Is fashion art? [Part 2]

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#NEWSERIE – Jose Romussi | cargo collective

We can look at fashion in two ways:

a) look at their functional aspect that enables clothing to keep us warm, giving us erotic appeal, adorning us

or

b) regard them as beautiful objects of aesthetic contemplation by “disregarding the concept under which they fall and therefore ignoring their functional dimension. They could be (as indeed they are) objects of admiration in a museum (Miller, 2007).

It is a quote like Guillaume Apollinaire’s (1927) in Le poète assassiné that could potentially help us understand what sentiments fashion could invoke within a person: “Fashion is becoming practical and no longer looks down on anything. It ennobles everything. It does for materials what the Romantics did for words (Apollinaire, 1999). It is this power of fascination, historical value and freedom of identity that makes fashion a strong subject of interest, regardless of whether one agrees to its status as art or not.

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Issey Miyake outfit on the cover of Artforum magazine, Feb 1982

The Artforum editor that put the Issey Mikaye dress on the February 1982 cover, Ingrid Sischy, sparked controversy by associating dress with art, but she even admits she doesn’t necessarily think fashion is art, but still poses the question as to why the definition for artistic creativity is so narrow as to be characterised purely as a painting in a frame (Spindler, 1996). She even described fashion designers from the likes of Muccia Prada, Rei Kawakubo and Karl Lagerfeld as the “equivalent breakthrough visually, as there was when artists broke through the idea of the picturesque’’ and carries on the comparison by saying: “The most creative and the most attuned designers are revolutionising what a palette means, what a line means, a shape. For fashion, it’s the equivalent creativity of Cubism” (Spindler, 1996).

For Sischy, the difference between art and fashion lies in the system in which fashion is judged. She points out the lack of system in which people could step back and really look at a piece of clothing or at a look and truly think about it: what it means, what it represents, what it might convey, as opposed to keeping a level of debate and interest to a low and superficial level (Spindler, 1996).

Fashion adheres to quite a few of the philosophies mentioned in a previous extract, in that is not always aesthetically pleasing, more often than not is based on a mood and an inspiration which gives it meaning and it portrays the personality of the designer or the house that design it. It can make us feel tremendous joy, pain, even shock, can be anchored in our minds forever and it can take us back to times we never experienced or lived in. Unfortunately, this might not be enough. There is no definitive answer as to whether fashion is art. This might have been possible if the fashion system was different if designers had more time to work on their creations, and if a real platform was offered to viewers to judge the art. Fashion can also still be linked to status and frivolity as it is not used as a marketing tool by celebrities and bloggers to manifest their status to the world.

This way of looking at fashion as a sign of status could be undermining its true meaning. Evidently, some of fashion’s best moments happened off the runway. As Ms Sischy stated so adequately:’’At the opening of the Andy Warhol Museum in May 1994, the most fabulous moment was when these dames emerged in their Halston-designed dresses when Andy had done the fabric’’ (Spindler, 1996).

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Andy Warhol x Rob Halston collaboration (Fall 1974) 
Halston and Warhol: Silver & Suede exhibition poster at The Andy Warhol Museum 

Indeed, fashion is not only about what happens in big fashion houses. It is as much about history as it is about contemporary happenings. Indeed, innovation was always at the forefront of the fashion world, as well as a constant shift in clothing styles. Most of these changes were inspired by art movements or social shifts in societies. This can even date back to the time of French king Louis XV’s time when his mistress Madame Pompadour established Rococo fashion, described as a happy, fresh style in pastel colours, and subsequently, light stripe and floral patterns became popular. We could even look at Marie Antoinette who became the leader of French fashion, as did her dressmaker Rose Bertin. She basked in extravagance and it became her trademark, which ended up majorly fanning the flames of the French Revolution.

In the next section, we will look at fashion in the 20th Century, how it cultivated ideas, what art movements were the catalysts of modern fashion, and take a look at what could be described as the early show-pieces.

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Fashion x Future

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Gucci AW18 – Illustration by Cynthia Bifani

The Gucci AW18 show took quite a few of us by surprise. It felt like the dawn of a new age, where fashion merges with fantasy. The movie industry is expanding its superhero/alien/fantasy genre and it seems fashion is following the trends of the decade of the Geek. I am glad to see the drama and storytelling of fashion are back, and I am beyond excited. It’s like a tame flashback to the 1999 Givenchy collection by McQueen, where women were imagined as robots. Fashion has become a show again, riddled with political messages and cyborgs, offering escapism for our cultural conditions and anxiety.

 

It seems that everytime the world faces the challenges of a cultural, political and social divide, we as a species tend to find a revolution in art and fashion. This is true of all major economic crashes throughout history. This is also true of all times of rebellion. The 60s brought us the emancipation of women while the 70s only wanted to find love and peace in the midst of a climate that was incredibly divided. Then we had the punks who had enough of the misery they were living. The 90s exploded sex rebellion and overt theatricals to make us dream. It seems we are now living in a time that encompasses all of the issues stated above, and this is so close to erupting through artistic consciousness. We want the future to be better. For us, for them, for you. Speculation turns into art now.

