Listen to this article
It’s August, which I know means as a responsible fashion editor I ought to be using this column vociferously to encourage everyone to rush out and get their must-have winter coat now, because if you wait until next month it will be too late, and all that, but honestly – I just can’t do it.
For me, August (like January) has always been a bridge month: a time when we think less about clothes, and more about girding ourselves for what is to come, be it back to school or back to full-on work or back to – speaking personally here – shows. It’s a time of mental transition, when, though we may consider wardrobe issues, we do not want to act on them, in part because you may be in a place (a beach, or in my case, the Canadian woods) where acting on them is nigh impossible. So instead of exhorting everyone to rush out to the nearest store no matter what, I have a different, potentially more realistic, suggestion: get thee to a multiplex.
If you want to segue from non-fashion mindset to maybe-I-could-possibly-think-about-taking-off-my-shorts-and-putting-on-a-suit-again as painlessly as possible, there is no better aid than the movies.
After a post-Gatsby/Bling Ring drought in the cinematic style stakes (you can understand it, those films having covered almost every big brand between them), and not counting the wannabe, albeit fashion-free, blockbusters such as The Lone Ranger, White House Down and World War Z, mid-August heralds something of a renaissance to the concept of clothes on film.
Consider: last week Paranoia arrived onscreen here in New York, Robert Luketic’s adaptation of the thriller by Joseph Finder, featuring not only Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman and Liam Hemsworth but suits by Giorgio Armani (for Ford’s tech billionaire). This month Armani again shows up in Elysium, this time as the designer of choice for Jodie Foster’s character, who wears an assortment of designer outfits throughout the film – all of them sporting defined shoulders and structured waists.
Add to the mix Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen’s movie about the collateral damage of financial crime starring Cate Blanchett, an Hermès bag and assorted Chanel jackets, and factor in the much-anticipated Diana, the biopic due for UK release in September with a potential for brand-dropping and consumer-influencing that has the fashion world already in a tizzy. Indeed, the drum roll has begun, with the deceased princess on the cover of Vanity Fair and Chopard named the “official jeweller” of the film (it contributed pieces from its Happy Diamonds collection). Not to mention the news that Versace has recreated the one-shoulder blue gown with a jewel at the shoulder Diana wore in Sydney in 1996, and that two of the actual dresses Jacques Azagury made for Diana – the light blue beaded sheath she wore to see the English National Ballet in 1997, and the long black version of the same that she wore at her 36th birthday – feature in the movie.
There is the Venice Film Festival to look forward to, and though the films in competition look relatively thin on the fashion-o-meter – the festival opens with Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón’s nerve-racking story of space survival starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock mostly in astronaut’s suits – you never know. Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin has Scarlet Johansson as a flesh-eating alien but photos show her stalking her human prey in chic fur jackets and skinny jeans.
The point is, fashion can creep up on you when you least expect it, especially when it’s disguised as pop culture, and released at a time when it is theoretically out of sight and hence out of mind. It’s classic sleight of hand: you are thinking one thing – “Gosh, it’s the last blast of summer, I’m going to embrace escapism” (low culture) – while another gets absorbed in your subconscious (high fashion). It’s not quite as nefarious as those old conspiracy theories about subliminal advertising in movies, but it’s not that far off either.
And as much as we think we understand the mutual appreciation society that makes up the fashion-film relationship, from the overt red carpet advantages that come with product placement to the way films benefit from the marketing muscle brands can put behind new releases, at certain times of year there is an added covert advantage to the connection: it sets up, in a very subtle way, the coming season.
Because no matter how far away we’ve been this month, mentally and physically, when it’s time for re-entry and we find ourselves faced with “the new power suit”, or sparkles on everything, or one of the myriad other trends that fill the September issues of magazines everywhere and the racks in-store, instead of feeling shocked into stasis by what we see, it feels, somehow, familiar. Accessible. Even, oddly, desirable. And if you can’t quite put your finger on why …
I’ll tell you: you saw it at the movies.
More columns at www.ft.com/friedman
Get alerts on Style when a new story is published