With fall collections in stores and the 2013 spring lines trotting out now in the feeding frenzy of New York fashion week, I sat down the other day with my imaginary friend Valeria to talk about the intoxicating cocktail that is fashion. There are few things that send so many into a bacchanalian storm of lust, desire, and paroxysms of pleasure as does fashion, which can leave even the most stoically Scandanavian among us quivering in covetousness for just one turn in a Giuseppe Zanotti black patent boot.
Valeria is from the north of Italy and lives in large gestures, with preferences for the highly decorative and ornamental. This is understandable, of course, given her provenance, known not only for its culinary dexterity with starch, but also for its aesthetic traditions of the ornately fanciful in baroque and rococo. Spending time with Valeria is like sipping pink champagne on a blanket beneath summer fig trees, refreshing yet dizzying at the same time. On the eve of the unveiling of next spring’s sartorial splendor, I thought it a perfect time for a visit.
What follows is an excerpt from the imaginary conversation that didn’t take place.
Jenny: With fashion on the minds of everyone right now as we look towards the spring collections, I wanted to talk about what fashion means to you. You’re known for saying that you don’t just love fashion, you are fashion.
Valeria: Yes. I love the fashion so much, I am become fashion. It is inside of me. I wake up every day and the first breathing I take when I am awake is fashion.
Jenny: Fashion has a smell?
Valeria: Of course. For everybody it is different. For me, fashion has a smell like the mixing together of the gardenia, the citrus, some spicy from the cinnamon, and just a little from the potato.
Jenny: The potato? Don’t you mean the apple? [In some languages, the words for apple and potato are similar.]
Valeria: No, I am meaning the potato. It is of the earth. So fashion is smelling to me like the earth, which is life, and the garden, which is heaven.
Jenny: And that’s what you smell first thing every morning?
Valeria: My friend, who is a very famous candle maker in the Toscana, is making for me this smell in a candle. So I am starting every day with beautiful things coming into my nose.
Jenny: After you start your day, what’s your morning routine like?
Valeria: Because when I am sleeping I am wearing lots of clothes, I have to starting by getting undressed. I like very much to wear party clothes to bed, since dreaming is like a crazy party. I have so many party clothes and this way, my pretty dresses and shoes can come out of the closet to have fun in the night too.
Jenny: The shoes come out as well?
Valeria: Yes. I like very much to be wearing my shoes to bed, which is not so usual, I know. But to me, fashion is beginning with the shoes. Also, when I am sleeping, I can be wearing all night the shoes that are not always so comfortable to be walking in and they are not hurting my feet at all.
Jenny: But if you’re asleep, how can you enjoy the clothes and shoes? When you’re sleeping, you don’t know you’re wearing them.
Valeria: Of course I know! Whatever I am wearing to bed I am taking into my dreams.
Jenny: In your dreams you’re wearing the outfit you went to sleep in?
Valeria: I am, yes. It’s sounding funny, I know. But I am having excellent control over my dreams. Before I am going sleeping, I ask myself: Valeria, where you are wanting to go tonight? I am thinking about it and depending the mood I am feeling, I am making a scenario in my head and then choosing the perfect outfit for the scenario. Or I am starting with the outfit and planning my dream from that. It’s like movie making. I am making each night a new movie.
Jenny: Dressing up for your dreams–it sounds like a fairy tale.
Valeria: I am dressing up for my dreams, yes, but also I am wearing fashion to bed in case I am dying, because I am a little bit neurotical. All the time I am thinking: Valeria, what if you are dying now? How will you be looking? And so, if something is happening to me in the night, I am knowing I am looking still very good. So, for me, I am thinking always what to be wearing.
Jenny: That sounds exhausting.
Valeria: Not at all. Through my clothes, through fashion, I am living all the time in a fantasy. That is what is inspiring me every day, so it is not to me exhausting at all. I love it!
Jenny: Do you take as much time choosing your daytime outfit as you do your nighttime outfit?
Valeria: I always choose careful. Every outfit is a story I am telling. There is never a time when I am saying to myself, I have no story to tell today. Never. I am a storyteller, but my language is dresses, is shoes, is skirts.
Jenny: It’s fashion week now. Who are the American designers you’re excited about this season? Who are the ones telling the stories you’re most interested in?
Valeria: Alora, I’m loving very much Rodarte. They are to me being the most interesting American designers at this moment. These past years, they are telling beautiful stories. I am hoping they are showing something wonderful for next spring. Then, of course, everyone is talking about Altuzarra this year, so we will see if he can taking the collections into tomorrow. Sometimes when you are so much today, today, it is not so easy to stay that way. Fashion is always today, today, but it has to be that way in all the tomorrows as well.
Jenny: “All tomorrow’s parties…”
Valeria: Yes, all tomorrow’s parties.
Jenny: Ending with a reference to Warhol is fitting, actually. Essentially, you’re saying that fashion has meaning in itself. It’s not just decoration. To appropriate Andy, fashion isn’t what you wear someplace; it’s the whole reason for going.
Valeria: Fashion is for me the reason for being, no matter if I am staying or going.