Black Planet

The BLACK exhibition at Antwerp’s Momu (Mode Museum) seemed like an exiting prospect even though fashion and music industries have been feeding us with black for a while now and the latest versions of the black as the uber-cool colour are quite indigestible.

Raf Simons Fall 99

As a child of the 80s and a fan of all dark subcultures, I see black as the colour that used to unite a musical and cultural tribe I easily related too, back in the days, you simply had to walk around any city looking for someone in the right black attire to know he/she was one of yours, this feeling of belonging to a group is now long lost, we didn’t really know what it was but we knew we were in it together, all dressed in black.


Back to Antwerp, « BLACK, Masters of Black in Fashion & Costume » gives a light historical approach of black in fashion, starting with 16th and 17th century when black dye techniques were mainly mastered by the powerful textile industry of Antwerp’s district, before spreading all over Europe. It was the colour of the wealthy and the noble, from the ecclesiastics of northern Europe to the royal court of Spain. Black was power, it commanded respect and underscored the wearer’s sense of duty.

Ann Demeulemeester Fall 10

From that point on, the exhibition literally lost me into intricate paths presenting Givenchy Couture here, Viktor & Rolf there, mixed with old Dutch paintings on the wall, pieces of 17th century vintage clothing, brought all together with a lack of linking and a not so clear goal; all along the exhibition you wonder where does that lead us?
Well, not that far but fortunately you can hang out in the Raf Simons room where a selection of the amazing capes and the video from his Fall Winter 1999-2000 collection “Disorder – Incubation – Isolation” are savantly presented, mixed with an 1850 cloak that could have been in the show.

Boyd Rice

Another good point is to review the fantastic work of Olivier Theyskens, and discover the ones from the almost forgotten Jurgi Persoons or Patrick Van Ommeslaeghe, but we’re missing a lot there, whatever happened to Helmut Lang? What about the link between black fashion and subcultures, barely mentioned, I would have love to see some old school Pam Hogg somewhere and some early Westwood bondage gear. Off course the masters of black are there ( Ann Demeulemeester, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme Des Garcons ) but you can easily go to their shops to see such recent pieces.

Pam Hogg Fall 10

Just a step out the museum and I felt an unfulfilled will for black, hearing some Sisters Of Mercy in my head (maybe it was Black Planet), wondering about the beginning of the Goth movement in England, about D.A.F and their all black leather outfits, about Norwegian black metal festivals and obscure Cold Wave fanzines. Black was rock, from Johnny Cash’s The Man In Black to the more recent psyche rock of The Black Angels passing by the hard electronic sounds of Nitzer Ebb and the martial words of Boyd Rice. But all that has been melted down to just appearances under the diktat of the pseudo-gothic chic trends on the catwalks, immediately copied and distributed by all high street shops. Now that look is everywhere, and no one knows or care where it’s from, what it meant, it has lost it’s cultural implications, slowly killing another subculture into the mainstream, but is there any subculture left anyway ?

Jurgi Persoons mirror presentation

I’d rather wear a grey flannel suit instead of pretending black still means something, it's just the absence of colours, the complete absorption of light, nothing more anymore…

1 comment:

    open heartedness, alban, let the golden mdma wave wash across your breast and guide you to shores of ecstatic epiphany and pyschic transcendentalism.

    xo mcat.