Crisis and Fountainheads

By now you have all heard the troubling news from WWD that Thom Browne's CFO and CEO are exiting leaving the rumors to swirl about the company's ultimate future. Will it close? Will Thom Browne as we know it be no more after the well-received Pitti Uomo presentation?

I was watching The Fountainhead (starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal). It's not very good but I did enjoy a few things about it. There is a very Randyian unintentionally comedic erotic sequence involving Cooper (as Harry Roark) cutting rock in a quarry, the camera fetishizes his work, progressing to a violent makeout session, and it ends with Neal striking him in the face with a riding crop. The costume design is superb especially for Cooper and Neal (any woman with sense will want the robe she wears in her first scene). Most integral to the film however is the protagonist, Howard Roark, a symbol of Rand's masculine ideal, of defending one's aesthetic ideals in the face of shifting market trends.

Fashion has seen design houses rise and fall with the tumult of caprice. If Thom Browne does close his doors he will be in the company of many designers, some of them very great indeed. However his struggles come at a time when Menswear is the safer arena of fashion. Men's fashion is consistent for retail and actually expanding in both sales and market breadth.

Rand's Howard Roark defies the trend by being a futurist but most artists are not so lucky. Public opinion shifts so irrationally at times and shuns even legitimate work. Its the cliche of the starving artist to be rewarded in death, not by St. Peter at the pearly gate but by St. Sotheby's posthumous auctions and Sotheby's cherubs, the establishment art critics. The best thing about The Fountainhead though is not original at all but classic Aristotle. The good pursued by the artisan, by any virtuous character, is gained in the process of mastering and sustaining his own craft and the discourse of his craft. Roark's ultimate goal is satisfaction in creating dynamic architecture and defies committees and housing boards who insist he alter his designs to make them safer, more conventional. He eschews easy success and material gain for purity of his craft. Whatever end Thom Browne faces as a design house I do wish the designer luck for having a peculiar vision and sticking to it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not to sound overly picky, but his name in the movie was Howard Roark, not Harry.