Capturing the end of an era: Roitfeld, Testino, Moss, and Klein in 1999
I swear the spirit of Carine Roitfeld must be haunting me…. or, at least, her legacy as a stylist before becoming renowned fashion editor at French Vogue. Awhile ago, I was browsing photographer’s Mario Testino‘s über-cool site, going through his archives. I came across his shoot he did for the Calvin Klein Spring 1999 campaign featuring the one and only Kate Moss. (Ms. Moss’ brooding male counterpart, by the way, is Mr. Colin Branca, who still works in the industry.) Shortly therefafter, I learned, via the Fashion Spot, that the stylist was none other than Ms. Roitfeld herself. So not only did Ms. Roitfeld shaped my style consciousness via the triumvirate she formed with Testino and Tom Ford in the Gucci era–you can catch the earlier meditation on their work here–but she also influenced me stateside through the architectonic designs of the one and only Mr. Klein.
While an advertising campaign may seem as irrelevant for some, these Testino-Roitfeld images jumpstarted my memory… though not exactly in a Proustian way. When Proust took a bite of the madeleine, as he recounts in Du côté de chez Swann, he remembered his youth in Cambray, the warm cup of herbal tea. In contrast, I don’t ever remember seeing seeing this campaign. But somehow, they capture the spirit of that era, the end of the nineties right before the new millenium and the end of the proverbial party in 2001. I was a sophomore in New York the year that this campaign was put together and released. For me, this campaign captures what was the epitome of style for me. A bare white room… simple but just so chic clothes… even the chop of Kate’s hair. As a historical document, the campaign succinctly captures a particular fin-de-siècle aesthetic in a minimalist mode. Personally, it’s almost like discovering a photograph from a decade ago that I somehow recognize though I don’t remember ever having taken it.
Interestingly enough, Testino captures what video couldn’t catch. I had already seen this collection awhile ago, via YouTube. All that’s conveyed is a minimalist aesthetic, conveyed in a broad palette of colors. Yes, there’s the music of the era–Massive Attack amongst others–and the stoic expressions of the models. But the distinctive edge that Testino conveys so well just isn’t there. Reduced to a digital feed-perhaps akin to the archival films of yesteryear-the fine details have been lost, and with it, the ephemeral essence of the era.
Moreover, this campaign, under the direction of Testino and Roitfeld, reminded me what I had originally gleaned from the end of the nineties and has remained with me ever since. No controversy, no fuss, no overt theatrics. Simple but sensual with a razor sharp edge, like that of a finely tailored garment fitted to the body or carefully sheered locks of hair against the clarity of white.