Mary Katranzou SS 2020 show at Temple of Poseidon, Sounio, Greece

Meet Generation G: the Modern Greek Program at the University of Michigan Introduces Greek Creativity to the World

They say the definition of true creativity is going back to your roots-only to project them further into the future. Greeks have been doing it since the beginning of history, carrying a tradition that once set them at the forefront of innovation. Modern Greek creators masterly incorporate this tradition into new perspectives in all aspects of creative arts.

Showcasing this creative buzz was exactly what the C.P. Cavafy Professorship initiative aims: to create a video series of interviews with creative people who self-identify as Greek and aim to make the world better and brighter. Those series of conversations with Greeks that have made their mark on modern creative arts aim to further showcase their work and their perception of society. The overall project is the brainchild and the joint venture of Professor Artemis Leontis and journalist VOGUE Greece editor Giota Tachtara and is set to present into the world the view and creative force of Greek creatives that make a difference.

.“Like any other exciting project, it started out as a friendly conversation over coffee and tea with Professor Artemis Leontis and the amazing team that makes the Modern Greek Program here, at the University of Michigan. We always talked about how foreigners see Greece and how they’re not really familiar with anything contemporary, so we thought we should put together a project that would focus on artists, scholars, activists, etc to introduce to the world the amazing things that this generation is doing.” says Giota Tachtara in an email interview for TheStyleTitle.

In fact, the vibrant Greek-American community in Ann Arbor has been more than supportive of the initiative; it actually felt like a communal team effort. The covid-19 pandemic did felt like a threat to the execution of the overall program, but Greeks do thrive through difficulties. “The original idea was to invite everyone here to give talks and interview them and give them a chance to interact with the brilliant students of the Modern Greek Program and the community, but the traveling restrictions and the new covid rules about gatherings in the university changed everything. Even with zoom though, I think we’ve achieved our goal to have inspiring talks, κουβέντες while exploring the challenges of this era and all the new ideas that come out of it.” comments Ms. Tachtara.

The program has launched with no other than Mary Katranzou herself- it even incorporated audience questions that allowed the revered designer to further elaborate on her work and inspiration from her Greek roots. And what an inspiration it has been! Interviewed by VOGUE Greece editor Giota Tachtara and featuring questions from students and the broader community, Katratzou had the rare opportunity to talk about her approach on textiles, shapes, and design, her appreciation of ancient Greek mythology-and that iconic SS2020 fashion show at the ancient temple of Poseidon in Sounio, Greece. Her journey from central Saint Martin’s School to fame has been the blueprint for many aspiring Greek creatives that aim to present their work to the world through innovating techniques, returning to traditional craftsmanship, and fresh strategy plans.

In the end, this is what Generation G is all about, a new generation of artists and creatives that redefine Greek culture and widen its reach. Ms. Tachtara sums it up: “G stands for Greek, Gifted, and Global. They identify as Greeks, they’re doing amazing things and they can live anywhere on the planet. It’s a generation that could truly change the world and make us feel very optimistic about the future of Greece and Greek culture.  “Amen to that. From a fellow Greek.

Learn more about the program here

Lil Miquela Instagram

Created Perfect: Virtual Influencers Are Redefining What is Real

Mugler’s artistic director Casey Cadwallader isn’t one to be afraid of a challenge. The new post COVID19 reality meant Mugler’s new film showcasing the collection starring Bella Hadid, had to be done differently and safely-from a distance. Then the idea came up: “What if we make her into an avatar?” Bella was prepped in a New York studio and styled by Haley Wollens -with Cadwallader monitoring the digitization shoot via Zoom. “Digi-Bella”, Bella’s virtual avatar for Mugler was born.

Digi -Bella isn’t the first: In an era where influencers, or as now called, public opinion leaders, dominate social media, H2R (Human 2-Robot) interaction is evolving at a rapid pace. And while we seem to be years away from actually encountering robots on the streets, social media is the place when virtual influencers are taking center space. Fictional computer-generated people, with realistic human characteristics, features, and personalities to match, are becoming our newest social media friends and influencers.

