Fashion is full of dichotomies and it is these clashes that fuel the future of the industry. Most fundamentals (clothes, food, housing) have evolved within the construct of our society, becoming ever more complex and worthy of debate with the onset of media influence, economic change, class shift, choice and sexual equality.
Jessica Hearnshaw. BA (Hons) Cordwainers Fashion Bags and Accessories: Product Design and Innovation. Riyeka Silburn. BA (Hons) Fashion Design Technology: Womenswear
That fashion upholds the suppression of women and that the industry is misogynistic and controlling, whilst also being trivial and frivolous, are all themes regularly revisited across our media.
“THAT FASHION SUPRESSES WOMEN, IS MISOGYNISTIC AND CONTROLLING, TRIVIAL AND FRIVOLOUS ARE ALL THEMES REGULARLY REVISITED ACROSS THE MEDIA”
In my view, this definition of fashion embodies a myopic perspective which perpetuates the thinking of a particular section of our society and media. If there are certain features of the fashion industry that still equate with privilege, force us to question our (particularly Western) ideals of beauty and remind us that our desire for constant change can be detrimental to our environment and wellbeing, then these aspects have been present since people started making clothes for other people to buy.
It’s my opinion that fashion is being re-defined. As a Western society, we have in recent years been challenged into re-evaluating fashion both economically and ethically, now seeing it as more than just clothes. Body art, piercings, the celebration of vintage, our appreciation of individual difference through education, sport and art, all seem to me to reflect the concept of fashion and its intrinsic link with our identity in being a force for positive influence.
Fashion offers choice, albeit within individual means. Much like clothing, the hierarchy of needs puts food in the most fundamental, physiological category. But do we then challenge the restaurant and food industry for allowing something that is ‘fuel’ to become something desirable and offered to a consumer with imagination, originality and a variability of cost? Ought we to pity ‘foodies’ who express themselves through the gourmet restaurants that they choose or the magazines which they may read?
This year, as last, LCF’s Better Lives series has focused on the reciprocal relationship between Fashion and Psychology. The 2014 series, curated by Dr Carolyn Mair (Reader in Psychology and Course Leader of MA Psychology for Fashion Professionals and MSc Applied Psychology in Fashion), is concerned with ‘…isms in fashion’.
Valentina La Porta. BA (Hons) Fashion Design Technology: Womenswear
The first seminar brought together Dr Ros Jennings, Reader in Cultural Studies and Director of the Centre for Women, Ageing and Media at Gloucester University and Prof Paul Matts, a Research Scientist from P&G. Dr Jennings presented thought-provoking case studies from a socio-cultural perspective of two women in popular culture, Dame Shirley Bassey and Petula Clarke and Prof Matts presented data from studies demonstrating the importance of skin appearance on perceived attractiveness. He argued that skin is an indicator of both health and youth. Therefore, taking an evolutionary psychology perspective, Prof Matts claimed we are attracted to younger looking women because they signal fertility and the potential to increase our chances of reproduction and survival. The talks were followed by an audience discussion about the influences of evolution, society and culture on psychology and well-being.
The second seminar was concerned with racism in fashion. Industry professionals, Jody Furlong from The Eye Casting and The Eye Models, and James Lyon from Models of Diversity, showed evidence for the existence of racism within the fashion industry in the UK and USA. Jody, focusing on the representation of black models, argued that the fashion industry, unlike other industries, does not meet its responsibility to embrace diversity. Jody claimed the best way forward was for black people to be successful in roles that they were not typically associated with. James Lyon, who campaigns for the organisation, Models of Diversity, expanded the problem from racism in selecting models, to others in the industry. He argued that new designers should be educated to value diversity and that consumers should boycott brand ‘dinosaurs’ who use racist practices.
Once more the audience brought an animated and passionate response to the speakers by encouraging those working in fashion to strive to change the status quo. The final remarks emphasised the need for all to take responsibility for challenging racism and promoting diversity.
Visiting Tokyo earlier this year I was lucky enough to have time to see two seminal Japanese exhibits. The first was a comprehensive exhibition of Japanese woodcuts that documented their history from the 1500s to the present.
The second was the opportunity to view Imperial Kimonos including a 12-layered kimono.
The combination of skill, artistry, craft and art with clothes as part of the ceremony of life were themes in both exhibitions. How clothes can reveal and obscure the body, the significance of textiles in how they interact with our bodies and day-to-day lives. The dexterity of the human hand in creating fabrics and prints. For me, these artifacts represented something important. That the act of creation should hold no time constraint for the process and dedication of creation is an important and significant, almost ritualistic aspect of creating.
In Tokyo itself, as one of the fastest 24/7 most technologically focused cities in the world, the integration of the aesthetic with the environment, sustainability, food, building, gardening is everywhere.The traditions of society, not only exist alongside the newest technologies and consumer products, but also inform their development. Somehow this heritage of dexterity, patience, analysis and creativity coupled with an ability to appropriate an idea and transform it has translated itself into contemporary textiles. Perhaps this explains why the textiles and fabrics of the great Japanese designers such as Yohji, Rei, Kenzo, Miyaki have been such an integral part of the clothing and identity of Japanese fashion designers?
The College’s project with women offenders at Send Prison has given many of us an insight into the contradictions in our attitudes to crime and punishment, forcing us to reassess prejudices and pre-conceptions.
Elizabeth Fry, English Quaker and prison refomer, (1780-1845), about to visit prisoners in Newgate, to read them the Bible.
My interest in prisons began as an A level student when I studied the nineteenth century penal reformer Elizabeth Fry. As a woman working against cultural and societal norms, she was a great female role model, but more importantly she made the link between education and prisons, establishing a prison school for the children of offenders.
When I worked at what was then Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education, we established a writer in residence at Gloucester Prison, which brought home that in spite of the illiteracy of many offenders, they are inventive, innovative and, given the opportunity, able to make extraordinarily creative work. Coming to London College of Fashion, I was determined to establish a project giving such people the chance to gain training and education to transform their lives.
I was at the Ellie Saab ready to wear show this evening in Paris. With it’s theme exuding dark opulence it was a masterclass in structured femininity and subtle gestural colour.
“With creativity at the core, a new paradigm for creative subjects in higher education is emerging that removes barriers between teaching , research, needs of industry and the employability of graduates. The boundaries between these areas become more permeable and there is a move towards integration and collaboration. This collaborative culture fosters the continuing professional development of students, academic staff, graduates, employees and employers in creative enterprises”
“The medium, or process of our time – electric technology is re-shaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life. It is forcing us to reconsider and re-evaluate every thought, every action, and every institution formerly taken for granted. Everything is changing: you, your family, your education, your neighbourhood, your job, your government, your relation to the others. And they are changing dramatically”