The Forces of Beauty and Desire in Fashion Imitation

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The Forces of Beauty and Desire in Fashion Imitation

It would hardly be controversial to mention beauty and desire in the same sentence. We desire to be beautiful, to own beautiful objects, to be with beautiful people. Yet, whilst many theories of beauty search for its origins and role, the nature of desire itself is often neglected. Our daily experiences assure us that desiring something is a conscious, spontaneous act. The things we desire are the things we have chosen. But what if this is not the case? What would this mean for a theory of beauty?

Rene Girard (b. 1923), a French anthropologist, literary critic and religious writer, questions the assumption that desire is conscious and spontaneous. He views desire as something that is formed in the relationships people have with each other rather than as something found within individuals themselves. Perhaps more importantly, he stresses that imitation underlies the relationships in which desire is created. He claims that "humans learn what to desire by taking other people as models to imitate." (1) In contrast to the Platonic tradition in philosophy in which wanting is separated from imitation, Girard's theory of mimetic desire is significant in its connection of these two concepts. As an example, my best friend who is more beautiful than me wants to buy a dress. The theory of mimetic desire says that I also want the dress, not because I believe it to be a beautiful dress but rather because it is a dress that is desired by my beautiful friend.

Two important points emerge from this scenario. The first is that my desire to have the dress is a direct response to the way in which I compare myself unfavourably with my friend. Moreover, by owning the dress she likes, I hope to take on the qualities I admire in her but perceive to be lacking in myself. In essence, I am trying to become my friend when I copy her desires. As Girard states, "aware of a lack within ourselves, we look to others to teach us what to value and who to be." (2) Desire is therefore about self-identity. Advertising can be seen to exploit this insight. How much more fiercely do we desire a product when it is pictured in the hands of a celebrity with whom we identify than when it is held by someone unknown?

The second point is that my friend is likely to take my imitation of her desire for the dress as a competitive threat especially if there is only one such dress hanging on the shop rail. As Girard writes, when "two hands reach for the same object simultaneously, conflict cannot fail to result." (3) However, mimetic desire is not limited to my friend and myself. It is present among whole communities of people. Think about the heated tension that characterises the "I must have" attitude of buyers in shop sales.

Interestingly, mimetic desire can also be observed in higher order apes, the species closest to the point of hominisation. A chimpanzee desires to have exactly the same banana that another desires, even when alternative bananas are available. Rivalry escalates until the weaker chimpanzee surrenders and the dominant chimpanzee wins the banana. However, Girard highlights an important difference in the resolution of such conflict among humans. He claims that we lose sight of the object that initiated our rivalry. We struggle instead to win prestige over our competitors. In other words, we forget about the banana. There is therefore no natural braking mechanism in violence among humans because the weaker will not surrender. Girard claims that order is only restored when a number of people join together as a community to punish an otherwise innocent scapegoat through acts of sanctioned violence.

The Aztec myth of the sacrifice of the god Tezcatlipoca illustrates this scapegoating mechanism. The reign of the god-king Quetzacoatl ended when the ostentatious behaviour of Tezcatlipoca led to social chaos among the people who admired him. These very people who first adored Tezcatlipoca now turned against him, slaying him horrifically. The social reconciliation that followed convinced the crowd that they had in fact slain a god. Temples were built and sacrifices offered to worship the god Tezcatlipoca. It is striking that this ancient Aztec story closely resembles the fortunes of such beautifully "deified" celebrities as Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana. Generating both admiration and envy among their adoring public, their mental health problems and untimely deaths are modern parallels to the slaying of Tezcatlipoca.

There is a sense in which the fashion industry itself is part of the scapegoating mechanism. We all want the same things and these are provided through the marketing of beauty products. On one side, many people profit from the consumption and exchange of goods. On the other side, however, there are many losers, or victims. Is the fashion industry, which has itself a limited life span, nothing more than a sacrificial procedure?

What does this mean for a theory of beauty? In answer to our original question, we can see that mimetic desire challenges traditional theories of beauty in a number of ways. Firstly, it argues that beauty as such may not exist as something that an object or person individually possesses, but is socially constructed through the imitation of another person's desire. This leads to the insight that the act of finding someone or something beautiful is ultimately about our own self-identity. Finally, competition and rivalry are revealed to be an inherent part of the desire for beauty. The creation of fashion scapegoats and beauty icons allows us not only to conceal our own insufficiency from ourselves, but also to avoid accepting responsibility for the part we all play in the processes of mimetic desire.

(1) Lefebure, L. D. (1996) 'Victims, violence and the sacred: the thought of Rene Girard' in The Christian Century , 113, 4, p. 1227.

(2) Ibid, p. 1227

(3) Girard, R. (1988) To Double Business Bound: Essays on Literature, Mimesis and Anthropology, John Hopkins University Press, p. 201.

Cell Phone Fashion

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Cell Phone Fashion: Personalizing Mass Production

Reprinted at Fashion Worlds February 2006 with permission of the Daily India

By Emily Sims

“Individuality: advanced features, precision engineering and couture style in a choice of elegant colors -- as individual as you are”. This is the blurb for the new Motorola Razr, one of the new breeds of mobile phone flying off the shelves. Where mobiles were once marketed as an high-tech device, a tool packed with ingenious features, the new trend is for fashion phones. The major handset manufacturers are now offering seasonal collections, joint-venturing with well known fashion designers, and emphasizing aesthetic features when marketing their products. Indeed, some companies are scaling back the technical, yet utilitarian features, offering simpler but sleeker phones; form over function. Somewhere along the evolutionary path of the cell phone, the device has reached the point where it is no longer considered a gadget, available only to the privileged few with the money and/or technical savoir faire, but an ordinary piece of equipment not unlike a wristwatch. For handset manufacturers, there is no benefit in trying to “out-tech” the competition. The technology has reached a stasis, cell phones are reliable, small, WAP enabled, contain innumerable clocks and alarms, include high resolution cameras and MP3 players. And excepting some radical departure from the silicon chip, the current technology can expect only slight improvements. For manufacturers the question is how to continue adding value to their product, for consumers it is a question of choice. A report produced by ARCchart offers some insight into this new trend: “For the consumer faced with a range of seemingly identical devices from a technical perspective, the aesthetics of a device can generate an emotional response to which they will ascribe a value and for which they will pay a premium”.

The rise of the fashion phone is inextricably linked with the consumer's desire to differentiate themselves from other consumers. The pursuit of individuality seems to be a priority, at least that is what companies like Motorola believe. The staggering growth in the mobile content industry points to consumer preoccupation with personalizing their mobiles. The catch-phrase, "Make it you own", is selling ringtones, wallpapers, phone charms and decorative cases; now it's selling fashion phones. More and more, it seems, what we own defines us. Despite capitalizing on the trend at lightening speed, handset manufacturers aren't the prophets. Personalization, the trend towards customized and fashion phones is consumer driven. In China, where mobile phone saturation is high, it is possible to see phones worn on the wrist in handmade lace cases, or covered in stickers of pop stars and smiley faces. In Japan, the omnipresent Hello Kitty dangles from every schoolgirl's phone. These small aesthetic additions are intended to reveal something about the phone's owner. A Samsung cell phone emblazoned with an image of Diane von Furstenberg serves a similar purpose. As does the Roberto Cavali phone, or the Anna Sui phone. "Cell phones have become a ubiquitous accessory-- every woman has a mobile phone by her side. I wanted to create one that makes a statement with a signature look", declares Ms. Sui on her website. Making a statement is expensive, a designer's name on a phone increases it's value by several hundred dollars. It is no longer a high-tech tool, it is a designer accessory.

Not surprisingly, engineers like Bill Schweber are wondering who stole their glory. "Engineers do design, and by this we mean the hard and slogging work of pulling together ICs and software and resolving mechanical, thermal, power, display, format, protocol, and packaging issues. Then a celebrity comes along and takes all this hard work, puts on a new case or shell—perhaps studded with crystals or glitter—and takes the bulk of the credit. Once again, engineers do the work and don't get the appreciation." Recently, Nokia has undertaken a project with the design firm of Schulz and Webb, to explore the possibilities of personalized phones. The Schulz and Webb blog describes the project as "looking at how personalization of Nokia phones can change their meaning or impact culturally. Large-scale manufacture is inevitably distanced from the very precise social context of use. Once we bring in short-run manufacture, however, the mobile can be more culturally situated." Nokia have realized, at least, the inevitable paradox of mobile personalization. At the end of the day, the mobile phone in your hand is a mass produced clone.

Emily Sims is the beautiful and talented ringtones queen at Foovely. She also keeps a popular blog.

Fashion in the News 2006

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Fashion in the News 2006

India's fashion industry finds its feet: India's top designers have been unveiling ready-to-wear collections rich in hand-embroidery with an eye toward Western markets as global buyers scout for fresh talent at Mumbai's fashion shows. Elegant jackets with subtle beadwork, fluid skirts and linen tunics in off-whites and earth tones along with silk and wool have dominated the autumn-winter shows at the five-day Lakme Fashion Week, which ends Saturday.

