Friday, 13 December 2013

chanel, dallas and cultural appropriation

The collection's most controversial piece

I have just watched Chanel's Paris-Dalas 2013/14 Metiers d'Art Show. Whilst I was planning to take the title of this post from the song '5-6-7-8' by Steps (fun fact: that was my favourite song for ages when I was 6) and sing the praises of the collection, the blatantly unforgiving racism of the collection cannot be overlooked. You can watch the full show here.


(all images from style.com)

Some Reasons Why Cultural Appropriation of Native Americans is bad:

1. The headdress is a sacred symbol of spirituality that is treasured by Native American tribes.
2. The 'trend' reinforces and encourages stereotypes. There are over 500 Native American tribes that all have different cultures and clothing.
3. Racism is still a reality in Native American's lives so 'dressing up' in what they wear is disrespectful of their past and present struggles.
4. The Native American identity has been reconstructed (often inaccurately) by brands just trying to make money.
5. It commodifies traditions.
6. Some outfits (such as the Victoria's Secret one) sexualise the culture. This is specifically important as Native American women are often rape victims of non Native American men. 


When I first read about how this Victoria's Secret look had been received as offensive to Native Americans, I must admit that I was shocked because I thought that fashion should be about exploring different cultures and traditions and reinventing them. However, since then I have learnt more about the issue this misguided view of mine has changed. Throughout history, Native Americans have been subjected to much hardship and persecution. How can we just forget about all that and blend items of clothing into our culture? Items that many do not understand the significance and importance of? 



Victoria's Secret apologised and removed the headdress from their collection after receiving justified criticism from Native American groups. Since then, cultural appropriation has been a particularly controversial issue, not just in catwalk fashion but in fancy dress and halloween costumes too. So, why, after all this do Chanel still find it acceptable to unapologetically place headdresses, feathers and Navajo prints in their collection in such a provocatively racially insensitive manner? Does Karl Lagerfeld seriously believe that Chanel is such a prestigious brand that it is above anything else?


Personally, I am outraged at the arrogance of it. I can only imagine that their must have been a bit of a tense atmosphere in the room barn when the looks came out. The idea of a fashion show in Dallas with the classic, filmic Cowboys & Indians costumes is wonderful in theory but unforgivably ignorant in practice. 


As much as I still believe that fashion should celebrate diversity and embrace other cultures in doing so, when a minority has specifically displayed their upset over the matter not just once but a great number of times, it is utterly unacceptable. The models are never even Native American. There are so, so many ways to have a fantastic collection of clothes that do not offend anyone so why do designers feel the need to keep revisiting such a sensitive topic? Surely it shows that they are simply selfish and profiteering brands?



Karl Lagerfeld even admitted that, "It's a reinvention of something I don't really know about, but that I like to play with." Can he not see how offensive that statement can be? None of the main fashion sites have criticised the show. Who dares to criticise Kaiser Karl, after all? 


Don't get me wrong, I love Chanel but this has stained the brand's image for me. The entire event was a miraculous occasion, as Lagerfeld ensures that every Chanel event is. The barn was gigantic and the decor very American. There was even a rodeo bull and the guests were perfect- Alexa Chung, Anna Wintour and Derek Blasberg were there. Vintage cars were on display and 900 guests took their seats to watch Lagerfeld's new short film before the show began. 


I just want to scream 'WHY WHY WHY???' It is pure ignorant arrogance to not realise the inherent racism in the collection. I guess that writing this here is is my way of screaming 'WHY WHY WHY???' I know that, as a cis white British girl, I can only ever sympathise but I can never emphasise but I believe that we should all use our voice- however small and seemingly insignificant it may seem- to defend what we believe to be right. I definitely think that it is our generation's job to take to the internet and make people wake up about issues like this. At the end of the day do you really want to buy into something that offends an entire culture at the same time as reinforcing the dumb, white teenage girl hipster stereotype? 



Fashion brands do not seem to understand all of this when it really isn't that complicated. We can only come to the harsh conclusion that they simply do. not. care.

Now to lighten the mood, this is still my favourite thing  that has ever happened in Dallas:


Saturday, 7 December 2013

being a fan is one of the most happying things you can be

In Tavi Gevinson's talk, titled 'Tavi's World', at the Melbourne Writers festival she discusses the importance of being a fan and how being happy is often better that being a tortured artist cliche. I was thinking about everything that she said as I walked to school on Thursday. These are my thoughts that I later wrote down:

In this internet dominated society there is a strive for often unattainable originality. Instead, it is suggested by Tavi, we must aim for authenticity. When there are people doing everything from posted videos voicing views that they know everyone will disagree with to sucking their own tampon, we are better off just, well, being ourselves. Although 'we are all different' etcetera etcetera, we are not all that different that we are all able to have our own revolutionary idea. Being original isn't that important. Sometimes it is fulfilling to just be a fan amongst other fans. It makes you feel a part of something and, in the wise words of Tavi, is 'one of the most happying things you can be.'  It is the fans who decide how culturally significant or insignificant an artistic pursuit will be. What would The Beatles be without Beatlemania? Or  One Direction without Directioners? So don't you let anyone ever tell you that being a fan is not an occupation of the greatest importance.

