Maybe it’s perverse of me, but I’m no longer looking to the fashion industry for how-to-dress guidelines. We all know where to find clothes we like at prices we prefer. The Japanese company Uniqlo, for example, produces the best polo shirt for men (I think I paid nine bucks). But such accessibility frees fashion to be something else: a provocation like Ghesquière or Miuccia Prada, a fantasy like Olivier Theyskens at Nina Ricci, a sensually intellectual diversion like Consuelo Castiglione at Marni, the indulgence of Chanel, the intimate luxe of Armani. In other words, fashion is a different language from the one we choose to speak on a daily basis (the $9 polo versus the Savile Row cashmere jacket). You could see it in the uncompromising na-ture of those arch waiting-list gimmes, the shoes and bags. Everything costs so much more now that, if you’re going to pay through the nose, the least you can expect is a new face. (I’m speaking metaphorically, of course.)
That’s why, for me, the year’s biggest disappointment was Valentino’s exit from the fashion stage. I know I just mentioned fashion is getting old, but age accrues knowledge, and in knowledge lies wisdom—and there is no wiser soul in fashion than Valentino Garavani, who, at 75, managed to pull one last ready-to-wear show out of his quiver that was triumphant enough to shame the offerings of designers young enough to be his grandkids. It’s all about knowing how to make a woman look good—and when she looks good, she’s going to feel it, too. That is one signal difference between clothes and fashion. Clothes we wear; fashion we take on like a persona, a guise that gives licence to facets of our personality that might other-wise remain untapped. I know what I want to say: fashion’s a ticket. And 2008 is a whole new destination.