Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Exorcising spectres

Its been quite exciting for me to notice that one of the major trends to emerge from this season's fashion weeks has been the confrontation between fashion and feminism on the catwalk. Fashion for a long time has overlooked its problems and gone through each year pretending they dont exist. This season, things got more confrontational. Two long-haunting spectres of fashion have been raised up to walk on the catwalk and incite debate among the fashion reading public: the exploitation of female models and the promotion of gratuituous sexuality.

It happened first in London , with Mark Fast, who put a full stop at the end of his admittance that there is a problem with the way in which the fashion industry encourages a perfectly skinny image by using so called 'plus-size' models in his fashion show. His collection was bold and creative and in presenting a viable alternative- a real image of a fashion world without unhealthy models and unhealthy images, he brought the industry a small, but significant step closer to progress. If fat is a feminist issue, then Fast should be applauded for efforts to exorcise this ghost from the fashion industry.

Another haunting spectre, at least in feminism terms, has been the representation of the female figure in a gratutiously sexual display. This always happened at Milan. It was always gorgeous and totally self-aware, but it also presented fashion as a means of satisfying masculine desire. Success was achieved through curves- all tits and ass. This debate was paraded up and down the catwalk of Prada's A/W collection in fantastically parodic fashion. The one woman you dont expect to base a collection on tits and ass is Muccia Prada, but that was just the point.

The very basis of the collection was on 'how the idea of sexy is becoming a narrower one'and 'about the cliches that woman can't seem to give up'. Surrounded by a sea of fashion designers who have been obsessed for years with sexuality, Prada suggested, through these clothes, that the final barrier could be broached between feminism and fashion if woman abandoned their fixation with clothes as a means of satisfying men.

By exorcising these demons in a totally confrontational and honest way, Prada and Fast both signalled the possibility of abandoning old ideologies which render feminism incompatible with fashion and seeking new avenues, and new figures, through which female empowerment can be sought.