Some of the most popular virtual influencers such as Lil Miquela and Seraphine Song have already reached well over the million-follower milestone as people all over the world continue to be infatuated with their ‘lives’ Lil Miquela, perhaps the most popular of all, is an avatar operating under a strict code of directions while working with brands and advertisers creating partnerships to promote products or services. Her success has inspired more venture capitalists to invest heavily in virtual creators and progress the technology forward; it’s of no surprise that for Danika Laszuk, general director of Betaworks’ startup boot camp, the future is digital beings that actually are powered. “Avatars and robots are the future. I would very much commission a digital model for a project,” tells us No.3 Media owner Mark Barnard. “Imagine how easier it would become; tiredness and needs would be eliminated. Still, he confesses, I feel there will be no real spark, no personality.”

Still, doesn’t it all feel a bit… weird? “The boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion,” wrote Donna Haraway in her famous 1985 essay “A Cyborg Manifesto.” And while she was talking about ways to use technology to make bodies more livable and society more ethically coherent, it very much feels she is actually talking about Lil Miquela and her friends. The question remains: in a world where personas can be created specifically to be famous, how do human influencers compare? Virtual influencers are programmed and monitored, allowing the owning company total control over their actions. The issue of human influencers acting out of persona and hurting their image and followers is simply eliminated.

When some of the most popular influencers are actually digital beings powered by AI, the questions are mounting. Can a collection of pixels represent anything, while taking a job that could have gone to an underrepresented group? And what is the true representation after all? If a medium has the power to shape the truth, then we have to wonder if anything is actually true at all. Are we dreaming of an idealized future where human difference is resolved not through political struggle but through digital morphing? Are we in fact in a quest for algorithmic sublime ideals? To address those questions, we caught up with industry experts, Ollie Rankin, VR Storyteller and a VFX Supervisor at Pansensory Interactive and Christopher Travers founder of  Virtual Humans.

So are virtual influencers the future of fashion and advertising? For Ollie Rankin, they are. “I would instead say that virtual influencers are part of the future of fashion and advertising. It’ll be a while before virtual influencers are able to engage in anything more than superficial conversations, so humans will still have a place. But there are already a number of reasons it makes sense for virtual influencers to become more common. They are very low maintenance and low risk compared to humans. What brand doesn’t want an influencer that’s always awake, never asks for anything, is always on brand, has no skeletons in their closet, and zero risk of quitting or creating bad press?”

Travers is aware that the fashion and advertising industries are in need of value content. “The fashion and advertising industries as flashy industries that depend on glance value, followed by substance, to succeed. Virtual influencers provide that nuanced glance value and, when paired with a captivating story, provide the substance consumers crave out of media experiences. The ability to engage consumers strongly concretes virtual influencers as the perfect pairing for brands. Virtual influencers are the perfect tool for fashion and advertising heads to accomplish their goals.”

Virtual influencers are indeed created perfect. And yet, how does this align with the age of body positivity and acceptance? “That’s a great question and it’s too soon to answer with certainty, says Rankin. “On the one hand, virtual influencers could reinforce ideal body stereotypes and encourage body shaming. But, by being known to be artificial, they could also lead us to finally internalize as a society the fact that the public image of celebrities and influencers isn’t a realistic portrayal of human imperfection. The best case here is that it actually leads to more body positivity and acceptance.”

For Travers, the whole idea is  knowing whether an experience is real or ‘created real’. “Virtual influencers are perfectly imperfect. Every decision they make or freckle they have are preconceived for a purpose. I would say that as long as people know whether or not the experiences they consume are fictional or nonfiction, they can derive a proper judgment of their own self-worth in relation to that media or message.” Still, he showcases the dilemma: “Humans derive ideals of self-worth from the fictional storylines out of Hollywood and the non-fiction storylines out of social media influencer culture. The Kardashians built an empire blurring the lines between fiction and non, negatively morphing millions of impressionable humans’ perception of self along the way. Virtual influencers, while fake, are as capable as any human at promoting body positivity and acceptance—it all comes down to the message they try to send and the story they tell.”

