Tag Archives: Gigi Hadid

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

Is ‘Healthy’ the New Black?

North West (Image Source: Pintrest)
Gigi Hadid (Image Source: Pintrest)
Rihanna (Image Source: WhoWhatWear)

The gym junkie generation is here and it’s taking the runways by sporty storm!

With the rise of high end designers collaborating with the fitness apparel industry, it might be time to say goodbye to your regular gym gear. The glossy black, mesh tights and candy coloured sneakers are taking over not just our gyms but our regular street garb. The generation of healthy living where coconut cures all bring you the boom of designer ‘athleisure’: Athletic wear that women of all ages can wear in non athletic setting.

“It’s a trend. People of all ages are wearing their work outwear all day now, whether it’s leggings with a longer coat and scarf, or…..with a denim jacket and some high heeled boots.” Says Soul Cycle Co founder Julie rice whose clients include Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson and Khloe Kardashian just to name a few.

Whilst this fashion trend allows us to rock our comfy work out gear without a sweat bead in sight; is an undeniable blessing, not all of us are game enough to rock the tights in a club. However one shall not fear as the baseball hat is back and it looks even better with a cocktail dress or if you’re into a bit of a North West style she was recently spotted on the streets of Beverly Hills donning hers with a $3500 fur coat. Not only will you never have to have a bad hair day again but this ‘Norm corm’ trend of reviving the baseball cap pure genius lies in the fact it doesn’t need to match, in fact it shouldn’t match. So whilst we may not be Gigi-Hadid-ready for tights and tank tops, one can still jump on the sporty fashion movement with the humble baseball hat day and night all day everyday with no sun in sight.

Leggings are the new denim – CEO of Nike, Mark Parker, proclaimed at the Women’s Innovation Summit in New York City

This couldn’t be more true as the Nike-Air Yeezy project was undeniably one of the most sought after collaborations in Pop Culture. Since leaving Nike due to creative differences, Kanye West staged an unprecedented fashion show combining the third season of his Yeezy Adidas Spring collaboration with the debut of his new album, ‘The Life of Pablo’. Showcasing a vast array of models mostly African or of a mixed race in variations of neutral bodysuits, hoodies and hooker heels. Offering a modern day all purpose uniform.

West was notably the first non-athlete to collaborate with the brand, leading the way for a plethora of celebrities, such as Kate Hudson’s ‘Fabletics’ fitness line and Rihanna for Puma, along with the good old ‘KingKylie’ [Jenner].

“Wearing high end sports clothes has become a new status symbol”, says Sally Dixon, a former fashion editor and founder of a premium sportswear company. With this rise of the fashion parlance athleisure tapping into the current wellness craze it’s now ultimately cool to be healthy. According to figures from the global summit last year the healthy living industry is now worth $3.4 trillion globally, almost three and a half times larger than the worldwide pharmaceutical company – meaning drugs are out and Qinuoa is in!  Girls rejoice trackies are no longer a sin!

Words by Bridget McDonnell