is that I'm a statistical outlier and consequently, good for the biological diversity of the world's gene pool". And you're trying to convince us it's not just another marker of social value? It's simply not the manly men's type of trait, though I think these men love the empty bags and Scott is not one of them. And I think the key question in fashion is not if the bag is empty or not but whether it is used by its own crafter and a handful of resonating souls or it's a mere result of a massive chain reaction.

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  5. Anonymous: My point was not to weigh in on the meaning or validity of the empty bag, but rather to use Schuman's attitude of revulsion toward it as a means of pinpointing his own particular (though not uncommon) form of discomfort regarding his chosen profession--one which, as Petya has noted, he works so hard to distance himself from, at least in its unsavory form.

    My bigger point, though, which I think is also Petya's (and which I tried somewhat crudely to cast in terms of sexual difference) is that the whole antithesis of utility and pleasure in aesthetics (or the social function of art/art for art's sake) is crude and simplistic to the point of being obfuscating. Schuman doesn't seem to get this, which is why I find his "work" uninteresting.

    Contrarily, I also agree with your point that the attitude "If I must wear anything it ought to be absolutely art for itself and not connected with any power symbol. This way, people will understand that I'm very artsy" is an equally bankrupt position. But I resist the opposition that you propose between authenticity and empty consumerism; both depend on each other for their effect.

    kgrady

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  6. I have a question, which is only kind of related to your post. How come you identify yourself with Russian girls? Though obviously from an Eastern European country, you're not Russian, no?

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    1. That's a good question. I have no real connection to Russia other than the obvious historic & political relations between Bulgaria and the USSR. I don't think that most Bulgarians feel that. I think that many Bulgarians try to actively distance themselves from our ties to Russia. I am trying to dig deep and see why and I keep going back to my 3rd grade Russian classes that were endlessly fun and entertaining to me. I really enjoyed them and did well in them, I also really enjoy classic Russian literature. That specific type of dark romanticism really appeals to me on a deep, very emotional, very personal level. Also, when I was in college, my closest friends were people that I met through my Russian lit classes... American kids but also other international students... we shared a sensibility, a way of looking at the world... I don't know how to describe it. It's just really stuck with me.

      Hope this makes sense.

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    2. Thanks for your reply!

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    3. Ha. I was born in Moscow, I now live in the midwest. I could have told you Scott had it right, even though ts amazing he got it from such limited exposure. I suppose you must have been younger then me when you got here. Also, my family is Jewish, so our love for the Russian p[eople is limited at best seeing how they tend to be collectively, and proudly anti Semitic. Still, I have spent enough time amongst Russian people to know a bit about their thinking. They are so materialistic that they remind me of Scrooge McDuack. Except less honest. The only people you will ever find defending them are people who don't know them in person.

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  7. I have no idea what you're speaking about but I'm pretty sure these Russian ladies don't talk like you. And they read records? Affirmative, right. Are we living in Intelligent land already? This is not what the party-political map says. Since when the fashion is an indicator of the presence of an abstract mind? I find the empty bag to be a fine symbol. And I love this phenomenon, when girls tend to assemble in large cooperative structures regardless of their social status, for the sake of justice. Simply amazing. But do not imagine men to part with their precious war. - See more at: Russian Love/russian-young-ladies-according-to-scott.html#sthash.Vr1zumxP.dpuf

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