zaida adriana goveo balmaseda
20th century style and fashion
Final Exam Exercise
After a semester of 20th Century Style and Fashion lectures with professor Benedetta Barzini, I have reflected upon some of her suggested subjects and gathered several thoughts and information that should express a bit of the knowledge I’ve acquired. They might be rather ambiguous and subject to eternal debate, but it has been definitely great to exercise my mind and challenge it to define the ideas for which I want to stand.
About the use of fashion and our “need” of the Fashion System. Is fashion a disease a cure or neither?
“It is truly difficult to draw a line between clothing and body and between life and dress” (Diana Vreeland)
Fashion (as described by Immanuel Kant) is the open game of imitation, it is a natural inclination of man to compare his behavior to that of a more important person or someone he admires in order to imitate the other person's ways or be associated to them. In the fashion system there is a compulsion to subject oneself slavishly to the mere example which society projects to us. It is a capricious game of imitation related to self-importance in which most of what we imitate is the example from society. We imitate a mediated version of self instead of our true individual singularity.
Why is it so hard to move away from our “set” beliefs and adopt new points of view? Why cant we be neutral and take advantage of what it has to offer with out being blind? For some, it becomes an obsession, a disease, an addiction and go to the extremes. We just can’t let our lives be ruled by some “system”… which basically establishes that you have to live up to other people’s standards of beauty…As a designer it puts me in a difficult position- hating the system that my “career’s industry has established…
Clothes have gone from being a necessity to an object of pleasure, desire and whim. Especially since the 80’s when fashion was about consolidation of ideas, money and business, cult status and brands. Getting the branded look even if things were false because what was apparent counted the most. Brands try to sell us more than just an object, a product- they are establishing an idea, a lifestyle that we should all adopt. In theory, this should not be such a big dilemma, they are stating something, expressing themselves, just like we independent designers do. But the problem is that masses, following the “trends” have lost their sense of autonomous judgment. It’s a cultural overload; its in the media, in the magazines we read, in what we ear, in everything. Brainwashing and morphing our perceptions, and ideologies until the point where people have become passive individuals who rely on the brand to make them look good, to make choices for them and tell them how to do things. If we ponder, its similar to the theory of the shaman or the magician of the tribe who women went to for a secret potion that would make them live forever or fall in love.
The world around us only continues to become more complex and self-obsessed and on cases people will put aside important things such as food/family/rent just to get the latest “Luis Vuitton” bag or the new Burberry coat and sadly not because they like it or need it but because of the status symbol they are…] As consumers, we need space for debate and critical though and as designers and artists it’s important that we define the personal meaning of our profession and that we have an inner statement, an individual way of expressing ourselves, a point of view. We need to make it clear that our mission is to go beyond the superficial interpretations of fashion.
“Styles change rapidly and allow us to look back into the past and forward into the future, performing many social, aesthetic and psychological functions; if we look at it as a sum of experiences and abilities (of the creator, the technicians, the wearer), as a passion for attention to reality, as capacity for application and inventiveness, as love of past traditions and the desire to find out more about them but without feeling compelled to uncritically reproduce styles and forms that may no longer be relevant to our time
The most useful instrument for interpreting the future is the desire for new horizons. A pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo and expanding the frontiers through aesthetic experience… Fashion being an art that we wear calls on its artists to "serve as [the people's] avant-garde," insisting that "the power of the arts is indeed the most immediate and fastest way to reform.
About the dialogue between art and fashion:
Art in its origins was meant to be idealistic to represent perfection, the Gods, the divine, the spiritual. Using Greek and roman principles of equilibrium and proportion; artists were anonymous and worked mostly on commissions. Fortunately, nowadays there is artistic freedom: almost anything that we can call original and creative could be a form of art. Even if its not academic or classical: “The zeitgeist has come and is on its way for a much broader approach to fashion and design and its inclusion in the fine art market and being taken more seriously as an art form in its own right. Everything becomes much more interesting when you give it a platform.”
Fashion is not such a simple phenomenon, constantly in progress and now more fluid than ever. It arises out of individual sensibilities; it’s about the designer’s personal and subjective interpretations. The fashion designer invents; he is the only guarantor of the creative process. He can tell a story which records his work ethic, politics, and a humanistic attitude in general. Not by loosing the sense of quality and beauty, ignoring his love for harmony and balance but by innovating and experimenting to break barriers and challenges of design. Clothes in a way are MORE a product of design than “art for art’s sake”. This [product] has to be “wearable”, “practical”, and functional and is restricted by money. Which is why it’s important for me to respect and support people in this industry, because people who create fashion live around a very demanding and complex atmosphere both socially and professionally. We are required to do immense amount of research and development, while keeping an eye on budget and being practical, wearable and comfortable if we want to sell- although we probably we care more about art and struggle by having to compromise creating marvelous pieces of “slow fashion”. The liberty in the art of making clothes is far from what the majority of people in this industry are doing.
