Saturday, August 7, 2010

Legitimacy in Fashion

According to Lise Skov, fashion is “marked by selective and limited immersions in exotic environments for inspiration. These can then be brought back into the fashion creators' own world where it can be converted into the currency of the field.” (220). She cites Yves Saint Laurent as an example, because he was viewed as a “legitimate fashion designer” who truly utilized “ethnic influences” in his work. In contrast, Rei Kawakubo's work for Commes des Garcons was described as “ethnic, that's all” (220) and disregarded by certain fashion gatekeepers, because she lacked the same legitimacy that Saint Laurent held at the time. It was difficult for the fashion world to understand Kawakubo's creations (along with the other Japanese avant-garde designers at the time) as something more than Japanese.

This reminded me of Chanel's Pre-Fall 2010 collection, which describes as “references to China's sartorial history, from the terra-cotta army through cheongsams, Mandarin split-sided Qipao gowns... and spins on Mao suits and comrade caps.” The collection has been accepted as a legitimate part of fashion because it was produced by a powerful designer (Karl Lagerfeld) for a powerful brand (Chanel). Lagerfeld is viewed, like Saint Laurent was, as someone who is capable of taking ethnic dress or national costumes and transforming it into real fashion. But if a Chinese designer had done this, would he/she have received the same reception or would he/she have been dismissed as another Chinese designer using Chinese elements?

Furthermore, this collection was Chanel's attempt to appeal to the rising Chinese upper-middle class, and to expand Chanel's presence in their market. Thus, it also highlights the link between social mobility, wealth, and fashion.

Thoughts on 30 Day Challenge: Not much has changed since my last post, because we had two entries due in one week. But, I do feel pretty motivated to not consume and to be less wasteful. I think it's really important to separate "wants" and "needs" and in this consumption-oriented world, it can be quite difficult.

Alison Wu
Blog #2
Source: Lise Skov. "Fashion-nation: A Japanese Globalization Experience and a Hong Kong Dilemma." In Re-Orienting Fashion.
Outside Source: