Et voici! As would behoove a self-respecting global men’s fashion power blog, BDMOTP presents to you the man who inspired Oscar Wilde to write Portrait of Dorian Gray who may very well have inspired Michael Jackson to become the gloved one AND have a squeaky little voice, who inspired Karl Lagerfeld to take Choupette as his most beloved icon pet, who was an example for the reveries of Marcel Proust in the persona of Baron de Charlus in A la Recherche du Temps Perdu and who most notoriously was the hidden subject–if not indeed the exact copy and model – of Karl Joris Huysmans’ deliciously poisonous and forbidden book A Rebours (Against the Grain) in which an improbable character called Des Esseintes is immortalized as the prototype godfather of all dandies for all time, a particular and eccentric man who celebrates an extravagant lifestyle of pleasure and beauty in complete solitude yet surrounded by the most outrageous & extraordinary home furnishings, decorations, and accessories.
But not yet many know that this gentleman was not fiction but actually existed, and that his name was Marie Joseph Robert Anatole de Montesquiou–Fézensac, better known as the Marquis Robert de Montesquiou, and that, perhaps mysteriously, two famous portraits of the man himself are still hanging in museums today one in New York (the Frick) and one in Paris (Quai d’Orsay) so as to silently witness and attest to his continuous private importance to the world of style for men even in our information age 125 years later.
Thus the following BDMOTP interview is a fictionalized version of a meeting with one very real vampire of men’s style and fashion – and an icon for the ages.
BDMOTP: Hello Robert, thank you for granting us this special occasion for a brief interview. First off, are you the best dressed man on the planet?
Robert de M. (squeaks a little and twitches and takes off one white glove laying it across his knee while folding his legs gently, then tips his moustache and giggles, but never answers the question and sighs deeply): Umm..
BDMOTP: If you had lived today Robert, would we be able to find you on Facebook?
Robert (giggles a little more and then taps his cane on the floor): I always enjoy my pleasures privately, and I have few friends– also I do not like to share, I rather like to keep things for myself and treasure them and admire them alone. Thus, as a proven butterfly, I need not many friends, because I have flowers, many beautiful things and flowers – and their colors and shapes inspire me to flutter on, and on, and move from one to the next. If you can find them, flowers are always there for all to see, so there is absolutely no need to put them on Facebook. Ah, the smell, I love the smell of roses, I close my eyes and they are there …
BDMOTP: The French bourgeoisie in your lifetime had quickly condemned you as ‘un esthète au goût souvent discutable’ (an aesthete of frequently questionable taste) but the English speaking public of today really loves your style and your manners. What is your message to our readers?
Robert de M. (pouts and touches his moustache): That every good conversation starts with a pose. And that in order to strike a proper pose, one always needs a personal style as well as particular manners.
BDMOTP: What is it with the white gloves?
Robert de M.: You don’t like them? They are my favorites. Chamois – leather. Antelope. So soft!
BDMOTP: We love your Persian cat Robert. Today we have a fashion icon with a very famous Persian cat whose name is Choupette (the cat of Karl Lagerfeld). How do you feel about it that 100 years later people – famous people in the world of style even – are still copying your ideas and your manners?
Robert de M. (cackles and giggles and crosses his legs carefully and sits up straight): I love my cat! She is my darling. She is NOT an accessory!
BDMOTP: But Robert the ugly rumor is that you once had a pet tortoise at your private residence and that you painted its shell gold and then it died (according to the account of French author Mallarmé who visited your house). But we did some research and we don’t believe you ever did what Huysmans wrote about Des Esseintes that he had gemstones encrusted in a turtle’s shell. You would not do this kind of thing would you now? In today’s world this does not go off very well–to say the least. A tortoise is not an accessory.
Robert de M. (starts to cry and sniff a little): I am sorry, I am sorry I should have never painted the shell of my tortoise in gold – it is true–but I swear I never encrusted my tortoise with gemstones–this is pure fiction. My notoriety must have gotten ahead of my reputation.
BDMOTP: Robert, you talk about your notoriety as if it is a good thing?
Robert de M. (twitches his head and tips his hat up a little bit, then puts his cane between his legs, and looks indignantly ahead and purses his lips): Excuse me! I used to be a successful stockbroker, with an excellent reputation, and now that I have become a well-known esthete and dandy, and a legend, I cannot discuss my own notoriety? And just because I now know how to strike a proper pose whenever and wherever it does not suit society at large, I have become ‘notorious’? Does this frighten you? I tell you that a good notoriety and a little scandal here and there has always been the spice of life in style and fashion, in the same way as taking risks and speculations have always been the key to success in business and finance. If a man is no longer willing or able to risk his reputation every day the moment when he wakes up, then he will never go again in style! And people will forget him. Dixit.
Robert de M. suddenly gets up quickly and angrily holding up his head up and slightly backward without looking or saying goodbye stodgily taps twice with his cane on the floor and leaves the room carefully closing the door behind him. We have no time to thank him and are left wondering about many things, with a large list of questions left unanswered and a feeling of uneasiness.
Posted by Sandro Joo.