Better known for garment factories that make clothes for big Western retailers like the Gap and Banana Republic, India is slowly gaining a reputation as a land where high fashion can be found alongside silk saris. Hollywood movie stars such as Nicole Kidman and Judi Dench have worn Indian creations. Indian designers sell their labels at high-end boutiques in London, New York and Paris, and a handful of Indian labels are available at London's Browns and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York.

Still, the Indian designer market remains in its infancy -- about US$49 million in domestic sales compared to the sizable US$35 billion global market. India's total garment exports are worth about US$5 billion a year. While there are no exact figures for how much of those exports are high-end fashions, experts say it's likely not more than a minuscule percentage. In the past, most Indian designers looked to the local clothing market -- currently about US$4.8 billion in sales. But now -- as was clear at this week's fashion shows in Mumbai -- they are now being aggressively courted by Western buyers.

``India is hot now, everyone is interested in India. Designers must not let the opportunity slip by,'' said Lavelle Olexa, a senior vice president at American retail chain Lord & Taylor. ``With the recent trend of embellishments, department stores are looking for fresh and new Indian detail.'' Albert Morris, a buyer from London's Browns, came to India looking for new styles. ``I'm looking for new silhouettes, crisp designs,'' said Morris. ``I'm looking for something that could stand near an Armani that should make people say, `Oh, that's new and fresh. Who's the designer?'''

Reflecting a rising interest in Indian design, global and domestic buyers will move from Mumbai's catwalk to India's capital New Delhi for another major fashion show beginning next week. Designing for an international market entails toning down vivid colors and cutting back on extravagant embroidery that do brisk business locally. Indian designers say overseas recognition will be gradual. ``Designing for the precision couture segment takes time,'' said Sabyasachi Mukherjee, who has shown his collection at the Milan Fashion Week and retails in British and European stores. ``I'll stick to growing slowly -- first I need to learn the market in Europe and then move into America.''

Well-known designer Ritu Beri, the first Asian to head French fashion house Scherrer's ready-to-wear line, said she uses softer color palettes for clothes sold abroad. She said a fusion of Western silhouettes with rich Indian brocade or cotton fabrics worked well. ``What buyers are looking at is tops and jackets with an Indian spirit without directly spelling out India,'' she said.

Rajesh Pratap Singh, India's top menswear designer, makes no changes when he retails abroad -- he bridges the East-West divide with uncluttered, sharp designs. ``I keep it simple with subtle embroidery on wool and an emphasis on cut and new shapes,'' said Singh, who sells his clothes in stores from Palm Beach to Paris.

But designers like Manish Arora, who showed at the London and New York fashion week, believe bright pinks and blues can make the trans-Atlantic trip. ``My look is very embroidered and very modern. I believe the whole world will see our edge in craftsmanship and in textiles,'' Arora said.

Taipei Times: Thursday 06 April, 2006

Fashion in Art/Fashion as Art: In February of 2006, the Museum of Art and Archaeology at the University of Missouri opens an exciting collaborative exhibition that displays artwork from the Museum’s permanent collection side-by-side with clothing from the Department of Textile and Apparel Management’s Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection. The exhibit, Dressing the Part: Art and Fashion in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, explores two hundred years of changing clothing styles, tracking the importance of fashion in the transmission of cultural and social ideas in European and American art.

Instead of trying to represent every fashion movement of the 1800s and 1900s, the exhibit focuses on certain particularly interesting social and cultural trends that are observable in both clothing and in art. The first portion of the show is devoted to fashions from the nineteenth century. Underwear, corsets, bustles, dresses and bonnets are displayed next to paintings, drawings and prints representing people wearing similar garments. Fashion in the 1800s was influenced by the social conditions of the time, and the attire on display reflects these conditions. Viewers will see how dress was connected to the restricted roles of women in society, and how clothing was associated with now forgotten social customs. For example, a number of artworks, objects and outfits displayed relate to the nineteenth-century custom of mourning. Mourning clothes, worn for months and even years at a time, manifested the ever-present awareness of death in this era of high infant mortality and short life expectancy.

During the 1800s, the wearing of particular colors, jewelry and garments indicated that a person was grieving for a dead relative or loved one. A nineteenth-century viewer, for example, would have instantly understood that the sitter in George Caleb Bingham’s Portrait of Thomas Withers Nelson was wearing a mourning pin. By displaying this artwork with objects and outfits associated with mourning..., the Museum allows today’s viewers to understand better the original meaning and context of both the painting and the clothing.

The second portion of the exhibit focuses on women’s working clothes and menswear from the mid 1800s to the turn of the century. Clothing worn by rural laborers is displayed next to pictures of working women by Jean Millet and Auguste Renoir. At the other end of the social spectrum, top hats, vests and suits complement prints and photographs representing men in formal attire by such artists as Honoré Daumier and Erich Salomon. All of these images reflect the important role clothing had (and continues to have) in representing the class and economic status of its wearers. By picturing people wearing such class-indicative outfits, the artists who made these pictures conveyed complex social and political messages.

The third and largest portion of the exhibition is dedicated to fashion in the twentieth century. Changing clothing styles in the last one hundred years reflect developing technology and evolving concepts about race and gender roles. For example, Romare Bearden’s abstract representation of African-inspired clothing in Conjunction echoes the interest among many twentieth-century African Americans in proudly proclaiming and re-claiming their African heritage through their dress. In the exhibit, Bearden’s print is displayed beside authentic African outfits. Such outfits were and are often worn by black Americans as a way of celebrating their African heritage.

People are often unaware of the social statements made by their clothing. By understanding fashion in the context of history, we begin to see how dress affects and reflects a culture’s values and priorities. When artists incorporate fashion into their paintings, drawings, photographs and prints they communicate a variety of social messages to the spectator. Visitors to Dressing the Part: Art and Fashion in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries are encouraged to contemplate these messages and consider the political, cultural and economic factors that have affected fashion design in Europe and America over the last two centuries.

Museum Magazine (Winter 2006: Number 48)

Chicos strategy wins customer loyalty: Experienced almost exclusively by women in midlife, Chicos is characterized by an infatuation with relaxed-fit jackets, tummy-skimming tunics and acetate/spandex pants. "Thank goodness they make clothes for me, because no one else seems to," says Joan Balfour, a 64-year-old retired social worker/psychotherapist.

Look around any mall and you'll see store after store kissing up to teenagers and women in their twenties. They're the cool customers, fashionably slender of hip and open to quicksilver trends, the conventional wisdom goes. "Some retailers are embarrassed by the real women who shop there who aren't as fashionable and edgy. Retail fashion is notorious for that," says marketing-to-women whiz Mary Lou Quinlan, author of "Just Ask a Woman: Cracking the Code of What Women Want and How They Buy." "Some retailers and merchandisers have wannabe customers. The customer they want is the customer they don't have, and the one they have is the one they don't like."

Chico's clearly adores its customer, Quinlan says. "They probably have pictures of her in their hallways, and they're not going to desert her or disappoint her. And they're willing to forgo fashionistas in favor of the much, much larger group of women who have a look, a lifestyle, that's very Chico's."

That much larger group of women includes Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964. "This is an audience that's used to having the world focus on them, but when it came to their clothing needs, only Chico's cared," says James Chung of Reach Advisors, a Boston-based marketing strategy and research firm that studies how demographic and lifestyle shifts impact the consumer landscape. "Chico's couldn't care less if they are mocked by others outside of their core audience," he says. "All they care about is the upscale 50-year-old woman, and they do it well."

Chico's was born in 1983, in a small Sanibel Island store that also sold Mexican art. Now the publicly traded company operates 763 stores, including 499 Chico's stores and 31 outlets. White House/Black Market is part of the fold, with 196 locations, and Chico's just launched a new offshoot of lingerie stores called Soma by Chico's.

From the beginning, Chico's not only understood the psychology of sizing its clothes but also did something about it. They invented their own scale, sizes 0 to 3 (roughly the equivalent sizes 4 to 16). The psychological benefits of single digits can't be denied. "They understand women's issues of body image," Quinlan says. "They understand women, especially grown-up women who live in a world infatuated with a (traditional) size 2. It's discouraging to go shopping and find nothing but low-ride jeans and belly tops or go someplace where you feel like an outcast. . . .

"Their sizing is brilliant. It's genius. Why it took so long for someone to stop saying Extra Large. . . . Right away there's permission to be who you are and be happy about it." When Margot Banke learned that she could wear a 2 or 3 at Chico's instead of a 12 or 14 somewhere else, "you don't know what that did to me." One thing: It kept her going back for more.

The fact that most Chico's items are machine-washable and wrinkle-resistant in even the fullest suitcase adds to their appeal. "Women are stressed," Quinlan says. "They don't need more work to take care of their fashion."

Quinlan says women can sense when a company respects them. "They respect women in the way they design clothes and sell clothes, and they're loyal," she says. "They keep certain styles. They don't make you start from scratch each season. What Chico's knows is it's not just about the clothes. It's about the heart. That's what they've got nailed."

