I’m currently reading Le Dandysme, La Création de soi, by Daniel Salvatore Schiffer, a very interesting and documented book about dandyisme, its history, definition etc…I’ll write more detailed posts about the topic, but one thing struck me: the way dandyisme isn’t only about fashion, or about elegance, ego and looks, but it’s also about a posture one has and the role one plays in a society. I found this interesting because at the end of the book, some people, including from the fashion industry, are defined as “contemporary dandys”, and I don’t quite agree. Rather than saying who and why, I’ll take an example of someone who is to me a real dandy of the fashion industry: Paul Smith.
As a child, he wanted to be a professional cyclist, but life pushed him toward fashion and he is now an admired fashion designer, along with a photographer, a furniture designer, or what we could call an accomplished artist. His stores, beyond displaying his collections, are places where his own world is presented. His position toward the fashion industry is unique: independent but collaborating with many people, his speech is always unexpected, sometimes provocative (but unwillingly: for example he said to Nicole Mowbray from the Guardian: ‘I go to my office in Delhi, just for the day. I also went to the Great Wall of China and Vietnam for the day. My favourite was a day trip that took in Moscow in the morning, St Petersburg in the afternoon and New York at night. I’m busy – I have to visit places briefly.’), spontaneous and confident. Isn’t what should be expected from a dandy? Sure of his style, culture, intelligence, a dandy sets his world – cultural as well a creative – as an example for the rest of us. Have a look at Paul Smith’s blog, which represents this world, clearly, without any intent to convince. Because a dandy doesn’t need to convince, he does so by being who he is: http://www.paulsmith.co.uk/uk-en/paul-smith-world/blog
He was knighted by the Queen in 2000, and from my point of view, his role comes from his capacity to be inspired by various topics, from pop-culture to history, from sports to arts, which he manages to interpret according to his own vision of the world. He sets an example for what we’re not capable to do anymore: see the world horizontally (as well as vertically) to develop our own views, our own creativity, visual and cultural references. At the highest of her career, Sonia Rykiel was also a dandy in fashion. The question that remains is the one of others’ look: Rykiel, in her book “N’oubliez pas que je joue” reminds how the way people look at her is important. It doesn’t seem to be the same for Paul Smith. But this is another topic…