Red Alert: Fashion Entering the Red Revolution

FASHION - For almost 30 years black has maintained a stranglehold on fashion, even in Paris the avant garde capitol.

But there are growing signs that things are changing and that red... isn't dead.

In the early 1980s purist Japanese designers such as Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto claimed black was dense with meaning and subtext.

They rejected colour and focused on form and shape. Colours were frivolous and only to be used as accents, if absolutely necessary.

Black was existential, smart, artsy and serious. Wearing it meant separating yourself (like goths do) from the rest of the overly colourful society.

For Kawakubo, black was a feminist colour because she felt it desexualized the female form.

These days everyone wears black, but the high-mindedness and theory has gone stale. Now black is a cliche and is "so two decades ago".

Women today who wear black will defend it by arguing it's easy to co-ordinate and that it visually flattens unwanted curves.

Even now as the fall/winter 2009 Paris collections unfold, black continues its death grip on the runways, from the outrageous puffy black gowns at Junya Watanabe to the dark elegant suits at Lanvin and the black rocker dresses at Balmain.

But long ago red was the hot ticket and now red may be positioning itself for a comeback.

Red is also the symbolic colour of economic failure, of blood, love, passion, hate, ambition. It is the colour of revolution, danger, bloodshed and change.

Red has so much more meaning, its bolder and more likely to land you the job when you go for the interview.

Barack Obama is here and change is in the air. The United States is the only place where change is taking place. We can almost taste it like a blood-red steak that hasn't been fully cooked.

Heck, Michelle Obama (the latest and kewlest fashion icon) is wearing red and so are her kids.

In Paris red is everywhere. From the scarlet hair of Sonia Rykiel to the discreet red soles of a Christian Louboutin shoe, even for the famous tourist trap the Moulin Rouge, red has always figured prominently.

An exhibit on display until November at Les Arts Décoratifs reminds visitors of the importance of red and its relationship with cultural subversion and political strife. The exhibit, called "Aussi Rouge Que Possible," pays its respect to the colour red as a symbol of life, danger, luxury, sex and fantasy.

Over two floors at the museum on Rue Rivoli, the exhibit chronicles the role of red in all of the visual arts, from art history to furniture to fashion.

It examines the part red has played in political struggles (revolutions from Ché Guevara [by photography Alberto Korda] to China); in eroticism as in red-light districts for prostitution; and in the pomp of military uniforms.

Even Little Red Riding Hood would seem inappropriate in any other colour.

The truth is, red may never regain its former glory. But right now, red is for people looking to be hot and cool at the same time.

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