Friday, 27 October 2017

timeline of female creative directors

Fashion often portrays powerful women. The industry still has a long way to go before it reaches gender equality, but it is one of the only industries where it is not perceived as unusual for women to be in the top positions. As disproportionate consumers of luxury fashion, women drive the industry, and clothes designed for women by women have caused some of the most revolutionary changes in fashion.

Paris' oldest couturier was founded by a woman. Women brought trousers and later the miniskirt into female wardrobes. They pioneered punk and brought fashion into the 21st century by exploring fashion in unique, creative ways, even when it felt like everything had already been done before. These are the women who have shaped fashion history.

Jeanne Lanvin 1889-1936

Jeanne Lanvin founded her eponymous fashion house in 1889, making Lanvin the oldest Paris couturier in continuing existence. The label is famous for its signature romantic style and popular shade of quattrocento blue. Lanvin celebrates femininity, with its focus originally being on motherhood and the family.

Coco Chanel via Vogue UK

Coco Chanel 1913-1971

Chanel began as a milliner, with the opening of her first store funded by friend and lover, Boy Capel. However, Chanel disapproved of Capel lending her money. Her fierce independence and determination for financial autonomy, without help from men, is reflected in her proto-feminist designs. Chanel was wearing trousers before it was socially acceptable for women to do so and her jersey dresses defined the sporty aesthetic adopted by the modern woman.

Elsa Schiaparelli via Vogue UK

Elsa Schiaparelli 1927-1973

Schiaparelli set up her store in Paris to design sweaters with surrealist designs. Her line that followed this focused on bathing suits, tennis skirts and skiwear for the active woman. Schiaparelli's circle included artists Dali and Duchamp, whose work inspired her designs. "Dress designing is to me not a profession, but an art."

Mary Quant 1955-

Mary Quant's name is synonymous with 1960s London. Quant opened her first store, called Bazaar, on King's Road in London. As one of the few designers offering youthful clothes at a time when youth was becoming the centre of society and dictating its trends, Quant's store became a success. Young women flocked there for miniskirts, which became symbols of women's liberation and the sexual revolution of the '60s.

Vivienne Westwood 1971-

Today, Vivienne Westwood is best known for her environmental activism. In the '70s, the designer created waves when she launched her punk label, which specialised in bondage gear, safety pins and chokers.

"Punk feels very heroic. It's liberating," said Westwood. Her brand, which exists on her motto that, "you have a more interesting life if you wear impressive clothes," has recently become part of the background of her political pursuits, such as Climate Revolution. She held up a banner proclaiming, "Climate Revolution" at the London 2012 Paralympics Closing Ceremony. The Climate Revolution campaign advocates quality over quantity, buying less and choosing well, preparing and cooking your own food and cutting out plastic. In short, Westwood wants to start a conversation about climate change, particularly in fashion,one of the least environmentally friendly industries in the world.

Rei Kawakubo 1973-

"When you put on clothes that are fighting against something, you can feel your courage grow," Rei Kawakubo has said about her avant-garde designs. "Clothing can set you free." Founded in 1969, Kawakubo is known for her deconstructed collections, more akin to art than fashion.

She was the theme of 2017's Met Gala, but when she first showed her clothes in Paris in the early '70s, the fashion elite did not know what to make of her. Kawakubo rarely does interviews, but when she does her insights are engaging and unique. If female designers have proven to be the most forward thinking, Kawakubo leads the charge for individuality.

Rodarte Spring 2016 via Dazed

Kate and Laura Mulleavy 2005-

Rodarte was founded in 2005 and has gained a cult following among fashion lovers who see clothes as an art form. Kate and Laura Mulleavy studied art history and English literature, respectively, at the University of California before saving up $20,000 over the next decade to create their first collection.

In 2010 they helped design the costumes for Black Swan. This year they released a horror film, Woodshock, starring celebrity fan Kirsten Dunst. Dunst plays a cannabis dealer trying to deal with the grief following her mother's death. "As a designer you have to spend your whole life pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone," said Kate Mulleavy. "We have always believed that no matter where you are from, as a designer you are creating your own world."

Their work doesn't stop there though. They also have a Radarte t-shirt line and count Natalie Portman and the Fanning sisters among their Hollywood fan base.

Iris van Herpen 2007-

Created in 2007, Amsterdam based designer Iris van Herpen is widely regarded as one of the most forward thinking creative directors today. "For me fashion is an expression of art that is very closely related both to me and to my body," said van Herpen. "I see it as an expression of identity combined with desire, moods and a cultural setting."

Molly Goddard via Vogue UK

Molly Goddard 2013-

In 2012, Molly Goddard graduated from Central Saint Martins with an MA in knitwear. Five years later and she is the young designer du jour and the name on everyone's lips. "She's from the believable generation," says Sarah Mower of Goddard's designs and presentations. "It's real; it's not just the skinny zombies." The brand was conceived from a joyful place, with her signature tulle reminiscent of outfits worn to high school proms or decadent parties. Last winter, Goddard invited the public to embroider large tulle dresses hanging from the ceiling of the NOW Gallery in Greenwich. The exhibition aimed to get more people into embroidery, and the dresses have since been auctioned off for charity. 

