“Politically correct is boring” -Is ‘canceling culture’ killing creative inspiration?

 

Last week, “Handmaid’s Tale” author Margaret Atwood, “Midnight’s Children” writer Salman Rushdie, literary figure Noam Chomsky and feminist Gloria Steinem were amongst 150 public figures to have signed a letter published in Harper’s Magazine condemning the practice of public shaming, or –as popularly known-‘cancel culture’.The letter openly denouncing ” a vogue for public shaming and ostracism” and “a blinding moral certainty”.This was one of the few public attempts to define what cancel culture really is and does.

‘Cancel culture’ is a true product on our social media playground and our new found freedom of expression that goes with it. Described as the desire to cancel out a person or community from social media platforms.it refers to the -by now popular -practice of un-supporting or ‘canceling’ public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable. Performed in the form of mobbing or group shaming via Instagram, Twitter or Reddit, cancel culture is also present in the fashion world in the form of “call-out culture”.

It is this very emergence of online ‘call-out culture’ a cultural phenomenon that gave a ‘platform’ to many independent voices allowing them to penetrate the rather exclusive fashion industry -and hold fashion designers marketers and editors accountable for copycat fashion products, cultural appropriations and lack of diversity and representation. Instagram watchdog account Diet Prada was the first account to call out designers copying fellow brands’ designs followed closely by Estée Laundry, a similar account that keeps a close eye on the boosting beauty industry.

Their influence-and impact-should not be underestimated. Diet Prada’s criticism over Dolce & Gabbana’s offensive 2018 China campaign resulted in an army of followers angrily shaming the brand –and was so impactful that the label shut down its Shanghai show altogether. In other words, it was ‘canceled’. Since then, the account has called out failings: lack of model diversity, toleration of abuse, and exploitation in the industry.

Canceling culture is present and powerful. A new breed of consumer watchdogs along with their millions of followers are currently forcing global fashion and beauty brands into action. Infallible? Not quite so. Emerging British designer Richard Quinn was publicly accused of knocking off Demna Gvasalia and its distinctive aesthetics when in fact, Quinn had been experimenting with similar designs since his graduate collection.

For Carolin Mair, Behavioural Psychologist and Business Consultant and author of The Psychology of Fashion, this a positive sign of the times.“Social media accounts such as Diet Prada broadcast to millions of their followers. Fashion creatives who ignore their messages, do so at their peril. As a result of these channels, current political and economic turmoil, fashion is now recognized as more than adornment, it is how we express and navigate identity. ” For the creatives themselves. this might be a new and tricky territory they can’t afford to ignore.

“Fashion creatives need to be part of the zeitgeist in their words and actions as well as their creations. adds Mair.  Authenticity, social responsibility, community, respect, and inclusion have always mattered, but these characteristics have often been ignored or sidelined by many in the industry, until recently. It is no longer enough to say and not do.”

 

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Image source: Instagram

This is a new type of discussion, one that takes into account values and ethics and dismisses aesthetics as irrelevant, or at best, of secondary importance. This practice may well work for the business aspect of the industry but excludes something vital-that high fashion can, and should be a form of art, a result of innovation, talent, and creative inspiration. One cannot help by bringing to mind prominent art names such as Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, and Picasso that operated in the often blurred intersection of copying, interpreting, and innovating. What happens when fashion creatives cross the line?

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible.” writes Mark Twain, in his autobiography. “We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely, but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

“The desire to experiment is risky, tantamount to censorship. At the risk of sounding a little like a right-wing, middle-aged internet commenter incensed about the preservation of ‘freedom of speech,’ art does not truly thrive without the oxygen of scandal, or the occasional opportunity to be perverse.” notes Philippa Snow in a 2019 article for Indie magazine.

Basia Szkutnicka is a  Professor of Practice & Programme Leader of the MA in Fashion & Textile Design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. For her, it’s a difficult time for creatives-and an uncertain one for all. “Fashion is changing drastically, whether that will be for the better, we don’t know right now, everything is in flux and changes daily. Now everyone is obsessed with encouraging, promoting, and celebrating diversity…we laugh at brands who unashamedly copy others, thinking no one noticed. With a need to generate income (because ultimately, fashion is a business), we may see insecurity in sales manifest as more copyists…or the opposite – a desire for the unique. Who knows right now.

Is this cultural phenomenon of excessive policing of expression killing inspiration? Are artists completely free to innovate by following their very personal inspiration, creating new images and fresh silhouettes? How can artistic inspiration flourish over excessive attention to be politically correct, unoffending? Many designers already privately comment they are so frightened of being caught out that they are completely rethinking their approach.  For Mair, the answer depends on several factors that include the actual definitions of political correctness, fashion, and art. “If the wearer/observer cares more about what is politically correct, then they may consider fashion outside of art. It depends on the perception (worldview, mindset, attitudes, experience, etc.) of the viewer. In fact, that is probably the same for other forms of art.” she notes.

