In 1966 in Buenos Aires, I commissioned a jeweler to make several props in 24 carat gold. I had the props photographed, and wrote a description of them in the style of cliché fashion copy. Both copy and photographs were handed to the fashion and general media in Buenos Aires and abroad as a press kit. This visual and written description presented the props as jewelry even if they did not have fixings on their back, and could not be really worn. In fact, they were photographed attached to the model’s ear with adhesive tape. I called Fashion Fiction 1 everything the media could publish on the information I gave them, the gold props (ears, fingers, hairs and toe) made to shoot the photographs, a written description of the props as if they were real jewelry, and the resulting press kit.
An open work, Fashion Fiction 1 would include all the press published through the years. As the props incarnated an idea that advanced the field of jewelry—I had somehow cracked the code of sophisticated jewelry design—the news of this “jewelry” was well received and published first in Buenos Aires (several non-fashion media, 1966–1967) and shortly after in New York (Vogue, 1968, Harper’s Bazaar, 1968) and Mexico City (Caballero magazine, 1970).
In New York Vogue shot its own photographs (Richard Avedon), as did Harper’s Bazaar (Hiro), using my props.
Alexander Liberman, at the time Vogue’s editorial director, and Diana Vreeland, editor-in-chief, put together a 17-page fashion spread entirely photographed by Avedon with model Marisa Berenson and headed by a full-page colour shot of Marisa wearing my fictional ear. Liberman and Vreeland chatted enthusiastically with me, and I was even sent to Avedon’s studio—where he kept calling me “boss.” “Do you like it this way, boss?” And so on. At twenty-six, barely speaking English and a just-arrived, pop conceptualist from Argentina, the encounter with Vogue was a great beginning. Caballero magazine in Mexico City (1970) used the original photographs and text. The editor, a talented writer friend, Gustavo Sainz, who had taken the job as a survival move, understood completely the work and published it exactly as I intended.
The Fashion Fiction series rested for several years. In 1975 I had a very good idea for another Fashion Fiction but, after being photographed by Irving Penn with Iman as the model in one of the most beatiful shots ever in fashion photography, it didn’t make it to the media. In 1979 while living in Rio de Janeiro, I saw a flying blue butterfly of the genus Morpho in all its magnificence. The modernist’s metaphor of butterflies (or birds) as “jewels of the air” came to mind. Maybe another prop to appeal to Vogue editors, a real butterfly that could somehow perch on a model’s dress? Thus Fashion Fiction 3 was created. An all-blue Morpho butterfly was encased in plastic and shown to the editors at Vogue. Their acceptance was immediate and very enthusiastic. Star photographer King was called in and Shari Belafonte was the model. The shot was published in September 1982.
In the early 1980s I decided to reach the media through established fashion designers. I made jewelry for the shows of Geoffrey Beene, Fabrice, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera. This jewelry was not intended for sale, it would accompany the dresses at the shows and attract media coverage. Fashion Fiction 4 consisted of real leaves that were painted, laminated and accented with rhinestones, to conform to earrings, necklaces, etc. They were made on commission for Carolina Herrera. Then came flowers of fabric, made of swaths provided by designer Geoffrey Beene, laminated and rhinestone-accented. This was Fashion Fiction 5. Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour magazine, Women’s Wear Daily, The New York Times magazine, all in their New York editions, published these two Fashion Fictions, and this was it with magazines and jewelry props for thirty years. In 2014 the series came unexpectedly back. Fashion Fiction 2—rows of gold ants hooked into each other front and back as bracelets and necklaces—made it to the pages of Harper’s Bazaar and Barzon magazines in Buenos Aires. And so did Fashion Fiction 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, all created in the mid 1980s.
The fictional aspect is something particularly sensitive in magazines and media in general. A balancing act for editors. A number of mediatic inventions transform almost any media utterance into something more beautiful, more attractive to the readers, more engaged as a political or social construction. The truth in journalism is many times sacrificed to the crucial cult of circulation.
Eduardo Costa, “Fashion and Art: How Magazines Reacted to some Art Penetrations in the Years 1967 to 1984, and on” (2015).