And this is an important question to ask. Are AI and VR technology actually blurring the line between what is ‘real’ and what is not? Definitely, says Rankin. “And we’re only just at the beginning. Deep fake and related AI approaches to creating images and video are becoming closer and closer to reality every day. At the moment the computational demands of AI and VR are too high for current consumer hardware to create a virtual reality that is indistinguishable from the real reality. Frame rate/latency and resolution/fidelity are the barriers right now, but the hardware and software continue to improve, almost exponentially. When AI is able to create real-time photoreal spatial recreations of reality in VR, it will finally be possible to fool all the people all the time.”

Christopher Travers also believes there has to be a solid distinction of those worlds. “There’s the real world, then there’s the digital world, which is a construct existing inside of the real world. The digital world is growing thanks to the onset of stereos, televisions, phones, computers, and now smartwatches/AR glasses. These devices are literal windows to digital consumption. When we open those windows, we create a new connection between the digital world and the real world. When we power down a device, we close a window. The line between what is real and what is not existing at and only at, these windows. It’s up to you to recognize that everything you consume in the digital world is idealized and constructed, just like the digital world itself. Today, the line between what is real and what is not is simply numb.”

‘Imagine The Future’-The 35th Hyeres Festival Promotes Creativity in a Time of Crisis

We already know this is a fashion season with many changes-and the Hyeres International Festival of Fashion and Photography was no exception.  Its new corona-affected version, took place at the Villa Noailles, as usual, but with several members of the jury not physically attending it. Nonetheless, with the help of Zoom, both the president of the fashion jury Jonathan Anderson and the president of the photography jury Paolo Roversi as well as Tim Blanks, model Kaia Gerber, Tyler Mitchell were able to exchange insights on artistic freedom, fashion creativity-and vote for the winners.

Did all that influence the perspective of the jury? Unavoidably. This 35th edition of the Hyères Festival was indeed significant in many ways. It showcased the importance of digital presentation over physical events and questioned the very idea of creativity in a time of crisis. The work of the competing designers focused on hard questions and offered solutions based on traditional craftsmanship, personal experiences, and no-limits experimentation.

“What I thought was so amazing was that all the designers are incredibly honest. And the authenticity level in each designer’s work is there—and it’s in them. I quite like that it’s not a total defined thing; it’s more about experimentation. We sometimes in this industry like things to be overnight successes. We want designers to immediately start a business, and we want what’s next. What’s really nice here is that each individual holds his own court, and at the same time, they have ideas that they are willing to experiment with. I think that we should allow that. It shouldn’t be like we want you to start a business tomorrow. I think it should be an experimental moment” , president of the jury J. Anderson told Vogue.

Perhaps nothing showcased this shift in values better than Tom Van der Borght, winner of the Hyeres First Award. The 42-year-old impressed with a menswear collection of intricate, colorful garments blurred the lines between fashion and performance art. Using diverse materials such as ropes, plastic cable ties, and Swarovski crystals he presented a very personal yet very modern new version of haute couture based on craftsmanship. His win told us exactly what we seemed to forget:  the idea of the fashion designer focused on a persistent seek for experimentation only to illustrate a very personal point of view. In his view, there is nothing more modern than being unique.

Uniqueness perhaps is the message from Hyeres and the one that could save this season. The industry needs to remember it’s not youth per se that will save the world, is talent, experimentation, and perseverance.  A clear point of view- and a dream, this is the luxury of the future. “We need to find a new definition of luxury. We are so used in classic luxury materials such as gold or leather –but I love using materials others don’t find interesting.”  Tom Van der Borght told AFP. And we couldn’t agree more.

Man and the Machine-an Interview with Pioneering Illustrator and Digital Artist Patrick Morgan

To say that Patrick is one of the most successful illustrators of today would be an understatement. Still, how do you define the work of a multidimensional creator that took his design art to territories unexplored? A true modern-day homo Universalis, he has created a personal visual universe while creatively incorporating top-notch technology and innovation into the process. Pioneering digital innovation in his field, Morgan’s work opens up new opportunities for disruption and discussion on man and the machine. Mixing art and science, his projects are a combination of XR, AI, VR, and old school artistic craftsmanship. His clients? Tom Ford, YSL, LVMH, Christian Dior, Fendi, Schiaparelli, you name it, it’s there.

Like every true artistic soul, Morgan is also an educator. Indeed, he has been fusing relationships between industry and universities working with the RCA and Wallpaper* magazine, while giving a series of lectures at Tate Modern about future learning and critical thinking. Always pushing boundaries, he became the founder and director of the Fida Fashion Awards, the first global online awards to promote fashion illustration and drawing around the world, supported and partnered by some of the best brands and people in the fashion industry. Most recently, Fida presented the new Digital Innovation Fashion Awards in collaboration with Condé Nast and Wired Magazine and   ‘The Fashion Illustration Bible’, a book-showcase of the best illustrators around. The StyleTitle caught up with him to discuss creativity, future trends, and his ‘lifting creativity as we rise” mantra.

You have experimented with fusing traditional design with future trends. How do you envision the future of design?

Fusing, is a word I have started to use frequently, as I believe that it is imperative for artists, craftspeople, and designers to work much more, hand in hand with machines and technology.  As technology becomes more available and affordable to a non-industrial system, creatives will be able to get much closer to competing on a smaller scale with industry. Future trends are driven by art, culture, music, and life and true artists will always be immersed in tradition, so disguising their process through more technological workflows will become much more apparent. Ever since Duchamp introduced the Read-made and Jeff Koons incorporated an industrialized system to his final work, embedding a restyle or appropriated piece from the past.

You define yourself as an ‘educator’. How important is the education process for you?

Education is a major part of shared knowledge and as a creative educated through art school, I feel the need to pass on wisdom and information. This is the only way to progress and make ideas better and more progressive.

Is modern design a case of art versus the machine?

Modern design will either be a collaboration or reaction against the Machine. The creative will either choose to work alongside the technology or they will choose to embed it into their daily work. Artists and creatives have always looked for the new. This is what makes things exciting and different, creating pastiches of the past won’t inspire us to provoke new thoughts and open diverse conversations.

Do you feel that digital is the way fashion should go in a post corona era?

No, Digital and fashion, like art will always be in flux. Artists like Jonathan Anderson is reacting to digital and using and promoting a much more traditional way of working, where Iris Van Herpen is embracing the future, pushing the envelope of what the machine or technology can do to enhance her final design.

Tell us about your current book project-and your future ones.

I am currently working on a few books, firstly a book Celebrating Fida, a platform I have created for fashion artists and illustrators to celebrate this amazing field of talent. Fida will be a year old and we have worked with Peter Dundas, running a competition reflecting on his past works and Celine Dion on imagining her future through the lens of fashion illustration. The second book will be for a show I am creating with an ex-student of mine, looking as tastemakers of the past and art collecting of today. Opening the question of what art brings to your personal wellbeing and how we desire to be surrounded by beautiful things or art that makes us feel happier or more powerful

More of Patrick Morgan’s work can be found here

Paris Fashion Week Offered Us Escapism. To All Different Directions.

This was undoubtedly a unique Paris Fashion Week. In the new post COVID- reality, designers chose to showcase their work in a mixture of physical and digital formats that included socially-distanced shows, show-in-a-box marvels, and digital presentations. In the noticeably quieter Paris streets, those fashionistas and influencers that have made it to the Paris capital were hosting their own style parade. Yet the true fashion drama was once more unfolding inside the shows’ closed doors. Creating a response to the global health crisis seemed to be in the show notes of almost every designer-their ‘concepts’ delved into the idea of overcoming the pandemic wiser and with a new wardrobe at hand.