There is criticism, though. “Politically correct’ for me, sounds boring. Fashion and art have been a place to voice an opinion and encourage dialogue…and let’s hope it stays that way. Without discourse, there is no progress’ comments Szkutnicka

Perhaps the last word in this discussion should come from the fashion creatives themselves. They are the ones to figure out their own answers-and to define their inspiration path. For Patrick van Ommeslaghe, art director, fashion designer, and part of the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp graduates’ circle, the authenticity of ideas is crucial for the fashion designer. “I was trained at The Royal Academy at a time when copying was still considered as the worst crime “ he points out. “And I still keep having in mind the Godard quote: It’s not where you take things from, its where to take things to”. Or in the words of  T.S. Eliot in ‘The Sacred Wood’: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.”

 

Glamorizing agony: Why mental health on a Vogue cover is not a good idea

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The controversial Vogue Portugal July/August issue

Virtual fashion weeks are a fact. But how do you review a digital fashion show?

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely transformed the way we live and work-and expedited the world’s digital evolution into forms and structures that haven’t been everyday reality a short time ago. The fashion industry has been hastily digitized like no other. Traditionally based on interpersonal relationships forging around physical fashion shows, organizers worldwide are experimenting with the digital versions of fashion weeks.

Back in late March and April, Shanghai and Moscow offered a digital version of their subsequent fashion weeks; it was London Men’s Fashion week though that placed the digital fashion show as something that is here to stay for good. The British Fashion Council delivered its latest London Fashion Week 2020 Men’s under the telling hashtag:  #LFWReset. But it is something of a test case for what will follow: a digital schedule from Paris (couture and men’s wear) from July 6 to July 13, and Milan, from July 14 to July 17. In New York, Mark Beckham, vice president of marketing and events for CFDA, affirmed that they will be launching a digital platform to feature designers traditionally showing as part of the original schedule.

With physical distancing rules excluding the traditional fashion show format, digital presentations have taken the form of short films; live-streamed physical runways with no audience present, and virtual showrooms. In that sense, the question for the fashion expert is crucial: How do you approach a fashion show as a critic? Is a new format calling for a new approach- and a new toolset to evaluate, interpret, analyze the designer’s vision, its delivery, and predict the success-or no-of his offerings? And most importantly, are digital fashion shows replacing physical ones?

Bella Gladman is a freelance writer and editor and has also chaired many panel discussions reviewing fashion collections. For her, a digital film- like show can sometimes be more accurate in presenting the designer’s vision. ”Is more of the designer’s original vision in collaboration with the filmmaker, she notes. “Digital shows might not have the physicality but can showcase the vision best-and allow for more experimentation –shown in context with other cultural products such as music clips.”

So how do you evaluate a digital fashion show? Gladman notes that interpreting a digital formatted show begins with applying nothing else than the traditional editor’s skill set: “You do apply your critical toolbox, she says, but in a more abstract way-you get to feel an atmosphere rather than fabrics”.  Indeed it’s this very essence of things that makes digital fashion shows a part of the future. ”Fashion shows will reemerge, she notes, as big fashion brands will continue to stage big productions with huge PR campaigns beforehand as usual. That being said, there has been much talk about sustainability in the industry-and digital shows can really benefit smaller brands that want to communicate their vision to their fan base.”

For Filep Motwary, the Editor-at-large of Vogue Greece, and a fashion exhibition curator, reviewing a digital fashion show in the traditional way is problematic. “I am not sure how accurate, how valid a review as such will be», he notes. “When attending a show in person, the experience I value greatly as it offers me a literal way to examine one’s work within my own mindset while I am using all of my senses. Watching a collection on a screen could be as well interesting but most probably not as fulfilling. There are so many elements to look at like the materials, the construction, the embellishment and you need to have a closer look to truly appreciate.” For him, the actual physical presence is by itself the very essence of the fashion experience-and part of the thrill. “The feeling you get when at a show is exceptional, it’s exciting! Nothing can replace that feeling, at least for the moment.”

Motwary believes shows can efficiently work in a complementary mode- and serve as an inclusion tool. “Hopefully digital will be an extra door for others who were left outside. Why not?”, he affirms. “A pandemic as such cannot stop creativity, it’s impossible to block humanity from dreaming, to be desirable or optimistic, to dress and feel alive. This is who we are. COVID 19 is not human” concludes.

