Wednesday 15 November 2017

Fashion as a platform for protest

Markéta Martišková
Wat is the role of fashion in the context of society? With the 2017 edition of FASHIONCLASH Festival aim to question if fashion makes sense I kept thinking about the morality of fashion. Can fashion be more activist and is it legitimate for fashion to take a position in critical debate.
Recently, there is a shift and  increasing involvement in relation to sustainability issues. Without taking away the importance to this, the question is what other topics can be addressed with fashion.
Looking back through the eyes of the past events there are many examples to be highlighted where fashion as a form of protest played a major role in historical events.

Fashion hasn’t always been the way it is now: increasingly acceptive, liberating and accessible to everyone. Fashion overcame many obstacles, which were back in the day ridiculed and controversial. It might be hard to imagine, but women from past generations, were shunned for wearing pants. The idea of menswear-inspired suits for women was unthinkable. Risking their reputation and career, a number of fashion designers challenged the rules with their designs. Coco Chanel was at the helm of popularizing the lady trousers and thankfully for us, she succeeded. Yves Saint Laurent,  fearlessly brought back clothing styles and cuts reminiscent of the war years — think bouffant shoulders and mini shift dresses — and had to go into hiding from the public in consequence. His 1971 'Scandal' collection saw revealing sheer blouses, flared pants, bouffant shoulders, short dresses, and platform shoes. It was dubbed the "Ugliest collection in Paris" and YSL had to go into hiding as he waited for the public's politically-fueled rage to pass.
Nowadays we have maxi, midi, knee-length and ultra-short skirts. But the latter only started in the 50s, when Mary Quant's customers asked her to stitch them shorter skirts. Finally she coined the term 'miniskirt' in the 60s, naming it after her favourite car, Mini Cooper. She said the practical frock allowed her to run for the bus, and is in no way restrictive.
Dame Vivienne Westwood is the heroine of punk. She helped the trend emerge in the 1970s, with her tartan clothing, metal studs, gothic makeup and eccentric hair colours. It was a much-needed freedom to express creativity in the mainstream British society.

It remains hard to define what platform fashion takes within our contemporary society. Though often dismissed as superficial and irrelevant, perhaps fashion plays a much more important role in our lives than we might think. What is the right format to do so? How can we engage the younger generation to get active and really speak out, not only by wearing a slogan.

Hereby, I would like to share with you some examples articles concerning 'fashion and protest'.
In particular, looking back to actual historical events proves the power fashion possess as a medium to address issues.

Fashion and protest articles in media
i-D magazine published an article 'Is fashion a legitimate form of protest?' Clothes can send a powerful message, as long as the activism doesn't begin and end at a t-shirt.

In 2016 published a very relevant article 'When Fashion Becomes a Form of Protest' written by Alexander Fury, illustrating a connection with 18th century punks and our contemporary rebels.
Bof already published an article in 2014 'Is Fashion a Credible Platform for Protest', followed by the fashion show Karl Lagerfeld presented for Chanel where he appropriated the visual signifiers of feminist protest for its seasonal runway show.
"The $1 trillion fashion industry has a huge impact on lives, economies and the environment. Thus, it has the capacity to engage with the serious issues affecting these things. But to do so, first and foremost, requires a real message. To treat social and political causes as little more than a marketing stunt undermines the meaning of a protest. The next time a fashion brand picks up a placard, it should first make sure it has something to say."

Worth to read is also the article published by Not Just A Label, 'Fashion and Protest; Where is the Call to Arms? 

Fashion Revolution
Incroyables and Merveilleuses
The Incroyables and their female counterparts, the Merveilleuses were members of a fashionable aristocratic subculture in Paris during the French Directory (1795–1799).
Whether as catharsis or in a need to reconnect with other survivors of the Reign of Terror, they greeted the new regime with an outbreak of luxury, decadence, and even silliness. They held hundreds of balls and started fashion trends in clothing and mannerisms.
Members of the ruling classes were also among the movement's leading figures, and the group heavily influenced the politics, clothing, and arts of the period.

The Merveilleuses scandalized Paris with dresses and tunics inspired by ancient Greeks and Romans, cut of light or even transparent linen and gauze. Famous Merveilleuses included Thérésa Tallien, Anne Françoise Elizabeth Lange and Jeanne Françoise Julie Adélaïde Récamier.

