Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ralph Lauren and Alex Burgess

Many things in this mad world puzzle me.  Why do Dallas drivers drive with all the fury of competitors on the Indy 500 coupled with the lack of caution seen in bumper car drivers, yet these same linger at traffic lights well after they turn green as though they want to make sure no one else would like to go first?  Why do Clevelanders up-sell every last attribute of their Great Lakes mini-metropolis (of which there are many) at the slightest encouragement as though they were paid travel agents, and at what age does this upselling start?  Why does the city of Detroit, even in her murkiest twilight years, happen to produce such a high number of noteworthy musicians?  Why do Austrian women speak in a lilting accent, but Austrian men don't especially?  All these are intriguing questions.  The greatest puzzlement I experienced in the last month struck while I was looking through Ralph Lauren's Collection.  Remember when I wrote that I loved lit-inspired design?  Allow me to be specific here: I do not love design based on Alex and his Droogs from A Clockwork Orange.  


There are people (many found on DeviantArt) who do indeed enjoy this type of dress-up, which fact I became acutely aware of at a midnight screening of A Clockwork Orange.  This pertrubed me perhaps more than was reasonable, mainly because a large, rowdy mob of people who gleefully dress-up as a psychopathic, sadistic killer and torturer of women makes me a bit vexatious as my assumption is they either idolize said character - in which case, run for the nearest fire exit - or, they have grossly misinterpreted the theme which makes me want to talk to them about subversive tactics of modern authors such as Burgess to present a morally traditional theme (namely, not only ought you avoid torturing and killing people, you should also avoid trying to surgically remove free will), which speech in given situation might make a perfectly normal person want to torture me.  Oh, the crazy weekend adventures of literature majors who-pay-more-attention-to-the-actual-book's-plot-than-the-subsequent-cult-following-of-the-film-based-on-the-American-edition-with-the-final-chapter-edited-out venturing into society.

Anyway, getting back to the point: I get an underground sub-culture playing Droog dress up, but why you, Ralph, why you?  An all white men's clothes ensemble plus white suspender plus a black bowler hat?  Is it just that Ralph thought that was a neat look, completely independent of the cult icon?  Are my eyes deceiving me due to my culture-clash flashback?  Despite this Droog drama going on in my head and the fact that there are several varitions of this theme in the collection, there were at least a couple of pieces I really like.  

Plus the models did not look like last week's lab cadavers warmed over which was nice.
P.S. Whilst browsing through Google images to research my Clockwork Orange conspiracy theory, I found this piece which I thought was kind of awesome:

[Editor's Note - In the interest of full disclosure, I must reveal that upon further meditation prodded on by the readers interesting comments, I have found that the costume lover in me  has won out: I actually can dig Clockwork Orange inspired costumery as illustrated by Kristy Elena, author of the very entertaining blog Vogue Gone Rogue.

P.S.  I also feel the need to clarify that I am not recommending A Clockwork Orange.  Though elegantly made, it's a rough movie and most people would probably just be nauseated by it.  I am enamored with Kubrick's design and execution -- if you want to discuss the film, you should just contact me.  Yeah.      


Moni Rose said...

You continue to enlighten me Meg! That CO thing would have slipped past me, and if t did Ralph Lauren also, then he needs to hire you to be aware of these things. (conclusion: more lib arts majors in design!)

Ps I love the two dresses: I'm intrigued by the metallic one and the cotton print is lovely!

Louise said...

I hate hate HATE A Clockwork Orange. But I love Ralph Lauren and bowler hats... what to do?

kristy eléna said...

this is an interesting post, i love posts that make me think.

i actually drew a clockwork orange inspired design for class last year. and i do actually like these designs by ralph lauren as well.

i think it's possible to isolate the style from the character. i don't aspire to be like alex nor do i condone his behavior in any way, but i don't necessarily think that being inspired by the style necessarily suggests that. i feel that creativity can be sparked by many things, even things that are condemnable. painters, photographers, writers, all artists are inspired by horrific things. and i don't think fashion should be an exception.

but i understand your points and i love that you care and think about these kinds of things. i'm a follower. =)

Vogue Gone Rogue

Angelie said...

Interestingly enough, Burgess got the title from the phrase "clockwork orangutang", referring to the Droogs' de-evolution as humans and to the scientists' goal of reducing Alex to a machine with free will replaced by stimulus-response behaviour. Glad you wrote on this -it's very disturbing and I wonder if Ralph was consciously influenced.

Meghan McNally said...

I love all these comments! :)

Kristy Elena, do you have your C.O. design anywhere on your blog? I’d love to see it. I completely agree with you that because an artist refers to something horrific in art that in no way means he’s condoning it. Art would be incredibly boring (and a little useless?)if artists only based their pieces on pretty and peaceful subjects. So much of art is about conflict.

That’s why I couldn’t figure out what bugged me about the idea. Burgess’s story is brilliant, and I am a Kubrick fan. I find the movie mesmerizing on several levels, especially Malcolm McDowell’s performance. My current theory is that in his “ultraviolent” film Kubrick was playing around with doing to his audience what the government was doing to Alex with the Ludovico treatment: the violence is so graphic, it’s horrifying, repugnant, and frightening, but it's an impressive and sometimes beautiful piece of art. The audience is bewitched while viewing, but the reaction afterwards is total aversion. Burgess wasn’t completely comfortable with the movie version because it does follow the American edition which ends with ambiguity and no resolution, and he feared that could be represented as glorifying the violence (from Flame into Being: The Life and Work of D.H.Lawrence).

I think I am prejudiced because of that midnight screening, honestly. The audience dressed as Droogs seemed to be celebrating Alex’s pleasure in brutalizing people, and his power to incite others to join him. Not to say the audience aspired to be sadists; (omg, this is turning into a paper) it just seemed as though they admired the film as a good piece of art, but didn’t bother to understand it. Which I assume is why Burgess had a problem with the film; it is ambiguous, the story becomes easy to misinterpret.

So, anyway, yeah, I think my conclusion of that is…it’s a bit tricky, but in theory I support it, and I might have a very long, rambling conversation about it if it’s vague, and it might make me construct ridiculously long, run-on sentences. Argh! What I know for sure is if you try to use my favorite art as a torture instrument I’m going to run for the nearest fire exit.

kristy eléna said...

i love your comment and i'm so glad you wrote back to me. discussions are the best!

i think i understand your discomfort with it. it's true, many people often take something that is meant to be negative commentary on an action or way of being, and idolize it. i feel that happens often with a clockwork orange as well. people regard the droogs as cool and aspirational, and yeah, that's pretty disturbing. though i definitely don't think these guys dressing up as them want to harm anyone (at least i hope not!), i think that all characters exhibiting such freedom and the will to do and take as they please inspire sentiments of awe in people. it's kind of a commentary on our own society too if you think about it - maybe people are feeling so caged in their own lives that even something meant to be horrifying can be viewed upon with envy. (that is kind of off the top of my head, i would need to re-watch the film and read the book before i took that hypothesis seriously.. =P )

here's a link to my design for you, it's the second one (obviously):

Meghan McNally said...

That Clockwork Orange design looks awesome!

Maggie said...

We start the up-selling young, very young! It's the antidote to all of the internal, "mistake-on-the-lake" tension...

Meghan McNally said...

Lol, I know, poor little Cleveland. It does deserve better than the reputation it's got.