The Austin American-Statesman: January 09, 2006

A Year Full of Eastern Promise: Oriental designs, the Sixties look and the duster coat will be big in 2006, predicts Clare Coulson. Memoirs of a Geisha promises to be the most sumptuous film of the year. Oriental designs have already been seen on the spring catwalks of Dries Van Noten and Hermès, while at Lanvin, Alber Elbaz cinched his pared-down looks with beautiful obi belts.

Biba, the label that defined Swinging Sixties fashion, is making a comeback, French Sole is introducing a Sixties collection of ballet slippers and Bath's Museum of Costume will hold a retrospective of John Bates, one of the most influential designers of the Sixties (from July). For spring, hemlines are heading well above the knee, with swinging mini-dresses and Mod-inspired short skirts.

Further predictions of trends for 2006 include bows; duster coats; chunky, long gold chains and pendants; luxurious fabrics; A-line skirts, shift dresses and straight coats worn with platforms and a Mod-inspired bob.

The Daily Telegraph: January 04, 2006

Symbols of Radical Change

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Symbols of Radical Change

Reprinted at Fashion Worlds October 2005 with permission of the The Nation (Nairobi)

By Kamau Mutunga

The current trend on the local fashion scene is a T-shirt bearing the portrait of Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara. But although his familiar beard and beret are entering our fashion scene 38 years after his death in Bolivia, Guevara has long been a fashion statement and cultural icon in Latin American countries, where paraphernalia ranging from posters, buttons, watch faces, photos, coins, flags, medals, Cuban currency, murals, album covers, postage stamps and refrigerator magnets bear his image.

"Guevara T-shirts are part of the current fashion fad worldwide of leading trends from past heroes and legends like Bob Marley, Bruce Lee, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela. The young want to be associated with revolutionary symbols of rebellion," says Hakim Adero, a clothes dealer at Sunbeam stalls on Moi Avenue in Nairobi. He adds: "A good number of gullible fashion slaves don't even know who Che Guevara was. Some think he is a Rastaman while others just fall for the romantic appeal of the Marxist firebrand because they think it looks cool. The T-shirts go for between Sh800 and Sh1,000."

In Kenya, it has been cool for those with a patriotic bent to wear T-shirts with images of Mau Mau heroes such as Dedan Kimathi. Subukia MP Koigi Wa Wamwere, for instance, wears one with a portrait of former Nyandarua MP JM Kariuki.

The trademark dressing of these heroes also dictated fashion trends. Take Kenyatta's fez, belt and leather jacket, which were considered chic by men from the '70 to the late '80s. The stiff Mao suits, often worn by Prof Anyang' Nyong'o, Njeru Kathangu, Mukhisa Kituyi and the late George Anyona were the trademark of Chinese strongman, Mao Zedong, much in the same way the Kaunda suit defines founding Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda.

Then there is the Nelson Mandela shirt by Ivorian designer Yusuf Surtee. The "teardrop" shirt, as it is called, was popular among Kenyan men in the early to late '90s. It is cut at the waist and buttoned up to the collar, but it was Mandela who made it a symbol of dignified simplicity.

And from the sandals presumably worn by Jesus Christ come the "Jesus sandals," a low-heeled canvas sandal with straps that are tied around the calf. They are popular among young women in Nairobi, where heroes are fast becoming money-minting projects.

Take 18-year old Samuel Chege for instance. His soon-to-be launched Samzi Wear will be exclusively designing T-shirts depicting Kenyan heroes. "I am wearing a Jomo Kenyatta T-shirt to advertise the images my clothing line will be printing. Kenyans have suddenly become patriotic and I'm sure they will identify with them," he adds optimistically.

John Biko 22, named after the late South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, does not print images of heroes but collects them. "I collect Bob Marley T-shirts because he was a hero to me through his revolutionary reggae music, which makes sense to date."

And now the Che Guevara T-shirt. It has lingered longer as a fashion craze than that of any other revolutionary, dead or alive.

It all began when photographer Alberto "Korda" Diaz took Guevara's picture during a funeral in1960. The photo, known as "Gurrillero Heroico" (Guerilla Hero) was published seven years later when Korda gave a print to an Italian journalist, who printed it as a poster when Guevara died in 1967. The poster's popularity was spurred by the student movements then, which identified with rebellion. The eager market they provided shortly spread all over Europe and around the world.

In South America, young Latinos consider him a hero while older ones still see him as a merciless army major who ran Castro's firing squads, killing people in cold blood.

Strangely enough, his tragic early death created a legend that still lives.

But why is there renewed interest in heroes?

"Heroes are a fashion fad because the fashion industry has matured to become one of creativity with a cause. In the case of Kenya, we are celebrating African heroes through fashion. Again courtesy of the patriotic turn-around created by local music, Kenyans are slowly discovering who they are. They would rather have a T-shirt portrait of Kenyatta than that of American rapper 50 Cent," says Ritchie Ekhalie, head designer of Shujaa Kreations.

His two-month old design house prints Tshirts and spaghetti tops, caps and sweat shirts bearing images, not only of Guevara, but also Dedan Kimathi, Julius Nyerere and General John Garang ,who died in a plane crush in July 2005. Besides Guevara, Garang is currently the fastest selling hero image.

Beneath Historic Fashions

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Beneath Historic Fashions

Reprinted at Fashion Worlds October 2004 with permission of NPR

By Scott Simon

History's unmentionables come out of the closet in a new calendar from the Costume Society of America called Underwear: Beneath Historic Fashions. The calendar depicts undergarments from the early 18th century to the 1960s.

Some scholars wonder about the place of knickers, bustles and thongs in history, but as calendar editor Sally Queen tells Scott Simon for Weekend Edition Saturday, underwear can tell us much about how people's habits and behaviors change over time. "Clothing is really culture at the most personal level," she says.

For instance, in contemporary society, "many fashions of underwear have become outerwear," she says. This shows how "we are a more open society in what we are wearing." The trend started earlier than most people believe. One shot from the calendar, from the Cowgirls Museum and Hall of Fame, depicts a woman wearing a spangled rhinestone brassiere covered by a sheer blouse. The year: 1950. "I was quite surprised with the date," says Queen.

Undergarments, at least those made for women, have been designed with appearance in mind for six centuries, says Queen, though for most of that time the garments have been meant for an audience of one. Men's underwear has generally been "less interesting and more utilitarian," she says. That's why "the majority of garments in collections are women's clothing… To look at the men's side of underwear is different." One page of the calendar (April) does depict men's undershirts from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Even the English language has been influenced by undergarments. Several popular expressions make reference to underwear: "Loose woman" comes from the connotations associated with uncorseted or loosely corseted women, Queen says. A similar case is "shiftless"; a shift was an 18th century support-providing undergarment, and Queen says the term was meant to characterize someone "without support."

Many people believe that underwear for women has changed as it has because of feminism and changing social attitudes. To a large degree, that's true, Queen says, but there are other factors as well. In the past, undergarments were often designed for their "body-shaping" features. But these days, thanks to the increase in exercise and athleticism among women, "the body has become its own foundation" and women no longer need to rely on cloth and whalebone for this purpose, she says.

"The choice," says Queen, "is do we want to spend three hours a day in the gym to sculpt the body, or do we want to put on a piece of cloth?"

Fashion in the News 2005

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Fashion in the News 2005

Well, look who shop till they drop now...: The secret's out - men enjoy retail therapy as much as women, and they spend a whole lot more, too. Menswear is having its moment in the sun. Topman recently exhibited its first collection at London Fashion Week to much acclaim; shortly afterwards, the company launched its first Design Range, which sold out almost immediately. Says Gordon Richardson, Topman's creative director: "Blokes are far more informed about fashion than they used to be, and in turn they are more confident about it. They're no longer scared to go out shopping in groups, or to critique each other." Meanwhile, a recent survey by Brunel University found that men's genetics make them far better shoppers than women, while another revealed that while British women spend £8.3 billion a year on luxury goods, they are outstripped by men, who spend £11.6 billion. This article reports the views of four men who have made a significant contribution to that sum.

When Henry Conway was just 11 years old, he started keeping a fashion diary made up of cuttings from the pages of magazines. He believes that Prince Charles has a nice aesthetic and always dresses immaculately.

Darryl Samaraweera spends £500 a month on clothes and buys things knowing that he will never wear them, just because he likes the look of them.

Jonny Ward-Manning, with his tanned skin and dyed blond hair, is the epitome of metrosexuality. He wears a Gucci ring on one hand and a Tiffany ring on the other, while a pair of Ray-Ban aviators covers his eyes. His friends don't ever make jokes about it, because - he says - they are exactly the same. "It is partly down to the MTV culture. "We were teenagers in the mid-Nineties, when boy bands were at their peak. Before that, everything had been grunge or punk. Suddenly, it was OK for men to exfoliate. I did it partly to impress the girls, but strangely, also to be one of the lads."

