Let’s Not Not Talk Politics
"Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life."
Said Bill Cunningham, and the notion that fashion, and the arts in general, offer an escapism is something that most would accept.
Fashion, often viewed as trivial, creativity as secondary to academia, and both removed from the 'serious' issues of the world, are of course great escapes from the more mundane matters of life.
However, fashion (and the arts) do not only work to soothe us from the blunt aspects of reality but work in correlation with the political state of a culture, hence the removal of the corset in the 1920s, the rise of the afro in the late 1960s, the burning of the bra in the 1970s and the metrosexuality of the early 1980s. Styles and fashions are not random happenings that occur without warrant, they are in fact markers for the political climate in a place and time.
This place and time is the 'Western World', 2018.
'We should all be feminist'
Is the title of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's critically acclaimed book-length essay, and a mantra for many millennials. Intersectional feminism is a topic that is touched on in film, music and on TV shows, by celebrities, politicians and activist. But the backdrop, perhaps backlash even to this unbashful claim that feminism isn't exclusive to the feminine, is the overt sexism that continues to take place in the public eye, from one of the most public people, the President of the United States of America, who probably doesn't need to be named.
In July 2018, the President of the United States of America nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Not long after the shortlists for this position was published Professor of Psychology at Palo Alto University, Christine Blasey Ford contacted the Washington Post with allegations that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her whilst they were at high school in the 1980s. Following this two other women (Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick) come forward with claims of sexual misconduct Kavanaugh. An FBI investigation is carried out, as well as a Judiciary Committee hearing.
Well, what has this got to do with fashion?
In fact, it has very little to do with this. But as this hearing takes place, and it is very clear that the committee of men will vote in favour of the accused, Spring/Summer 19 Fashion Weeks take place, and the fashion committee awaits one of the season's most anticipated shows, Céline's. Now Celine (without the accent) under the helm of Hedi Slimane. Nobody is quite sure what he will do with the much-loved brand (he'd provided sneak peeks into the season's campaign, branding it 'newceline' which very much resembles old Saint Laurent and announced that he would introduce menswear), and the anticipation is built around both excitement and dread. Some have faith that Slimane will pay homage to the modern feminine that the much loved previous Creative Director Phoebe Philo honed with ease, whilst others are sure that he will reimagine the brand's image, and this is what he did.
Whether watching through the live stream on Celine's website, or in person at the show in Paris, disappointment ensued. Tropes of wafer-thin predominately white (there were a total six black models out of 96 and no models of other ethnic groups) males and female models, stomped down the runway with moody faces and outdated attitude. Slimane disregarded Celine's shopper, the modern feminine, for his, a man's stale idealist projection of le chic femme – she's uncomfortably skinny as she smokes more than she eats, her garish party dresses resemble that of a teenage girl's and perhaps they are relics of her adolescent? The thigh-skimming hemlines make this plausible.
Hedi Slimane's Celine woman is so out-of-touch with the 21st-century woman that one has to believe that he's simply disinterested in what she wants, or perhaps he believes that fashion should be dictated to women, rather than cater for them?
This is where fashion and politics co-exist.
As a woman's account of sexual assault was indifferent to the Judiciary Committee, The President of the United States and those in favour of Brett Kavanaugh, women's ideas of how to dress were brushed aside by a man at the helm of the fashion house that women found solace in.