Since it was released in 1986, Pretty in Pink has become one of those iconic movies that’s been watched at many a slumber party or girls’ night across the globe. Amongst the many debates that the movie has brought up – Can two people from different sides of the track really fall in love? Was Molly Ringwald’s hybrid prom dress that much of an improvement over the original one? – there is one element that almost all the fans of the movie can agree on: Phil “Duckie” Dale was the stylish guy friend that we all wish existed in real life, both so we could befriend him and raid his wardrobe.
The fashion rags-to-riches story is always potent for the celluloid treatment. It’s a Gatsby ‘American Dream’ trajectory that captures the complications our popular culture has with wealth and fame (Biggie said it best: “Mo Money, Mo Problems”).
In 1975, Diana Ross was at her Sasha Fierce zenith: an Oscar nomination for her turn as Billie Holiday in Lady Sings The Blues, the #1 hit “Touch Me In The Morning”, a duets album with Marvin Gaye. She was Motown’s reigning ‘Supreme’ Diva — the original Beyonce template, the “I’m Coming Out” gay icon, a halo of Medusa frizz with yes, that requisite off-kilter misbehavior (there has to be something to off-set the Mackie sequins).
Which is precisely why Mahogany stumbled as a semi-autobiographical rumination on black stardom: Miss Diana was allowed to overact the heightened version of herself. It was the first misstep of a ten-year-old brand: Time Magazine blamed director/Motown honcho Berry Gordy — who took over directing duties after firing British director Tony Richardson for misunderstanding the ‘black experience’ — for “squandering one of America’s most natural resources”. But just like you don’t watch Valley of the Dolls, Mommie Dearest and Showgirls with the oh-so-serious film theory approaches — you gotta delve into Mahogany with the explicit understanding that it’s camp with a fabulous wardrobe that has something rather profound to say about fashion and cultural/racial politics.
In the late 60s, Anton Perich ran an underground film program in Paris that screened the early works of Andy Warhol and Jonas Mekas. When he moved to New York City in the 1970s, he freelanced photography gigs for Interview Magazine and ran one of the very first ‘underground’ cable access shows. He was even an ‘early pioneer’ of digital art, having invented in the late ’70s an ‘electric painting machine’ that was a precursor to the ink-jet printer.
Mr. Perich’s most accessible legacy however, lies in is his YouTube channel, and the uploaded classic fashion show footage he shot during that hedonistic Loft Party/Studio 54 era (the above photo is a Perich — see Andy, Jerry, Paloma and Truman). The videos are shaky and even blurry at times, but don’t let that get in the way of your viewing pleasure. It’s a wonderful documentation of how ye old fashion show might have been presented — on a stage, minus the runway. Given the recent inclination for designers to eschew the typical Fashion Week presentation for more creative events and installations, it’s a wonderful reveal that the more things might change, the more they’ll stay the same (ie. let’s put on a show!).
There’s a Kenzo show where the models prance out in high leather boots, twirling with style to the deep disco and if you look closely, you might spot Jerry Hall, Iman, Patti Hansen (cause everyone was there). Perich even caught a few historical firsts, such as Issey Miyake’s 1975 FIT show (his first in NY). It’s high drama via fuzzy black and white video: models coolly stride out (oh my, is that Pat Cleveland?) to wailing Robert Fripp guitars and Kraftwerk blips (a perfect accompaniment for his billowing and transformative windcoat shapes).
My favourite footage? Grace Jones getting her hair cut. Srsly. It’s a quiet moment between performer and hair dresser that’s incredibly intimate. Get thee to Perich’s channel and watch it for yourself.
Woody Allen is consistently praised for creating challenging roles for women. His ability to score with a great many of them (either as himself or through Virgil, Sandy, Gabe, Boris…) must be reward for this happy fact. Woody’s women are an inimitable breed: often brilliant, self-sufficient, and nervous, with similar sartorial traits. This is most obviously exemplified by Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. (True story, Annie’s Ralph Lauren duds are based on Keaton’s own wardrobe. The costume designer, Ruth Morley, wasn’t having it. It was the first and last time she worked with Allen.)