Jonas Andersen thinks it is very important to know about the quality of what you are buying. "You see a lot of expensive things that are actually made of cheap material with a huge mark-up. I like to know about fibres, so that I know what I am buying. If you buy quality clothes, they last and you don't have to throw them away."

The Daily Telegraph: October 19, 2005

Cultural gem at height of fashion: Turquoise has been part of the culture of Native Americans from the Southwest for hundreds of years. In recent months it has seen a revival, thanks to all the Western-inspired looks flooding the fashion aisles of stores. New products, from Ralph Lauren's Pure Turquoise fragrance to designer Luca Trazzi's turquoise cappuccino maker to party planner Colin Cowie's turquoise votives, attest to the popularity of its color. Fashion lovers seeking inspired looks can turn to "Totems to Turquoise: Native North American Jewelry Arts of the Northwest and Southwest". Key themes of the exhibition — organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York — include jewelry as portable symbolic art; motifs transferred to jewelry from other art forms; and how artists today are both drawing on, and departing from, tradition.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: October 12, 2005

Step aside Armani, NCSU is on the runway: Thirty top designers, including Diddy, Armani and Abercrombie, make up the Young Menswear Association. The YMA was developed to highlight men’s fashion in a woman’s world. Over the past few years, it has scoured the nation’s top design schools to find 30 of the most promising young talent in the field. About ten percent of recipients of the annual YMA fashion award, which includes a $5,000 scholarship, are from North Carolina State University (NCSU). This past year, Amanda Barrett, a senior in design and textile and apparel management, Chris Jordan, a senior in textile and apparel management and Kendall Smith, a senior in textiles and apparel management and multicultural studies, kept the tradition alive. “Textiles gives a really good, very technical background. You learn all the properties of fabric which gives a real edge in fashion design,” Smith says.

All three took advantage of these technologies when creating their portfolios for the YMA last year. Barrett designed a pink and grey argyle pattern, which she describes as “very 80s preppy, Lacoste-ish.” She then used a machine at the textile school to knit the fabric. Barrett says her design sense has ready-to-wear in mind. Jordan’s designs are a little different. “I design a lot of things that are crazy. I like to start with something that is art and funnel it down into practical clothing,” says Jordan. Smith hasn’t experienced an internship yet, but she hopes for one next summer as she gears up already for this coming year. In only a few weeks, her designs made out of non-woven fabrics will be showcased in a St. Louis fashion show. Non-woven fabric consists of materials randomly being rolled together, rather than woven or knitted as in traditional fabric. It’s quickly becoming in high demand for its efficient production and low cost. Using theme in high fashion is hardly a new concept, and Smith is excited to branch out and “be more couture.” The couture side of fashion design has nothing to do with the clothes currently walking the street. Especially as American society becomes exponentially more causal, the high art of couture is pinned to the runways. Embellished denim and screened T-shirts are at the height of popularity everywhere. September 09, 2005

The "killer hat" crusades: Hats were a fashion necessity in the 1890s and early 20th century, with feathered hats and accessories among the most stylish. Millions of birds were killed to provide decoration for hats and other fashion until socially conscious women started a crusade for bird protection that's now considered to be the first modern conservation movement. The crusaders against "killer hats" joined concerned scientists to form the Audubon Society, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

"Killer Hats: Birds on the Brink" at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma tells the story of this crusade, with feathered hats, capes and fashion prints from the early 20th century, along with reproductions of 12 original paintings of birds by John James Audubon from his classic "Birds of America." Displays tell a story of environmentalism from then to the present, including efforts from the 1940s to preserve the bald eagle.

The Seattle Times: September 08, 2005

Cancer be damned, kids wanna tan: The Canadian Dermatology Association says, "No tan is a good tan," since all exposure to solar radiation -- whether from the sun or a tanning lamp -- damages the skin to some extent. To the sun-obsessed, you might as well be saying, "No air is good air." Young people, especially, have re-embraced tanning with a vengeance, heading to tanning salons and, in warm weather, soaking up the sun. Last month, the American Academy of Dermatology released a survey indicating 79 per cent of youths between 12 and 17 know suntanning can be dangerous. And 81 per cent recognize that sunburns during childhood up the risk of skin cancer. Yet 60 per cent said they burned last summer. It gets worse: while more than a third of those surveyed said they knew someone who had skin cancer, almost half said people with tans look healthier.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, pale was in. European women would casually twirl frilly parasols to shield themselves from the sun, notes Stephen Katz, a sociology professor at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont. Back then, if you showed up in public with a tan, a man could be mistaken for a field hand, and a woman for a prostitute. "Tans were labour tans," explains Katz, "and not leisure tans like they are today." In the early 1920s, "sun therapy" became popular and was prescribed for everything from fatigue to tuberculosis. Also in the '20s, fashion fixture Coco Chanel made a splash with her divine golden hide, compliments of the French Riviera. Baby oil hit the scene in the 1950s, and in '53 Coppertone unveiled its iconic ode to the tan -- and one of the advertising world's most recognized trademarks -- the little blond girl with pigtails and the cocker spaniel tugging at her bathing suit.

Silver metallic UV reflectors were common tan enhancers by the late 1950s, and the '60s revelled in the sand-and-surf ethos epitomized by the Beach Boys. Then, the Me Decade of the '70s gave rise to the tanning bed. A bronzed and perky Farrah Fawcett gleamed from posters on the walls of many a teenage boy. In '79, sun-meister George Hamilton became the first actor to portray Dracula with a tan, in Love At First Bite. Also that year, Bo Derek scored a perfect 10 for tanning and other attributes in 10. In the 1980s and '90s, tans took a hit, when the world looked up to realize the ozone roof over our heads was raining down radiation.

But by the late 1990s, while many continued to be mindful of the sun's harmful effects, all seemed right again in celebrity land, particularly when Bündchen hit the scene. Soon afterwards Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez appeared all nice and brown. Aniston gleamed on Friends. By 2003, spray booths offering guilt-free tans took off. "Tans are what sociologists call a signifier, or a sign, because here we have something that doesn't really mean what it means," says Katz. "Unlike good posture, and an appropriate weight, having a tan does not mean you're healthy -- at all. It is the 'sign' of health, or myth of health, ruggedness, being outdoors, as well as a sexual sign."

Maclean's: June 27, 2005

Muslim women combine tradition and trendy fashion: The trend of stylishly veiled young women is growing in Lebanon's Muslim communities today. Dr. Hassan Hammoud, associate professor of sociology at the Lebanese American University, explains that women in Lebanon are bombarded by messages and images of how fashionable a woman ought to be in terms of outfit and physical shape. "Young girls try to fit into this model," he says. "They build an image of themselves made out of what they hear, see and expect themselves to be." And if veiled women come from an immediate environment that values fashion, then their clothes will be fashionable, too. "A veiled woman, like any other woman, holds an image of what is acceptable versus what is unacceptable, based on the values of her peer group, her family, her community," Hammoud explains. The Koran and Sunnah, or teachings of the Prophet, instruct Muslim women to cover their whole body, except for the hands and face, with loose and nondiaphanous clothes. They make no mention of form, style and color, leaving the door open to personal interpretation. A much stricter interpretation came from Salafi scholars. Salafi tradition, mainstream in countries such as Saudi Arabia, advocates a return to the lifestyle of the salaf, or ancestors, who lived during early Islam. Its understanding of Islamic laws is extremist. Hanadi Shehabeddine, a 29-year-old media and advertising professional, finds that "it is not wrong at all to be influenced by the West." In fact, she finds such an influence very "normal" given the power of globalization and the United States' leading position in the world.

The Daily Star: May 17, 2005

Last Supper advert is the final straw: Supermodels have fallen foul of France’s blasphemy laws with an advertising campaign that parodies Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, The Last Supper. The Parisian media and fashion establishment have denounced a court ruling for advertising posters to be removed yesterday from billboards across France within three days or risk a daily fine of €100,000 (£70,000) as an act of censorship. The advertising campaign for the Girbaud fashion house shows designer-clad women in the pose of the apostles and a half-naked man as Jesus Christ. Girbaud said that it would appeal against the ruling. French bishops are particularly upset that the advertisement shows a shirtless man to the right of the model representing Jesus in the arms of one of the female “apostles”. This appears to be an oblique reference to claims that the effeminate-looking apostle seated on Jesus’s right in da Vinci’s work was his follower, Mary Magdalene, and not John, as is usually stated. These claims were renewed by the American author Dan Brown, who suggested in his bestselling work, The Da Vinci Code, that the Church had conspired to hide Jesus’s marriage to Mary Magdalene. Thierry Massis, the bishops’ lawyer, said: “When you attack sacred things, you create a moral violence that is dangerous for our children. Tomorrow we’ll have Christ selling socks.” But Bernard Cohen, acting for Girbaud, said: “The work is a photograph based on a painting, not the Bible. There is nothing in it that is offensive to Catholic religion. It is a way of showing the place of women in society today.”

