Tag Archives: Fashion

Fashion Under Capitalism: Inequality In The Meritocratic Ideal

The fashion industry has been labelled many things – shallow, exploitative, unsustainable, unethical – the list goes on and on. But where do these labels come from, and does fashion truly deserve these names?

In an environment revering limited edition pieces for the price of an arm and leg, it’s no wonder that fashion gets a bad rap. How can the average consumer afford a $500 shirt from Vetements, or a Supreme hoodie at an even higher price point, when that amount could easily feed a family for a month? The show of affluence through fashion has been a practice for centuries, if not since the beginning of fashion itself. And it makes sense; if you have it, why not flaunt it? The underlying problem though, is not this display of wealth, but the glaring inequalities that are showcased through it by the capitalist system it represents.

Image: Reuters / Lucas Jackson 

Although capitalism has mostly been referenced as a political or economic model, it goes without saying that it affects even the most private areas of our lives. Without being consciously aware of it, our values, needs and wants are heavily influenced by capitalist ideals. The emphasis on independence and innovation as drivers for success has given people the hope that they too can change the circumstances of where they began in life. It’s a system awarding an individual’s ability based on merit regardless of their social background, proving that anyone and everyone can ‘make it big’. Finally, all are seen to have equal opportunities, as success is causally linked to hard work and perseverance. This meritocratic ideal has since been idolized, throwing success stories of people going from ‘rags to riches’ into the limelight and praising the underdogs of our century for their relatability. But how equal are our opportunities really?

Image: The Guardian 

The idea of meritocracy is appealing for obvious reasons. To be able to move beyond what we are born into solely by dint of talent and effort gives the illusion of a fair playground for all, and spits in the face of social immobility that prevailed until the 1800’s. But this utopian system of fairness is just another way to disguise inequality, making it acceptable, even praised. Meritocracy disregards certain privileges people are born into, reiterating the idea that if you just worked hard enough, you would be able to get to where you want to be. Jo Littler discussed this topic in her article, saying that, “those who could not draw on existing reservoirs of privilege were told to work harder to catch up.” Not only is the same level of success expected from everyone, but the failure to reach this level is the fault of the individual rather than external factors they can’t control. Merit is undoubtedly manipulated to benefit the wealthy, feeding society with the idea that everyone begins at the same starting line when certain opportunities are only presented to those with privileged backgrounds.

Image: Heroine

This quite obviously permeates into the fashion industry. Our obsession with owning high end fashion pieces began with meritocracy, as it is a symbol of social status, proof that anyone able to indulge in luxury can move up the social ladder. It also legitimises social inequalities by completely disregarding the structural conditions of opportunity. When we hear of the ‘self-made man/woman’ in fashion, they usually revolve around those of the top tier, publicised in a way to perpetuate the illusion of an open society. Not everyone can spring up out of nowhere without a push in the right direction. Knowing the right people and having a pool of resources all contribute to becoming noticed. Of course, talent and hard work makes a big difference and shouldn’t be disregarded, but privilege works much like a stack of dominoes. A little help in the beginning will continue to open up doors of opportunity, always placing those coming from privilege one step ahead of the average person.

Image: Teen Vogue

Take the runway as an example. Gigi and Bella Hadid have exploded all over the media in recent years, seemingly out of the blue. With a mixture of winning the genetic lottery, charisma and hard work, they have become household names and respected models in their own right. However, far from the typical tale of the underdog rising to success, the sisters already came from an affluent background, with a mother previously working in the modelling industry – a definite advantage leading to their success.

Image: Heroine

Then there’s Kendall Jenner, rising to equal fame with the support of her family’s social media reach. It’s obvious that, although these women worked for their coveted positions, they were given opportunities any average person would not have access to. Whilst the modelling world has moved away from aristocratic roots, its portrayal of the down to earth, girl-next-door that anyone can become is a far cry from reality. Picking models who are seemingly normal may appeal to meritocratic values, but it is only a mask for the ingrained elitism still prevalent in fashion, when these models are clearly selected from a homogenous pool of wealthy families.