For Philippe Pourhashemi, the freelance fashion writer, consultant, and stylist, the challenge with a digital show is that you lose out on all the live elements.” Elements such as the music, the attitude of the models, the general mood of the presentation, and the audience reaction, can be defining when it comes to elaborating your review” adds. In his mind, a fashion review is all about the clothing and the references at play within each silhouette.

“Using your instincts and imagination is probably the best way to achieve that, hoping that the collection touches or inspires you”, he admits and further elaborates on how physical fashion shows and digital presentations can in fact coexist. “I think we’re going to see a mix of both, shows made for a much smaller or absent audience and digital events aimed at the consumer and social media exposure. It’s going to be difficult to replace the ritualistic and performing dimensions of a fashion show using only digital, and I still believe people will want to gather in a place to experience beauty, but at the moment it’s hard to say when this will happen.”

Amy Odell is the writer of the successful book “Tales from the Back Row” and a regular contributor for BoF and The Cut. She agrees fashion shows aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. “Physical shows will probably be reduced in number for many years to come, she predicts, but I don’t think they’ll go away entirely. I could see a future where fashion shows are organized like art fairs, where consumers can buy a ticket and then see a slew of fashion exhibits/shows in one day. That way, consumers are subsidizing physical shows, which makes them easier to put on for labels that don’t have much money to do so.” For her, there is always a place for the fashion show as long as big fashion brands have the means to produce it-and share the experience with the audience.

“Big labels with deep pockets will always want to put on a show, and the industry will always want to go to them. But I think they will be choosier about which collections they show physically and be forced to think harder about why they’re asking people to come see their clothes in person versus looking at photos at home. Just look at the Balenciaga A/W 20 show; it was the kind of moment that had to be seen in person, that made people feel something, and that made a powerful (and perhaps eerily prescient) statement about our times” she concludes.

 

 

Ninette Murk’s eternal optimism will save the world

There are people that can turn every heartbreaking event of their life into an act of positivity -and Ninette Murk is definitely one of them. The founder and creative director at Designers Against AIDS (DAA) and creative platform for social change Beauty Without Irony (BWI), Murk created DAA as a tribute to her assistant, Peter, who died of an AIDS-related illness; and BWI as a response to the cynical outlook the fashion business was adopting –being a fashion journalist she was experiencing it big time.
20 years later, both foundations are going from strength to strength, with DAA successfully collaborating with leading and popular fashion brands, designers and celebrities such as H&M, Eastpak, JBC, Delvaux, Marc Jacobs, Bernhard Willhelm, Rihanna, Timbaland, Robert Smith from The Cure, Pharrell Williams and Kendall Jenner. In 2013 Murk relaunched BWI as a creative platform for social change staging exciting international exhibitions in Essaouira (Morocco) and Antwerp (Belgium).

Today, in a world experiencing the aftermaths of the corona pandemic and in the midst of the #blacklivesmatter protests in the US and Europe, Murk’s creative optimism appears the only way to go forward. Indeed, her full body of work is a celebration of pure beauty, idealism, and lust for life -a lust that overcomes all obstacles to support a good cause –and makes a positive change to the world. Here, she speaks about DAA, her more recent project ‘Beauty for a Better World 2020’- and how eternal optimism in action can save the world.

Tell us a bit about your most recent projects, especially Beauty for a Better World 2020?

Beauty for a Better World was a very early project of mine that started with the Twin Towers incident and the overall world apocalypse that happened -and didn’t really get the attention it deserved. I then went on to found Designers against AIDS, a project that became very famous -and got media attention especially after our 5 years lasting global H&M collaboration. Many designers contributed, in fact, we have a vast archive of work that represents our mission. Meanwhile, I wanted to reboot my beauty projects as I feel the perception of beauty in the world is important-but most donations were made to DAA just because the initiative has gained so much publicity. I don’t think it’s bad, naturally, I just felt I needed to do something involving beauty-and thus restarted it. We have a great team of high profile and talented people both in the fashion and media industry that are passionate about our mission. I believe in beauty -in fact, the process of choosing your most beautiful artwork of all to be exhibited on behalf of BFBW2020 has been cathartic even for the artists themselves.

Your work deals a lot with beauty and happiness through awareness and responsibility-How do you define the idea of responsibility in the fashion industry? What’s missing in terms of ethics right now?

Every company (not only in fashion!) should make sure that it’s being fair on every level of their process- towards their employees, customers, suppliers, ad /media agency, shareholders – and also to the planet. The focus right now for many businesses is mainly about making as much money as possible, cutting costs wherever they can. This is not sustainable and it certainly is not human.

