Friday, January 27, 2012

Great Scot: Tilda Swinton in Viktor & Rolf

“If I ever get a chance to meet Joyce DeWitt … I will thank her, for while she may have looked like a Liza Minnelli doll that was damaged in a fire, at least she didn’t look like everyone else.” – Tina Fey, Bossypants

What Fey was referring to was that when she was growing up in the 1970s, the standard of beauty was largely Nordic-influenced, and was best represented in pop culture by Farrah Fawcett. In the same vein, the standard of beauty has been widened and defined so broadly these days that it has room for the entire gender spectrum, including that great androgynous thespian beauty, Tilda Swinton.

Those who may think she looks “too weird”, or “too much like an alien”, or just define beauty by whether or not you would “tap that” should not be reading my column. Off you go, now, while I spend more time preaching to the converted.

They say that great art cannot come into being without the presence of a muse, a being who inspires one to creative apotheosis. The fashion designers Viktor & Rolf clearly understood this and took as inspiration for their fall 2003 / spring 2004 collection Swinton’s androgynous beauty. With her high cheekbones, shock of red hair, alabaster skin, regal composure, stature and rich voice, it was no surprise that they would consider her such a striking figure, a face that could launch a thousand outfits if not ships. They devoted the look of their fall/winter runway show to Swinton’s aesthetic, and made up all of the models to look like her. There is no greater flattery than imitation done out of admiration. At the very least, she didn’t – and still doesn’t – look like anyone else. You would never mistake her for more conventional notions of beauty embodied by one of the Kardashians or Sienna Miller. She is unmistakably Tilda Swinton, and that is her greatest gift to fashion.

Clearly, neither Viktor & Rolf nor I am in the minority on this. The lovely Heather and Jessica at Go Fug Yourself affectionately mock and admire her aesthetic, particularly her strange sartorial choices (they refer to her simply as “SWINTON” and every time she appears on a red carpet, they get Tweeted with simply her name in block capitals and a lot of exclamation marks as a shout of approval). At Lainey Gossip, the consensus is that Swinton could wear a garbage bag unmistakably designed just for her, and make it look interesting and fashionable, even if it’s not conventionally “pretty”. “Pretty” does not do Swinton justice, and to call her so would reduce her to ordinary levels of beauty when she is anything but. And there’s the remarkable blog called F-Yeah Tilda Swinton!, dedicated solely to the portraits she has done for magazine photo shoots, publicity shots, fashion spreads and other artistic endeavours. It is not wonder that Sally Potter chose her to star in Orlando, for only she in the world could convincingly portray an Elizabeth lord who transitions into a contemporary woman, relying on her body language and voice to make the change subtle but believable. Plus, she looks remarkable in all the impossibly elaborate attire on display.

I’ve attached the preview to Viktor & Rolf fashion show below, and am also including the link to a detailed article on the show with complete video here. If you can’t get enough of her, keep in mind that you can see her role in the challenging drama We Need to Talk About Kevin, for which she was not nominated for an Academy Award (boo), in limited release now and in wider release on February 3.