Image: IMG Model News

The result then, is an overshadowing of less prominent models who have equal potential but are at an obvious disadvantage to those born into wealth. As Martin Lerma says in his article, “There are countless stories they can help tell, campaigns they can front, catwalks they can traverse and young people they can inspire, but fewer and fewer people are interested in developing those nascent talents into professionals.” Fighting for a place in fashion is made so much harder when there’s an identical expectation of success for everyone, in an industry still uninterested in the average individual.

Maybe the meritocratic ideal is not so fair after all.

 

Written by Tiffany Ko

References:
https://www.heroine.com/the-editorial/Model-Meritocracy
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/20/meritocracy-inequality-theresa-may-donald-trump

Fashion Under Capitalism: How It Affects Self-Image

It’s funny how no one ever thinks of fashion as advertising. We are so used to being assaulted by magazine and news headlines like “Emily Ratajkowski’s Best Outfits Ever”, “Is Selena Gomez’s Latest Outfit A Message To Justin Bieber?” and “Cardi B Just Epically Recreated This Iconic Linda Evangelista Look,” that we are positioned to see it as news. This can’t be further from the truth. Every day, we are continually being sold what to wear, how to wear it, and why we must look this way. But who is pulling all the strings, and why do they have the luxury to dictate for the masses?

Image: W Magazine

Tansy Hoskins, author and avid supporter of ethical fashion, talks about the negative influences a capitalist mindset has on our body image. Looking a certain way has become such an integral part of our self-esteem that we are conditioned to crave the latest fashions, fantasising about how these clothes or accessories can transform us into who we want to become. And all these desires are driven by the select few who head the fashion industry. As Hoskins says, they are “controlling our common cultural heritage, deciding what we wear, what we read every day,” and contrary to popular belief, fashion represents not freedom of creativity, but the profits and interests of corporations – it doesn’t sound so glamourous now, does it? Of course, she doesn’t want to give a two-dimensional portrait of the industry as the villain, and consumers as victims, but the fact that clothes and consequently our bodies have become a commodity due to capitalism, shows how the system has repressed what could otherwise be a wonderful outlet for creative genius.

Tansy Hoskins / Image: Ruby Wright

These influences aren’t only impacting the private lives of many but are very prominent in the modelling world itself. A quick look at our catwalks demonstrates just how much diversity is lacking, not only in colour, but in body shapes, sizes and ability. Although there has been a call for change in recent years, the beautiful, size zero, blonde stereotype still dominates, with many ‘boasting’ of diversity in their shows even when there is just one model of colour present. Such a small representation of beauty cannot and does not cater for the diversity in the world and adds to the insecurities people face as a result of capitalist fashion.

Image: Vogue

The sad thing is, we aren’t only taught to lust after these material possessions, but the aspiration to become just like those who do wear these things forces us to evaluate ourselves through their carefully curated, photoshopped lives. Fashion is probably the number one driver for body hatred and shaming, a high price to pay for such a throw-away thrill. Yet, people are continuously drawn to this self-destructive behaviour, proving just how powerful the system which governs us is. When it’s near impossible to separate capitalist values with the world around us, how would it be possible to separate ourselves from these toxic yearnings?

Image: You Queen

Yes, conscious choice does play a part in freeing ourselves from the shackles of unattainable perfection, but as with anything, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much still churning in our subconscious from the media we have been fed, that an awareness can only help us so far.

In Hoskins’s words, “Fashion will never be free without an end to capitalism. And yet fashion can contribute to the remaking of the world. It has the ability to replace the old with the new, to makes us hope and dream,” and perhaps this does ring true. What do you think?