Fashion has been attributed to an almost mythical escapism ability since forever; the medium to overcome every hard reality through imagination. In the past few seasons, designers’ collections reacted to the political upheavals and uncertainty created by environmental issues and protests of unrepresented minorities. Their runways showed their frustration and staged their protests. The belief that the fantastical experience of fashion can offer the wearer joy and provide an escape to colorful utopias was very much part of the equation. Then,  the pandemic stroke.

Fashion is a reflection of our times. The idea that vibrant escapism will always be a thing when things get darker and gloomier started to radically shift. In post-apocalyptic times, some designers are making references to an unsettling, harsh future lingering; a labyrinth from it there may be no escape visible. The SS21 Digital Paris Fashion Week season was an amalgam of attitudes towards a new reality that sometimes leaves us hopeless and angry. Escapism from the world health crisis took many forms, from going at the disco to dreaming awake.

Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior understood the previous codes may not be applicable now. At least, in the show notes; she evoked poetry and imagination as an escapism method that always works. The execution didn’t offer a radical shift from what Dior has been morphed under her creative direction: a combination of loose trousers, structured bar jackets, turbans, and a feminist essence that didn’t seem to translate well in actual design. We need poetry to escape. Instead, Dior offered well-crafted pajamas. It didn’t go well.

Olivier Rousteing decided he’d better react as if the pandemic had not taken place at all. The show had one piece of music playing on a loop – ‘Blinding Lights’ by The Weeknd while the Balmain army strutted in typical overly exaggerated Balmain tailoring (think exaggerated shoulders and bell-bottoms). Then, the eveningwear came. There were recycled Swarovski crystals on clothes that looked appropriate for a pre-pandemic great night out-or for the nights to come after new normality sets in. This was the kind of dreamy heaven that posed serious existential questions-to the viewers. In a fashion world that tried hard to reposition itself in those post-apocalyptic times, is this type of response adequate?

Demna Gvasalia tried to offer answers in that direction-but the execution was far away from what we’d call new. And while his statement largely followed the idea of “imagining how fashion will be in 2030”, the collection was very much Balenciaga 2020. Stripped off its great styling and video paraphernalia, the clothes looked very much last season’s hype. There were hoodies, oversized trench coats, and sunglasses worn at nightlight, you get the picture.

Just about when I’ve lost all hope, there came Rick Owens to save the season, once more. I am not an expert in his work but I could clearly see the designer’s ability to both be true to himself and create something radically new-one show at the time. His idea of reacting to doom was aggression and revolt-just not the gloomy type you’d normally expect. “I just might be leaning into a taste for the lurid; that an undercurrent of thread and dread can inspire bubble-gum pink and alarm red,” he explained. No escapism bubble here, just a sincere revolt towards those ugly, unprecedented times. His sum-up of the collection was telling. “Grim gaiety,” he replied, when asked by Vogue.

Perhaps the feeling of the season.

Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons Co-design the Uniform of a New Generation

Fashion collaborations are usually met with excitement and expectations from both sides. Still, no else can be compared to the buzz created by Raf Simons’s and Miuccia Prada’s first co-designed collection moments after its announcement. The coronavirus pandemic made their dialogue a mostly remote one-but as the Prada show proved yesterday, a fruitful one whatsoever.

The much-expected show began in a runway overhung with camera rigs and screens displaying each model’s name while walking the runway. This concept of exploring the relationship between humans and technology as shaped by current reality is a pivotal part of the collection and a theme that runs through it. This “dialogue”, as the designers stated in the show notes, was “the first example of myriad possibilities” based on an “a fundamental examination of the meaning of Prada”. The collection indeed was a hybrid of the two creators’ best qualities, a dive into their best moments applied into a distilled version of what is essential. Some might say a new everyday uniform for out turbulent times.

In fact, the pair spent recent months working on the importance of a uniform –something to feel well in it-and think. They also discussed the nature of clothes that make us want to wear the most. “The thing I’ve talked most about with Miuccia over these past months is uniforms. True, metaphorical ones.” said Simons. “It’s something in which you feel good, in which you can express what you want to express without it being a season-specific fashion item,” he noted.

