I was doing my government-approved daily sortie the other day and swung by a newspaper stand (still allowed to keep open). “Chic Easter eggs” exclaimed a title on the cover of an obviously pre-Corona glossy, proffering, as it appeared, a recipe to turn adequate but regular eggs into something chic to adorn one’s Easter feast. It was a hysterical reminder of how quickly perfectly normal things had started to seem almost comically tone-deaf within the lifespan of a monthly fashion magazine.
I think about fashion a lot. Not because I am a fashionable person, but because it interests me as an expression of our culture. (Also, I like pretty things.) Fashion industry is doing massive soul-searching at the moment – it had clearly become vastly unsustainable in many ways, far before this pandemic. Similarly with the international climate negotiators, also notorious globe-trotters, many fashion editors and others in the industry have been forced to call off the endless jet setting and reassess their priorities – also post-pandemic.
Take fashion shoots. It’s not like you’re shipping one model, a bikini and a photographer to a remote exotic island. No, you are sending off an artillery of all kinds of people from dieticians to social media editors (because the minimum requirement these days is to get a separate “behind the scenes” -video about everything that happens in the world) to get a picture that gets looked at for 10 seconds in a magazine. Can this continue to be the modus operandi once we’re on dry land again?
It’s tricky. Everything is. Because everything is cancelled (in Belgium alone over 10 000 cultural events have been put on hold), including most movie and television production, what’s going to be our entertainment in the near future? Home exercise videos (is anyone actually doing them???) and endless memes?*
Speaking of, given that everybody is online 24/7, what if post-corona humankind will emerge even more dependent on our devices? For many people (me) technology is the only thing keeping them in any human contact during this thing. We need tech and what it enables to emerge sane from the pandemic.
We were already handing in everything about our lives to data harvesters in exchange of convenience. We have already been trained, long ago, to act and react in unison, using preselected emoticons, abbreviations and certain language, even. We think we customise our profiles and online presences, when we really just choose from a buffet an engineer in Silicon Valley put together. Nevermind being mere algorithms, we are freakishly close to becoming human robots.
We now spend more time on social media than probably ever before and keep feeding it exactly as the big tech designed it (or probably not – I’m sure they are getting the chills every now and then, aware that they own far more information about people than any government could ever dream of). Can any good come out of this?
Weaning oneself off apps and social media is hard, especially because everybody else is there. Because we are humans, we crave the however artificial sense of belonging, validation and applause we get there.
I’m sure many are making post-pandemic resolutions already (divorce from spouse, enlist kids to the Swiss Guard, lose corona-kilos, only read proper literature instead of bingeing on social media, travel. Travel.) I made big promises earlier to do a March media detox, cutting out crap yellow press and most social media.
Wins: I only have Instagram and messaging apps on my phone these days. I rarely visit Twitter or Facebook. It feels mainly good. But did you know how much time can literally be lost on Instagram???
Not-wins: I keep refreshing every fucking news outlet every two seconds like a lunatic. This includes dubious forums such as Daily Mail, I am sad to admit. I pore over grainy pap shots of Sarah Jessica Parker packing her groceries into a car boot on a deserted parking lot.
This is what the new “stepping out”- reporting has become. SJP flaunting her surgical mask and rubber gloves. Slim pickings.
Luckily a there’s silver lining (Remember: there always is). Should you wish to look at people wear other things than scruffy jeans for their groceries round, here’s something: Condé Nast Italy opened its Vogue archives and digital content for free. You will find instructions on how to get access when you click on the link. I don’t speak Italian, but Vogue Italy’s fabulousness translates – it’s in a league of its own, has always been. La grande bellezza among the fashion magazines.
Go there. Have chic eggs. Be well.
*I know people are creative and will emerge with solutions. (I made a tap dancing rehearsal board out of a wardrobe shelf the other day so I know.) Magazines will find a way to shoot photos with smaller crews. There will be something on TV. Seth Meyers’ talk show is recorded from his home.
Also this will not last forever.
(This is what my downstairs neighbours are putting their hopes on, see above)
The photograph is from a time when we were free to travel to faraway places, such as New York, and eat in restaurants, such as Shake Shack. The aptly named book Homesick For Another World is a collection of short stories by Ottessa Moshfegh. Much recommended.