 

Written by: Tiffany Ko

References:
http://sustainable-fashion.com/blog/an-anti-capitalist-approach-to-fashion/

 

Fashion Under Capitalism: An Unsustainable Consumer Culture

In a world consumed by Capitalist ideals, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of the season’s latest trends, discarding them like shed skin once they are no longer popular. The fashion industry doesn’t make this any easier. Although they are portrayed as creative and free, in the end, they are still a business, one which is worth $1.5tn a year. It is one of the most globalised trades in the world which continues to hide under the guise of a non-commerce industry, selling their wares as something that is a necessary part of our lives. How can this be right? Sure, with any economic system comes with it its pros and cons, but fashion especially has been stretched and moulded into something less than savoury under Capitalism. Granted, it may seem natural for us to strive for prosperity and wealth – our culture in fact praises those who are driven towards success – but some say it has not always been this way. With an incentive for personal gain through ownership and profit, people are encouraged to own more than they need, continually striving for ‘the next best thing’, never being truly satisfied with what they already have. Of course, wanting to be successful and appreciated for one’s work is not in itself a bad thing, but when it is motivated purely by monetary gain, that is when problems begin to arise.

Image: Mak Remissa/ Shutterstock

In a way, the fashion industry has taken advantage of this Capitalist culture, realising that wherever there is demand, there will always be opportunities for increased profit. It may be hard for us now to not identify fashion with fast fashion chains like H&M and Zara, but it hasn’t always been the case. Before industrialisation, the production of anything, especially clothing, took a much longer process. It was a practice which required years of skill and expertise to master, where each piece was made to endure the harsh elements of weather, and last for a person’s lifetime. With the rise of technology, clothing could be produced at a much quicker rate, allowing for mass production and with it, mass discarding of goods which were in perfectly adequate condition. Clothing companies recognised this as an opportunity for further profit, and eagerly latched on to the increasingly materialistic values of a consumer society.

Image: GQ

Perhaps machines cannot create pieces as unique as individuals can, but this became less of a problem with the arrival of consumer culture. Not only are we encouraged to consume relentlessly, we are forced to then throw away those things we replace and see them as ‘broken’. We are essentially buying without the intention of keeping things for the long haul. Even I am no stranger to this mentality – I have definitely fallen into the fast fashion cycle, purchasing and discarding with the seasons. Even if you donate these unwanted clothes to second-hand stores, the reality is that most just end up in landfills. Within Australia alone, only 15% of clothing donated to charities are resold.  And what happens with the rest that are conveniently dumped? Clothing made from polyester can take up to 200 years to break down, and natural fibres such as cotton and wool, although able to biodegrade and compost, are not supplied with the right environment to do so in the landfill. In fact, wool secretes ammonia into the air when compressed in landfills, further damaging our environment. Not only do our materialistic values contribute to the waste in the world, but the production of clothes and accessories to keep us happy is in itself unsustainable. Incredible amounts of water and energy is needed to produce clothes, and in the process, pesticides are dumped into the environment, polluting air and waterways. According to McKinsey, 23kg of greenhouse gases are produced when making only 1kg of fabric! Who knew looking good would cost so much?

Image: Pixabay/ Prylarer

Of course, as with any issue, there is a flip side of the coin. Without an incentive for efficiency and innovation, fashion may not be an expression of creativity that it is today. We just have to find a middle ground where it can be beneficial for people, as well as the environment.

 

Written by: Tiffany Ko

Sources:
https://www.citysmart.com.au/blog/unsustainable-impacts-fast-fashion/

Tom Ford Goes Vegan And The Fashion World Gets Better

We are no strangers to veganism – from our colourful Instagram feeds, to the trendy cafés popping up all over the place, even to our close friends ditching meat and animal by-products, one thing is clear: veganism has taken the world by storm. Celebrities and ambassadors alike have advocated for the positive health and environmental benefits of this plant-based diet. But how has this movement changed the fashion industry?

Tom Ford, founder of the eponymous multi-million fashion label, is one example of how this trend is influencing the way high fashion is being produced. Always mindful of his health, Ford says he was inspired to take the leap and become vegan after watching the documentary What The Health. “I’ve been vegan for about the last year. When you look at how most of our meat, our animal products, are raised, from a health standpoint, I didn’t feel that I should eat those things anymore.”

