In an interview with The Sunday Times, Manolo Blahnik stated that a mere mention of Sex and the City makes him “feel sick”. The names of shoe designer and sit-com are synonymous, cementing him into the role of sleb designer and pop culture icon from the 1990s onwards. The appearence of a blue satin court of his in the first film apparently helped Blahnik avoid bankruptcy; “We had a very good year last year, thanks to those stupid satin shoes. That shoe saved our company.” Now recognised by everyone down to taxi drivers for his association with the HBO series, he feels uncomfortable in the new-found role, and for a man of 66 who has spent his life working on establishing himself to be taken seriously, it must be strange to be caught up in the whirlwind of hysteria around a television show that will surely one day come to pass as quickly as it appeared.
There is much aflutter online of Blahnik “biting the hand that feeds him”, much shock at the seeming ingratitude of a place in the coveted celebrity circus, especially given the financial dimension of the story. Most conclude he mustn’t be that ungrateful really, or that Sex fans will just move onto Christian Louboutin thankyou very much, you naughty and ungracious little Spaniard. But he’s not the first designer to oppose the kind of fashion Sex promotes; Vivienne Westwood famously walked out of the first film’s premiere; “I thought Sex And The City was supposed to be about cutting-edge fashion and there was nothing remotely memorable or interesting about what I saw.” And she’s right!! Patricia Field’s styling looks to an untrained eye what they imagine “fashion” to be – a bit mad, a bit complicated, with plenty of silly trends and high heels – but it’s pretend, not real fashion, and it’s absolutely nothing compared to what the likes of Westwood and Blahnik have been sending down the runwys for years. But more importantly, the designers both are of an age that precedes the glossy, plastic, tinseltown celebrity culture we know today where what’s seen on a star is regarded as good style. They made their names through blood sweat and tears, and degrees in fashion knowledge, and have every right to be frustrated that their hard work is becoming the merchandise of what’s essentially a soap opera.
Without sounding elitist, in my book there are two types of fashion fan; first, there are the magpies, chasing anything bright and shiny, chirping merrily the names of big fat brands and donning the latest from the rag mags without an ounce of understanding how clothes “work” in their little birdy brains. These are the middle aged people you see head to toe in designer with nothing matching; the girls who spend Saturday upon Saturday of their lives in clothes shops and end up all looking the same. Fashion plays a different role in their lives, from indicator of status to a means to seduce the opposite sex; but one thing is common is that they simply like to be around pretty shiny things and believe that in collecting them, they can consolidate their place in society’s ranks, to be accepted into the folds of what rich/girly/cool people do by doing it. Then, of course, there is the bona fide fashionista. They not only understand clothes, but can do intersting, even amazing things with it; their styling and even designing moderates from aesthetically pleasing to inspiring and even ground breaking. They can make themselves and others feel happy, sexy, powerful through the power of their dress sense. And it takes blood sweat and tears to earn your place as one, learning the names and faces of the important ones as well as your skillz as a stylist. It goes without saying that my observations come from a a kind of phobia of being identified with the former, along with a life long obsession over people I know to be the latter; Gwen Stefani, John Galliano, Lady Gaga, Emma Bell, Dame Vivienne herself, down to people I spot every day in the street.
Myself, I think Sex and the City has a lot to answer for when it comes to our first kind of fashion fan, let’s say, the fakers. There isn’t really anything fashion about it, it’s really just a tarted up sit-com with characters squealing about the latest it-shit, an injection squirted in to to boost the show’s girly-girly credentials. But it’s fashion labels, not the clothes themselves that reign; in one scene Samantha, nearest thing to a Fag Hag on the show with her pro-woman way of living, appears in front of her cronies wearing glasses – yes!! The very idea! But waves off the other ladies’ criticism stating, “they’re Chanel”. Apparently in the SATC universe, any fashion faux pas can be quick-fixed with the simple slap-on of a well known brand. First, this discredits a label founded on decades of work from some of the world’s cleverest people who made far greater changes to the way we live than making glasses acceptable to those who don’t wear them. Furthermore, since when were glasses so bad? How limited does your fashion sense have to be in order to stray so little from the strictest understanding of what’s cool? Obviously for Carrie and the gang, this very limited indeed.