 

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Kendall Jenner and Neville Jacobs (dog of Marc Jacobs) in one of the t-shirts he designed to benefit Designers against AIDS. This project by LOVE Magazine also featured Gigi Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski and Cara Delevingne

 

What is the greatest lesson fashion must learn from the coronavirus epidemic?

Fashion must slow down, its more imperative now than it has been some years ago. The fashion schedule with so many shows a year and countless meetings and fast fashion production are destroying nature, the most important thing we have-and thus our wellbeing and future. There are solutions: reduce the schedule, produce less and better quality clothes that are ethically made, and make your supply chain as transparent as possible. Full transparency is needed. I am also a member of GWAND, a Swiss festival for Sustainable fashion, and have learned a lot from these people-advocates of sustainability in a creative and not –boring, fun way! Sustainable fashion isn’t anymore how it was some years ago-the clothes are actually very nice, stylish, and more accessible price-wise.

The #Blacklivesmatter movement is causing a stir-How can fashion brands fully embrace diversity?

They must mean it. Not many brands are actually investing in diversity in their staff roles or ensure equal pay rates. They must hire more black people, promote and consult them. Diversity in fashion is not a new concept, in the past, Benetton and their photographer Oliviero Toscani have been successfully embracing it with great vision-and commercial success. The Benetton clothes were just brightly colored basics, but the message, the awareness, the brand ethics were powerful. They talked about AIDS, racism, everything that matters. Diversity also means more representation in terms of sizes. Brands must embrace diversity and actually mean it as a long term strategy-don’t just add a plus-size model to gain attention but then not do anything groundbreaking. You don’t brush off the need to show diversity and inclusivity just by stating it or posting a #blacklivesmatter on your Facebook page.

So, how does it feel being an eternal optimist?

This is more part of who I am, more of my attitude towards life than a structured philosophy. I have been through a lot the recent years in terms of personal health, and have managed to get through them smiling and with optimism. You see, I may occasionally feel pain or get a low mood, but then I focus on all the great things I am blessed to have: a nice life, a house with a beautiful garden, a great husband, and an invaluable circle of friends. Those are priceless -and that’s how we all should face life.

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Graduation collection of Serkan Sarier at the Antwerp Academy (2001), photo by Antonio Paladino-the start of Beauty Without Irony project

 

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The Dita Von Teese- designed T-shirt for DAA’s first global Fashion against AIDS collection with H&M.

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designersagainstaids.com

 

 

 

With white supremacy as a business model, fashion is failing to address racism

On Thursday, Conde Nast’s global content adviser/chief creative officer and editor-in-chief of Vogue Anna Wintour sent an internal note to her staff apologizing for not doing enough to “elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers, and other creators.”. Her reaction sounds odd considering that the problem of racism and discrimination in the fashion industry has been brought up numerous times in the past-while her career in Conde Nast was already thriving.

This is hardly a new issue- accusations of racism in the fashion industry have been heating up in recent years. In a 2017 article called “White-Washed Runways: The Effects of Racism in the Fashion Industry” featured in The Fashion Law, Olivia Pinnock  quotes Anna-Mari Almila, Research Fellow in Sociology of Fashion at London College of Fashion who  sees this as a consequence of broader issues in the world “When someone who has more power – socially, economically, politically – takes something from a community, then it’s a problem.”

We are used in all-white catwalks and advertising campaigns, cultural appropriation of all things black culture-the list is sadly endless. And while in the past couple of days during the #blacklivesmatter protests we have seen fashion and beauty brands making posts about how they support the black community –those very same brands barely have any black models for their campaigns or foundation shades for people of color.

Words like ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’ are often used as part of a marketing strategy-and often remain just a strategy. In reality, most big luxury fashion brands don’t want to address the elephant in the room and there is a very real reason for that; they profit from privilege. Being predominantly European, their brand strategies align with the idea of the ‘privileged’ luxury consumer to the westernized rich-and-white model, and that only. Washington Post critic Robin Givhan showcased the problem when addressing the 2019 fashion scandal of ‘Blackface’  by writing: “Blackface is, in essence, a kind of fashion — one rooted in the dark, arrogant insecurity of white supremacy, one inspired by this country’s original sin — that keeps evolving year after year until each iteration is just a little bit different from the previous one. But they are all of a piece.”

The idea of privilege has been culturally connected with being rich and white. If brands are to change their marketing strategy, understanding the ‘multiplicity of privileges’ out there, then we can talk about radical changes concerning racism and discrimination in the fashion world. Everything other reaction is the typical obligatory response to a ‘trending’ topic-and unfortunately-will remain so. Just ask Chanel.