Image: Landon Nordeman

Although initially health-related, Ford says that since going vegan, he has become more conscious of the unethical use of animal products in fashion. It goes without mention that the fur controversy is heading this debate, and Ford is proud to be limiting the use of fur in his collections, embracing faux fur and clothing pieces made from food by-products instead. “That means cowhide, it means shearling, it means not doing fur that is raised purely for its pelt…whether I’m consuming meat or not, other people are, so these are things that are collected.”

Image: Alessandro Garofalo

But is using faux fur instead of real fur a change for the better? The production of faux fur itself is an unsustainable practice, as most fake fur is produced with petroleum, a non-renewable resource. Creating synthetic fibres to imitate fur also requires chemical reactions which release toxic substances into the environment, and so many designers are torn between the unethical practice of using real fur, and the unsustainability of faux fur. Ford himself is ambivalent regarding this topic, “I’m also very torn about this because fake fur is terrible for the environment. People think of fake fur as a disposable thing. They buy it, they wear it a few seasons, they throw it away, it doesn’t biodegrade. It’s a petroleum product. It is highly toxic. And then, you could argue that tanning leather is a highly toxic process. A fur coat gets recycled. People wear them for 30 years, they give them to their kids, then they turn them into throw pillows. So I don’t know the answer to that.”

Image: Landon Nordeman

This uncertainty in which course to take is by no means a harmless one. Ford recounts the time when a woman at an event was so distraught by the use of fur in his collections that she poured tomato juice over him in protest. Although a frightening experience, it did not convince him to ban fur from his label. He goes on to explain how many customers are loyal to the brand because of its fur and leather pieces, and how it is ultimately a difficult decision to make for the business.

Image: Yannis Vlamos

So, has veganism saved the day? We don’t know for sure, but it has definitely made heads turn and minds think about the future of the fashion industry. Even though progress is slow, we are for sure heading towards a more sustainable future. Let’s hope we will soon be saying goodbye to fur and leather, for good!

 

Written by: Tiffany Ko

Sources:
http://www.latimes.com/fashion/la-ig-wwd-vegan-tom-ford-20180206-story.html
https://www.wmagazine.com/story/tom-ford-vegan-fur
http://www.truthaboutfur.com/en/questions-answers-about-fur

A Fashion Reformation

Making waves in LA, Reformation is the new go-to label of fashion’s best and brightest. With minimalist staple pieces and luxe basics, it’s been snapped adorning the likes of Margot Robbie and Emily Ratajowski. But this isn’t your average trend alert. The brand, established in 2009, has a mission. Conscious, persistent fashion made for real people, by real people.

Image: Fashionisers

“Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option. We’re #2,” the brand’s website boldly quips. So you might be surprised to hear that Reformation is, by definition and self-professedly, fast fashion.

“The prevailing sustainable platform—‘Buy less, use less’— isn’t a scalable strategy,” explains the label’s founder Yeal Aflalo. “You buy clothes because you really want them. The sustainability part is for us to figure out.” And they have. Reformation chases sustainability across the board, from recycled hangers in their stores to paying their workforce to use public transport instead of cars. Employees shouldn’t expect a sad cupcake on their birthday, with the company instead planting a tree in their name to commemorate the occasion. All whilst releasing new collections weekly.

Image: Observer

It almost sounds too good to be true- in a world of “green” and “eco” buzzwords, it can be hard to assess the true extent of a brand’s impact. This is where Reformation put their money where their mouth is.

Their online ‘RefScale’ feature tracks their environmental footprint on every article of clothing, adding up the pounds of carbon dioxide emitted, gallons of water used, and pounds of waste generated. When compared against the average article of clothing, the impact is startling.

Image: Eluxe Magazine 

With such extreme scrupulousness, Reformation is definitely a labour of love for Aflalo. However, she remains driven by her frustration at the inaccessibility of many sustainable clothes. “First and foremost, we’re trying to make great clothes that everyone will love, which also happen to be sustainable.” She says, “At the time [Reformation was founded], there weren’t many other brands who were making sustainable clothes that I would actually want to wear, so I created Reformation to fill this void at the intersection of design and sustainability.” 

