In publishing the first English reproduction of Richard Avedon's In Memory of the Late Mr and Mrs Comfort this weekend - a spectacular, spectral death-and-the-maiden photoshoot starring Nadja Auermann and a saucy sartorial skeleton - The Sunday Times Magazine seems carrion-ripe in its timing. With conspicuous consumption as passe as leggings and smocks, and shops struggling to flog their frocks, surely the next few years will be a shot of Botox to the heart of haute couture?
Bollocks they will. Avedon's visual swansong, along with the incredible a/w collections currently debuting in Paris, actually proves the opposite. Not just because, for the ancient X-Rays who can actually afford high fashion, credit crunch is a high-fibre cereal. Fashion is in fact never better than when faced with the denouncement of derision and the whiff of decay: the more inappropriate and endangered a creature it is, the more beautiful and desirable it becomes.
On their first publication in 1995, Mr and Mrs Comfort certainly got under the industry's skin, with Avedon seemingly transformed from be-atch of the beau monde to grave-gazing critic; Christian LaCroix remembers 'the shock in The New Yorker of this saturated, near-unrecognisable testament'. The curator of Les Recontres d'Arles photography exhibition, where the images are currently on display, declares (presumably with the help of a drunk translator) that:
[Avedon] set out to denounce a consumer society he found unbearable but which he had decided to take advantage of. Bye-bye fashion, bye-bye seduction, bye-bye the ephemerality of seduction.
Of course, it's actually hello ephemeral, seductive fashion to the hilt; Avedon's final shoot manifests everything it supposedly satirises. It expertly showcases fashion as it's best: playful, shocking, fantatsical and fully self-aware - Eve draped in dangerous weeds playing out a crazy creation myth for an unromantic urban world.
That valiant prodigy Dicky our boy could evidently not help but worship this 'unbearable' industry, even as he left it. The world may be going to hell in a Lanvin Satin Papilotte Pochette, but by damn we'll look good.