Tavi's Journals shown at Melbourne talk (same throughout)

I notice that lots of people I follow on tumblr paraphrase Morrissey in their own writing. A part of me unwillingly feels like this is quite fraudulent but it is actually very wonderful. One girl I talk to often describes certain 'things' as being 'precious' and I have started to do the same. This is taken from The Smiths' 'The Queen Is Dead' where Morrissey sings, 'We can go for a walk where it's quiet and dry and talk about precious things.' Similarly, with the same ~internet friend we often quote George Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass' if either of us is going through a tough time or have had a bad day. I was once describing my day in a message to someone else on tumblr where I'd felt invisible so I wrote, 'I NEED ADVICE, I NEED ADVICE. NOBODY EVER LOOKS AT ME TWICE' from The Smiths' 'Miserable Lie.' It's cathartic in many ways to know that 'fandoms', such as this, can almost have their own language that conveys a secret understanding. Morrissey is so prolific that I often quote or paraphrase him without even realising that I'm doing so! 



Tavi also notes that it can sometimes be much more helpful and comforting to write someone else's words (quotes, song lyrics and the like) in your journal than your own. This way, you do not have the fear of getting too deep into yourself and ending up questioning everything and getting nowhere. There is a sense of hope in these words from books, films and songs that you can relate to because it is a confirmation that you will be okay. 



Secondly, Tavi talks about how she felt validated once she was diagnosed with depression last year but, when she tried to write in that mindset, all her metaphors were cliched and all of her writing seemed like a teenage diary- not that there's anything wrong with teenage diary writing but it has its place (in a teenage diary.) Perhaps that is because the 'tortured artist' thing has been exhausted. The fact that it is now a recognised stereotype shows that it is a little overdone. I think that if you feel like you need to make art (be it writing, painting, music, photography or whatever) then you probably have been through some kind of bad time or experienced negative mental states that have fuelled you with that determination to create. 



One man in the audience at Tavi's talk said that he is an 'opto-realist' because he thinks positively as much as possible but life keeps handing him shit. I think that I'm more of a 'pessi-idealist.' I find it difficult not to see the ugliness in the world when I have so many ideals about what's right and what's wrong. I know that, in my lifetime at least, there will never be a time where people will not be prejudiced against people based on race, sexuality or gender. There will never be a time when everyone's vegan (or even vegetarian), when rape culture is non-existent or where equal pay between men and women is actually equal. However, it is the idealistic part of me that is hopeful for positive change. I'm not saying that I aim to, or an going to become, a social justice icon. However, I do want to always write, which is a way that people have been presenting their ideas for centuries. Like Flower said on tumblr: 

'i am tired of people and sexism and racism and homophobia and transphobia and ageism and slut shaming and rape culture and twats and the world in general and i'm far too young to be sick of life.'  



Tavi also said that it's important to find things that you are passionate about in order to survive adolescence. However, I found that the day after I watched Tavi's speech I felt so lonely at school because there was no one to have a lengthy discussion about it with and feeling lonely whilst surrounded by people is the worst feeling ever. It's a good job that I'm going to a Rookie meetup tomorrow where I am sure people will be more than happy to talk about it.



Tavi comments on how we are always told that life will get better as we grow older and she says that that isn't true. Life doesn't get better but we get better at coping with it. Bad day? We've had so many bad days before that we know what book to read/film to watch/food to eat. 



My influences, like Tavi's, are so traceable because they are all here, on this blog. I will never seem like a magical creature who just arrived. I have been constructed- partially, at least- by my passions. Morrissey's influences are also very traceable. At the very beginning of his career he talked about Oscar Wilde and James Dean so often that the topic became exhausted and he refrained from discussing them so much. I like that I can see what inspired/inspires Tavi and Morrissey because it gives the tiny stalker inside of me a chance to rejoice as I uncover more and more information about them. Furthermore, I often like the same things as them because I like them so much. I doubt that anybody is quite as fascinated by me but I find it interesting to look back at my personal ~journey through teendom in such an accessible  way.

meadham kirchhoff: strange magic in motion

Viewing Meadham Kirchhoff collections on style.com, the Vogue website, YouTube or the myriad other multimedia mediums, it is easy to be struck by the cutesy kitschiness and narrative aesthetics that the designing duo convey. There is no denying the element of magic synonymous with Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchhoff's productions- for, to label them mere 'fashion shows' would be a great misjustice. 



