Opinion

Living with Disability

Living with Disability

Mine is a tricky position; I might be living with disability, but I am not a disabled person. I face the challenges only indirectly. The disabled one is my son, and no matter how close I am to him, I cannot feel the things he feels. I grew up in a world where disability didn’t seem to exist; it wasn’t in the media, and especially not in fashion media, and, at least in Italy, disabled people lived a rather secluded life – there was hardly anything around for them. When disability hit me with the force of a premature birth and an emergency C-section, I was forced first of all to dismantle my own stereotypes and taboos. But giving birth to a disabled child doesn’t automatically free you from your background of bias and ignorance: it’s even harder if you’ve spent half your life between glossy magazines and catwalks, where curvy is already big news, let alone cerebral palsy.

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Whose Streets?

Whose Streets?

The Fashion Window Now: A Contested Surface

Shop window displays serve to crystallise, animate and narrate various meanings of fashion. They provide information on sartorial items, and demonstrate how to use them, all while training us to view fashion in relation to lifestyle. We learn to fantasise, and to aspire to certain ideals. Their presence asserts that fashion is life, and spectacle. As in the past, they instruct us on how to look, at fashion, and dressed bodies in the form of mannequins. Moreover, we project our own likenesses on to the spectacle, literally, via glass panes, merging our subjectivities with the images projected out to the street. Today, as protesters march the streets of New York’s SoHo, the upscale fashion boutiques housed within the area’s familiar nineteenth-century white cast-iron Italianate buildings, have boarded their windows. How does their newfound lack of glass, without the capacity for reflected imagery, affect our lines of vision? Does it give passers-by some space for internal reflection, without the distraction of mirrored and brand imagery? Or does the new matte streetscape in all its flatness rob of us of our sense of urban alertness, our alacrity? Something is missing, and it results in a feeling of disconnect. I remember my own stroll through the SoHo streets, and how I looked at myself in car windows when I could. I was not reflected in the shops, and so I searched for myself elsewhere.

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Optical Tactility

Optical Tactility

On Touching, and Fashion For When We Can't

It could be easy to dismiss digital clothing as a poor replication of physical clothing or, more strongly, as part of the alienating aspects of disgust. A future in which we must circulate primarily online, led principally by the caprices of corporate-owned platforms, would provoke a reaction of disgust in many of us. As our attention has already been commoditised on platforms, self-representation would too. If digital fashion is an industry predicated on technological determinism, alienation from voices who suggest an alternative outside the bounds of this world is nearly inevitable.

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A disease origin story

A disease origin story

And its afterlife

Disease origin stories, while important, can lead to dangerous narratives. We need to recognise that the hegemony of global supply chains to produce the clothes that are advertised, stocked in retail outlets, bought and worn should not lead to ‘pathologising’ the entrepreneurs and workers who produce them. We need to imagine different futures that push back against demographic nationalism. We need not to criminalise the people who work hard to make clothes as they follow a desire to realise dignified lives. Diseases have not only origin stories and life history narratives but also afterlives.

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Doomsday Marketing

Doomsday Marketing

Or How Only the Rich Will Survive

Today’s most savvy cultural producers know that we’ve begun to feel helpless in the face of climate catastrophe, rising fascism and, more recently, global pandemics, and are capitalising on that vulnerability. The clothes may be a tongue-in-cheek critique of those who wield the most power in society, but when designers like Marine Serre are selling gilet jaunes (made to mimic the vests worn by French protesters in 2019) for over $1000, and Balenciaga dresses are being worn by an avatar (who represents the girlfriend of billionaire Tesla founder Elon Musk), dressing for the end of the world becomes an inside-joke, afforded only by the rich.

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La Moda Feminista

La Moda Feminista

Feminist Aesthetics in Colombia and Latin America

The clothes worn by the performers evoked the ways in which women often dress to have fun and to dance, to be young and alive at night, in bars and streets and discos, but they are also reminiscent of the kind of clothing a woman might wear when she is raped or killed. These are the kind of outfits that are still moralised within the sort of male gaze that inherits a cultural tendency to assign guilt to the feminine subject and not the masculine agent. These are the sort of clothes that call to mind the throbbing question that arises all too often when a woman is raped: what was she wearing?

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Reflections

Reflections

Slimane and the Self

If fashion truly is this thing that swirls and surges forth, if it changes and shapes our times, what happens when a designer stands still? Is perpetual self-homage a welcome, steady approach in uncertain times or does this dogma lead to a dead end? Staring into black mirrors we all play Narcissus, fascinated by our own faces, so can we really condemn Hedi Slimane for not evolving? Could it be that Slimane’s staunchness is the uncomfortable reflection of our own self-absorption?

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Decolonising Fashion

Decolonising Fashion

Defying the 'White Man's Gaze'

Evaluating the work of designers outside the established fashion capitals according to (references made to) their cultural identity not only continues to fulfil ‘the centre’s’ need to distil a diffuse and disordered peripheral Other into more rational categories based on collective identities, but also to differentiate and therefore discriminate and exclude, while simultaneously protecting its own boundaries. By setting this fashion apart as ethnic it not only diminishes it and discards it as ‘not real’ fashion, but also confirms French, Italian, American or British fashion as the norm.

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PC Couture

PC Couture

On the intersections of ‘political correctness’ and creativity

If fashion designers can and should shock and provoke, isn’t social media outrage not only to be expected, but also an intrinsic part of increasingly performative fashion conversations as well? And why would fashion designers specifically enjoy unlimited freedom of expression? Who would claim this right next? Artists? TV presenters? Politicians? Do fashion designers really want to be the creative equivalent of Piers Morgan?

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Are fashion designers made or born?

Are fashion designers made or born?

Class, Aspiration and Pedagogy in India

The discourse on class mobility is pervasive in contemporary India, and is in itself seen to be one of liberalised India’s greatest fruits. In particular, the public imagination often portrays creative professionals as fuelled by drive and ambition and thus capable of rupturing historical boundaries of class and caste thanks to this imagined innate power. The National Institute of Fashion Technology Delhi is one of the places where students continue to flock in order to emerge as successful creatives. But considering how many students come from upper caste and class backgrounds, is this idea of class travel a mere myth?

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