n°7/ Fashion gone mad

February 2012

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?  

Damon Baker