Superficial fashion commentators will tell you that there are not many connections between fashion and politics.
But fashion is an industry with many ramifications and even more connections. In fact it is probably the only industry out there that can be analysed from a superficial point of view and from a more intense perspective, in connection not only with other disciplines, but also with different social, labour, financial and political issues.
Politics is never far from fashion: before and after Obama's Inauguration debates and discussions about First Lady Michelle Obama's style were rife.
The British fashion industry is currently in a love affair with Samantha, "First Lady of Fashion", and wife of Conservative leader David Cameron and with the reborn, redesigned and improved now trendy royals, with Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, being hailed and revered as an icon of style.
Politics appeared during New York Fashion Week intertwined with punk, fashion and technology in Vivienne Tam's collection.
The designer - who in 1995 tackled international issues such as China opening up to the rest of the world through her “Mao” suit featuring a checkerboard pattern with prints of the former Chinese Communist leader, and the author of the witty tome China Chic (2005) in which she analysed the history of China from a creative point of view and also looked at the the Cultural Revolution paraphernalia from the perspective of a designer and collector – fused in her Autumn/Winter 2013 collection the East-meets-West theme with Pop Art-like political posters.
Born in China, raised in Hong Kong and living and working in New York, Tam anticipated punk, the subject of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit opening in May, mixing it with President Obama and Chairman Mao.
Black and red - two traditional punk shades - prevailed in the asymmetrical skirts, silk faille shifts, tops and gowns with printed caricatures of a smiling Obama wearing sunglasses and looking slightly reminiscent of Chairman Mao Zedong radiating light in all directions in Chinese propaganda posters.
The Chinese leader actually appeared in a one-shoulder dress with a print of a letter penned by Mao himself.
Tam also used typography and Chinese calligraphy: the latter, turned into a houndstooth-like print, quilted motif on a biker jackets or into leather inserts appliqued on dresses, added a graphic note to the collection, while military jackets and coats or dresses cinched at the waist by functional belts with side release buckles brought back in the designs Tam's fascination with uniforms and with images of Chairman Mao as The Great Leader and Supreme Commander.
Codes have actually turned into pretty fashionable prints in the last two years - readers of this site may remember previous posts in which Thorunn Arnadottir's "QR U?" designs and Louise Gray's QR code patterned dress and tights were mentioned.
None of the themes tackled by Tam are new: Obama has already appeared on a few dresses by other designers including Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, and QR codes, as stated above, are quite popular, yet Tam has her own trademark aesthetic and usually manages to inject even in Mao Zedong's military style a pop twist.
Now it's the turn of London Fashion Week to display its political allegiances with its official party at 10 Downing Street (that took place last Friday and that featured a wide range of guests foing from Anna Wintour and Donatella Versace to PPR's François-Henri Pinault and his wife Salma Hayek), and with more pictures of Samantha, ambassador and clothes-peg of the British designers, sitting in the front row.
Italians will to do it better, though, fashion & politics-wise: Milan Fashion Week this season is taking place during the national elections.
The country is trapped in a never-ending financial crisis, shocked by Pope Benedict's resignation and by the usual political scandals revolving around money and bribes, scared at the thought of the return of Berlusconi the Caiman, paralysed by Monti the technocrat's new centrist coalition, uninspired by the centre-left Bersani and surprised at the unpredicted surge of ex-comedian Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement (M5S).
Fashion critics will be on the lookout for refreshing looks on the Milanese runway, but Italians will probably be more interested not in new designs for their wardrobes by in innovative designs that may lead to the rebirth of the country.
Expect a very hot fashion week in Milan, with some terrific political battles ahead.
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