grunge, wearing out its welcome

October 19, 2016 in stop look & listen by editor

Revisiting the infamous Perry Ellis show that got Marc Jacobs fired and made him a star.

This article appeared in the Washington Post on November 4, 1992

By Cathy Horyn

(NEW YORK) — Call it boho, grunge or deja vu all over again, but the new look for spring is chaotic, contrived and so encumbered with cultural significance that even the most astute follower of fashion will find herself wondering if she’s supposed to look like Courtney Love or Nicole Diver.

The Seattle music scene, which spawned the cockeyed Love, has inspired a scruffy cool on Seventh Avenue so deliberate as to seem dated the moment it appears on the runway. At the Perry Ellis show the other evening, one felt like a spectator at an office theme party, in which the participants — ranging from the models to a handful of fashion editors in ski caps — had all agreed to dress grungy for the day. Rarely has slovenliness looked so self-conscious, or commanded so high a price. At Christian Francis Roth’s show on Tuesday, the designer himself appeared — first in a home movie and then in person — wearing a stocking cap and playing an electric guitar. By the time the first models had emerged on the sod-covered runway, lurching forward in unlaced army boots and some rather bereaved-looking knits, it was clear that Roth was more interested in expressing his relative hipness than saying anything new.

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The speed with which designers embrace contemporary culture — or, in the case of Ralph Lauren, a literary image from out of the past — tends to produce whiplash. After all, it was only six months ago that Marc Jacobs mined the ’70s for Perry Ellis, successfully blurring the past by giving old shapes a new, and strangely more authentic, authenticity. A year ago, Roth was dabbling in pinstripes, and before that, something vaguely Mennonite. This theme-park approach to fashion only confuses people, and makes them suspect that the price of admission is nothing more or less than old-fashioned foolishness.

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Images from Vogue.com / video via Fashion By Look