▽ Gucci x Fantasy

Models carry their own severed heads, a baby dragon, other seem to have grown a third eye or horns; a seminal work pf post-humanist theory.

▽ Moschino x Fruity Aliens

In true Moschino fashion: Alien Marilyn and Jackie O, hyper-glam robots, referencing the talk of “illegal alien”

▽ Alexander Wang x The Matrix

The Matrix meets working girl. Sharp and tailored looks, shoulder pads and patent trench coats and rectangular glasses, taking us back to John Galliano’s Dior 1999 collection.

▽ Prada x AI

Recruiting AI Instagram star @lilmiquela, offering a sci-fi twist a futuristic feminist utopia in fluorescent lights. Creepy AF, but this is one of my favourite collection this year.

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▽ McQueen x Metamorphosis

Models transforming into butterflies and moths; tailored jackets, exaggerated silhouettes, wing-looking bows and kaleidoscope prints.

▽ Balmain x silver metal

Shiny metallics, neon, and shitloads of sequins reminiscent of robotics, but keeping silhouettes incredibly feminine. This collection made my year.

 

Lacoste’s Save our Species series

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Lacoste released an endangered species collection last week. The polo shirt usual crocodile logo was swapped for the images of 10 endangered species in an effort to raise awareness and help counter their threat of extinction. On the left breast of the shirt, we can the Gulf California porpoise, the Burmese roofed turtle, the Sumerian tiger, the Anegada ground iguana and the northern sportive lemur, amongst others.

Only 1175 t-shirts were released on the market, and these numbers were calibrated for each series to the amount of the remaining animals in the wild; i.e. only 30 were released with the California porpoise, while 450 were available with the Anegada iguana. T-shirts have already sold out after less than a week on the market and proceeds went to the sponsor of the event, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This is the start of a three-year partnership between the brand and the IUCN.

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“The Lacoste crocodile is one of the world’s most iconic logos, proudly displayed on the brand’s famous polos for the past 85 years,” said the Lacoste in a statement. “For the first time in the brand’s history, BETC has initiated a change of the logo.”

“Lacoste and BETC worked closely with IUCN’s experts to define and select ten threatened species, whose animals have been designed by the Lacoste studio to create the logos, adopting exactly the same embroidery approach as the historic Crocodile,” it continued.

The element of design in this campaign is so basic and yet so powerful. Lacoste has found a way to stay true to its aesthetic, raise awareness at all levels of consciousness, but also catered to the fashion fanatic. It is the sweet balance between targeting people who care about the endangered species and would love to spend about £135 for proceedings to go to the IUCN, and the people who crave and need the exclusivity of these polos. The hype and the cause all gelled into a recipe for success: sales, interest, fashion, nature, awareness, responsibility.

Cultural appropriation is a joke

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Turbans at Gucci AW18 cause “cultural appropriation” uproar.

Every single year, every single season, designers use inspirations from an array of cultural references. And every single year, every single season, an article about “cultural appropriation” pops up to make us feel bad about appreciating the beauty of cultures we do not adhere to.

To me, this is becoming a matter of societal divide. When people cannot speak their mind or use their brains because of social “convention”, this attacks our freedom of speech and individual thought. This is not a good way to go to achieve any kind of prosperity in the future. What I am about to write only attempts to appeal to your humanity. Do you really want to connect with your peers? Then learn about them.

▽ Nobody is denigrating your culture

Some people are offended by the lack of knowledge of their peers when it comes to different cultures. I am Lebanese and in the 10 years I have been living in Europe, believe me, I have heard some gems over the years, but I was never truly offended by people’s comments. I found myself laughing at their ignorance, and that was it.

I tried to make a point that my country is beautiful, and yes we do have milk, and no we don’t go to work on camels, and no I did not spend my life in a tent in the desert. Really that was it. I also realised people are genuinely interested in what I had to say.

So before getting offended, take a minute to remember that most educational systems like the ones in the UK and the US are actually not great, and that geography and history and general knowledge are not really offered to a student, and that not knowing doesn’t necessarily mean people are racist or trying to offend you. Some people just don’t know.

▽ Multiculturalism is a massive part of globalism

Today, the biggest social development facing fashion and art is globalism. The world is interconnected and familiarity with different cultures and facility with diversity are essential. There is an understanding that there is work to be done when it comes to reconciling the European intellectual origins and its colonialist legacy. However, in an increasingly multicultural, internationally-geared world, the spread and influence of culture should be celebrated, not made shameful. In these difficult times, should we not be focusing on coming together, rather than trying to be divisive?

Building walls around cultures seems almost dangerous. Celebrating cultural diversity should be the main goal as opposed to putting people in boxes. This is the 21st century and sorry to burst your bubbles, but ethic ‘purity’ is not nonsense.

▽ Inspiration should not be confined to a box

Let’s be honest here; inspiration comes from everywhere and everything – as it should! If you know how to research for a fashion collection, then you know the designer and their team have to go above and beyond to find inspiration and a real design focus. Inspiration can be anything, anywhere, anyone. Imagine being confined to the limits of what you are and what you know. So let’s say, I am Lebanese, in my 20s, with curly hair, middle class and I like, for argument’s sake, car tyres. If all my collections focused on that, I would be creating a whole lot of care tyre garments paraded on Lebanese models, and if I dared to reference lower class ways of life, I would be destroyed in the media.