The leading Incroyable, Paul François Jean Nicolas, vicomte de Barras, was one of five directors who ran the Republic of France and gave the period its name. He hosted luxurious feasts attended by royalists, repentant Jacobins, ladies, and courtesans. Since divorce was now legal, sexuality was looser than in the past. However, de Barras' reputation for immorality may have been a factor in his later overthrow, a coup that brought the French Consulate to power and paved the way for Napoleon Bonaparte.

In 2016, the avant-garde fashion designer Rei Kawakubo presented a collection for Comme des Garçons paying hommage to the 18th century.  “Eighteenth-­century punk” was Kawakubo’s stated inspiration for AW 2016 collection. “The 18th century was a time of change and revolution,” she said. “This is how I imagine punks would look, if they had lived in this century.”

Marie Antoinette's Style Revolution
(2 November 1755 – 16 October 1793) was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution.

When the young princess traveled from Austria to France to be married, her entourage stopped at the border between the two countries. There, Marie-Antoinette was stripped of all her Austrian clothes and dressed with clothing made in France. The ritual signified her transformation from Austrian to French.
After becoming queen in 1774, Marie-Antoinette embraced her new nation’s passion for fashion. Her enthusiasm for clothing fit into the wider culture that reigned at Versailles. In the 18th century, it was every highborn lady’s ambition to impress at court with her clothing, no small undertaking. The pressure of conspicuous consumption at Versailles, and the complex rules of fashion etiquette, dictated that women ought not wear the same outfit more than once—not, at least, without some carefully chosen, and costly, modification.  

Maria Theresa of Austria reacted with concern when she discovered her daughter Marie-Antoinette—recently arrived in France at the age of 14 to marry the future Louis XVI—had caught the French bug for wearing extravagant dresses. On receiving a portrait of Marie-Antoinette, in which she was adorned in the most spectacular of finery, the Austrian empress wrote her daughter a stern letter of rebuke: “As you know, I have always been of the opinion that fashions should be followed in moderation but should never be taken to extremes. A beautiful young woman, a graceful queen, has no need for such madness. On the contrary, simplicity of dress is more befitting and more worthy of a queen. I love my little queen and watch everything you do and feel I must not hesitate to draw your attention to this little frivolity.”

Underlying the frivolity of 18th-century French fashion were hard economics.
The appetite for clothes among the French upper classes gave rise to a dynamic textile industry, which had been assiduously guarded by the protectionist policies introduced by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, minister to Louis XIV. The so-called royal manufactories helped foster a booming silk industry in Lyon. Technical progress and advances in dying further bolstered private enterprise, and factories turning out stockings, hats, and lingerie thrived. Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf’s textile factory at Jouy-en-Josas, for example, employed some 900 workers in 1774.
Notable 18th-century French fashion designers included Marie-Jeanne Bertin, also known as “Rose Bertin,” who pioneered French haute couture in the late 18th century. She opened her own fashion store in Paris in 1777, and quickly became the dressmaker of choice. Recognition of her talents was cemented by the Duchess of Chartres, who introduced her to Marie-Antoinette herself. The queen was so taken by her designs she had a workshop built for her in Versailles where Rose, her “Minister of Fashion,” created ever more extravagant designs for the queen. Her creations were exported to courts in London, Venice, Vienna, Lisbon, and many other capitals.
Marie-Antoinette helped keep France the capital of European fashion throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.
read more about Marie-Antoinette's Style Revolution -> national geographic

John Galliano - Les Incroyable, 1984
When Fashion Becomes a Form of Protest (nytimes)
It would be nearly two centuries before the Incroyables resurfaced, but they did, after a fashion. In 1984, a young London-based student named Juan Carlos Galliano named his Central Saint Martins graduation collection after them, inspired by their dandyish spirit and rebellion. Intrinsically tied to the early ’80s club scene that became known as New Romanticism, his clothes wound up in the windows of London’s Browns boutique; the singer Diana Ross bought one of his Incroyables coats. It launched Galliano. Today, pieces from that collection are almost as rare as the 18th-century originals. A coat from that debut went for more than $50,000 at an auction in June.

