Olivier Saillard, one of the most renowned fashion historians and curators, together with the talented Tilda Swinton have orchestrated a new fashion performance. It premiered a few months ago in Paris during the Festival d’Automne à Paris, and was staged for the second time in Florence, during the Pitti Immagine Uomo event. Entitled “Cloakroom – Vestiaire Obligatoire”, the performance represents a visual reflection on the importance of personal interaction between clothes and their wearers. In order to do that, Saillard separated the clothes from their owners, and used as symbolic space the cloakroom. The cloakrooms from theaters, restaurants, and clubs are temporary spaces, ephemeral places where clothes are kept while their owners are away. They are, in a way, heterotopic spaces, where clothes can gain new meanings. Alienated from their wearer, and from any status or affiliation with a specific brand, clothes become anonymous canvases waiting for someone to give them meaning.
Tilde Swinton and Olivier Saillard are the cloakroom keepers. But they do not only watch over the clothes while their owners are gone, they interact with them at a very emotional level. Tilda whispers secret words into the pockets of a coat; she gently caresses a scarf, and tries to resuscitate the meaning out of a blue blazer. Olivier sits quite in the background and subtly intervenes in the performance when he is needed. He is sometimes guiding her, other times helping her, and most of the time just watching. His presence is more subtle than Tilda’s, while her improvisation is almost hypnotizing. The artistic dynamic between the two of them is impeccable, and their performance is not at all pretentious. As Tilda said in an interview, “it is something quite ephemeral, you can’t quite describe it, you can’t write about it, although it’s nice for people to try and write about it, it’s an hour spent in a space…playing”. As I am writing this article, and listening to Tilda’s words, I’m realizing that she is actually right. Sometimes words are just not enough, they just disturb a more meaningful silence.
Through his performances, Saillard has always tried to tackle different aspects of fashion. Whether it’s “The Impossible Wardrobe”, or “Eternity Dress”, his focus seems to be on the importance of clothes perceived as bearers of history, identity, and personal stories. With “Cloakroom – Vestiaire Obligatoire” he wanted to remind us the importance of humanity in fashion in a time when we are witnessing the objectification of objects through commerce. The fast paced life of a contemporary garment does not allow it to acquire identity, to form a relationship with its wearer, because there is always a new and more interesting garment waiting to be bought and consumed. Olivier Saillard and Tilda Swinton are trying to offer the clothes a space where they can rest, where they can be pampered and talked to, where they can be more than simple commodities.
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