I, a middle-aged middle-western middle-class-income gal can indeed be snooty enough to say, “Not Impressed” by the Isabel Marant collection at Nordstrom.
In fashion spreads I’ve goggled over the ‘coolness’ of the Isabel Marant clothes that show up, especially on actresses who slouch about on chaises and sofas looking like they don’t really care about being so beautiful. Sometimes I imagine I could cultivate the feral sauntering attitude of, say, Carla Bruni — my long long legs and thin thin arms akimbo, a middle-aged waif with the wide-eyed look of innocence. I’d stride forward on rough gravel pebbles, my ballet flats staying on my thin, thin heel bone as I step forward, instead of slipping off as they usually do in real life. This unstudied coolness and effortless grace is all quite appealing.
But alas! Nordstrom just unveiled its Isabel Marant line, and blech. I am indeed mature enough, savvy enough, and sharp enough to know a stinker when I come across it.
Not only are the clothes non-nonchalant, with tightly tailored shoulders, they are fussy. The centerpiece is the Brizia (meaning, ‘trembling grass’, for gawd’s sake) Dress, a floofy mess of overly-detailed shoulders (rendering the dress impossible to wear with a sweater or top), a very narrowly cut waistline that appears to hit just below the model’s breasts (though maybe it’s just hair-clipped to pull tightly against the front by an over-enthusiastic stylist), and the very tight armbands cut into this very thin model’s elbow joint.
The sharp v-neck is slightly interesting because it’s cut just a tad higher than usual, but the diagonal lines look odd with the ruffled outline of the outer sleeves. The dress is just over one thousand dollars. And those “ethnic” boots are almost insulting not only because of the sloppy handling of references (are they GOT? Viking? Native American? Minnetonka Moccasin?) but because they look bizarre with the dress. This is the kind of styling you expect from Vogue Magazine’s laziest photographer – you know, the one who loves to pose his models in “sunny climes” with ethnic people about them.
But what I really dislike is how Nordstrom misjudges the political and cultural mood of American women — its main clientele. The slogan for the brand is the worst of the fashion industry’s predilection for oxymoronic non-ironic silliness. Our frail slumped-over model is weighed down by her own sense of inadequacy, so distraught her head bobbles and juts forward over her thin, thin shoulders. She is not just depressed and overwhelmed…. no, she’s nonchalant. You know, nonchalant, as in, from the French, a word meaning without warmth, cool, deliberately lacking in enthusiasm or interest, indifferent, unconcerned.
Girl, get out more, and you’ll find lots o’ people who haven’t needed to “cultivate their nonchalance”. And frankly, this is out of step with the political and cultural environment for women. This is Asheville, North Carolina for the Women’s March 2017.
Or let’s take a look at the would-be customers of Marant’s “nonchalant” line a few years down the road. They are not indifferent, unenthusiastic, or detached. These are girls marching in the Women’s March in Tuscon, Arizona.
I’m not saying — okay, I’m not heatedly ranting — that all designers have to provide “angry” clothing. But Marant’s uglish styles paired with the infuriating slogan of cultivating nonchalance — well guess what? Most American women are in a mood of cultivating political power, economic power, and equality and justice. Screw your nonchalance. (image below: CNN, Women’s March 2017, Washington, D.C.)