The Price of Futility-Say Welcome to 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.

Fashion has long been talking about the end of the world. Have we listened?

.The Coronavirus pandemic has been a surprise to most. Many countries and governments struggled to adjust to a new reality and take whatever action was needed in those unprecedented -and turbulent -times.

And yet, post-apocalyptical times have long been the topic of fashion. In fact, fashion designers have subtly-or more boldly-been talking about a dystopian end -of the –world situation coming. For those of us who attended last season’s Paris Fashion Week, the examples were more than obvious.

In fact, there was a great part of fashion designers that were dealing with modern man’s fall from grace -offering post-apocalyptic style collections that worked like mini-warnings for all mankind. Paris fashion week 2020 had at least three thigh profile shows addressing the issue of the world coming to an end as we know it because of man’s behavior. Marine Serre, Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga and Jun Takahashi for Undercover did exactly this.

Functionality aesthetics, elaborate protection face masks, utility clothing and staging that made references to post-apocalyptic times told us we need to worry about our future. So how come we didn’t listen?

Clothes are most than a piece of fabric; and fashion tells stories as Virginia Woolf notes: “Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us… There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not us them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking”

In that sense, fashion is a communication tool, an expression of social identity and this way one way or another it reflects the socioeconomic status quo Take it one step further, and fashion unveils the true mystery of the world, the visible, as Oscar Wilde would confirm. Fashion’s frivolity is a feast to the senses –but not only. By accurately reflecting its times, fashion in one of the semantic systems to reflect and thus predict the future.

Enter interpretation. Every system that can provide with information is always open to analysis and interpretation. The fashion critic of the past did exactly this-based in scientific knowledge, passion or insight, he would offer a lens through which we could view trends that exposed to forecasting the trends that are to come. Like every true artist, the fashion designer would consciously or subconsciously incorporate his knowledge and interpretation of the world translated into forms, shapes, embellishments.

When designers aren’t artists and fashion critics are fans, no true meaning can be extracted than this: fashion has lacked its unique ability to reflect the world. Can we hold  Millenial and Gen Z’ culture for rendering fashion synonymous with luxury and street style show off-only? Fashion criticism has long given place to relentless praise and press-release reviews that satisfy but don’t offer a view or a new meaning. It was this happy go-like side of the industry that maintained the fairytale-and the fairytale only.

This pandemic is a tragedy that holds many lessons. Let it one be the reinstallation of fashion as a tool for social discussion-and therefore-change. As an opportunity to dive into one of the greatest mysteries of this world-reality.