 

For design duo Cunnington & Sanderson, clothes tell the stories of the soul

What do we actually define by a brand’s ethos? And just how important is that in shaping the overall aesthetic and creative practice behind a name? For Cunnington & Sanderson, their ethos is their trademark; their work, a fashion narrative with a signature style, and a fascinating fashion story to tell.

Experimenting with tailoring and volume, the designer duo uses innovating cutting and elaborate draping to form silhouettes that unexpectedly emerge through an endless dialogue with the fabric itself. Their creations are bold, sculptural pieces of extreme craftsmanship; a rare combination of traditional techniques and fashion-forward aesthetic innovation.

For the award-winning brand, the construction process works as part of a very personal fashion narrative waiting to be told. Each individual garment undertakes elaborate draping, sculpting, and is crafted according to its own unique characteristics –characteristics that eventually become its emotional symbolism, its story.

We caught up with John and Matthew to discuss creativity, sustainability, and the emotionally charged vocabulary of their clothes.

You are a design duo, how does this influence the design process

We always base our collections on a narrative. Every garment has its own characteristics and emotive symbolism. At the beginning, the heart of the story is chosen, and then as a design duo, we build a whole world around it. Working in unison we collect objects, depict music, emotions, silhouettes, words, phrases, art, sculpture, symbolisms, and begin sculpting them together. When the narrative is written we transfer this world into our draping and garment design. Excellent communication is key as well as compromise to ensure we are both on the same page with the same vision. This is always achieved because we both involved with the creative directions throughout the whole design process, from the concept, research, development, draping, editing, structure, pattern cutting, finishes, fabric choice, colorways, fittings, production, etc right until the garment is worn by one of our loyal and valued customers. Having two perspectives is really exciting. We both have different ideas but because we design in the same way by draping onto the stand to create new, original, and thought-provoking garments, the results are always complimentary.

 You have described your ‘Occupied’ collection as a certain iconography of emotions. Are we afraid to wear our emotions?

We believe that clothes can express how we are feeling or how we want to feel, either subtly or extrovertly. Clothes can make you feel confident, attractive, or more relaxed. They can heighten a mood you are already feeling or they can express the emotion you want to express. We want to inspire people to wear what they want.

Emotions are a key element that we portray in our garment designs, and we hope people make a connection to the personality of their characteristics.

For example, the “Occupied” AW1819 collection focused on breaking the stigma around Mental Health by creating awareness and giving hope and encouragement to others. In our view, the bed can be a solitary sanctuary and become an entire universe. In the collection, pillows, bed linen, and blankets are worn as everyday clothes just as emotions are worn for everyone to see and are no longer hidden. Comfort is found in the non-conformity.

 

Credits - Leeds Museums and Galleries & photography by David Lindsey
Leeds Museums and Galleries, photography by David Lindsey

 

You have been avid advocates of sustainability and ethical fashion – how do you ensure it

We aim to create and design clothes for somebody who can recognize and appreciate craftsmanship, creativity, and originality in clothes. For someone who understands the importance of sustainability. Our brand promotes slow fashion and aims our designs to people who do not follow trends but cherish quality clothes that they make a personal connection with. We design zero waste garments using luxurious & organic fabrics and we use environmentally friendly processes that are transparent. Working closely with traditional Yorkshire Mills such as Abraham Moon & Sons who show a transparent and traceable process where all processes are made in -house and in one location.

Constructing, deconstructing, editing – how do you both know when a garment is finished

We decide a garment is finished by instinct, a moment of feeling like when you get goose pimples, and we can see that the structure holds within all the credentials that inspired its own creation. We imagine the same way a sculpture or a painter knows. It is important not to overwork an idea always aiming to capture the creative process and not to look placed or forced. Allowing the fabric to breathe and drape with gravity capturing movement, shape, shadow, space, volume and to appear as though the fabric is sculpting the garment by itself.

A garment is far more than just something that is worn. It should be cherished. Hours of dedication and passion is put into the creation of one of our designs. For us, each piece is special because if it was not it would not have been created.

There is a certain symbolic element in your garments design. Tell us more about it.

From the Occupied collection, the pillow top was the first design –and it went on to inspire the whole collection. Other garments include the tailored jacket which is worn as a skirt with sleeves as pockets, a laundry dress with elasticated detailing like bedding to capture what once was and a hollow dress that appears detached as an empty unworn dress on the front of the wearer.

The symbolic elements build up the characteristics of the garment. They can be inspired by many things including personal experiences or even historical events. These elements are then expressed through fabric texture, colour, creative pattern cutting, uniques finishes and detailing. Importance is always focussed on fabric placement – how the fabric drapes naturally by its own weight and how the movement just one center-meter can change the whole mood and appearance of a design.