One of the closest things to art in fashion is Haute Couture. There is certainly a dialogue, there. Couture is the result of a work process that would not even be considerable without the ample range of skills on which the atelier can rely. Based essentially on manual techniques and the absolute care taken over detail; it multiplies the possibilities for an artist’s expression. At this dimension its possible to make almost any dream come true… like a picture painted by an artist, every garment is a one-off in which the methods and resources acquired by tradition are ensured and applied each time. Here the limit is within the imagination.
Ready to Wear fashion however can assert values and ideas with a stronger point of view than we imagine. Victor and Rolf's Fall 2008 collection was based on opposing the fashion system with the word "no." The models that are inside the fashion world were expressing opposition along with the designers who released this statement: "We love fashion, but it's going so fast. We wanted to say 'No' this season." it operates as counter-current within the system of images.
In the 70’s with the youth revolution, and the HIPPIES we had an opportunity to question the existing-ideal of beauty by exploring aesthetic principles far from the mathematic and Greek values. Before this phenomenon, if you wanted to be elegant you followed your parent’s fashion. In the 90’s the PUNKS came about wanting to horrify, and challenge the bourgeois, refusing the established system… everything that was considered ugly became AVANT GARDE: Dolce and Gabbana and John Galliano presented underwear as outerwear, “seeing what is inside”, Doc Martens boots, ripped jeans, uncovering the hidden, holes, unfinished hems, mended seams, the emergence of designers in Antwerp Belgium, Vivienne Westwood in London amongst others…
About ELEGANCE. How important is it to be is elegant, is it a value? And what does it mean?
Elegance is a quality that we’ve all wanted to have, its that one quality that makes you feel that you are “presentable” decent and appropriate at a place. Sadly, over the years we have “codified” the idea of what represents elegance and judged by it but I believe we are starting to slowly walk away from by understanding that perhaps if we dress to feel more comfortable while being respectful of the occasion, we can behave more naturally and consequently be more present and carry ourselves better. Respecting our individual needs is obligatory independently of the type of clothing. The important thing sis the context in which it will be worn
We should not judge someone solely for what they wear or how much the show or hide their beauty. Clothes may reveal about the way we are, but not more than the way we do things, how we behave, the way we speak, or the things we do and why. First impressions are difficult to avoid and leave always a strong mark but we should always try to look past the glass and take people for what they are entirely.
About the Fashion cycle:
We might not wear a piece of clothing more than once or twice, even if we really like it or paid a lot or it because it has gone out of fashion or become un-trendy; but why do we need to care so much about this when fashion is stepping evermore out of the human dimension by functioning at faster and faster rhythms that we cant keep up with.
Ironically, as technology speeds up, two contrasting worlds emerge:
One that considers nature, searches for ecology, people use bicycles instead of cars, consciousness about carbon footprint, inherited 60’s spirit, sustainability; and the fear of the unknown and what happens to our bodies when technology overtakes or evolves too much and starts replacing our eyes, ears, lungs etc… taking us to live artificial lives. And in another extreme we have technology: development of textiles for sports, super conveniences, research, science and the hope that it will free us from “death” and find the secret to living forever.
Fashion has stepped into a more industrial dimension – which could be good if it is taken advantage of properly. Machinery/industry can help the designer constantly improve the solutions to problems that will optimize the quality/timing of product production and help us find alternate ways of doing things, but it shall not substitute the sentiments and ingeniousness that a person is capable of rendering!
About how the dominating ideology operate control over material bodies:
Fashion is created with the intention of making us look better, to flatter us; but sometimes forgets about the real concept of harmony; harmony with the body.
The human body should always be our point of reference, our inspiration and greatest concern. We should allow it to move and play with -the dynamic of the relationship between what gets covered and the rest of the body; “to sculpt the body and turn it into a second skin because it is our living space, and it should be made to measure, it is habitation and habit, like a house.”-Gianfranco Ferré . Dress should be conceived as a three-dimensional entity whose form has a function and meaning in the relationship with the human figure and that the garment comes alive because it changes and adapts to the wearer.
Designers are mostly guided by the principles of beauty, geometry and we sometimes would just like to create impossible structures, “metal corsets” and other forms of art “inspired by clothing” just to exercise our skills and express ourselves. Nevertheless, for our everyday lives, the important values of dressing today are comfort, freedom of movement and natural wearability. It is no longer possible for clothing to be experienced as a burden/ a constriction to the dynamism and immediacy that are undoubtedly part of life today.
- Gianfranco Ferre: Lessons In Fashion by Maria Luisa Frisa