The Times Online: March 12, 2005

Licensed to click: Indian fashion photography is traditionally a male domain dominated by names such as Prabuddha Dasgupta, Atul Kasbekar, Tarun Khiwal, Denzil Sequeira, Farrokh Chothia, Subi Samuel. There’re no women on top in a profession that is for most part centred on women. Sumiko Murgai Nanda, over a decade old in the profession, blames it on mindsets. “In the beginning, clients would be reluctant, and apprehensive till I actually delivered the pictures. But as my work began to speak, gender issues started melting away.” New entrant Ronika Kandhari says the odds have been challenging but not insurmountable. “I began with fashion photography and portfolios, and moved on to wedding photography where women are even rarer.” Is a woman behind the camera more likely to produce better results with a female subject? Yes and no, says Murgai. “Female models have told me they’re more comfortable working with me, and I’d agree that a woman instinctively knows how another woman would look in a picture. But then, it all depends ultimately on how artistically the work has been presented…” No, says lensman Hemant Khandelwal. “Men understand the female form better than women.” According to him, the issue in fashion photography is competence, not gender stereotyping: “The fact is there are very few female photographers in India who are actually good… Nisha Kutty is outstanding, and Sumiko has made it big. That’s about it.”

Hindustan Times: March 10, 2005

Closets overflow with cheap clothes: For about a decade, almost without realizing it, Americans have benefited from falling prices for coats, dresses, men's slacks, women's skirts and blouses, toddlers' outfits, and other apparel as global quotas on clothing manufacturing have been systematically dismantled, boosting low-cost imports. Also keeping prices down is fierce competition among retailers who have to sell more to maintain profits. So fashions change in the blink of an eye, with as many as 13 seasons in the new clothing world. For American consumers, the decline in clothing prices is one upside of the trend toward globalization. Another result of inexpensive clothes is a burgeoning used-clothes economy that is filling the racks of local thrift shops, creating jobs, and producing a windfall for some nonprofit groups. Even high-fashion brands have not been immune. Ten years ago, a jacket from Jones of New York was priced at retail for $180 to $200, said Jones spokeswoman Anita Britt. It still sells for that amount, she said. "Have we taken prices up? No, not even to match inflation." Boston College sociology professor Juliet B. Schor, who wrote the recent book "Born to Buy", estimates that women bought 32 garment items a year in 1991. By 2002, according to her analysis of census data, they were buying about 50 percent more: 50 pieces. The gain was nearly as high for men.

The Billings Gazette: January 02, 2005

Fashion in the News

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Fashion in the News




Postcard #2

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Postcard #2

Dear Fashion Worlds,

Did I ever tell you about ‘The day after’? Being a personal shopper means that I also have to deal with my clients’ wellbeing. ‘The day after’ a shopping tour is dedicated to relaxing. Fortunately Milan offers lots of possibilities as this same holistic concern is also emerging between Italian fashion brands and health industries in the city.

Stylists are not only concerned by ‘trucco e parrucco’ (hair & make up) during their fashion shows but they have enlarged their views, taking care of external image without forgetting psychic health. We already have branded cosmetics lines, branded make-up lines, branded restaurants, branded hotels. But now we also have branded Healthy Spas!

In my packages I always offer the possibility to book an ‘after-shopping day’ treatment at Dolce & Gabbana, Gianfranco Ferrè or Bulgari. A day of ‘shopping till you drop’ and a few hours of pleasant abandon to recover.
Located in peaceful buildings, I find that all of these new Spas offer exhilarating treatments.

You just need to come over to Milan and try them!



Shopping & art advisor in Italy

12 July, 2004

Postcard #1

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Postcard #1

Dear Fashion Worlds,

A tight relationship between the fashion world and hotel industry is emerging in Italy. In the last year a number of new hotels have been launched in Milan’s scene. And more is to come. Park Hyatt, Bulgari, Armani… The new Milanese hotel, The Gray is described as selective, intimate and mysterious. A new place for fashionistas: a truly modern design hotel finally!

The ‘see and be seen’ does not work here because only established names with their chosen guests enter this private, club atmosphere hotel. 21 rooms. In suite gym. In suite steam bath. High speed wireless internet. Design and technology. Located between the Duomo Cathedral and La Scala Opera House, under historical facades that give no clue to the modernity of this hotel.

Giovanni’s Menu at the ‘Le Noir’ restaurant is an exquisite mixture of traditional and modern Italian cuisine.

There is a new reason to come here to Milan!



Shopping & art advisor in Italy

17 June, 2004

Postcards from Milan

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Postcards from Milan

Simona Iulini writes to Fashion Worlds from Italy about the fashion scene in Milan, the city in which she lives. She gives first-hand accounts of its shops, outlets, trends and exhibitions. Simona's experiences in public relations for Armani and Romeo Gigli, together with her organisation of fashion tours for her own personal shopper's agency, place her in an ideal position to gather the most interesting details about life in the city.

Postcard #1

Postcard #2

Visit Simona Iulini's website, The Art of Shopping for further information about her personal shopper's agency in Milan.

Do real men wear sandals?

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Do real men wear sandals?

Reprinted at Fashion Worlds June 2004 with permission of the Staten Island Advance

By Jessica Jones

It's hot. Really hot. And both men and women are bearing it all in an attempt to keep cool. For the ladies, it's natural: Cute tank tops, shorts and flip-flops are a summertime staple. But for men, showing a little extra skin can be an issue. Especially where feet are concerned.

"The more skin one shows, the less power the person has," explained Beryl Wing, an author and image consultant with a practice in Great Kills. "Men know that the less clothes you wear, the less power you have. And I know sandals sound like a small part of the body to be uncovered, but it makes them feel vulnerable. Not a happy state for most men."

Despite this philosophy, sandals have always been a warm-weather option for men. There's been open-toe designs for the athlete, the bohemian and the business-minded man. But a recent trend in fashion has produced a whole new range of stylish flip-flops and sandals, making the flat-soled, open-toed shoe a dominant force in the market. Still, experts, say, men's opinions about the shoes have not changed.

Ms. Wing quoted Ruth P. Rubinstein, an F.I.T. professor of sociology, who points out in her book, "Dress Codes," that lack of clothing in ancient art symbolizes defeat and victimhood. Men, intensely attuned to power, she said, know that that aura of the undressed victim has survived into our own age.

"Men don't ever want to be laughed at," Ms. Wing continued. "It is their worst fear. Wearing sandals -- shoes with very limited guaranteed appropriateness (the beach really is the only place you're sure they belong) -- opens one up to ridicule. Men will avoid this at all costs. Being laughed at, again, means you've lost your power."

Plus, sandals have the hint of the artist in them, Ms. Wing said. While women love the artistic and being "different," men tend to follow the leader and shun the creative.

"Being artistic has many less-than-manly connotations, even in our age when many men are more progressive," the image consultant explained. "This may not be a top-of-mind reason for many men (and many of the more liberal ones might not even admit to it), but it's there. Again, you open yourself up to ridicule or worse. Another power issue."


Practicality is also another concern. Men like to wear what's functional and a pair of shoes that only pops out of the closet on weekends during the summer months is not usually a smart buy.

"They don't want 1,000 pairs of shoes like Imelda Marcos, or even a closetful, like the women in their lives," Ms. Wing said. "They want a few pairs of versatile, functional footwear that can do multiple duty. Why invest in a pair of sandals that are only foolproof at the beach or the pool when you can spend the money on an extra pair of sneakers that you can wear multiple places?"

Ms. Wing recommends that men buy sandals only if they're totally comfortable with it.

"For a man who really wants to, I say go for it," she said. "This man is possibly a superb dresser, maybe a bit artistic or a bit of a rebel. He probably knows to buy the finest quality he can afford., to match the styling to his personality (be it elegant, rugged, functional, artsy or whatever) and to wear them only in venues that are appropriate. But it's definitely not a look for everyone. Nor should it be. It's a risk."

Jessica Jones is the fashion editor for the Staten Island Advance.

The Cycle of Fashion

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The Cycle of Fashion

Fashion is fuelled by conversion. Designers continually persuade the public that their new ideas, however shocking they may seem, are in fact everything that a stylish wardrobe requires. Next season, the same designers convince everyone to give up their allegiance to such out-modish designs and embrace instead the innovative visual trends of the latest collections. The same garments are successively dubbed ‘outlandish’, ‘in fashion’ and ‘out-dated’ according to the apparent vagaries of prevailing fashionable sensibilities. Are we really duped by such duplicity? Or are we willing participants in the cycle of fashion? And perhaps more significantly, what relevance does the cycle have today in Western society’s culture of mass consumerism?

The idea that fashion in dress follows a cyclical phase structure is not new. The sociologist, Quentin Bell made such an observation over fifty years ago in his book, On Human Finery. Moreover, his observation was based on accumulated evidence of an uninterrupted cyclical flow in dress change in Western society since at least the thirteenth century.

The sociologist, Ingrid Brenninkmeyer describes this flow by comparing it to the rolling of waves in the sea. As one fashion gains popularity, crests and dissipates, another stylistic wave is already forming behind it. Further extensions of this metaphor liken different stylistic features to variations in the waves themselves. For example, just as different wave patterns form on the basis of their force, size or length, so also different overlapping patterns can be traced in changes of fashionable hem length, silhouette, fabric, décolletage and colour.

