In September of last fall, nearly a week before the broadcast of Donald Trump’s “pussy” grabbing remarks, Maria Grazia Chiuri had a message of her own: “We Should All Be Feminists.” Even after the conclusion of her debut collection for Dior—the fashion house for which she herself is the first female to helm—the line lingered, leaping up off the Spring 2017 runway to quickly distill into the throngs of social reposts and Internet round-ups thereafter. The words, which referenced Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book-long essay of the name, point to inequality in an inherently masculine society, and the ascending political fears, both in the designer’s party-torn home of France and the world large.
Rendered as a T-shirt, the sentiment became emblematic of a season of concern, and, in the near months that followed, for Fall 2017—what seemed like minutes after Trump’s transition from disconcerting candidate to nightmarish head of the state—many other designers too sharpened their knives. Tucked into pleated chinos, a crisp Prabal Gurung crew neck on Bella Hadid in New York read “The Future is Female,” a phrase first coined by pioneer women’s bookshop Labyris Books that has been reclaimed today; while, in London, Indian-born Ashish Gupta dreamt of brighter days as bubble lettered lines such as “Unity in Adversity” and “Love Sees No Color” decorated his yellow brick runway. Others such as LRS outfit were less symbolic in their outcries: a poignant, cheek-tight pair of panties commanded “Fuck Your Wall” or Demna Gvasalia’s less than ironic Balenciaga tribute to Bernie Sanders.
Suddenly, runways across the globe became platforms for protest. How could they not? As Brexit did and continues to divide, Chechnya vilify, and ISIS destroy concurrently, life outside of Trump’s America hurts, too. The idea, it seemed, was clear: protect humanity from itself. Designers, perhaps the most interactive of artists by virtue of their form, engaged with outpour.
Historically, fashion has always been used to challenge. Like centurial costume, such as the colonial dresses that refused bear Spitalfields’ lush silks during the American Revolution, and decadal trends, say the mini skirt—gender politics’ Western uniform—modern collections too have been powerful instruments of social dissent. For a meeting with Margaret Thatcher in 1984, Katharine Hamnett wore her infamous “58% Don’t Want Pershing” dress-long shirt, from a collection that called for a worldwide nuclear ban. A decade later, Lee McQueen’s Autumn/Winter 1995 collection, titled “Highland Rape,” violently depicted the 18th-century Jacobite rebellion in the designer’s home country. “I wanted to show that the war between the Scottish and English was basically genocide,” he told a show reviewer at the time. In between (and still to this day) those such as Vivienne Westwood, Rei Kawakubo, Miuccia Prada, and Walter Van Beirendonck have long reckoned their societal concerns with the physical form.
To grapple with the cruel past in this way makes sense (and certainly no one does it quite better than those just mentioned), but can the on-goings of the present be treated in the same manner? Does meaningful reflection warrant time or do we look to the applied arts as a first responder? And, perhaps more hesitantly, do we accept today’s runways as visceral calls to arms or merely boxed ticked on the seasonal checklist? In the garble of a politically-trendy climate—when social activism has become as ubiquitous as a hashtag—it’s challenging to understand the exact impact, especially considering fashion’s own murky waters.
In midst of all of this editorial provocation, last season just before Paris Fashion Week, veteran consultant James Scully published an incendiary post to his Instagram meant to whistle-blow the industry, particularly that of its discriminatory casting practices. The mention, which went viral minutes after upload, named Balenciaga collaborators Maida Gregori Boina and Rami Fernandes for alleged “sadistic” activities, and Lanvin, among other houses, for refusing “to be presented with women of color.” Scully, known for his years of work for the likes of Tom Ford and Stella McCartney, was lauded by many for his bravery in coming forward but days later, only two black models—break out face Alicia Burke and superstar Joan Smalls—walked in the Fall 2017 show by Bouchra Jarrar, the rest of the 44 Lanvin girls, save for two asians, were white.
Racial representation in this instance, like body image, has long been discussed in its relation to the runway and year after year we hear campaigns of change. In this same time period, Gurung debuted his curve-friendly line with Lane Bryant and nearly every season there is a trendy campaign boasting all colors of the rainbow (arguably, Gucci won Pre-Fall 2017 with its 100 percent models of color series by Glen Luchford), though a recent report from The Fashion Spot shows the continuous gap in both race and gender. Only four transgender models were cast in print imagery. These topics, though different from which we reprimand today—walls, bans, and bombs—are not separate. Can one truly be a feminist if the advocation is only for a certain color of woman? Is the human life only valued in its most dire, life and death situations? The crux of activism in this way, is that the spotlight diminishes the large, gray area left over.
And what is to be made of the fashion designers on the other end of this pendulum; those that swing conservatively right or haphazardly into controversy in the midst of this so called progressiveness? It would be remiss to mention the likes of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana—who dressed First Lady Melania Trump for her official White House portrait and have spoken extensively about the “traditional” family—that take the same attitude toward sharing their beliefs as they with their own emblazoned Italian attire: flamboyance. Chiuri’s senior predecessor, John Galliano was infamously dismissed from Dior after two videos of antisemitic speak came to surface. In the way that one might turn a head to a prejudiced uncle out of respect for the holidays, do ignore this often-conflicting lineage?
Though it services (and mostly comprises of) the general left, fashion in itself is uncomplicatedly bipartiransian; a vote for HRC is not a prerequisite to swipe a pair of Gucci loafers. The reality of the craft is that it welcomes any and all. Nevertheless, there is unprecedented feeling of activation among us today. The adage to deflect conversations of religion and politics even in the most friendly of social settings has become increasingly challenging. Like the political faces and motions we dream to reconcile, perhaps we should look to the designers bearing these megaphones not as supreme truths but as voices to consider. Whatever the intent, we can take the words for what they are—a whoop for something further.
prev link: https://www.crfashionbook.com/fashion/a10016067/should-the-runway-be-a-place-for-politics/
createdAt:Tue, 13 Jun 2017 13:53:51 +0000