A recent poll in a local art magazine shows that 37% of subscribers suspect Ewan Y. Petragère to have designed the dress in Le Devinir’s display window, though there is still debate as to whether such a man exists at all. The earliest known reference can be traced to an eighty-five page fashion manifesto being passed around the East Village awhile back. Petragère is cited as its author. It’s a critique on department store apparel, which he calls, “as ordinary as brown eyes.” Only in the last few pages does he propose a final severance from the modern era, though the text doesn’t explicitly say what would remain.
This is the sixth month of Greenwich yuppies filling in the blanks, writing high fashion articles on the sacrilege of polyester or the rise and fall and rise and plateau of pill box hats, Ewan Y. Petragère as a noted authority. Then again, same as last Saturday, a low ranking police official talks with Ginger Zee on Good Morning America about vandalism and consequences. The same phone number as last week flashes at the bottom of the television screen, EYP spray painted gold on Bloomingdale’s entrance doors, and a few fragments of an old brick scattered on the sidewalk, sulking under a nicked glass window.
Aside from the increase in business for independent fashion boutiques, there’s been an even higher demand for Petragère to go public. A face for the name. Everyone seems to know of him, but very few have made his acquaintance, so few that his existence has come into question. Some say he’s a wide nosed Italian with sharp glasses and hair straight to his shoulders. Others claim he’s a balding Frenchman, an ex-tailor sort, dressed in Algerian silk, teething on a plastic tip cigar, rattling a watch as it hangs limp from his wrist. Most seem to argue the culture created the man, or rather a flock of eye rolling intellectuals operating out of SoHo. They wrote the manifesto collectively and are responsible for the graffiti and nicked windows. Now even more conspiracies arise after the publication of an exclusive interview with this unidentified icon. However, there are still looming concerns over its authenticity, primarily because the person giving the interview to Mr. Petragère is none other than Mr. Petragère himself. This is an excerpt:
EYP: So Ewan, what do you have to contribute to the fashion world?
EYP: Well, as you know Ewan I’m simply a solver of identity crises.
EYP: I know what you mean, but why don’t you tell our readers, all of them eager for wisdom and such.
EYP: Very well, imagine yourselves dressing for a night out at the Temple Bar, no no no 1534. If you’re a man you might drag a dull razor down your cheek, choke on a bright paisley tie, and once all is symmetrical you tilt that insufferable pinstripe fedora towards your left eyebrow. Say you’re a woman; you squeeze your breasts into some fancy red brassier and lean forward in the mirror to apply a foundation slightly lighter than your original skin tone, cake your face until all the blemishes are covered and swallow another diet pill as a reward. After you’ve put on a dress and styled your hair you remember a tip in Cosmo about jewelry, so you rush to the mirror to hook in some dangling pearls and a necklace that droops into your cleavage. You purse your lips one last time before you go out to your taxicab. A few hours later you stumble across the white bathroom tiles smelling of dry vermouth. You catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and notice you’re much more attractive than you remember. It’s just a passing thought really, nothing you obsess over, but you exit more poised. Why?
EYP: Are you asking me or is this rhetorical?
EYP: No, I’m asking.
EYP: Well, it’s because of you.
EYP: Exactly, it begins with me and ends with anyone who wears me. You wouldn’t be as interesting without that flamboyant tie. You wouldn’t be as desirable without pert full breasts. By wearing my clothes you become a vessel for my expression and we both reap the rewards. You go out to the clubs at night and get to drool over each other, like two Mona Lisa’s across the hallway. You have people like me to thank for this. I turn fives into tens.
EYP: You’ve mentioned this before Ewan, how with the right clothing you can transform the most vile bodies into aesthetic royalty.
EYP: Yes, you see Ewan, we’re confined to this aging corpse whose only purpose is to fuck before it decomposes. I make that process easier for us all.
EYP: How do you respond to those who claim inner beauty should take precedence over our exteriors? You know, many may say a dependence upon the physical realm might be detrimental to a man’s essence.
EYP: I say insufficient evidence! Nacissisus didn’t drown because he was too enamored with his own reflection; he drowned because he could not swim. Inner beauty is nothing more than a parable for those born defective or brought up disillusioned. If I took a scalpel to the belly of the elephant man and lady gaga I’d find nothing more than guts. Our culture is a visual one, a man’s essence changes with price of his watch or the length of his hair. The very notion of inner beauty relies on the existence of a way to express it. Imagine yourself judging a piece of artwork, or better yet a woman wearing sweat stained bikini kill t-shirt with a pixie hairdo. Now try, just try to describe her essence without appealing to your senses. Who is she? Well, she might as well not even exist.
EYP: Sometimes you make me sick Ewan. Even if I grant you the changing of one’s essence what happens when we remove her clothes and shave her head only to prop her up in a darkened bedroom nude? A thing’s definition doesn’t rely on –
EYP: No, no, no, no, Ewan. It does. We may claim a woman nude is still a woman, at least as long as she retains her genetics and vital organs and such, but to make observations without sight or accessory is absurd! We look at the nude woman and notice her absence. Only when we see where the hem of her dress falls are we able to give definitions. Beauty and substance don’t exist in nature. Nature relies on Monet’s brush or Kennedy’s pen to give it such abstractions.
EYP: But why Monet? Why Kennedy? If we’re going to degrade beauty and substance into mere relativism why even invoke our ancestors, especially when your own arbitrary opinion is just as valid? This is your flaw Ewan; your own aesthetic eye cannot function without embellishing on that which already exists. You leech off Victorian England or new wave France. You’ve hung yourself with the umbilical cord.
EYP: And who do you think our fathers leeched off of? Long before the Fall, even before language man began making distinctions and he did so by listing the things that were unlike himself. He soon realized that there would never be fewer than two categories. Never mind art, any attempt to portray some divine notion of ‘real’ or ‘natural’ will fail with dead ends. That’s why I’m deliberately idealistic.