by Nathalie Azoulai
Last week our editorial explored the damaged image of femininity as seen in icons such as Patti Smith, and this week the idea has taken a new form: Damon Baker’s just-out of-psychiatric-hospital chic. In this month’s issue of a noted French women’s magazine, the British photographer has followed in the footsteps of Steven Meisel’s 2007 detox clinic photo shoot and taken the theme of psychic destruction even further: while you might one day leave detox cleaned up, if you leave a psychiatric hospital your condition is likely to follow you out the door. A close-up on the visuals.
– The mix of indoor and outdoor clothes shows a confusion of boundaries.
– The badly buttoned-up shirts show a certain clumsiness.
– The “snail” trend of carrying your home on your back: luggage, shopping bags and trolleys, as if home no longer existed, as if that way madness lies.
– The multiplication of layers and prints, which show a marked tendency towards compulsive behaviour.
– Finally, of course, the faraway looks, pale and waxy faces, obvious skinniness that hollows out the cheeks, and mops of hair that look almost dirty.
Why this misery in a time of extreme crisis? Two hypotheses. Firstly, perhaps, because for women, whatever the epoch, madness is often seen as a uniquely female condition: madness as a guarantee of a certain socially maladjusted superior intelligence and profundity of thought, so perhaps something exceptional. But in this case, is the trend really new? Secondly, perhaps, because fashion is a reflection of its time and ours has lost its mind. Even so, we can justifiably ask: how many of these women really knows about psychiatric hospitals and the fact that there’s nothing glamorous inside? How many of their friends or family know that mental illness is a form of living hell? In other words, can fashion and the press really do absolutely anything they like?