Image: Fashionisers

However, the brand is so much more than just ‘cool and green’. Reformation consistently pursues body positivity- a rare find for a Hollywood label of such celeb status. Designs are released in capsule collections, each with different bodies in mind, with a recent a petites collection designed for ladies 5’2 and under, as well as a collection specially designed to fit women with a full C-DD cup. The brand has now gone even further in their push for social change by announcing more inclusive sizing, ranging from US size 0-22.

Image: Culture Map Dallas 

Aflalo hopes Reformation will be they first of many labels to adopt progressive social and environmental attitudes. “The industry will have to change given resource constraints and other environmental and social constraints,” she says. “I think the question is more “when” – when will big brand leaders respond proactively, or will they wait until it’s a matter of compliance. We’re really excited about the future of sustainability and the technology that comes along with it.”

 

Written by: Kate Nightingale

Find Reformation here

Sources:
https://www.vogue.com/article/reformation-eco-fashion-ethical-label
http://www.buro247.com.au/fashion/insiders/how-yael-aflalo-turned-reformation-into-an-it-girl.html
https://www.thereformation.com/pages/sustainable-practices

The Evolution of Indian Fashion

The Designers at the Forefront of Indian Fashion

The elixir of fashion is an interesting concoction of different ideas, philosophies and endless research that results in a breathtaking creation by a designer. Every designer has got a different story to put forth through their designs and bring a difference in the world of fashion. The B behind the Bollywood Boom Fashion industry of India are designers, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Anamika Khanna, Hemant and Nandita’s.

Sabyasachi Mukherjee crafted an unparalleled world of grandeur in the Indian fashion industry with his perpetual creativity and an exceptional aesthetic sense. Eponymously named, the label ‘Sabyasachi’ is a pure reflection of the richness of Indian heritage, grandness, culture and crafts. His collections have also displayed glimpses of his admiration for Frida Kahlo, antique textiles, gypsy fantasies and Bohemian flair. Redefining fashion with his flamboyant designs and meticulously crafted embroidery, while revitalising the forgotten weaves with a modernistic approach. His couture shows are an affair of extravagance and innovation. Sabyasachi is every celebrity and every bride’s favourite one-stop destination for creations ranging from the ethereal iconic pieces to simple black outfits.

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Sabyasachi Mukherjee luxury bridal collection 2016 Image Credit: Pintrest
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The iconic Frida Image credit: Pintrest

Designer Anamika Khanna sets the mood of the Egyptian aura with her collections. The reiteration of dhoti pants has besotted every ‘it girl’ to have it as their wardrobe staple. The designer’s famous black and white rendition manifests in a beautiful chiaroscuro effect and her take on long fluid like capes, unique sari draping techniques, slouched outfits have made a phenomenal mark on the fashion scene. Khanna’s designs have a classic and edgy appeal. The subtlety of the embroidery and her love for monochromes and pastels reflects an essence of pure romance.

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Anamika Khanna Brings the blue to FW 2016 Image credit: Pintrest
Sonam Kapoor at the Cannes Film Festival wearing Anamika Khanna's couture
Sonam Kapoor at the Cannes Film Festival wearing Anamika Khanna’s couture Image credit: Amazon India

Designer duo Hemant and Nandita have brought a significant dimension to fun, free spirited and relaxed clothing. Their colour play sensibilities are marked by an essence of whimsical, charming and quirky impressions, which make their designs stand out from others. The depiction of their design philosophy in terms of Bohemian, folk and retro genre exudes their interest in rural and mod culture of fashion. The duo’s vivacious creations ranging from maxis to minis are pretty much every young girl’s desire to have hanging in their wardrobe.

 Amazon India Fashion Week AW 15, SS16
Hemant & Nandita’s collections at Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week SS15 Image credit: Amazon India

Written by Sameena Baig