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« Alexander Wang and the Mysterious Case of the Fur Mittens | Main | Optical Punk Graphisms with an Obsessive Twist: Holly Fulton A/W 13 »

February 17, 2013

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Bertrand

I am glad I have found your blog! It is a rare treat to find a fashion blogger whose content include more text than images.

I think the relationship between fashion and politics is to be seen on three complementary levels:

First, as any commercial good (and mass produced ones in particular) it has as you noted, political content in it's internal and production organization. This is rarely acknowledged beyond what seems to me to be superficial attempts to compromise leftist ethics with commercial concerns.

Secondly, there is what I would call the 'brand content' - that is the image associated with the brand, as it is expressed by both the gear itself, and the brand culture/communication. Few labels address openly political issues, probably aware as they are of the paradoxes involved by the intrinsically commercial nature of their pursuit. One brand that address politics, if indirectly, that springs to mind, would be UK's Bouddica.

Third, and that represent if you ask the very large majority of contacts between fashion and politics, what Guy Debord would have called 'recuperation' : namely the appropriation, for commercial purposes, of political imagery and signifiers whose original purpose was specifically ideological and non-commercial. Examples ceaselessly abounds as the fashion (and design in general) industry endlessly appropriate characteristics of subcultures, from Vuitton's use of graffiti writing, to the prints you displayed above (Some of the most chilling examples would have to be, for me, the recent 'society of spectacle' clothing line).

This third and last "layer" I will call the recuperation layer, is often justified, in the sparse attempts of designers at giving their work some ideological coherence, as being used to 'raise awareness' or to 'address issues' but how is one to make the difference, when looking at their catwalks, between a brand who appropriates political symbols with little more in mind than harnessing their high visibility, their essentially spectacular quality, and a brand who is to 'raise awareness'?
The two are fundamentally indistinguishable if you ask me, and that's the very ambiguity that has allowed fashion designers to remain oblivious to the growing self-reflexivity that has characterized other areas of design since the sixties.

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