What are your future plans and projects?

Designing a range of zero waste garments that are made in sustainable fabrics. And of course, continue to design and create innovative garments by developing new ways of working with digital technology and sustainable processes.

Cunnington & Sanderson are very proud to have been selected by prestigious buyers and renowned stores for the Not Just A Label x Joor x 100 Project. That means that from now on, we also present our work on the international leading wholesale platform JOOR, where the whole selling process is made online.

Any comments on the current situation? How do you view the Covid19 pandemic?

We hope that after the pandemic of the Covid19 people will give independent fashion designers the credit that they deserve for their craftsmanship. Clothes should be valued and purchased for quality and originality and not for fast fashion that turns into damaging disposable waste.

 

credits - Photography Rafael Kroetz - Model Zoe Herveva - Make up & Hair Sabine Nania - art direction Cunnington & Sanderson

Credits -photograpy Rafael Kroetz - model Zoe Herveva - muah Sabine Nania - Art Direction Cunnington & Sanderson

credits - Photography Rafael Kroetz - Model Zoe Herveva - Make up & Hair Sabine Nania - Art direction, Cunnington & Sanderson

Cunnington Sanderson hollow dress & wollen pillow top
Cunnington Sanderson hollow dress & wollen pillow top

Image Credits – Photography Rafael Kroetz – Model Zoe Herveva – Make up & Hair Sabine Nania – art direction Cunnington & Sanderson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The price of futility-welcome the ‘It’ fashion mask

 

We live in unprecedented times. With the coronavirus epidemic creating new everyday norms and rituals, protective masks have become an accessory of necessity, practicality to protect our health-and this of others. Go past the clinical needs, though, and you’ll see a new field of fashion antagonism rising, that of the eponymous, the ‘designer mask’.

Take for example much-hyped street fashion brand Off-White. As part of the S/S ’20 collection, Virgil Abloh has released eight new face masks in a number of designs following the brand’s usual street style-meets-apocalypse aesthetics. The unexpected here isn’t the style but the price of the masks – both in the sale and resale market.

Business Insider reports on the resale phenomenon: “StockX, the resale marketplace best known as a destination for sneakers and streetwear, is selling a bevy of masks from the buzzy fashion brand Off-White’s 2019 collections, with some bids coming in at more than $200. One such design, which in previous months sold for an average of $80,  just sold for $211 on the site.” In her recent New York Times article Vanessa Friedman reports that , according to Edited, the digital retail tracking service, there has been an almost 40 percent increase in the number of masks offered by companies in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the end of 2019.

Is a mask of 200 protecting us more than one of 20? Probably not. But perhaps this is not even the right question to ask. When masks migrate into the world of fashion they become something else. They become symbols of not just health or social concern, but of identity, self-expression amidst chaos. Self-expression that oftentimes is not that democratic and inclusive as it claims to be. Today, the ‘designer’ mask is the new symbol of conspicuous consumption much like a Burberry bag and a logoed Gucci T-shirt.

‘Spending of money on and the acquiring of luxury goods and services to publicly display economic power—of the income or of the accumulated wealth of the buyer’ is the stereotypical description of conspicuous consumption. The Off-White mask buyers invest just on this public display of economic power to either attain or maintain a given social status, most often when they don’t actually have it. It’s their fantasy world where they can be what their accessories signify they are. It’s their own “philosophy of futility”.

In that context, “conspicuous consumption” hides a true behavioral addiction, an impulsive narcissistic behavior, or perhaps both. These are the exact psychological conditions induced by today’s consumerism—the urge for the gratification of hedonic expectations- as soon as possible. You can get a more accurate description of the current consumer attitude than this, and overpriced masks are just the tip of the iceberg.

The actual need is to wear a mask, any type of clinically proven, aesthetically pleasing protecting mask. Still, when you need your accessories to shout your class, money of fashion-status, this won’t satisfy you. And that is the pathogenesis of modern fashion, in a nutshell.

 

 

Yes to Paradise-Anastasia Bull’s fashion design work is an ode to personal utopias

 

How does each of us define paradise? Is something individually unique or a wishful thought for an -already- troubled mankind?  Anastasia Bull’s own personal paradise is a glittering, shinning opulent wonderland in toxic lilac tones-and a constant source of inspiration to her design work. A  2020 graduate from the Institute Of Fashion Design, Academy Of Arts And Design, FHNW University Of Applied Sciences And Arts in  Northwestern Switzerland, Bull is just embarking on a much promising fashion career-and already has the collection to prove it.