Mere descriptions of the fashion cycle however do little to explain exactly why successful designers’ ideas typically rise and fall in popularity. What is the motivating force behind such changes in fashion? What causes the cycle to move from one phase to the next? These questions cannot be answered simply. Perhaps sheer boredom inspires the continual search for something new. Or can novelty be related to ideas of sexual allure and attraction? Do competing market interests in the fashion industry play a role in animating the cycle? Or could changes in dress function as markers of class differentiation?

These factors and more have been variously proposed and analysed by researchers into the sociology of fashion. Bernard Barber (1957) depicted a ‘trickle-down’ theory of fashion as a symbol of social class whilst Gabriel Tarde (1903) outlined a theory of imitation. René Konig (1973) emphasised the displacement of sexual urge and Herbert Blumer (1969) formulated a theory of collective selection. However, each of these theories ultimately fails to provide a definitive account of the processes shaping the many vicissitudes and disparate progressions of contemporary fashion innovation.

Long waves in which a single style dominates for a season and is replaced in the next are no longer the norm. There are no modern equivalents of the crinoline, the bustle, the flapper dress, Dior’s New Look or the three-piece single-breasted man’s suit. The journalist Holly Brubach captures the current pace and diversity of the fashion cycle in an article written for the New Yorker on December 31st, 1990: “Fashion as it’s presented on the runways is nowhere near as unanimous as it used to be, but coverage of it in the press still focuses on hemlines and colours and items – on what the collections have in common … The truth is that these days you can find practically anything in somebody’s collection somewhere.”

The apparently random, rapid overlapping of new fashions is not restricted to changes in dress, but can also be noted in areas of modern culture as diverse as painting, music, architecture, entertainment and systems of health care. In Western society’s media-based culture of mass consumerism and against a background of globalisation, fashion appears to serve reactionary purposes that both structure and affirm the identities of groups and individuals. From surfers and students to alienated middle-class youths and married working women, weekly changes in fadlike styles give a sense of belonging whilst also distinguishing them from the masses.

Changes in the fashion cycle since the end of World War II therefore indicate an interweaving of complex and multiple processes. A uniform acceptance of single fashionable styles across the class structures of society has been replaced by a rapidly- changing, many-faced, identity-defining drive. It remains to be seen whether these phenomena signal the eventual disintegration of fashion’s long-enduring cycle.

In troubling times, pink is hot hue again

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In troubling times, pink is hot hue again

Reprinted at Fashion Worlds June 2004 with permission The Mercury News, San Jose

By Joyce Gemperlein

I'm a ``True Honey-Toned Spring,'' as decreed by a woman named
Ruth who, in 1987 for $35, eyeballed my hair, eyes and complexion
and handed me a two-inch-thick fan of fabric swatches marked
``personal color palette.'' The deck of cards -- I have it still --
is heavy on aquas, blues, soft yellows, cool pinks and corals.

Which was really a happy coincidence, because at about that time,
the stock market tanked and, almost exactly two years earlier,
Palestinian terrorists had hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille

Right now there's a similar situation: We're reeling over
revelations about the mistreatment of detainees in Abu Ghurayb
prison as violence intensifies in Iraq, and two years ago we were
still counting the dead from the Sept. 11 attacks. So, wouldn't you
know it: Pink is everywhere, even in business suits for women,
transforming the aisles of department stores from seas of gray to
gardens of color. Pinks are ruling the fashion industry, and orange
and apricot hues are creeping in beside them to color fall

Do you see something of a pattern here? Horrible things occur,
and then, two years later, when we're glum over one grim situation
or another, lo and behold, we're dressing in Pepto-Bismol or
cotton-candy pinks and Cinderella blues as if we didn't have a care
in the world!

It's axiomatic that when the world is at its cruelest, fashion
turns to frills, innocence and caprice. But it's somewhat spooky to
find out that the industry believes that it knows at least two years
ahead of time that the world will be messy enough for us to want to
dress like Barbie.

Color prognosticators

To hear more about this contention, I telephoned Margaret Walch,
director of the Color Association of the United States, one of
several organizations that determine what colors will be in vogue.
She described a process for selecting color palettes for fashion and
other industries that is intriguing, sometimes contradictory, and
even a little creepy.

``Fashion and color are barometers of the times; therefore they
are always reflective of what is going on in the world,'' explained
Walch, who said she was wearing a tawny yellow suit over a vintage
Mickey Mouse T-shirt as she chatted from her New York City office.
You'd think, then, that the color seers would put us in blacks,
grays and browns -- time-honored colors of mourning and depression
in Western tradition -- but that's not the case, Walch said.

``What is going on right now in color is pretty logical. We have
a real wish for soft, comforting colors in stressful times to make
ourselves feel better. Between the weather, the economy and the war,
people are freaked out. We have no answers, and problems are being
generated constantly. We want color that flies in the face of
reality,'' added Walch.

You hardly need a newspaper to know, then, that the world's in
bad shape. Just look around: Clothes, hair bands, breast-cancer
ribbons and even shoes are pink and other rosy shades. The latest
issue of the J. Jill women's clothing catalog contains approximately
55 pink items in its 100 pages. Even men are increasingly wearing
shirts and ties ranging from fuchsia to pale pink, according to a
recent Wall Street Journal article. Actress Jennifer Lopez caused a
run on pastel diamonds when she held her pink rock (from former
fiance Ben Affleck) up to a TV camera.

There's even a pink KitchenAid mixer and a coffee mill (part of
the company's participation in a breast-cancer fundraising

Paradigm shift

What has the world come to? Time was when women wore shoulder
pads and feminized traditionally male business suits to show that
they were as solid and dependable as men, that they faced the world
head-on. Pink was as much a no-no in the office as was crying at
your desk -- even if you did so in pure anger. And those flouncy
skirts that are all the rage now? Women wouldn't have been caught
dead in those in the 1980s.

Now women are being told -- what? That they are confident enough
to wear whatever color and ruffles that they like? Or is it that
they've given up the fight to be looked upon as equals?

Meredith Wood of Knoxville, Tenn., past president of the Color
Marketing Group, another color prognosticator, described 2004's
shades as ``spa'' colors that promote peace and tranquillity.
They're girly, childlike tints that foster people's need to ``be
pretty and innocent, to go back to a time when we felt safer and
more secure,'' she said, adding that ``we are in such a fragile
state right now!''

Back in 2002, the color analysts seemed to know that we'd still
be a mess around about now. President Bush was warning about the
``axis of evil'' and a drawn-out war against terror. So they
predicted the current, diverting palette of cheery pinks, oranges
and marine colors. It was in all the best fashion magazines, but can
you believe that world leaders clearly ignored this early warning of
events to come? They did nothing to improve things so that, at the
very least, you and I would not be scrambling to buy a pink Gap
jacket on eBay because it sold out so quickly in stores.

Sure, Walch and Wood concede that some other factors figure into
what colors we wear. For example, we don't always have control over
our color options.

Other trend factors

Before the world wars, the fashion industry didn't stray beyond
Paris. During World War I, our supply of dyes was cut off, resulting
in a drab fashion scene. In addition, fabric, hosiery and buttons
were regulated, which led to utilitarian clothing.

The ``red carpet'' effect of movie stars' frocks on Oscar night
can't be discounted. (Consider Gwyneth Paltrow's pink gown in 1999.)
And there's no disputing that color palettes cycle in and out and
that decades can be lumped into categories.

You can think of the 21st century so far as being dominated by a
spectrum of rich-but-muted colors -- for example a range of oranges,
pinks and greens -- rather than merely one color; the 1990s as being
a decade of khaki clothing until shots of color appeared as the
economy heated up; the 1980s largely as the black, confident
computer decade; the 1970s as the earth-tone era bespeaking an
environmental focus; and the 1960s as a brightly colored,
flower-child era. (And also one that wanted to divert emotions away
from the bloody Vietnam War.)

But ``to be honest, the way the colors are chosen is intuitive,
it is as if they are pulling things from the air,'' Walch explained
about those who analyze colors. A good forecaster uses world events,
psychology, sociology and other factors to set a palette.

``It can get kind of eerie, in that oftentimes a forecast
anticipates an event,'' said Walch. Here is her example: The
forecast produced by her group for spring 2003 had a
red-white-and-blue cover and, inside, were similar colors and a
nautical and patriotic theme. It was published in May 2001, only
four months before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent
Afghan and Iraqi wars.

``It anticipated very strong events,'' said Walch, who has been
in the color industry almost 30 years. ``It was one of the most
bizarre things I've ever seen.''

Jean Dilworth, a professor at Eastern Illinois University who
lectures on the sociology of clothing, noted that Sept. 11 had a
great impact on fashion's use of red, white and blue. ``We haven't
seen this much of it in clothing since World War II.''

Interestingly, pink had a great impact in the 1950s, right after
that red, white and blue period in the 1940s.

