Thursday, 28 May 2009

War is an ugly thing

Another major trend to be constantly re-used and recycled on the catwalk and in fashion editorial is 'military' style fashion. Designers reel this look off so often that I wonder how some of them havent got repetitive strain injury.

I am basing this on nothing more than a general 'feeling', but am pretty sure that most of the British public dont really like war and dont really want to join the army. This is why I cant understand why a revoltingly large proportion of the population get feverishly excited by the presence of 'military fashion' every bloody season. Im no hippy, but the words 'military chic' actually send shivers down my spine.

Nothing strikes the fear of god in me like the image of catwalk models marching down the runway in military jackets and riding boots. Many designers actively evoke this image of 'the last bastion of british imperialism'. I nearly fell off my seat at the militancy of Paul Smith and Jasper Conran's catwalk shows this Feb (but I guess this is positively toned down from the days when their shows were actually held in the Chelsea barracks).

Moreover, and this is the really important thing, the military trend is one I genuinely call into question aesthetically. Take away the ideology behind it and its actually pretty ugly. It is yet another example of the way in which military culture permeates our society to the point were people still get pathetically excited at the concept of war. I think its called a 'pleasure culture of war' by historians, but no one has ever turned to the catwalk for evidence of this.
Miltary outfits are designed to intimidate and threaten. This is quite a disturbing trend for a modern girls look.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Lieux de Memoire

A thought hit me this morning (wham!) as I picked up my new copy of Vogue Paris. The front cover read 'New look forever', which, of course, refers to the infamous collection by christian dior which supposedly injected femininity and fun into women's wardrobes.

This got me wondering if fashion could be accurately read as a 'commemorative' act, which constantly re-works previous glories and references the past.

Pierre Nora and Maruice Hawlbachs are these french writers who proposed the idea of 'collective memory'. This refers to shared attitudes and seemingly implicit values which are held by a group of people (generally a nation). These attitudes, or 'memories' dictate how we think about the past, which in turn, plays a strong role in dictating how we think about the future. Then, when nations 'commemorate' the past, such as in big national celebrations, such as Bastille Day, they seek to shape the public's attitudes to their state and national culture.

If we apply this rule to fashion (and bear with me here), a definite fashion 'collective memory' can be exposed.If we think about fashion followers (!) as a group or collective (i mean here, Vogue readers for instance), then a collective fashion memory would sound a bit like this ('Coco Chanel- mother of the sophisticated woman's wardrobe- white/pearls/women's tailoring- mais oui! breton shirts- how chic!!' or '1960's fashion was just so liberating- mary quant- mini skirts- how sexy and fun!').

In actual fact, this is of course a very condensed and shallow opinion of what was actually (naturally) a long period of varied and diverse fashion. Fashion historians neatly categorise and thicken the narrative of fashion history into short segments, which can be easily digested and vivdly remembered among the public memory. Nietzsche and Foucault took major issues with this role of historians (though they didnt actually refer to fashion historians). They argued that the role of the historian should be to relay the truth to intellectuals and not try to interpret or simplify the past for the unintelligent pubic's digestion.

Fashion week 09/10 actually serves very well as an example to my thesis. The 80s comeback on the catwalk was relayed by fashion journalists to the public as a very defnite reference to our current economic climate etc etc. The re-invigoration of the shoulder-pad was a repetition of past fashion success applied to what seems to be a similar economic context to the 1980s. Designers seemed to be sayin- "Look how crap things were in the 80s, i mean, we all wore shoulder pads and thought that was ok, but then boom! the 90's took off and we all became rich again. Have faith. Our time will come when we will look back and laugh at these collections again, whilst sipping champagne".

Fashion historians reviewed the collections as Pierre Nora or Michel Foucault would have predicted: by making grand interpretations about what these clothes said about the recession. And some of them did it with great sincerity and no sign of irony.

Tradition would have it that the main mission of most major fashion houses is to constantly alter and adapt the winning formula they found once upon a time (yes- you Valentino!). A collection such as this can however be reviewed quite comfortably for journos. No-one likes an unpredictable designer, since they mess with the trajectory of fashion's unquenchable thirst for nostalgia. (Like, hello, Giles, what were you thinking in being so original?!)

I better stop here before I go a bit mad on this thought.

So, thought for the day: fashion is commemorative and the role of the fashion historian/journalist perpetuates this fact, since they use fashion and it's reinterpretation of past triumphs to make positive statements about the future. capiche?

Monday, 25 May 2009

Poverty, Passion and Persistence

Passion Persistence and Poverty

Fashion fills my head with exciting thoughts about social concepts and cultural theories. A cultural history student and a fashion intern, this blog is where I will see one through the other. Unashamedly niaive, I want to write about fashion as if I have borrowed the thinking cap of a great intellectual.

I want to look at collections, styles and trends and think about them as a manifestation of an idea, passion or cultural concept.

I’m going to use this blog to put down my ideas, so that my thoughts can become fully formed opinion and so I can stylistically improve my writing.

I like to think quite deeply and romantically about fashion and if I go to far, well, that’s kind of the point.