Hood by Air - spring 2016
At Hood by Air, the designer Shayne Oliver showed curled and frizzed hair after the Directoire fashion with clothing details like highly ­tugged shirt collars brushing the upper lip or even shrouding the head. The influence came, Oliver said, from several months spent in Europe and from the urge to rebel. “Dressing up, powdering ... I’d been in a war,’ ” he stated of his time abroad, ­alluding both to the general political situation and to the exhausting task of overseeing the manufacture of his clothing in Italy. “I was totally ready to be dandied up again.” Recently he’s presented portions of his Hood by Air collection in aggressive, almost guerrilla installations in raw concrete basements or the murky back­ passages of gay saunas.  

There’s an ongoing intersection between youth and extreme fashion, the former turning to the latter as a means to broadcast dissent in times of crisis. The Incroyables emerged in the shadow of the revolution and the deaths of the Terror; punk sparked during the crippling recession of the early 1970s, alongside the oil crisis, the fall of Nixon and the three­-day week in Great Britain. Perhaps these echoes of the Incroyables are emerging now in reaction to similarly unsettled times, as Britain pulls from the European Union, the House Democrats sit in over gun control and Clinton and Trump tussle for control of a divided nation. “Uncertainty” is how John Galliano characterizes it. “About what we’re experiencing in Paris, and the world.” He devoted his fall Maison Margiela “Artisanal” collection once again to the Incroyables, showcasing coats with exaggerated tails, others worn upside-down, giving models a hunched stance. They were, he asserted, a reflection of our troubled world. “I didn’t want to repeat what I did as a kid,” said Galliano. “But it has the rebellious attitude of youth.” It was, he said, a risk.
read more -> nytimes

Fashion a legitimate form of protest? (i-D magazine)
Although their connection doesn't always get the intellectual and social credit it deserves, fashion and politics have always been linked. The last century is littered with examples of how clothes offer an accessible point of protest, and a voice to groups who are marginalised or silenced. During the Second World War, French women used hats and accessories as a way to stand against Nazi occupation and celebrate French culture. When the arts were under attack, they decorated themselves in symbols, literally spinning resistance into the clothes on their backs.
Similarly the LGBTQ community has long seen fashion serve as a place of expression during times when individuals were unable to openly demonstrate their gender and sexuality in public. From suffragettes who dressed and presented as men in an attempt to cast off oppressive gender norms, to queer people of colour reinterpreting the dandy aesthetic, dressing has been a way to press against gendered and cultural expectations in colonial societies.

During the March on Washington in 1963 women of colour wore denim overalls as a sartorial marker of their commitment to civil rights. While more recently the conversion of politics and style became global news via Hillary Clinton's pantsuits. Firstly as an example of a women in power using clothes to balance the expectations around the female and masculine ideals we project onto public figures of both sexes; and ultimately as a symbol of solidarity, as women all over the world donned them in support.
It's a connection the fashion world has long understood and fostered, actively exploring the way they can use their platform and influence to create an environment they want to live in. Designers including Rick Owens, Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney and Miuccia Prada consistently use the catwalk as a space to ignite public dialogue around issues such as animal rights, body image, the refugee crisis, equality and diversity. -> read more i-D

Fashion and Protest
John Stephen
John Stephen (August 28, 1934 – February 1, 2004), dubbed by the media "The £1m Mod" and "The King Of Carnaby Street", was one of the most important fashion figures of the 1960s. He made it acceptable for heterosexual men to dress colourfully, their clothes forming part of a broader reformation of British masculinity in the late 20th century.

Katharine Hamnett is an English fashion designer best known for her political t-shirts and her ethical business philosophy. Hamnett graduated from Saint Martin's School of Art, and founded the Katharine E. Hamnett clothes label in 1979. Hamnett's oversized t-shirts with large block letter slogans, launched in 1983, were adopted by pop bands, including Wham!. George Michael wore her white "CHOOSE LIFE" tee in the music video for "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go." The t-shirt also appeared in Queen's video for "Hammer To Fall" (worn by Roger Taylor). Taylor wore Hamnett's "WORLDWIDE NUCLEAR BAN NOW" shirt during Queen's historic appearance at the first edition of the Rock in Rio festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Models such as Naomi Campbell have appeared in Hamnett shirts bearing the slogans "USE A CONDOM" and "PEACE." Hamnett viewed her t-shirts as a way of getting her message across: "If you want to get the message out there, you should print it in giant letters on a t-shirt." Her first shirt featured the "CHOOSE LIFE" slogan. Inspired by a Buddhist exhibit, it was a comment against war, death and destruction.

