Beyond 
the 
Cross-Dressing

 por  Andrés Álvarez

Palomo Spain, Loverboy, Lazoschmidl, Sebastian Meunier, Fomme are some of the new generation brands that bet on a Gender Discourse.

Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-23 um 00.19.35.pn
Logo10.jpg

Let's imagine the Vicomte de Valmont in Les liaisons dangereuses suddenly running into the bedroom of Cécile de Volantes. Let's relive in our minds this scene from the Fears film (as the closest and best known reference), the sets, the bombastic costumes of the time, the gasping breaths hiding complex feelings, the subtle movements.

 

Let us imagine now that the Viscount does not try to enter the bedroom of Miss de Volantes, but that of a young man who, like a gazelle, runs out frightened and runs towards his dressing room. There he has hidden the finest silks, not his own, of course, but those he steals from his sister. In an unbridled impulse he combines a coat and a dress with a doublet.  Thus he appears before the Viscount, who begins to rub his hands together...

 

The first collections of Alejandro Gómez Palomo, designer and creator of Palomo Spain (Posadas, Córdoba, 1992) take me back to the sumptuousness of pre-revolutionary France, to that world of bedrooms and secrets, which the MET paid tribute to long before the era of social networks (2004).

 

And now the sensibility that is breathed in the film and also his clothes make sense for a 16-year-old boy in the designer's collections (even if visually it is not the explicit reference). And this is precisely the proposal of Palomo Spain: the enjoyment of a practice of dressing and a vision of fashion forbidden to men and that begins precisely with the historical twists of the late eighteenth century and the sensitivity of the early nineteenth century. 

Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-22 um 19.42.40.pn
Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-22 um 23.27.25.pn
Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-15 um 17.13.23.pn

 Palomo Spain swells a new outpost of fashion creators who, based on a principle of cross-dressing, generate new ways of perceiving the masculine. 

Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-15 um 17.00.55.pn

If the world of references close to Palomo is connected to the visual dimension of Rococo, ruffles, ribbons, excess and a certain synthesis of Spanish folklore; designers Josef Lazo and Andres Schmidl (Lazoschmidl) seem to narrate the story of a film of the nineties that tries to revive the disco scene of the seventies (see perhaps The last days of Disco to connect with the sensibility of the decade). These references do not seem far-fetched, considering that the brand has adapted the cut and silhouette of the nineties woman to a certain masculine aesthetic.

Both proposals may seem decadent, but they are anchored in a totally revolutionary concept. 

As Andres Schmidl himself concluded in an interview for Dazed magazine, his creations do not strictly address homoeroticism or question masculinities, but rather raise questions about the meaning of sexuality and the right of the individual to externalize his subjectivity in a free way.

The case of Sebastian Meunier at the helm of Anne Demeulemeester since 2013 and his work for the men's collection since 2010 already advanced this trend. Meunier has endowed the firm with a halo of romanticism not without a certain gothic glamour. Each piece is a combination of masculinity and feminism. Approaching one of his most recent collections is a veiled recitation of every fashion moment of the last decades: the typical eighties shoulder pad, a version of the classic corset, ruffled shirts, coats fitted at the waist, the boho spirit placated by an aesthetic more attached to rock. Despite all these additions Meunier does not abandon the deconstructivist and avant-garde orbit that would define the brand. 

Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-15 um 17.17.26.pn
Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-15 um 17.17.39.pn

In an entirely equidistant dimension, but just as disruptive, is Charles Jeffrey with his brand Loverboy. A graduate of Central Saint Martins and immersed in London's queer creative scene, his first collections are based on these influences but go beyond the generic borrowing of attributes. His proposal is anchored in a theatricality and a play with detritus and the grotesque. Each of his shows unfolds, like a children's fantasy story, distorted by a caravan of grotesque figures.

 

Loverboy emerges from that alternative scene of clubs and creative projects among friends that are a celebration of individuality in politically delirious, crazy and uncertain times.     

Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-15 um 17.15.47.pn
Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-15 um 17.14.52.pn

Whoever attends the parades of these designers and tries to place their collections in a boutique, will believe that their pieces have no commercial outlet, or very little impact, but this is not the case. 

 

In Palomo Spain's 2017 (Hotel Wellington) and 2018 fashion shows celebrities crowded to see him, Almodovar included and Rosy de Palma parading for himself. Pieces from the designer's collections are brought by singers like Rosalia, for one of her presentations, Beyonce or Miley Cyrus, who made an appearance in a video clip with one of his dresses. But beyond having a wide acceptance by the female public, the also jury of the TV show Maestros de la Costura has his group of male muses (including her boyfriend) and inspires photographers like Kito Muñoz.

Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-21 um 21.12.22.pn

Both in Charles Jeffrey's biography and in his collections and mise-en-scènes there are such paroxystic and striking elements mixed in that it is not a proposal that can be left aside. His designs have had a great impact on London Fashion Week and can be found on major retail platforms such as SSENSE and farfetch.com or in the unisex Pop-up of Selfigreds. According to Jeffrey himself, his creations are aimed at his friends, the kids in his midst and visitors to Vogue Fabric (an event he organizes).

Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-15 um 16.44.07.pn

This new generation of young designers, although they have a very personal proposal, enjoy recognition in the media and a loyal group of followers.

Lazoschmild contrasts with the vision of Nordic fashion associated with a certain austere elegance and neutral colors. The references of the young brand go through the camps and a certain measure of extravagance. The brand's relationship with gender identity bets on the festive and fluid, but nevertheless remains within the limits of economy of resources. 

 

This play with gender expectations is also present in other young brands such as Fomme by Berlin-based designer Sarah Effenberger, which combines the "typically masculine or feminine" in one piece.

Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-15 um 17.19.57.pn
Bildschirmfoto 2018-12-22 um 18.40.43.pn

Are these proposals a simple trend or have they been outlining an area within the market? Do they stem from a need for externalization of a certain sector, which is no longer afraid to compose and recompose and to externalize their individuality beyond what is socially agreed? Could this creative advance represent an update of the unisex that emerged since the 60's or are they only in the field of cross-dressing?

 

In the field of contemporary culture, these practices disarticulate the heteronormative paradigm. There is a dissociation that transcends these binarisms to provide elements that allow the subject the expression of a certain notion of "I" from bodily performances. 

 

It is also interesting that such expressions occur with such vigor within a field such as fashion and not only in the realms of art; of fashion with all its conditioning factors and its constant mutability. 

 

In times when the debate from art on issues of cultural diversity does not seem to detach itself from certain rhetoric anchored forty years ago, it is in other areas of visual production where new ways of understanding the game of roles in society and how the individual is positioned in front of these subjectivities are opened.

by Andres Alvarez