In fashion, inspiration is everything.
The human form, with its generally fixed number of limbs, heads, feet and the rest can only support a narrow range of clothing components.
Anything more than two sleeves on a dress, for instance, is a waste of fabric, and the chief finance officer of your fashion company will take some convincing before signing off on that sort of design bullshit.
With a little inspiration though, the options are suddenly limitless.
Marie Antoinette, the Titanic, Blade Runner, Sherlock Holmes, futuristic see-through plastics, the Bayeux tapestry, pirates, funerals, flowers, agriculture – the essence of anyone and anything, filtered through the mind of a creative genius, is what turns plain old clothes into standing-O fashion.
Generally it’s some sort of positive element that inspires – colour, strength, nature, extravagance, brilliance, intensity, wit – and these are the kind of values that, consciously or not, cause the purchaser to part with the cash.
Rare is the designer that takes inspiration from, say, the great plague, road accidents, stabbings, bad debt or dementia.
Few people outside of attention-seeking club kids choose to clothe themselves in such unpleasantness.
Which is why this headline in the Business of Fashion newsletter caused a 360º double take: “Matchless Unveils Vladimir Putin-Inspired Outerwear Collection.”
Matchless is the men’s and women’s clothing brand that has leveraged its heritage in motorcycle gear to push recently into Hollywood leatherwear by dressing various superheroes and comically muscular A-listers.
This is the first time it has added a politician of any stripe, let alone one as dark and feared as the Russian autocrat, to its “Heroes” strand.
Kicking off the Putin line is the “Putin Jacket”, a distressed brown bomber with a shearling collar, which retails at $1,699.
This, says the BoF release, “is part of a wider capsule collection that will include leather and cotton parkas, coats and jackets, all inspired by the controversial leader.”
“We consider Russian President Vladimir Putin a modern superhero as well, giving personal respect to his strong character, brutal image, sense of humour and calmness as a world leader,” says Manuele Malenotti, managing director of Matchless London and whose own favourite item of clothing would appear to be a red carpet, accessorised by film stars and lovelies.
Perhaps one ought to also give Signor Malenotti “personal respect” for his own sense of humour here, especially when he goes on to say “As for it being controversial, my point of view is that fashion is art.”
One person who will probably not be sampling the item is activist and former head of Hermitage Capital Management in Moscow Bill Browder, who recently said “Putin would like nothing more than to put me in jail and watch me die.”
Perhaps that’s just the sort of frisson of danger Matchless wish to cloak their customers in with the Putin capsule.
Signor Malenotti, putting his controversial opinions about fashion and art to one side, also said. “”Russia is a very strong potential market for a luxury brand such as Matchless. [We’re] very keen to expand there in the forthcoming years.”
The fashion-forward businessman would do well to read Mr Browder’s book if he harbours any illusions about ever getting those profits out.