Sourcing inspiration from both historical costume design and modern glam scene, her work dives deep into the subconscious to enhance the wearer’s personal strength allowing the true personality to arise. Her approach is highly constructive and involves a very unique ‘conversation’ with the fabric itself while she intuitively drapes the pleats directly into fabric-waiting for the right shape to emerge itself. And while the process might seem heavy and tenuous, the finished work mostly expresses a truly uplifting feeling that celebrates individuality and promotes acceptance, though light shapes and paradisiac, ethereal forms. After all, isn’t paradise a place when everyone exists as the best version of themselves?

We caught up with her during a tumultuous Post-coronavirus world situation to discuss this new reality -and the artistic vision of a blissful utopia that trespasses it all.

 

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Anastasia Bull 2020 collection, photo by Camilla Fivian

 

How did you start being interested in fashion?

I got interested in fashion when I was about 12 years old. I started watching fashion shows on YouTube and started drawing clothes and little collections. I have always been very fond of beautiful things, colors, and paintings.

Your work plays with shapes and volumes –how important are those elements to you?

I love to play with volume as it can have a very powerful effect on both the wearer and the observer. It can create a strength, an opulence. I believe that clothing has a considerable influence on our society. However, I think that the way fashion is handled in our society is very limited. People are not very experimental. Everything is always the same. There’s little individuality. I wish our society was more accepting. I think it needs more colors, more glitter and yes more volume. It would be like art, like flowers in the gray streets of our world.

What are your key fashion influences?

I like to think of interesting people (fictional and real) to meet up for dinner. For example Fran Fine from the 90s series „The Nanny“, Marie Antoinette, Sherlock Holmes, Rita Hayworth, Anne Boleyn, and Elizabeth Bennet. What would they wear? What would they talk about? What would they eat? How would they influence each other in terms of art, social norms, fashion, or behavior? I always like to think of this as a paradise where time is not really relevant.

Your clothes seem to come out through an elaborate construction process-take us through it.

Usually, I start with styling on a model. Then I collage over the printed pictures. At the same time, I start to illustrate looks and create first patterns. It is always a back and forth until you have a finished look. Sometimes things change significantly at the very last moment. Research and reference images are of course always very important.

When I work with pleated fabric, it is always very intuitive. I drape the pleated pieces onto a model to create a volume. Most of the time I only have a vague image in my head. I pleat my own fabrics. The interesting thing about pleated fabric is that you never know exactly how it will behave, how it will fall, how it can be bent. So it’s always a surprise.

In your Instagram account you make several references on historical costume-and films. How do you use the past to construct the future?

Almost all my references are of historical origin. I love the victorian era, the baroque, and the Renaissance. I love the way volume and materials were handled back then. Everything was much more voluminous and opulent. I love the challenge to create something new inspired by old patterns. Often it is only small nuances that make something contemporary. Colour, material, the right volume in the right place. It’s like a puzzle.

Yes to paradise. What kind of paradise is it?

My paradise is a place full of harmony. It is a utopia. A society with total acceptance. A society that can as well question if necessary. A place where everyone can exist as the best version of themselves. It’s a colorful place. A place where people bathe in opulence.

Any upcoming plans or events you’d like to share?

I will certainly complete a master’s degree in order to further pursue and manifest my utopias and visions. I wish that my clothes will soon be worn by many people and that I have an influence on our society with my ideas, even if it is only a teeny tiny influence. I think we’re all

 

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Anastasia Bull 2020, photo by Camilla Fivian

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Photo: Mark Siumin  © 2020 Institute of Fashion Design, FHNW Academy of Arts and Design

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Photo: Mark Siumin  © 2020 Institute of Fashion Design, FHNW Academy of Arts and Design

You can find more about Anastasia Bull on her websitehere

Wearing your values? Vegan fashion as a statement of protest

What we wear is a statement of who we are. Our clothes are way more than a stylistic choice; they are an expression of we perceive ourselves in the world. Clothes help us express our creative side and make a powerful statement of our aesthetics. In that sense, every single dress choice has a meaning, is a door to our tastes and beliefs.

In the case of vegan fashion, this statement is more powerful than ever. Every sustainable choice of an outfit or an accessory is actually a visual projection of our values. Ethical fashion is not only fashion, is a process of thinking and a way to view the world. It’s an ethical choice made public- a statement of values. Emmanuelle Rienda, the founder of the first Vegan Fashion Week, in LA, sees a new era coming:  “Cruelty-free is the new luxury. It is neither fashionable nor cool to wear a $3000 bag made of the skin of an animal. Nobody wants to walk around holding a dead baby calf.’’