Color analysts are just now coming out with their predictions for
2006. The good news is that colors are clear ones, rather than muddy
or murky, and becoming a bit more vivid. Historically, they say this
has tended to mean that the economy is recovering.

But the bad news is that it appears that we will be dressing in
``fairy-like'' or ``escapist'' colors even more as we approach 2006,
said Walch.

Self-fulfilling prophecy?

But wait just a minute.

Isn't the fact that color analysts set the palette two years
ahead of time and manufacturers churn out all manner of like-colored
goods a somewhat self-fulfilling prophecy? Consumers can only buy
what is offered.

``Absolutely not,'' said Wood.Consumers will walk away from the
colors if they don't feel they are right for the times, she

Oh, please, chided Dilworth. Of course there's an inevitability
that consumers will buy what is there -- and not buy what is not.
``I think we mostly buy clothes that we like in colors that we
haven't seen for a while,'' Dilworth said. She noted she was in her
university office wearing a new, lively striped cowboy-style shirt
the likes of which she hadn't seen since the 1970s. Some of the
stripes are pink, but she didn't buy it ``because I'm depressed
about Iraq. I just like how it goes with my khakis.''

``Besides, she added, `I don't look that good in pink.''

And let's remember a recent miscalculation: Clothing makers were
poised to roll out ``Middle East chic'' just at the time of the fall
2001 terrorist attacks. The plans were shelved.

Still, if Walch is even partly right about the fortunetelling
capability of her cohorts, I can only think that this means the
world is going to feel like one of those unrelentingly depressing
episodes from the television show ``24,'' in which one bad thing
happens, then a worse bad thing occurs, and then an even more
extremely bad thing takes place. I'm not sure I want to be here for
that, even if I am wearing a lovely shade of rose.

And although the color industry's sense of its importance may be
a bit out of joint, shouldn't the Department of Homeland Security,
Alan Greenspan, and the Pentagon, for planning purposes, be
subscribing to Women's Wear Daily? Just in case?

More articles index

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Fashion and the 'Cult of Celebrity': Why are we so fascinated by celebrities and their lifestyles? This article suggests how the 'Cult of Celebrity' is implicated in aspects of fashion in contemporary culture.

The Forces of Beauty and Desire in Fashion Imitation: Rene Girard's theory of mimetic desire offers some useful insights into the psychological power of beauty in fashion culture.

Fashion Statements: How do clothes 'talk' to their wearers and viewers? This article investigates the psychology of the fashion language.

Cell Phone Fashion: Personalizing Mass Production by Emily Sims: The rise of the fashion phone is inextricably linked with the consumer's desire to differentiate themselves from other consumers. Once a high-tech tool, the mobile phone is now a designer accessory. This article considers the implications.

Symbols of Radical Change by Kamau Mutunga: The current trend on the local fashion scene is a T-shirt bearing the portrait of Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto "Che" Guevara. But although his familiar beard and beret are entering our fashion scene 38 years after his death in Bolivia, Guevara has long been a fashion statement and cultural icon in Latin American countries. This article considers how the trademark dressing of past heroes and legends such as Che Guevara, Mao Zedong and Nelson Mandela has dictated fashion trends.

In troubling times, pink is hot hue again by Joyce Gemperlein: It's axiomatic that when the world is at its cruelest, fashion turns to frills, innocence and caprice. But it's somewhat spooky to find out that the industry believes that it knows at least two years ahead of time that the world will be messy enough for us to want to dress like Barbie. This article considers the relations between colour in fashion and the prevailing sociological contexts.

Beneath Historic Fashions by Scott Simon: Some scholars wonder about the place of knickers, bustles and thongs in history, but underwear can tell us much about how people's habits and behaviors change over time.

Do real men wear sandals? by Jessica Jones: Designer flip-flops and open-toed shoes for men are hot this summer -- but research shows most males have a hard time revealing their toes in public.

Temperley, Alice

Home > Temperley, Alice

Alice Temperley

Alice Temperley was born in England in 1975. Following her studies at the Central Saint Martin’s College of Art in London, she gained a Master’s degree at the Royal College of Art where she specialised in fabric technology and print. As a student, she designed one-off evening dresses for the boutiques of Fred Segal and Giorgio in Los Angeles. She was headhunted during her final year by Ratti, one of the leading Italian fabric companies. Turning down positions in international design in order to start her own label with her husband, Temperley pursued further research into the best silk mills and beading factories in Asia. This characteristic discipline and attention to detail is evident in the exquisite embroidery and traditional beading techniques of her handmade garments. Celebrity clients include Courtney Cox, Emma Thompson, Elizabeth Hurley and Claudia Schiffer. Actresses Sarah Jessica Parker and Kristen Davis wear designs by Temperley in the final episodes of ‘Sex in the City’.

Designed from her studio and showroom in London’s Notting Hill, Temperley’s Autumn/Winter 2004-5 collection is inspired by the gangsters of the early 1900s’ Parisian cabaret scene, the apache. It includes signature silk, empire-lined dresses in vintage prints of plum, navy, apricot and black, and strapless Fifties’ dresses in stripes of chiffon and silk. Glittering beading, pearl detailing, corseted buttons, pale pink piping and prints are featured throughout the collection.


Central Saint Martin’s College of Art: Award for Innovation

1999 English Print Designer of the Year at Indigo, Paris

Antwerp 6

Home > Fashion and the 'Antwerp Six'

Fashion and the ‘Antwerp Six’

An established part of the international fashion scene, Antwerp’s reputation today is closely tied to the impact of the so-called ‘Antwerp Six’. This group of talented designers, graduates of the Antwerp Academy from the years 1980 and 1981, brought the world’s attention to the inventive styles and impeccable craftsmanship of Belgium’s fashion industry. Trained by designer Linda Loppa, the original ‘Six’ are Dries Van Noten, Dirk Bikkembergs, Dirk Van Saene, Ann Demeulemeester, Walter Van Beirendonck and Marina Yee (replacing the almost reclusive Martin Margiela after his brief association with the group). Together, they staged fashion shows and events throughout the mid-80s. Their attempts to capture the attention of the international press and buyers famously included their unprecedented success at the 1988 London Fashion Week. It was this surprising event that placed Antwerp firmly on the map of the international fashion scene.

Despite their shared background in the fashion department of Antwerp’s Royal Academy, the styles of the six designers are distinctly varied. Whilst Van Noten’s scarves of exotic fabrics, beaded saris and dyed skirts are inspired by the traditional practices of countries such as India, Morocco and Egypt, Van Beirendonck’s bold graphics and daring designs are rooted in a futuristic concept of fashion that is both theatrical and challenging.

It is notable that the ‘Antwerp Six’ have largely chosen to remain in their hometown. Together with the next wave of innovative designers from the city’s Royal Academy, their work is located in Antwerp’s south and city centre rather than in the fashion scenes of Paris and New York. Anne Demeulemeester’s first freestanding boutique is found on the corner of Leopold de Waelplats, opposite the Museum of Fine Arts. It is a stark white shopping space in which mannequins are suspended from the ceiling on steel cables. Linking the city centre and the south, the Nationalestraat houses the his-and-her collections of Dries Van Noten, the designs of Dirk Van Saene, Bernhard Willhelm and Kostas Murkudis, and the avant-garde fashion of Mici de Merode. The up-and-coming designers Stephan Scneider and Anna Heylen are also within walking distance, at Reyndersstraat 53 and Lombardenvest 44 respectively.

The striking reputation of the ‘Antwerp Six’ is pivotal to the attention received each year by the graduation show of the fashion department of the Royal Academy. Held each year in June, the city welcomes a flock of international reporters, magazine editors and photographers expecting to find promising new talent. For many in the fashion world, Antwerp has become a strong rival to Brussels as Belgium’s capital city.

Marshall, Hannah

Home > Marshall, Hannah

Hannah Marshall

Hannah Marshall is an up-and-coming innovative designer from Colchester in the UK. Born in 1982, she was selected to show her designs on Channel 4 in 2002, whilst still a BA (Hons) student in Fashion and Textile Design at the Colchester Institute. She was subsequently awarded a place at the 'Graduate Pioneer Programme' run by NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology & the Arts), an organisation that invests in UK creativity and innovation. Her autumn/winter 2005 collection, 'Altered Beauty' explores both visual and tactile elements of communication through the incorporation of Braille into the fabric of her tailored garments. She has a signature style of clean and simple garments, yet modern and wearable, with fine attention to detail.

Recent Exhibitions and Awards

July 2003 - 'New Designers', Business Design Centre, London

June 2003 - Received the 'Franklins Needlecraft' award

June 2003 - Graduate Fashion Week, London

2001, 2002 - Alternative Fashion Week, London

Contact Information


Web Link:

Photos courtesy Hannah Marshall. Copyright (c) 2004 David Lam, Photographer

Stretton, Annah

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Annah Stretton

Annah Stretton is a designer from New Zealand, based in Morrinsville. She was best known for the label Annah.S. with which she opened her stores in 1992, before rebranding to her full name of 'Annah Stretton' in 2003. Her 2003 designer T-shirt promoted awareness of Breast Cancer and 100% of the profits of every sale were donated to The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation. Finding inspiration from vintage clothing, she designed clothes for her collection, Time Pirates, which showed at L'Oréal Fashion week 2003. Her interest in the styles of many different eras is expressed in a rich combination of fabrics and accessories including safety pins, jewels, pearls and luxurious embroideries.