The show opened up with what can be seen as their first take in the idea of a Prada ‘uniform’; 90s inspired trousers and a sleeveless, tunic-length tee worn with sling backs in strong, contrasting colors. One could not avoid noting the supersized, almost space-like Prada logo on all T-shirts, in case you forgot we are talking about the perfect fashion uniform, an elevated take on the leisurewear we all came up wearing daily during quarantine. The next silhouettes were a nod to both Simons’ last shows at Jil Sander as well as Prada’s take on minimalism in the 90s; there were jumpers worn with belted, full pleated skirts, roomy coats clutched a-la Miuccia, and slim-fit trousers worn with tunics. Then, there was the occasional Raf touch: the hole jumpers, the prints on skirts, the tailoring of the anoraks.

In a quote provided by the house for Vogue, Miuccia explained further the thinking behind the collection: “In a time of incredible complexity: What matters? What is meaningful? That is a question we asked ourselves. We wanted to create something that makes sense to people, something that is useful. Everything we do should allow people to live better.” In another provided quote, Simons elaborated: “The show is about emphasizing humanity. It is about women, and everything around them supports them, showcases their characters.”

Sometimes new things come up through the unification of tried and trusted qualities. This was a collection that questioned the very idea of newness for the sake of it. For both creators, the present is a direct result of the past-of all the things we love and define us. In that sense, it was successful-and humane.

New York Fashion Week Was All about Individuality, Not Fashion

There two ways to react to an almost post-apocalyptic reality: to address it or to ignore it altogether while diving in frenzied escapism. For most New York Fashion Week designers, the idea of setting trends appeared less and less enticing-instead they opted to celebrate individuality and self-acceptance. A good cause, indeed. From luxury pajamas to re-invented classics, this stripping back to fashion basics had a lot to do with manifestos-but nothing with design.

Optimism aside, New York Fashion Week has been having a serious identity crisis even before the pandemic. This season, one with no buyers and no influencers, street style stars or international press, most of America’s big names saved power for later. The Row, Proenza Schouler, Ralph Lauren were absent while the typically flamboyant Tom Ford show was replaced by a series of images showcasing the designer’s offering for the season. Ten new names made their debut but did very little to overturn the feeling that there was something seriously lacking-be it emotion, inspiration, or simply, design.

In fact, all the best moments were those that fashion innovation gave way to fierce manifestos on individuality and uniqueness. For the resurrected Imitation of Christ, Tara Subkoff enlisted a group of LA-based teenage female skateboarders to create a film showcasing their bad-ass confidence and skils. Initially, a “political art project disguised as a ‘fashion house’”  the brand’s team staged a show in L.A. and one in New York where they screened the collection video unexpectedly accompanied by opera hits. It was nothing new but was refreshing, full of youthful energy, and fitting for a brand that started off with tremendous success 20 years ago.

Maisie Schloss, who launched her brand, Maisie Wilen, last year, had her own statement to make. Schloss started as a designer at Yeezy and knows one thing or two about unexpected materials and on-trend design. For her collection, she focused on creative ‘weirdness’ and the idea of seeing clothes through screens.The designer didnt shy away from the back her work is almost made to be Instagrammed, in fact, she embraced its two-dimensional qualities by using strong trompe l’oeil techniques.

Yet, it was Private Policy’s collection that summarized the New York season. The genderless streetwear label used CFDA’s new digital platform Runway 360, to present their Spring 2021 collection called “Searching for Aphrodite.” For designers Haoran Li and Siying Qu, Aphrodite is a notion of beauty that goes far beyond the stereotypical approaches, a call for inclusion and representation that is characteristic to the brand since its birth. Their many Afrodites included vitiligo Calvin Klein star Yvesmark Chery, amputee musician Marsha Elle and Dominique Castelano, who dedicated her inclusion to “all the hot queer Asians,”. As in most New York Fashion Week cases, the message was indeed powerful, the clothes came second best. Or as Tom Ford best-summarized it “the last thing I want to see is serious clothes”. Well, you got it.

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.”