Some things and some people are getting dotty. And we’re not talking about dots that are itsy or bitsy. This season, polka dots are headlining trends in patterns at a time when sparkly spots or brilliant baubles should be in favour. Still, it is rather hard to take them seriously when they bring to mind a certain yellow bikini!
By itself, a dot, no matter the colour, is a respectable shape. It could have the functional elegance of a saucer, the blatant temptation of a cookie or the discreet helpfulness of a full stop. However, once you gather them in given confines, whether equally sized and spaced—or not, they immediately lose any formal perspective, and become as sombre as a clown’s button nose.
Yet, even the most serious designers can’t resist repeated dots’ visual potential. One of them is Carolina Herrera who used polka dots so plentifully in her ready-to-wear that they became very much her signature print throughout the 80s and 90s, so much so that even the boxes of her perfume bottles are similarly dotted.
Another designer who uses polka dots regularly and often as a counterpoint to her usually severe treatment of the colour black is Rei Kawakubo. The Comme des Garçons’s annual Christmas collection this season, for example, is simply called Polka Dot Wonderland (above). This seasonal offering, which comprises products across many categories but can fall into one grouping—gift, is perhaps the brand’s interpretation of Christmas baubles. As befit CDG’s image, these polka dots are patchy but never blotchy, whimsical but never nonsensical.
Most unexpected is George Clooney’s appearance in the December issue of W. One of People’s “Sexiest Men Alive” and Nespresso’s female magnet, Mr Clooney looks like he was dressed by his grandmother when, in fact, what he has on was dreamed up by 84-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, a woman who is fond of camouflaging herself in dots (or tentacles patterned with dots) . But these are not the dots of Roy Lichtenstein; these are huge dots, of unequal sizes and appear to be bubbling up. On the cover or in the pages within, the actor looks like a well-upholstered prop of an art installation that is whacky and cosmic and brimful of unknown meanings.
Mr Clooney’s participation in this black and white spot shot of the art-themed issue of W seems to underscore two points: polka dots are not gender-bias (actually, we know this since the mid-60s when Bob Dylan wore polka-dotted shirts on more than one occasion) and men above fifty need not be dressed age-appropriately (actually, we know this since the time of the Sun King Louis XIV). Let’s add another: a man can bring fashion and art together with no threat to his machismo.
Now, is fashion art and can art be fashion? You join the dots!
The CDG Polka Dot Wonderland Collection is now available at CDG, Hilton Gallery. W Magazine is out now in major bookstores
Photo of George Clooney: W