Is fashion a reflective social document and promoter of progression? Or merely just morally bankrupt and prejudice?
Recently, the world was politically engrossed in the elections taking place in America and watched Obama retain his presidential role. You may be asking, what has this got to do with fashion? Well, this is what I love about fashion; it is intrinsically linked in every part of our lives. Many celebrities displayed their support for Obama. In particular, Beyonce was politically active by wearing hooped earrings designed by Puerto Rican designer, Erika Pena which spelt out ‘Obama’. This would suggest that fashion is a vehicle for socially reflecting political issues within the world. However, due to Beyonce’s celebrity endorsement of the earrings, sales increased dramatically. Now, the question is, is this morally acceptable? The election can mean that people within America will be subject to life changing policies. Is it right for such a serious event to be commercialised so the designer profits from it. For this particular example, fashion demonstrated its role to reflect upon social issues within the world, thus showing how powerful the industry is in shaping the beliefs and views in society.
Continuing with America, a devastating event that occurred in 2001 was the 9/11. On the 5th anniversary of this event Steven Meisel photographed an editorial spread for Vogue Italia titled ‘The State of Emergency’. It could be argued that the photos produced were socially documenting and portraying the fear that still exists within society with regards to terrorism. This could particularly have been heightened by the 7/7 London Bombing attacks in 2005, a year before the shoot.
Perhaps fashion has the social responsibility to confront society with these issues. However, within the shoot, models were wearing designer clothing, thus it could be argued that fashion are manipulating society’s fear in order make profits. A vast amount of people died, lost loved ones, families were broken and many were subjected to psychological distress. Yet, fashion was benefiting from these events, therefore implying the industry is immoral. However, it is honest and conceptual. Personally I found this shoot stimulating and inspirational as it provoked me to think and reflect upon these events. Although, at the end of the day, Vogue Italia, the brand advertised and Meisel still lined their pockets, thus it can be considered immoral.
On the other hand, when Meisel and Vogue Italia have collaborated, there has been consistency within challenging the thinking and events that exist within society. For example in 2005 there was a shoot based on plastic surgery.
The growth in women’s desire to make themselves beautiful via the means of plastic surgery was increasing tremendously. Perhaps this is just an example of fashion reflecting a society that put a tremendous amount of pressure on women in order to look beautiful. By addressing this issue, it could be argued that fashion is protesting against this obsessive thinking that has developed in women. The models look in agony which it makes it hard to look at the images. This portrays the severity of plastic surgery within society, which is why it needs to be addressed. Fashion can therefore be considered to socially informing and enlightening society. However, it can be considered contradictory due to the fact the models are wearing designer clothing within the photographs. It could be argued further that fashion is responsible for generating this desire in women. Women are subject to beauty magazines, which show glamorous perfect looking models. This therefore implies that fashion has no morals after all. However, due to the consistency displayed by Meisel and Vogue Italia, it could imply that they are compassionate and take these issues within society seriously, supporting that fashion is not morally bankrupt.
One brand in particular that also addresses serious issues within fashion is the United Colours of Benetton. There recent campaign, that has also taken the spotlight in their Oxford Street windows addresses youth unemployment.
In the current climate, youth unemployment has risen significantly. It has been a key feature within the media and politics. United Colours of Benetton has addressed this issue within their advertising campaign, thus arguing fashion is mechanism for socially documenting. In a different light, this can be considered disingenuous. It can be argued that Colours of Benetten are attempting to relate to the youth in order to line their pockets. The youth that can relate to this, usually don’t have much, if any income, so encouraging them to spend can be considered immoral. Although, when I saw the windows at Oxford street, it did make me stop in the street to study the campaign. It inspired my thinking, and that’s what I enjoy about fashion.
For Rodarte’s Fall Winter 2010 collection, they were inspired by their Mexican roots. They looked deeper into the city of Ciudad Juarez, which was declared the most violent city outside of war zones. Many women often were abused and raped in worker’s factories and went missing. The collection was built off the idea of sleepwalking, which can be interpreted as when you are asleep you are at peace, so perhaps in their clothing they are protesting for the peace for the women. Fashion can therefore be considered to be promoting the progression that society should undertake in order to create peace.
Rodarte collaborated with mac to produce make up, and they called eye shadows ‘factory’ and below is an advert created.
The advert shows a figure of a missing person. This was considered too controversial so the collaboration was dismissed. Ethically, is it acceptable for Rodarte to allow the consumer to be confronted with such serious issues, or do Rodarte and the fashion world have a social obligation to inform the consumer. However, Rodarte receive thousands of pounds when people purchase their clothes, thus they are making profits from the fact people are suffering. This indicates that fashion is morally bankrupt.
Finally, Marks and Spencer provides an example where fashion promotes progression in their advertising campaign that features a little boy with downs syndrome.
This could be a result of the London paraolympics in the summer, which has enabled society to be accepting and understanding of those with disabilities. Fashion therefore socially reflects the mood of society. However it can be argued that fashion is morally bankrupt as using the little boy in the advert, Marks and Spencer has gained a lot of respect from the consumer. This therefore motivates and encourages the consumer to shop there, thus increasing the brand’s profits. However, I strongly admire the progression demonstrated by Mark’s and Spencer.
In conclusion I think there are good and bad parts to all parts of life, fashion included. Yes, fashion is morally bankrupt for commericalising serious issues and events, however I believe that fashion can be a very powerful tool. A tool that can shape beliefs and educate society. By addressing and confronting serious issues that exist, fashion reflects and socially documents what goes on in the world and can perhaps help develop and inspire solutions or changes within society and their way of thinking.