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Ironic turns iconic on the catwalks

ARE YOU woman enough to carry a handbag shaped like a sheep wearing socks and scarf, hand-crafted by the petites mains at Ungaro?

It's called Fungaro. “Irony is such an over-used word,” says its creator, Giles Deacon. “It's about execution, whether the end result is high-end or Carnaby Street.”

Moschino's “Waist of Money” jacket and Elsa Schiaparelli's lobster hat are examples of the ironic fashion statement that have attained iconic status. Both designers relied on an entirely knowing sense of humour, but their respect for the craftsmanship that went into the creation of such effective visual jokes ensured that the person wearing them was in safe hands.

At the Louis Vuitton show in Paris last October, in place of the usual press release, was a quote from Susan Sontag’s Notes On ‘Camp’: “Camp taste is by its nature possible only in affluent societies, in societies or circles capable of experiencing the psychopathology of affluence,” it reads.

Katie Grand, who styles the label's twice-yearly womenswear collections, says: “I'm not sure that the Louis Vuitton customer will be entirely aware that the zebra print in the collection came from a picture I took on my BlackBerry when I was on safari this summer.”

“Sometimes, when we see the line-up just before the show starts we don't feel quite as secure as we did maybe two weeks before when we'd had a bit more sleep. Sometimes we stand there and say: ‘Have we gone too far?'“

Marc Jacobs is no stranger to approaching his metier with tongue firmly in cheek. Who could forget the TV-shaped bag stamped not with the monogram but with SpongeBob SquarePants? At the beginning of his career, as creative director at Perry Ellis, he gave the world designer grunge - and got the sack for it.

Of course, good humour comes at a price. The embroidery for the Vuitton collection alone cost an estimated £840,000 (€1m).

“It's not about designers being full of themselves,” Deacon says. “You don't have to be an ironic library member to get it.”