Friday, 13 October 2017

an ode to lorde's party girl

They're all gonna watch us disappear into the sun.

There will never be a shortage of pop songs about parties. Dancy beats lay beneath lyrics that describe dancing 'til sunrise, falling in love, living for the weekend. They revel in the joy and free abandon of the coolest party ever. Then Lorde comes along and speaks to a different kind of party girl and a fuller, more realistic image is formed.

We saw glimpses of this on her debut. In 'A World Alone', she sings that her friends are, "studying business, I study the floor." Lorde's party girl watches from afar and continues to ruminate as she is swept up with the rest of the night. On Melodrama this vision becomes fully formed, capturing how parties are microcosms of youth; expressing the excitement, the vibrance, and the comedown. 

We are faced with overarching themes of violence and melodrama. We are more used to seeing these in classical tragedies than at "fun, scummy house parties." Yet, when you think about the crazy things people do at parties that they would never dare to do in the light of day, you realise that parties are actually very theatrical. We kiss people we would be too nervous to kiss otherwise, get into fights, forget the person we have to be when Monday morning rolls around. 

Melodrama is punctuated with self-awareness, something that Lorde's party girl cannot escape. Even in the joyful moments where she dances until she can't see, there's still an aching in the back of her mind about what it all means. Pretending not to care, but actually caring a lot. Knowing that the night has to end. Agonising over whether you will ever have this much fun again. It picks apart the 'perfect night'; a jaded idea used by businesses to sell us new party dresses or expensive bottles of vodka.  Sometimes the perfect night happens and you find that perfect place with the perfect people, other times you're left mine sweeping other people's drinks and crying in the taxi on the way home. Lorde's party girl feels everything in bright lights and darkness. There is no grey, so every night is an intense adventure that can go one way or another, but when it is good it is really good.

When she's not dancing, she's pouring her heart out under porch lights, watching the way other people act when they're drunk or high or in love. She ruminates in bathrooms then sways back downstairs to try and keep up with the rest of the room. The night builds to a crescendo with dancing in the living room. She goes home, then does it all again the next night. 

Whilst there is a realism to Lorde, it is easy to see how she romanticises these moments. Hazy memories and the pale glow of streetlights, disco lights, porch lights, cigarettes makes everything seem soft and beautiful. These nights feel like dreams, so we try to recreate them and find these perfect places. 

Friday, 6 October 2017

a timeline of female empowerment in fashion (part 2 1960-2017)

The 1960s signalled a new chapter for women's liberation. Women's wardrobes reflected this as Carnaby Street buzzed with teenage girls and young women in miniskirts and bright, psychedelic prints. The decade saw the invention of the Pill and teenagers became society's key taste-makers as Beatlemania took hold. 

Perhaps the most famous sartorial event of the 1960s women's liberation movement is the alleged bra burning. Whilst this did not actually happen, it still demonstrates how clothes can be used either to oppress or liberate women. Underwear is still occassionally a point of contention for the feminist movement. Much of the women's lingerie industry is filtered through the male gaze and marketed at men rather than the women who actually wear it. We are currently witnessing an increase in lingerie brands that are created for women and by women. Labels like Marieyet create feminine lingerie that does not fall victim to sexualisation through the male gaze. 

The 1960s was the first time women could publicly take control of their own sexuality. The newfound independence offered by the Pill in the was aestheticised by Mary Quant and the miniskirt. It's now hard to imagine a time when the miniskirt did not exist, but in the '60s in represented a reclaiming of female sexuality. It gave women a new identity, outside of the domestic sphere. Quant famously stated that she did not invent the miniskirt, but that it was invented by teenage girls and young women in London who kept asking for their dresses to be cut shorter and shorter. The fashions of the era indicate how, in certain circles, women and girls were beginning to be taken more seriously. 

By the 1980s women began to take on more senior roles within businesses. This shift led to the rise of the powersuit, which can be seen as both feminist and conforming to patriarchal standards. The fact that women felt the need to dress 'like men' to be taken seriously as professionals shows that women's liberation still had a long way to go. Another, even more insidious, reason for the popularity of the power suit in offices was so that women could avoid sexual harassment in the workplace. 

The toxic idea that a woman could somehow be 'asking for it' by the way she dresses is a discourse we are still battling with in the 21st century. In 2011 a Toronto police officer told a crowd of women that they should, "avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised." Women fought back, and Slut Walk was founded; an annual march that now takes place across the world, where women assert statements like, "little black dress does not mean yes" and, "whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no." Fashion is often trivialised simply because it is seen as a feminine interest and everything girls like is silly and needs to be mocked amiright? but women's progress in society can be tracked sartorially. To have come so far then have a crusty old policeman tell us what we can and can't wear in order to not get raped feels massively outdated. 

Fast forward a few years to 2017 and Instagram is revolutionising our worldviews. Whilst the app can be potentially damaging, it is also a tool to promote body positivity and the same anti-slut shaming principles that characterise the Slut Walk movement. As a visual platform, fashion is central to its function. Trends are started by influencers who are paid to sponsor brands. Yet there is still space for individuality; a trait that has been central to female empowerment in fashion throughout history.