I’m under the hair dyer at my San Francisco salon flipping through a large format fashion magazine when there it is — I’m staring straight at haute couture cemetery fashion. Embroidered across a midi length green taffeta skirt are the words “Hollywood Forever Cemetery.” I simply can’t believe it.
The first thing that hits me is the enormous and ever-growing popularity of the topic of death and dying. Haute couture — Gucci no less — is designing fashion inspired by a cemetery!
They say one is an anomaly, two a coincidence and three a trend. So it’s official: Funeral fashion (including traditional burial and cemetery fashion) is a trend.
First, back in 2006, there was Alexander McQueen’s fashion line “Widows of Culloden.” Without question it was inspired by the widowhood fashion of the Victorian days along with a Scottish edge.
Then four years ago, Stella McCartney introduced her spring fashion line at a “garden party” in New York City’s Marble Cemetery. It so happens that the cemetery is one block from where I lived in Manhattan in the 80’s and five blocks from where I worked back then. Three stories up, the office overlooked another such hidden cemetery (see my polaroid from the 80’s). These rare cemetery gems are completely unknown to those walking outside their walls each day.
But unlike the cemetery outside my office in New York, the Marble Cemetery has no gravestones. It only has inset marble mausoleums along the interior walls. While anything green in Manhattan is a commodity, Stella was well aware she was juxtaposing her bright cheerful spring line, in a cemetery no less.
Fast-forward four years later and Gucci ratchets it up by debuting its new Spring 2017 Forever Hollywood line. It draws directly from the stars buried at the famed LA Forever Hollywood Cemetery. The concept is to capture a wide variety of Hollywood fashion glamour from the past. It includes all eras: 19th century, Japan, 30’s and 70’s to name a few. As W magazine points out, the new fashion line has “no boundaries.”
And yes indeed the boundaries are gone. It’s one thing to use the famed cemetery as a way to bring back fashion signatures of famed glamour stars of the past. But it’s another to actually write the word “cemetery” on a belt or a skirt.
This trend has nothing to do with a lack of respect for the departed. What it does illustrate is there are truly no boundaries with traditional funerals anymore. Most of us are now so distant from any cemetery experience (I myself have not even been to a traditional funeral in decades) that we view cemeteries as a thing of the past. We are so distanced in our ethos that no boundaries exist — only a void. We are disenfranchised.
The rule of thumb in the creative world (my past life) is we draw inspiration only from dead history. When we bring fashion or design back it must be long gone to be reconsidered and reconfigured to become fresh and new again. As one fellow designer once said, “Nothing ever comes back the same.” Hence, when you view the line, not one outfit directly references any specific Hollywood star.
With cremation taking over as the most popular form of disposition, cemeteries are now old school. Not only do the statistics show cremation is the No. 1 choice (reaching well over 50 percent nationally), but the theme of cemeteries injected into high fashion is virtually the nail in the coffin, so to speak.
For those of you who point to green burial, I say this: It currently accounts for less than one percent of all burials. So it’s not part of the conversation yet. It’s a whole new approach that has barely even begun, even in the fashion world. (For a look at what I mean, see one of our old posts here.)
Cemeteries may be here forever, but not as a choice of disposition going forward. But cemetery fashion; well that’s another story.