Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kate Middleton's wedding dress

The wedding dress that Kate Middleton wore yesterday fit in to an aesthetic that was very clever. When they talked about austerity in the run up to the wedding day I imagined that they would refrain from spending but actually it translated to the entire wedding. What we saw yesterday was an aesthetic that invoked English folklore, the trees in Westminster Abbey coupled with the Bride's dress were reminiscent of Maid Marian (or Queen Guinevere if you lean toward a less traditional view of her). The delicacy of the material was obvious. The lace at the top of the dress appeared modest but fragile and coupled with a veil that was not hoisted away but actually clung to her face it spoke of nature and a romantic ideal of ancient Britain. The cut of the dress may have reminded people of Grace Kelly but it also brought forward a notion of medieval dress that we consistently see in movies. She was not given a cleavage and this made her seem sedate, collected, without pretension. The dress was conservative, befitting of someone who will go on to have a certain level of duty and responsibility but it also allowed us to see a woman whose privilege is of a more conservative kind. This dress was subtle and clever as was the aesthetic of the wedding and the message to everyone watching was clear, this is an old, ongoing institution that this woman understands. This country is old, ongoing, has weathered many storms. Yesterday they attempted to aesthetically marry folklore to the aristocracy and it was very interesting.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Co-operative textiles

Ayrshire Weaver's recognised as world's first co-op- "250 years ago, 16 Fenwick weavers signed a document, promising to support one another, work honestly, and charge fair prices."

Monday, March 07, 2011

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Oh the bias of the press

Galliano's Fashionable Beliefs is a remarkably arrogant article by Laurie Penny who is usually rather more prone to writing articles that I have sympathy for. Instead of letting my fury have full reign, with that sympathy in mind, I am going to attempt to dissect the problems with her New Statesman post a little more calmly than I generally would.

Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. I'm ignoring the headline and byline since she probably had no part in writing them and getting straight to the meat of the post. The first thing Laurie does is launch an assault on the fashion industry. She gives no indication of whether she discerns the breadth of the industry or the difference between a designer, buyer, model, agent, independent dressmaker, gentleman's tailor and High Street retail assistant (to name just a few jobs in an international industry) but rather accuses everyone involved of unexamined prejudice. If it's a joke it's a particularly insulting one and if it's not then I'm sure I don't need to enlighten you all as to the logical flaw because in writing about prejudice in fashion she has made a statement that suggests rather a lot of it.

In the third paragraph she makes a little jibe about fashion being about appearance rather than clothing. This would sit better if she had either revealed a better understanding of the industry's breadth initially or described the section of the industry she was finding fault with. She goes on to point out that the fashion industry, specifically modelling, is racist but doesn't tackle the issue of racism in the industry sufficiently, doesn't discuss complications or how it might be resolvable. Then Laurie points out that "model agencies recently suggested that perhaps consumers just don't like looking at black people" but gives no source for this piece of information. If you have read other pieces on this blog you will see that I can find no fault with the statement that racism is inherent in modelling. I disagree with the recent statement by Alex Wek that it isn't racist but Laurie's criticisms are undermined by her blase attitude to specificity and an obvious misunderstanding of the importance of describing the section of an industry that you find fault with. This is also a separate issue to Galliano's alleged anti-semitism because while Galliano is a well known and influential designer he does not run modelling agencies and is not a magazine editor and conflating all of those issues together is too simplistic. Even if few black supermodels are present on the runway (catwalk) that does not mean they should automatically be ignored by magazines but open a copy of British Vogue and it's clear that there's a problem across specific sections of the industry in terms of modelling. It is unclear whether Laurie lacks the clarity needed to write on this issue or if she is ignorant of what she's describing but her article doesn't quite crack the issues she alludes to.

The fifth paragraph essentially shrinks the entirety of the fashion industry down to one man: Galliano. The sixth discusses misogyny but yet again Laurie uses hyperbole when she says that fashion has an "apparent conviction that any woman with the temerity to do more than silently starve herself is abhorrent". This would be a minor exaggeration if Laurie was describing fashion models but again she is not, this time she uses the term "fashion culture" so anyone involved in the culture of fashion has that conviction which presumably means that I believe I am abhorrent. Well, as a 5'7" 10 and a half stone woman I can tell you quite emphatically that I eat 3 meals a day, snack inbetween, eat dessert very regularly, am a feminist and think Laurie Penny has just insulted me and some other lovely people rather horribly.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Model Agency, Channel 4

It's been a while since the fashion industry has been represented in a thoroughly cold, calculating light on the TV but The Model Agency on Channel 4 tonight reflected the saddest aspects of it.

It was never going to be easy to portray modelling sympathetically because it's the most enraging element of fashion for most of us. Female models are usually very young and the women and girls who are chosen to be models are picked purely for their appearance. That in itself is quite shocking when taken in terms of everyday western existence because appearance may be prevalent but it's rarely the only criteria that has a bearing on our opportunities. The decisions made by the fashion industry (editors, agency bookers, designers etc) keep the perpetual cycle of young, tall, white, rake thin going and individuals usually maintain a denial of their complicity in that perpetuation of norms. That denial is possible because so many different people with different jobs are involved in giving models work that no one can claim to be responsible. Designers need specific (types of) models because they're fashionable, agents need to provide the models designers want, editors need to reflect the catwalk, sell magazines and put models into magazines that readers want to see or emulate or aspire to be.

When it comes down to bare facts a programme on a modelling agency was going to be controversial for many reasons but surprisingly my usual criticisms, the flaws that I already perceive to be verging on unforgivable, weren't the aspect of the show that grated the most. The worst thing about The Model Agency was how very childish the staff at Premier seemed to be. I suppose it's possible that a trick of editing misrepresented the bookers at the agency. It was clear that the remit of the documentary was sensational rather than mundane but quite why it was necessary for so many of the staff to reflect the behaviour of the 16 year olds that they work with was the main question left in my mind. Why was a grown adult who claimed responsibility for the well being of a teenager crying down the phone when the model had clearly had a difficult time alone abroad? Is it regarded as normal in that sector? That she was left to approach the problem in that way when she was obviously as distraught as the model and that the other staff felt it was appropriate did not reflect well on the agency or fashion in general.