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Fashion's problematic favorite is Elena Velez

Fashion's problematic favorite is Elena Velez


Every generation of fashion designers has a problematic favorite, someone whose politics, tastes or point of view run counter to the status quo.

Elena Velez, 29, is the enfant terrible of her generation. Puerto Rican and raised in Wisconsin, she burst onto the scene in 2018 with a jagged, romantic image of femininity and techniques that reflect an obsession with bygone craftsmanship and the industrial decadence of the Rust Belt.

Velez has a chip on his shoulder. She sharply chastised the fashion world for its lack of financial and critical support (she said The New York Times that her mother cashed in her retirement fund to help pay for her brand), although these are unfortunately issues that any young designer with their own brand faces.

And she aligned herself with the unsavory taste of a tendentious downtown New York crowd, whose podcasters, media personalities, and fashion and art figures became known as aegis of Dimes Square, the over-explained neighborhood in Lower Manhattan known for its reactionary politics and associations with Peter Thiel. (Louis Pisano, an American influencer based in Paris, posted on X last fall that Velez is the Donald Trump of emerging designers.)

She's particularly friendly with Anna Khachiyan and actress Dasha Nekrasova, the hosts of the Red Scare podcast, which started with a Bernie is Dad mindset but has since morphed into a hipster JD Vance for women who know how to take selfies. in underwear. The Dimes Square prospect was so exaggerated at the height of the pandemic, the subject of thinkpieces in almost every newspaper and magazine, that it is already dated, especially as the presidential election gets underway.

After a mud-wrestling exhibition in the fall, she put on a more openly hostile show Sunday night: a salon themed around the film and book Gone With the Wind, the controversial Southern Belle story Scarlett OHara and the decline of his plantation, Tara, and the South during the Civil War in an Upper East Side mansion, with a symposium hosted by Khachiyan and podcaster Jack Mason on the genius's supposedly misunderstood works.

For the first hour, cigarette smoke filled the creaky mansion as attendees dressed in rustic American black-tie dress code wandered around a table with a spread of pomegranate chunks, piles of cheeses, piles of meat and platters of oysters topped with edible silver. The audacity to focus on the novel and film which has been debated since its release in the 1930s for its racist stereotypes and framed with trigger warnings since 2020 loomed over the evening, giving it a nefarious rather than nostalgic vibe. Ten women were dressed in a look Velez called couture, their hair was tied up in Marie Antoinette-style locks, and they were going in and out of different rooms.

The setting, particularly the number of similarly dressed women and the unexpected ratio of men, was more Eyes Wide Shut than Tara When It Sizzles. I want to go to Minnesota or Michigan and do some new shit in Rockwell, I heard a man say during cocktail hour. Photograph the tobacco and the fields. Another guest lamented being told her film was too problematic to get a distribution deal. A man in a suit mentioned the food with apprehension. I'm a little afraid everything here is poison.

After an hour, Velez, dressed in a minidress and thigh-high boots, her own hair up and festooned with flowers, welcomed the group for the first in a new series of salons dedicated to putting fashion first plan for thoughtful, modern fashion. speech. She drew comparisons between herself and OHara: her courage, her intrepidity and her recalcitrance lead her towards dream or disaster.

Then everyone went upstairs. Mason and Khachiyan spoke in their characteristic shocks of pseudo-evil funny; Khachiyan complained about her tight wig and corset. I can't breathe, she said flatly, and a terrible pause hung in the air as the audience tried to decide whether she was making a disturbing joke about George Floyd. Say his name! » laughed a member of the audience.

Khachiyan then read aloud a printout she described as a monologue, comparing OHara to a modern-day e-girl, Madonna and Kim Kardashian, in a voice similar to that of a boarding school student with hungover, stoic but pleased with himself.

Mason explained how Gone With the Wind, published in 1936, presaged books about women gaining power through sex and shopping, like Judith Krantz's Scruples from 1978, ignoring Edith Wharton's much more influential The Custom of the Country of 1913. Gone with the Wind makes the case for grand and sweeping romance against today's gray and miserable aesthetic, Mason said.

The specter of the work's bad reputation, particularly its treatment of race, clung to the speech like a bad handbag, mainly because of the design of the hosts. Khachiyan brought up the subject several times and was not allowed to address race, although she did mention that the actress who played Mammy, I think her name was Hattie McDaniel, was the first black person to win an Oscar. Racist controversies are less important, she said. The most important thing is that people think it's a piece of pulp. When an audience member pressed Mason and Khachiyan to address the topic that was not allowed to be discussed, Khachiyan refused, saying, “I'm a libtard.”

Equally odd was the unoriginality of the argument that OHara is a feminist icon – a position so engaged in trolling that its instigators failed to realize they were simply defending Mitchell's original intent . The book and film portray OHara as a pillar of strength, and in many parts of the South she is still considered as such. (She is a popular inspiration for Southern sorority prom attendees.) It's one of the best-selling books of the 20th century, not exactly a suppressed work. This is not part of the current wave of book banning, which has primarily focused on LGBTQ+ literature and books by non-white authors. HBO temporarily removed the film from its streaming site in 2020, but later restored it with trigger warnings, and last year, the book's publishers re-released it with similar warnings about its racist content in other words, it remains accessible.

And it has long been fashionable in pop intellectualism to reframe the villain as a hero, a frame in everything from the musical (and upcoming film) Wicked to Breaking Bad. Giving intellectual weight to vague topics has been a familiar but easy trick for about two decades, since the creation of media outlets like Gawker and n+1.

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The night amounted to an annoying distraction from the clothes, which were actually really good. They tell the story Vélez wants to tell, but better: the feminine flourishes of the Khachiyans' dress were disrupted by its muddy color; a secretly not simple buttoned dress looked like an expert tailor using the saddest, simplest last resort material for a desperately needed dress.

Each look is both an emphasis on glamor in the face of apocalypse and a reappropriation of an era in women's history when the sharpest weapon in her artillery was a red dress, Velez said. Interesting! If the fashion powers that be ignore or don't care about his misguided edgelord act, you could imagine one of his pieces would make a great look for the Met Gala.

Fashion is a powerful medium because it is not didactic. Clothing is ambiguous, easy to reclaim and reframe: one of a designer's classic jeans and t-shirts is another disruptive designer statement on the horrors of conformity. A fashion show doesn't need to be obvious or unmistakable in its message, and it's usually at its worst moment. (Think: Nothing is more boring now than a T-shirt with a slogan on it.)

A useful example is John Galliano, who just presented a well-received couture collection at Maison Margiela more than a decade after a drug-fueled anti-Semitic tirade derailed his career at Dior. His show was all about the underworld of outcasts and despicable people, but there was no clear impression that Galliano was referring to himself. However, you could still read it here, which made it thoughtful instead of a nap.

You can say what you think, feel and think is wrong in the world through fabrics, stitches, staging, music and ambiance, that's what a great designer does. Velez is clearly capable of this, but also seems obsessed with promoting this dated worldview to the point of self-destruction. That was to quote Chester Cheetah, another cartoonish anti-hero who pushes dangerously cheesy smut.




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