Over 150 years ago, the suffragist Amelia Bloomer urged women to chuck their long dresses—because who could ride a bike in those things?—and don the baggy divided skirts that came to be known, in her honor, as bloomers. These early pants functioned as protest clothing, offering a sharp rebuke to the oppressive garments of the day. The few brave souls who dared to wear bloomers were met with ridicule and worse, but think about it—without these courageous women, would you be wearing jeans at this very minute?

Amelia Bloomer
Bloomers, also called the "Turkish dress", "American dress", or simply "reform dress", bloomers were an innovation of readers of the Water-Cure Journal, a popular health periodical that in October 1849 began urging women to develop a style of dress that was not so harmful to their health as the current fashion. It also represented an unrestricted movement, unprecedented by previous women's fashions, that allowed for greater freedom—both metaphorical and physical—within the public sphere. The fashionable dress of that time consisted of a skirt that dragged several inches on the floor, worn over layers of starched petticoats stiffened with straw or horsehair sewn into the hems. In addition to the heavy skirts, prevailing fashion called for a "long waist" effect, achieved with a whale-bone-fitted corset that pushed the wearer's internal organs out of their normal place. The result was a feminine population which, as one medical professor warned his students, was of no use as cadavers from which to study human anatomy.
Women responded with a variety of costumes, many inspired by the pantaloons of Turkey, and all including some form of pants. By the summer of 1850, various versions of a short skirt and trousers, or "Turkish dress", were being worn by readers of the Water-Cure Journal as well as women patients at the nation's health resorts. After wearing the style in private, some began wearing it in public. In the winter and spring of 1851, newspapers across the country carried startled sightings of the dresses.

zoot siuts

Zoot Suit
A zoot suit (occasionally spelled zuit suit is a men's suit with high-waisted, wide-legged, tight-cuffed, pegged trousers, and a long coat with wide lapels and wide padded shoulders. This style of clothing became popular among the Latino, African American, Italian American, Filipino American, and, to a lesser extent, Irish American communities during the 1940s. Zoot Suits were first associated with African Americans in urban communities such as Harlem, Chicago, and Detroit but were made popular by jazz musicians in the 1940s. Anti-Mexican youth riots in Los Angeles during World War II are known as the Zoot Suit Riots.
In time, zoot suits were prohibited for the duration of the war, ostensibly because they used too much cloth. The amount of material and tailoring required made them luxury items, so much so that the U.S. War Production Board said that they wasted materials that should be devoted to the World War II war effort. When Life published photographs of zoot suiters in 1942, the magazine joked that they were "solid arguments for lowering the Army draft age to include 18 year olds." This extravagance, which many considered unpatriotic in wartime, was a factor in the Zoot Suit Riots. To some, wearing the oversized suit was a declaration of freedom and self-determination, even rebelliousness.

pink pussy hat, referencing ‘grab them by the pussy’ remarks

2017 Women's March
was a worldwide protest on January 21, 2017, to advocate legislation and policies regarding human rights and other issues, including women's rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, reproductive rights, the natural environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion,[17] and workers' rights. Most of the rallies were aimed at Donald Trump, immediately following his inauguration as President of the United States, largely due to statements that he had made and positions that he had taken which were regarded by many as anti-women or otherwise offensive.
It was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. The first planned protest was in Washington, D.C., and is known as the Women's March on Washington. According to organizers it was meant to "send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights". The Washington March was streamed live on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. The Washington March drew 440,000 to 500,000 people, and worldwide participation has been estimated at five million.