Meadham Kirchhoff is a production, a performance. Sitting in a room where such an event such as this is going on, there is such a creative buzz and soaking up the sweet atmosphere is otherworldly. The V&A was a perfect setting because the walls are covered with huge, intricate tapestries that especially increased the effective of the Marie Antoinette-esque aspect of the collection.



The set and the music definitely orchestrate the experience's individuality. Between each snapshot of past collections, American voices replace the music. They talk of beauty pageants and other such visual wonders that Meadham Kirchhoff take inspiration from. 'Dancing Queen' by Abba plays at one point. 'Miss World' by Hole (one of my favourite songs of all time) plays as we exit at the end. The music is quite overpowering but very atmospheric. The screens in front of the pianist accompanying the music from the speakers are covered with famous Meadham Kirchhoff motifs such as the witch on a broomstick inside a heart adapted from a Hole promo poster for their album 'Live Through This' and a cute goat with the slogan 'Riot Not Diet' written proudly above it in a flower dominated font. Later on, tension rose in the music and the screens moved apart. They were finally turned round to look like a Marie Antoinette-esque bedroom window whilst Marie Antoinette-esque clothed models strutted past.



The perfectly embellished tailored outfits of origins from gothicism to Marie Antoinette adorn the models are the walk purposefully yet elegantly down the runway. The look that seems to 'steal the show' is the long black veil that resembles traditional mourning attire. It adds to the narrative vibe of the event. The whole production was very fairytale-esque. There were witches and princesses and the distinction was made clear not only sartorially but musically as well. Think fast, sinister sounds for the black veiled characters and soft, pretty sounds for the embellished dresses and glittery platforms. 


Models walking through the gift shop once the production had ended.

However, it was not only the clothes we all came to see that were inspiring. There were artistic looking, fashion forward people everywhere I looked. Here are some of my favourites:


These two girls are friends and they were standing with two equally well dressed guys who, unfortunately I didn't get to photograph. I love seeing really creatively dressed people all hanging out together.
I love the white sandals with the pink fluffy pom poms on the front in the photo on the left. I adore the multi coloured giant fur scarf in the photo on the right. The woman on the far right with the fringe, long coat and trainers looks like a really cool person I think. Is that a weird thing to say?
The girl photographed on the left was so, so lovely. She had just taken off a beautiful pink jumper that was either actually by Meadham Kirchhoff or just very Meadham Kirchhoff-esque. She had put the whole outfit together impeccably.
The girl on the left was wearing almost entirely the same shade of pink but it was the shoes that I thought really stood out. I snapped the girl on the right on the way from Meadham Kirchhoff to the Club to Catwalk exhibition.

Overall, the experience was so wonderful and magical that it can be labelled  a 'moment of strange magic' up there with Lux Lisbon's happiest moment of her short life at the prom.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

heaven is a place on the high street

Topshop currently contains some phenomenally perfect collections. The garments are so artistic and creatively fuelled and the cultural references are on point. I have styled some of my favourite pieces in Polyvore collages. The first few are from 'Margot's World' based on the character of Margot Tenenbaum (who else??) from Wes Anderson's 'The Royal Tenenbaums.' Margot's wardrobe is cool and preppy. When I think of her style I think of long fur coats, childlike hairclips and cigarettes.



margot's world part 1
margot's world part 2
margot's world part 3
margot's world part 4
margot's world part 4 by stylejunkiee featuring a pink sweatshirt



Secondly, we have the 'This Is England' collection. When I think 'This Is England' I think box fringes, Fred Perry polo shirts, bomber jackets, rolled up denim jeans and Doc Martens. Here are some pieces from Topshop that I have styled:



this is england part 1
this is england part 2



this is england part 3
this is england part 4



Last but definitely, definitely not least: Meadham Kirchhoff for Topshop. I adore the concept behind this collection. Having looked at the different fictional girl band members, I think that I am probably most like Cherry Cherie but I would like to be more like Cherry Blossom. Regardless, there are some wondrous pieces from each member of The Cherrys. It is very Courtney Love inspired, much like their fabulous Spring/Summer 2012 collection. This Topshop collection is so through and through classic Meadham Kirchhoff. It is the kitschness that runs in the veins of the label at its best.


meadham kirchhoff for topshop part 1
meadham kirchhoff for topshop part 2
meadham kirchhoff for topshop part 5
meadham kirchhoff for topshop part 4
meadham kirchhoff for topshop part 3
meadham kirchhoff for topshop part 6
meadham kirchhoff for topshop part 6 by stylejunkiee featuring Topshop


I adore all of these collections and they thoroughly restore my faith in high street shopping. Topshop is one of my favourite shops and I love their creativity. There is never a boring moment in these collections.