High fashion, in its constant pursuit of the ‘new’ is often irreverent, smuggling inspiration wherever possible with little regard for political correctness. A boiling point of sorts was reached according to many with John Galliano’s controversial Homeless Chic for Dior spring/summer 2009, but in more recent seasons designers seem again to be looking to the ‘street’ for inspiration in a new dynamic of power inversion. Examples like Jil Sander’s ‘plastic bag’ bag could less violent interpretation of the lower echelons of the fashion system, referencing mass-produced ephemera of pound stores and supermarkets, but what does this practice suggest on a broader scale? Are we perhaps becoming more comfortable with the dualities of rich and poor, cheap and expensive? Or perhaps this is merely a new source of inspiration, new ground to cover? Or maybe this reflects a sort of ‘leveling out’ or globalisation of the industry, and a nod to the lower rungs of the fashion system? However you want to interpret it, there are always profound questions raised in the event of appropriation. While fashion corporations are keen to crack down on illegal copying, it’s interesting to note that the ever-fine line between appropriation and copying in high fashion continues to be toed for effect. Whether this is a knowing nod to the methods of ‘inspiration’ that fashion designers often employ (such as Maison Martin Margiela’s ‘Replica’ line) or simply a result of the postmodern bricolage aesthetic, or just plagiarism, it is always illuminating as it reveals the complex tensions of power in the hierarchical fashion system. It is with this in mind that the Jil Sander bag becomes so (arguably) ironic: after all it is still economic value that is the crucial aspect of what differentiates high fashion from its cheap counterparts. This ‘aesthetic back and forth’ that fashion designers continuously engage in ultimately questions the values we attach to certain aesthetics, and what looks ‘expensive’, or ‘luxury’, so becomes increasingly difficult to decipher. In the instance of appropriation, examining the aesthetics, as well as the specific examples, further reveal a broader, more profound picture of the fashion industry.
Louis Vuitton spring/summer 2007
Jil Sander autumn/winter 2011
Celine autumn/winter 2013