With this year’s Camp-themed Met Gala just months away, Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp’” is abuzz amongst the fashion world elite; an apt focus for the industry’s most celebrated annual exhibition considering its deep-rooted influence on countless collections past. Case in point, Marc Jacobs’ Spring/Summer 2011 show for Louis Vuitton, a thorough study of quintessential ‘Camp’ doctrines through its exploration of juxtapositions between good and bad taste.
Housed in a circus-like tent situated in the Louvre’s interior courtyard, the surrounding atmosphere was a display of extravagance. As the lights dimmed, beaded cat-print curtains opened to reveal a slew of stuffed tigers perched atop the show’s shiny, faux marbled runway.
With references ranging from 1970s Yves Saint Laurent and the glitzy days of Studio 54, to fashion’s favorite cult film ‘Paris is Burning,’ a documentary exposing New York City’s underground drag culture of the late 80s and early 90s, every element of the 54-look collection was a display of pure decadence. From 1920’s chemise dresses covered in beaded-fringe, accompanied by delicately embellished heels, to ankle-length ensembles knit in glittering Lurex, cinched at the waist with wide, sequined belts.
Jacobs notably sought inspiration from the first-ever Japanese designers to present collections in Paris, as exoticism was explored through odes to orientalism. Traditional Mandarin Cheongsam dresses in shiny black silks and gold lame were embellished with crystals, while fans made of luxuriant lace were shown along matching skirts, which subtly integrated the house’s heritage LV logo.
Boat-necked knit tops sequined with giraffes and pandas drew on the set’s animal theme, as jumpsuits, tailored coats, and floor-length gowns followed suit in tiger-like stripes, while supermodel Kristen McMenamy’s zebra print 'shirt,' hand-painted atop her slim torso by makeup artist Pat McGrath, was the over-the-top type of finale look needed to close such an extravagant show.
With the Susan Sontag quote Jacobs found most inspiring placed upon each show attendee’s seat, reading: “The relation between boredom and camp taste cannot be overestimated. Camp taste is by its nature possible only in affluent societies, in societies or circles capable of experiencing the psychopathology of affluence,” Jacobs’ spring/summer 2011 showing for Louis Vuitton was a pure celebration of excess and cross-cultural inspiration. While the collection certainly embraced elements of ‘Camp’ culture, in true Marc Jacobs fashion, it stood far from boring.