Prairie Girl, Annah S 

Highlander, Annah S 

Photos courtesy of Annah Stretton

Lindbergh, Peter

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Peter Lindbergh: Photographer

Peter Lindbergh was born on the Polish border of East Germany in 1944. His childhood background of stark industrial greyness in the West German town of Duisburg is an influential theme running through his work. A renowned master of black and white photography, Lindbergh typically uses mechanical, industrial scenery that lends a contrasting trademark directness and honesty to models in his fashion photography. Working with supermodels Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford, Lindbergh's photographs have appeared in every major fashion magazine and been commissioned for advertising campaigns by leading international fashion designers.

Fonssagrives, Lisa

Home > Fonssagrives, Lisa

Lisa Fonssagrives: Personality

Lisa Fonssagrives (1911-1992) was perhaps the first 'supermodel'. She was described as 'the highest paid, highest praised, high fashion model in the business'. Born in Sweden, she moved to Paris in the 1930s. Whilst training for the ballet, she met her first husband, the Parisian photographer Fernand Fonssagrives. Photographs of her subsequently appeared in publications, including Town and Country, Life, Vogue and the original Vanity Fair. Her background in ballet was evident in the grace and poise for which she became famous as a model. Although she described herself as no more than 'The clothes hanger', she became one of the most highly sought-after models in both Paris and New York. She posed for the photographers George Hoyningen-Huene, Man Ray, Horst, Erwin Blumenfeld, George Platt-Lynes, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Norman Parkinson, Richard Avedon and Irving Penn (her second husband). Her image appeared regularly on fashion magazine covers during the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

Kobayashi, Yukio

Home > Kobayashi, Yukio

Yukio Kobayashi: Designer

Yukio Kobayashi was born in 1951 in Niigata Prefecture. He entered the Matsuda (Nicole in Japan) menswear line in 1976 and began his career as a chief designer in 1983. In 1995, he took on the role of chief designer of womenswear. His work with the photographer Nan Goldin is published in photo collection books and exhibitions, including the New York: The Art Director's Club award-winning book of the autumn/winter 1996 Matsuda collection, Nan Goldin meets Yukio Kobayashi. His own design company, Kobayashi Design Office, follows his mission to create 'liberating' and 'genderless' clothes. Interested in ecological and environmental issues, Kobayashi ignores conventional brand-marketing strategies. He believes that fashion should be fun and 'synonomous to play'. His designs typically use sewing and decorative techniques such as needle punch and quilting.

Fashion in Weimar Germany

Home > Fashion in Weimar Germany

Fashion in Weimar Germany

Leave your troubles outside!

So- life is disappointing? Forget it!

We have no troubles here! Here life is beautiful...

The girls are beautiful...

Even the orchestra is beautiful!

It is Germany, 1928. Raucous laughter from the cabaret seeps outside
as Lotte passes in the shadows of the cold Berlin night. The streets
are sexually charged, lined with a heady concoction of prostitution,
homosexuality, transvestism and drugs. Still spinning from the collective
lust roaring unashamedly through the theatre that evening, Lotte
heads now for the café bar at the Eden Hotel where she lives. Jostling
with leggy glamour girls as she takes her drink, Lotte pushes a
straying strand of short hair behind her ear, settles her slender
trouser-suited body into the deep folds of an armchair and smiles
provocatively as she lights a cigarette.

Berlin's interwar reputation of hedonistic decadence and debauchery
is familiar through scenes from Metropolis by Fritz Lang, images
of Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel by Josef von Sternberg and
stage productions of The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht. A ferment
of artistic and sexual experimentation, the Weimar Republic (1918-1933)
privileged an outpouring of cultural creativity in the Bauhaus movement
of modern art and the development of the International Style in
modern architecture. Against a background of inflation and depression,
Berlin drew the talent and energies of the rest of Germany towards
its glittering cabaret performances and burgeoning sex tourism industry.
From within this hotbed of frenzied immorality, supposedly constitutional
sexual equality worked to create the myth of the sexually liberated
and financially independent 'New Woman' in Weimar German society.

Born out of Germany's disastrous defeat in World War I, the Weimar
Republic exercised democracy amidst continuing chaos and political
upheaval. Economic crisis followed the devaluation of the German
Mark in wake of the undermining of payments demanded in the Versailles
reparations clause imposed on Germany at the end of World War I.
The political and economic collapse resulted in the "destruction
of the inherited framework of beliefs and certainties which had
given Germany its particular reassurance" (2). Unable to maintain
the image of a strong, victorious Reichswehr, or Reich Defence,
former Imperialistic values of hard work and national pride were
subsumed in the emergence of a new decadence and urban proclivity.

The socially correct role of women was similarly transformed in
face of the erosion of old traditions and moral principles. In the
19th century, Kaiser Wilhelm II had defined women's position in
society as centering on the 'Kirche, Kueche, Kinder', or church,
kitchen and children. After the adoption of the Weimar Constitution
in 1919, women were guaranteed a new status of equality with men
in terms of their enfranchisement and legal and economic standing.
However, these advances were little more than token gestures of
appeasement. The 1919 Constitution was never enforced through legislation,
and the Kaiser's restrictive Civil Code of 1900 continued to control
the legal and financial rights of women. As the historian Claudia
Koonz states, "[the] Weimar leaders grafted a democratic state onto
a traditionalist and conservative social structure and a thoroughly
capitalist economy" (3).

Nevertheless, the myth arose of a 'New Woman' challenging men in
the realms of politics and economics. Mass advertising in the Popular
Press capitalized on the power of this image in selling branded
products and promoting specific lifestyle choices. A magazine article
from the period described the new generation of women, claiming
"They go to the cinema in the evenings, wear skirts that end above
the knees, buy 'Elegant World' and the film magazines" (4). Portrayed
in films, newspapers and Pulp fiction, the 'New Woman' was typically
depicted as a sexual object for the satisfaction of male desire.
Sexually predatory and educated, she achieved financial independence
through employment and spent her earnings on fashion and fun. She
had short bobbed hair, wore relaxed masculine clothes, smoked cigarettes
and enjoyed the globally notorious nightlife of Berlin's theatres,
cinemas, cafes and bars. According to the historian Ute Frevert,
the Weimar women were "children of the new age who were variously
celebrated or accursed" (5).

Despite their apparent emancipation from oppressive tradition,
they were feared by the older generation for their individualism
and selfishness. Much of this fear lay in the promulgation of a
childbearing strike by the Syndikalistische Frauenbund or SFB (Syndicalist
Women's Union), established in 1920. An article written in 1921
stated that "the advancement in the intellectual development of
women [could] not be possible without the liberation from the slavery
of childbearing" (6). Accordingly, many young women campaigned at
public rallies, calling for the criminalization of contraception
(paragraph 184.3 of the Constitution) and the prohibition of abortion
(paragraph 218) to be revoked. However, these moves towards allowing
women the possibility of legitimate birth control were deemed inherently
selfish rather than sexually liberating in light of the falling
birth rate and depleted population at the end of World War I.

In general therefore, the 'New Woman' was represented negatively
and blamed for the degeneration of Weimar society and culture. However,
the reality of life for the majority of women in the Weimar Republic
was vastly different from that of the 'New Woman' they avidly desired
to emulate. Confronted by exploitation and underpromotion in the
workplace, many women continued to embrace the 'Kinder, Kueche,
Kirche' ideal of the former monarchy. Notions of political liberation
were also tenuous. Despite enfranchisement in 1918, their representation
at all levels of Weimar German political party leadership was minimal.
It is therefore an inescapable conclusion that depictions of the
'New Woman' were media-generated and founded in male constructions
of sexuality that reflected the underlying social, economic and
political insecurities and anxieties of the era. Indeed, the very
popularity of misogynistic and distorted images of the 'New Woman'
among women themselves reveals the impossibility of their liberation
at even the level of being able to reject their own stereotypical


(1) From Cabaret, music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb. Carlin
Music Corp., 1967.

(2) de Jonge, A. (1978) Weimar Chronicles, New York, Paddington
Press Ltd., p. 13.

(3) Koonz, C. (1987) Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family
and Nazi Politics, New York, St. Martin's Press.

(4) Wehrling, T. (1920) 'Berlin is becoming a whore' in Das Tage-Buch.

(5) Frevert, U. (1989) Women in German History: from Bourgeois Emancipation
to Sexual Liberation, New York, Berg.

(6) Wittkop-Rocker, M. (1921) 'Frauenarbeit Frauenorganisationen'
in Der Frauenbund, Monatsbeilage des Syndikalist , 1, October.