Dress to Protest by Glamour article and documentary:

Vivienne Westwood
Environmental activist, fashion designer and Dame Vivienne Westwood is an known campaigner for the environment.
She launched her Climate Revolution campaign in 2012. Listed on the bill for the Paralympics closing ceremony, the designer  — appeared at the event dressed as an eco-warrior atop her float. Revealing a giant ‘Climate Revolution’ banner, she was dressed in sheer tights over bloomers and a slogan tee reiterating her message.

“My message is buy less, choose well, make it last. Even better, don’t buy anything.”

When questioned on whether she would want people to buy her latest collection she added: “No, I wish they wouldn’t.”

Alexander McQueen was never afraid to speak his mind as a designer; so often his clothing also had a spirit of protest about them. For the designer’s AW95, for example, the presentation was staged in protest of domestic violence against women. Deeply affected by the abuse his sister endured in her relationship, it was an issue very close to his heart. So taking a bold stance to rally against this then, the designer referenced the “ethnic cleansing” rapes committed by the British army in the Scottish Highlands during the 18th and 19th centuries. Models were depicted looking battered and bruised, with torn clothing hanging from their bodies — in what turned out to be a largely misunderstood and thus controversial move at the time. As with many great visionaries though, it was only really in retrospect that people were able to appreciate the political message at the core of the clothing.

“Stop Terrorising Our World”
Walter Van Beirendonck is one of those designers that have followed in the footsteps of Katharine Hamnett, designing political statements that you can wear on your sleeve. But rather than being so built into the garments, the Belgian designer’s tack was to make his anti-terrorism signs really jump out at you. This was in response to the Charlie Hebdo shootings and saw models stomp the AW15 runway wearing clear tanks with explicit directives emblazoned across them, such as: “Stop Terrorising Our World”.

“Initially, I didn’t want to make statements but when you see what is happening in the world, you must react.”

PETA’s We’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur
PETA revolutionised the protest platform in the early nineties when the organisation first released its anti-fur campaign full of stark naked models. Under the banner ‘We’d rather go naked than wear fur,’ supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington stripped down to take a stand on PETA’s behalf.

Daniel W. Fletcher
With a collection emblazoned with the slogan “STAY” – complete with banners, placards and the European Union flag – presented in the form of a protest outside the British Fashion Council just two weeks before the EU referendum – Daniel W. Fletcher brought a politicised message for SS17 that spoke for the youth. No stranger to utilising fashion as a platform to explore social and political issues, for his graduate collection ‘Peckham Pony Club’, the CSM grad tackled the issue of gentrification in Peckham with wry ‘rent’ caps, while last season the phrase ‘Save Our NHS’ found itself stitched into his clothes in protest to funding cuts.

Fashion world supports Pussy Riot
The fashion world sounded a defiant response to Russia’s curtailing of LGBTI rights when Gareth Pugh, Nick Knight and Ruth Hogben created a series of short SHOWstudio films featuring an array of balaclava-clad designers, models, editors and photographers. Released to coincide with the opening of the Sochi 2014 Olympics and made in support of Amnesty International, each black and white “Proud to Protest” film begins with an imposing figure in a balaclava (a nod to the uniform of Pussy Riot the Russian punk rock protest group who were jailed in 2012 for performing in a church). The mask is then removed to reveal the silent protester’s identity, whether it be Kate Moss, Katy England, Henry Holland or Shayne Oliver. This powerful display of solidarity emphasised the need for a unified challenge to Russia’s human rights abuses, which hit a new low when the Duma passed anti-gay propaganda laws in 2013.

Hussein Chalayan - Afterwords
British-Turkish Cypriot designer Hussein Chalayan tapped into the horrors of wartime displacement with his transformative Afterwords collection for AW00. The collection had personal resonance for Chalayan (whose family were caught in Cyprus’ ethnic cleansing in the 70s), and was made all the more poignant because the recent atrocities of the Kosovo War were at the forefront of the world’s mind. Chalayan was particularly focused on resourcefulness – on the need to gather as many personal belonging as possible – when fleeing war-torn homes. As such, the show created a living room in which models turned chair covers into clothes, and chairs into suitcases. For the finale, a model moulded a wooden table into a skirt. It was a unique meditation on the devastations of war, and offered a taste of Chalayan’s remarkable ability to craft metamorphic garments.

various source: i-D, wikipedia, national geographic, nytimes,


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