Anna dello Russo, the editor-at-large of Vogue Japan, is best known for her extravagant, peacock-like displays of the latest fashions. Is she merely a passive victim of fashion? Or can we see her as a ground-breaker? Although she seems to move across these categories, I would not hesitate for a minute to call her a ground-breaker. The reason behind my choice is that she embodies the abstraction of fashion itself, or at least aims to do so.
Since the publication of Roland Barthes’ The Fashion System in 1967 (trans. 1983), fashion is regarded both as a social abstraction and a personal decision. In a way, this makes everyone a social effect and an active participant in the choice of a particular style. Anna dello Russo plays with these two categories; by trying to locate herself only on the side of the total victim of fashion trends, she in fact asserts herself as anextreme victim. In other words she tries to “abdicate” to a personal view of style in order to wear the latest catwalk-clothes, even the lesser wearable ones. It can be argued that she offers her body as the blank screen onto which the designer of the moment projects his own movie.
In her blog, dello Russo asserts that the key for “success” is always “excess” and that no outfit should be worn more than once. In a choice between “style” and “fashion,” she always opts for “fashion,” prizing the fleeting aspect of dress over the lasting beauty of style. These utterances implicitly subvert the hierarchy of style over fashion advocated by Chanel: “fashion dies, but style remains.” The extent of dello Russo’s “abuse” of catwalk-clothes is extremely interesting to me and places her in a unique position compared to other bloggers associated with her, such as Bryanboy and Tavi. What makes AdR different? Firstly, unlike many others, she is a living encyclopedia of fashion. Secondly, she pushes a specific idea to an extreme point, erasing her own self for the sake of clothes in a manner reminiscent of an unattainable act of love. For me, the obvious conclusion is that this extreme refusal of style becomes a style in itself, and it is for this reason that I call her act of love for fashion (her sacrifice of style) “unattainable”.
Interestingly enough, AdR’s approach to clothing is the perfect counterpart to that of many fashion scholars and critics, such as Valerie Steele and Diane Pernet. In their own way of dressing, both Steele and Pernet tend to erase “fashion,” opting instead for head-to-toe black outfits. In these cases the evanescent element of fashion disappears and focus is given to their words rather than their sparkly outfits. As already said, what dello Russo tries to achieve is to put herself behind the dress. However, as with all extreme positions, she crosses the border and obtains the opposite effect. This is ultimately the precise difference between Bryanboy and AdR: while she displays herself as a victim of fashion until she crosses the threshold, Bryanboy does not. In chasing the glamour of the ephemeral, she turns ephemerality itself into a persistent idea of style.
Photo : Vogue
Video : Anna Dello Russo for H&M