Galliano for Dior Haute Couture S/S 2003

Documentary: The First Monday In May

Always interested in the history of fashion and passionate about the idea of fashion as art, I finally got around to watching The First Monday in May this week – the documentary about the annual fundraiser party for the Museum of Metropolitan Art and its’ now annually-changing(?) big fashion exhibition which, for the year of filming, had a Chinese theme.

Despite a slightly uncomfortable juxtaposition of consumerist fashionistas and arty intellectuals, I did enjoy the film overall.

I especially loved the up-close filming, and staging, of the exhibits which, for me, spoke more eloquently in favour of the ‘fashion is art’ argument than most of the designers and fashion glamazons involved – with the notable exception of Jean Paul Gaultier who did seem to have a wider than personal interest in, and knowledge of, the history of fashion.

I was thrilled to see John Galliano’s work featured as I continue to regard his collections for Dior as some of the greatest fashion-as-art ever – that he is far less interesting when articulating his vision than in executing it is just one of those fascinating mysteries in how talent manifests itself in us.

The insight into the bureaucracy of managing and staging this kind of global-interest exhibition was gripping. The tedium of the socialising and consumerist engagement with it far less so.

Goodness, the fashionistas of magazine, money and the arts are a terribly self-absorbed, shallow, self-important mass of people, aren’t they? Does the sneering, swaggering, spitefulness never end? And the egos … you must have the patience of a saint to manage them. I just found the focus on this in the film to be tediously uninteresting but the big names involved are the consumer faces of fashion so, without them, no film, I guess.

And, that would be a shame as this documentary is worth seeing if you are engaged with the idea of fashion as being an art form rather than mere moments of fun in the current ephemeral zeitgeist.

Rihanna in Guo Pei, The First Monday in May
Rihanna in Guo Pei, The First Monday in May

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