Limits are dangerous. They can stall the growth and knowledge of a generation. It can stunt the beauty, refinement and wonder of art. What is the point of looking at something that you know? What will be left there to learn?

Refinery 29 posed the question “How can you be genuinely inspired by something without fully engaging with the ideals behind it? And at what point does it become fetishization instead of appreciation?” I say yes. A belief, a religion, a culture does not have to be embraced for it to be respected. If you want to discuss the fact that something can become fetishised, then I don’t care who uses it, one would have to look at why hijabs are used on the runway of a Muslim designer, or why is using the Christian cross ok for fashion purposes, but not a bindi? Was the use of the dragon in the Gucci show culturally appropriate the Khalesi culture. How far does this go? If you want to ban the use of culture in fashion, then ban it all, because I, for one, would not want my background and beliefs checked before I present a collection or an art piece. What has become of my freedom of expression?

 

Take a second to review what offends you. Is it really the turbans used at Gucci? Are dreadlocks on white models really offensive? Is a bindi really irresponsible? I’m starting to believe that people who agree with all this exaggeration are the only ones who are truly intolerant. As a Lebanese woman, I can honestly say that a collection inspired by Lebanese heritage would only do great things, and spread awareness about the lifestyle, the history and the culture. And in times when knowledge is at its lowest point, I can assure it will do more good than harm.

Let’s try to appreciate and celebrate different cultures. All we really have is each other. Embrace each other and stop making everyone feel bad for no serious reason. Have a conversation and actually listen. Seriously, who remembers the turbans in the Gucci show? I can only remember the dragon and severed heads. I mean, really I don’t think enough people care about this. I don’t care about it. I care about you impeding on my life, telling me what to think. Seriously, get over yourselves.

A memo on love

 

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Original illustration by Earth + Jade

 

I have been in a relationship for almost 7 years now. Through ups and downs, we made it past the dreaded 7-year itch and I am here to give a semi-educated opinion on how to make a relationship work.

In 2011, I turned 21 with him playing “Oh, Darling” to me in a room full of people. He was – and still is – a passionate musician ready to take me through a whirlwind of emotions and experiences I could have never seen coming.

You see, when I say we had ups and downs, I mean an insane rollercoaster of jealousy, fights, envy, resentment, anger – I even threw a book at his face once. The interesting thing about him is that the first month of our relationship was the strong anchor that brought us to this present day. It’s like on some level we always knew we were meant to be together because we saw each other in our purest form and wanted that to be our life forever. It didn’t matter that we exploded intermittently between periods of love because, at the end of the day, we knew our love conquered the rage that comes with growing up.

 

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We did, in fact, grow up together.  As I said previously, I met him when I was 20.  I hadn’t finished university yet and was living in a different country. He was 27 and just recently separated from his previous partner and going absolutely insane after getting rid of his responsibilities. I am now 27, an MA graduate with a penchant for spirituality and craftsmanship, and he is a 33-year-old respected musician in his field. And believe me, that shit most certainly did not happen overnight. It was a constant battle between self and love for the other.

The thing about our relationship, what makes it special, is that we allow each other to be free. We have worked through our anxieties, our jealousy, our feeling of inadequacy and we now let each other be. I have friends who ask me how I do it, and I can gladly say that I can only do this because I trust him fully and unconditionally.

 

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The thing I see the most in relationships around me is the lack of trust. This, in turn, can turn a potentially loving and caring relationship into a very heavy and tortuous one. I have learned, through my partner, that trying to make the other one jealous, or hiding something from them, can only bring discord, distrust and more insecurity to one’s relationship.

When people say ‘I don’t play games’, they usually do. Or else why mention it? Why not just be yourself and see if this works. I can be myself every single day. Like really myself. Can you honestly say the same? If not, I would strongly recommend taking a look at your relationship and just trying to talk to your partner. I have had lengthy conversations about a lot of issues my partner and I were harbouring. Some talks went on for seven fucking hours. Seven. Do you know how long that is? But we were open, honest, and it was hard to face our feelings but ultimately, it brought us to the final conclusion that we are in this together and most probably forever. From that, we learned to let go and pick our battles.

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I have had 5 lives since getting together with him. He saw me grow up, he helped me become the better version of myself. That would have never happened if I hadn’t let him. I can’t say we have it all figured out, but yesterday, we started fighting and, in a moment of unusual growth and maturity, we decided to just stop it. It just wasn’t worth our time. We know what we want, we know what our end goal is, and if that means not winning a fight once in a while, I can live with that.

Ultimately, trust your partner, invite them into your most intimate self. If you can’t do that with them, then who with? More importantly, accept them for who they are, nurture, trust and love them unconditionally. Only then will you truly know their true nature and know if they are the one for you. Never be afraid to get hurt because it’s always better to get hurt and know you didn’t miss out on love, rather than not take a leap of faith and wonder what could have been.

Happy Valentine’s day. I hope this year brings you nothing but love and growth.

 

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