One of the New York Met Gala stylists is sharing tips for wearing a corset to an evening do. ‘Breathe a lot in the morning,’ he tells the Gucci Podcast, with a discernible smile, ‘and by the time you put on the dress, you’ll be full of oxygen.’ The image of a puffed-up toad comes to mind.
It’s a bit nuts, isn’t it, the fashion world? The Met Gala is the ball where anything goes – the costumes are witty and extreme – but even so the commentary on it can be pretty earnest, especially in the American press. The stylists on this podcast speak of dressing celebrities like disco balls to reflect their evening personalities, and of relinquishing control to the fashion house. That ‘shirts become vessels for conversations’ is a piece of gospel everyone just knows.
It may be wrong to ask whether the Gucci Podcast takes itself too seriously. Mocking fashionistas is an elite sport which it is only really worth playing as an insider. Doing so from the sidelines just makes you look haughty and out of touch because, like it or not, fashion is art, and permeates everything. A better question is: how interesting an art is fashion?
A recent episode of the podcast featured an interview between host Shahidha Bari, an academic at the London College of Fashion, and ‘full-spectrum artist’ Julian Klincewicz, who’s designed shoes for cool-guy brand Vans. ‘Full-spectrum artist’ in Klincewicz’s case means filmmaker, photographer, designer and, er, skateboarder. ‘Being, like, a video artist is kind of carte blanche to just … do whatever,’ he says, sounding every inch the Californian dude. ‘Being an artist’, in the broader sense, ‘is a way of viewing the world.’
One thing Klincewicz and the Gucci Podcast in general do very well is to illustrate that fashion truly is a ‘full-spectrum’ thing. Clothing lines are described as developing out of books and zines and plucking utopian ideas out of the past. The main problem, for outsiders, anyway, is the language. There may be truth in the statement that ‘the sentiment of the shoe gains in value as you wear it down’. But it feels a bit fey. The unfashionable listener who can look beneath the vernacular may nevertheless be surprised by the variety of layers there are. They’ll just need an extra-sharp pair of scissors to remove the frills.
Several of the episodes of the podcast are in Italian, which is only right, given Gucci’s origins. Chanel’s podcast 3.55 is similarly divided between episodes in English, and episodes in French. No prizes for guessing which is better suited to fashion-house parlance. It’s unusual to find podcast series alternating so freely between two languages. Even if you’re far from fluent, it’s worth sampling both options, as you’ll appreciate how neatly they fall in step.
Fashion is only one of Chanel’s concerns. Part of the podcast is given over to Les Rendez-vous littéraires rue Cambon, a literary series in which female authors describe their early careers, writing rituals and reading habits. In French, Lyon-born author and historian Chantal Thomas speaks fascinatingly of Casanova’s memoirs and the differences between writing from a male and female perspective. In English, Trinidad-born Ingrid Persaud tells critic Erica Wagner of her Presbyterian education (‘We really didn’t do fun’) and early love of Enid Blyton, V.S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas and the poetry of Derek Walcott.
Another recent guest, American author Lisa Taddeo, will have surprised many authors when she revealed to Wagner that she was allowed to keep the (small) advance she received from a publisher for an early novel she retracted. ‘I think how my trajectory would have been different,’ she said, had she put Bitch out into the world before Animal and Three Women.
Everyone enjoys hearing other writers’ ways of working and Taddeo’s are arresting: ‘I spend a good 20 minutes every morning – I would love to say meditating, but usually crying or having a panic attack about the day ahead,’ she confesses. ‘My process now is having a panic attack in the morning, trying to stave it off and moving into my work day… and writing late at night.’
Few, perhaps, would think to seek out Chanel’s podcast for literary discussion, but I’d recommend it, as it’s brilliantly produced. From the romantic tinkle of the French theme tune, to the cut, and the astute nature of the questioning, the episodes from rue Cambon are fittingly stylish, and never buttoned-up.