What sustainable fashion means to vegan fashionistas

Many sustainable fashionistas define their style as an act of resistance and it’s hard not to make the connection. They claim that what they wear are in fact equally important with what they don’t wear- leather, fur, and all animal-made materials. Dressing ethically is, therefore, becoming an act of knowing thyself and your values-and challenging the world for what you believe.

Shruti Jain, the founder of Style Destino, a popular blog on sustainable fashion and vegan living. is adamant that: “Being a vegan doesn’t just involve eschewing meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and honey, but also the use of every animal products from your lifestyle. It means avoiding clothing and accessories made from leather, wool, silk, fur, feather, for example.’’.

A vegan lifestyle and dressing style is showing the world that cruelty-free clothes are not just a trend; they are an act of resistance towards modern consumerism. This kind of lifestyle allows consumers to take power in their hands and spend money where they think is just, thus influence the market. Or, as pioneer designer Stella Mc McCartney stated in her recent Numero interview: “the (animals’) path from A to Z of becoming a handbag or a pair of shoes is not pretty, it’s not fashionable, and it’s not even luxurious. Its murder.”

Shruti defines her role as the vegan influencers as one to initiate: “a process of positive change through my wardrobe. The visual impact that fashion has on people has multiplied with the rise of social media. I believe that through an ethical vegan wardrobe, you can demand change in the way fashion works today – exploiting people, the planet and the animals.”

Indeed, vegan fashion reflects a crucial shift in cultural values and community ethics. This new generation of conscious consumers is challenging traditional behaviors by choosing to dress as they live-beautifully and cruelty-free. Becoming vegan at this point means breaking away from the norm and challenging the whole western culture of animal exploitation-it is a choice of the ultimate personal expression inside the world.

If dressing is an act of freedom, being a vegan fashionista is, in fact, a conscious celebration of this freedom.’’ When an influencer shares the dark side of the fashion world, at the same time offering ethical alternatives the act serves a dual purpose. First, it educates the followers about inequality, cruelty, and injustice in the fashion world and then it also inspires them to bring a change because they can see alternatives.”, says Shruti.

Emmanuelle is equally aware her role is a pioneering one: “My role is to educate and create connections. Everybody wants to do better, she adds, we are just not aware of the reality of what we are pushed to consume.”

‘’Isn’t that what activism really is – campaigning for a social change?  asks Shruti. “.In this case, it would be Fashion Activism – inspiring people to forego animal and human cruelty from their wardrobe – because it’s unnecessary and uncool!”

 

Shruti Jain is the founder and the EIC of  ‘Style Destino‘, a popular blog on sustainable fashion and vegan living.

Emmanuelle Rienda is the Founder of the first Vegan Fashion Week, LA

 

Clothes that say Stay Away: The new fashions of social distancing are here

“The body is a big sagacity, a plurality with one sense, a war and a peace, a flock and a shepherd. ”

~Friedrich Nietzsche

Quarantine has made us questions things we took for granted –and deal with things we never thought we will be dealing with. Enter: the importance of social distancing. Clothes have become the main venture of securing our physical personal space while out-a a physical barrier between us and the others around us.

In a world where going to the supermarket requires ritual-like preservation much like preparing for a matter of life-and-death, it feels natural to question our relationship with the rituals-accessories: our clothes. We now use clothes to cloth us and then-to primarily protect us from the others while out. In fact, as we are running out of social occasions to dress-up, we place function over fashion-at least at first. This way clothes became our physical barrier. And yet this is not the first time.

Clothing has long served as a useful way to mitigate close contact and unnecessary exposure. In this current crisis, face masks have become a fashion accessory that signals, “Stay away.” In the historical past, keeping distance especially at a sociopolitical level (between genders, races, and classes) was an interchangeable part of social life. This type of social distancing didn’t have to do with hygienic rules or personal isolation, the key focus shifted towards class distinction and preserving an etiquette for it.18th century voluminous skirts were a signifier of the upper class in the 28th century-avoiding household chores was a privilege only a few women could enjoy-and thus wear impractical clothing.

In the same sense, socially-distancing large hats with sharp metal needles as hairpins took over to protect women from potential suitors that would set female bodies into the dangerous territory of close encounters with a stranger or worse-a suitor.

So what do we wear today to signify other to keep away-or to force them? If there are social distancing fashions of now-what do they say about our perception of self-and most importantly, of the body we live in? For Henry Miller, “Our own physical body possesses a wisdom which we who inhabit the body lack. We give it orders which make no sense.”

Does avoiding the physicality of the other make, over time, sense? When the other becomes the potential enemy, physicality is detested, best avoided. Everything that comes out of a body is problematic and potentially contagious. How this will develop in terms of fashion and trends remains to be seen. One thing is certain, the fashions of the future will be seriously considering social distancing a virtue, reborn.