In his 1946 Theses Against Occultism, Adorno addressed the swiftness with which occultism, when translated onto the political stage, could provide fertile ground for exploitation. Nowhere is this evidenced more theatrically than in the political intrigues of Haitian dictator François Duvalier, who from his election in 1957 to his death in 1971 harnessed and exploited the magical thinking of the Haitian people by dressing and acting like Baron Samedi, the voudou god of the dead. Duvalier used fashion to make implicit what he did not say explicitly: that he was a god, the god, of Haiti – and as such, was entitled not only to unmitigated power, but to absolution, loyalty, and even affection.
I’ve been in the bridal business for twenty-two years now. My father is a farmer and a singer and we hail from the Howrah district in West Bengal. I initially began as an embroiderer for a small workshop and I trained for fourteen years under Miss Zeenat, a designer who had been in the business for decades. Soon after, her daughter became engaged, and I had the opportunity to design her wedding outfit: a powder pink Saree with silver Dabka work.
Have you any clothes to sell?
The years make a stain you can’t conceal,
Your fabric’s eaten, you discard
That part of your life for which you cared.
You pluck a thread from your cuff; it winces
Straight to your shoulder. Ambition grieves
In trunks and bags; moth-featured, minces
From closets, beating empty sleeves.
Calvin Klein’s heritage as a brand that attempts to push the boundaries with controversial, sexually-explicit advertisements has seemingly made a return this season with a campaign that serves up a well-worn narrative of ‘men act, women appear.’ The agenda of the brand’s new Spring 2016 campaign is clear: the trope of woman-as-objects sells, particularly through the lens of the campaign’s gritty, filmic aesthetic. It might sound like something we’ve heard before, but the reaction to the campaign – which, amongst other images, sees model Kendall Jenner presented as a collection of Polaroid body parts – has been alarmingly docile, prompting us to reignite the discussion since it’s hard to believe so little has changed when it comes to the portrayal of women in mainstream fashion media.
In a plane of crisp sunlight that angles down through the door frame, and dissolves into rust-coloured shadows settling across the dark floor, unease spreads along the walls of this wooden interior. A woman in the centre hugs a small infant close to her breast. Next to her, another holds a child on her lap. To their left is a muscular man dressed in light yellow work trousers and a waistcoat: he watches them, his face expressively surly. Seated in a semi-circle the women stare intently at the stove, or let their eyes settle on something outside the room. They are dressed well in respectable printed cotton dresses, their sleeves billowing out from under stiff white aprons. Four white men – one in the background and the other three conversing in the doorway on the left – like sentinels, stand watch. And as they watch and we watch them, these slaves, neatly arranged on rough wooden benches, quietly wait to be sold.
Linda, Austin, TX
I was dressed in a gorgeous short leather-suede skirt and top having a birthday dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel restaurant. When I was leaving my house, I was unaware that a lacy red thong was statically tucked underneath the back end of the skirt – or that it fell out in the middle of the restaurant floor. The maître d’ picked it up and came trotting after me, waving it as he’s announcing ‘Oh ma’am, ma’am, you dropped this,’ as everyone was pointing and snickering. I turned and horrified, I said, ‘Not mine, but you can keep it.’
The story is an old and familiar one: young, upstart outsiders take on a sedate and conventional system and turn it on its head in the name of authenticity, edginess and cool. Popular culture thrives on this narrative, and in the fashion industry this storyline is a well-worn one. ‘Real’ fashion is thrust, from the street, upon the unsuspecting bourgeoisie, and the bourgeoisie go potty for it.