One of The Devil wears Prada’s most memorable scenes is when Andy Sachs was told off by Miranda while brilliantly explained how cerulean blue is in fashion because of a particular designer – then the technicality of it being a trend? Well, that is what critical fashion is about.
Words: Teh Yusof, Subeditor: Michelle Whitney
Firstly, you need to broaden your horizons and realise that critical fashion is not only about exploring new shades of colour. Unlike the music and arts industry, fashion’s critical audience are lacking. We have publications like Business of Fashion and Style.com (R.I.P) whom had in depth conversations on fashion from a business orientated angle.
Johannes Reponen, teaches critical fashion at London College of Fashion. He started researching critical fashion when he became frustrated at the repetitive, one-dimensional angles taken in most mainstream fashion articles. The topic ”Which shade of pink is in season?” bores him. He then decided to create Address Publications specifically aimed at fashion criticism, touching subjects within the inner circle of the fashion industry.
So did Anja Aronowsky Cronberg, the editor of Vestoj. She decided to publish the magazine because there were not many publications on fashion from a critical angle. Both editors were tired of articles on whats trending in a particular season, it’s bland. Their magazines both held no advertisements so their sentiments on fashion are not clouded by other parties/views.
Critical fashion discusses the many sides of the industry, focusing on issues that create trends. Such as cultural influences, political influences or general societal trends. For instance, the keffiyeh scarf started as the Palestinian symbol when Yasser Arafat was seen wearing them frequently; which then escalated as a fashion accessory for the American youth, then continued to be worn by the Japanese. H&M recently put the scarves on sale to complete a campaign featuring Mariah Idrissi on diversity in fashion. Vestoj did a social experiment in understanding the concept of shame, covering different aspects such as cultural appropriation.
In more ways than one, critical fashion is about the relationship with people and clothing. Ruby Hoette created Worn Relics as a project to see how much a piece of clothing meant to a person. A piece of clothing can hold sentimental value which precedes trend and style.
”Savage Beauty” is a prime example of critical fashion. Putting up this year’s Alexander McQueen exhibition was tricky for assistant curator, Louis Rytter and her team. The exhibition was held in America previously, so the team needed to strategise a way to properly curate the exhibition in his honour. Their efforts paid off and the exhibition was sold out. As the Guardian said, “(the exhibition).. forces you to focus on the clothes, and, to the layman and fashion student alike, reveals the great depth, variety and delicate nuance in the texture and narrative of his designs.” That’s how critical fashion wants you to view the industry, there’s so much more to fashion beyond the pretentious consumer driven shopping experience.
Honestly, there is no real definition of critical fashion. The basis originates from the ideology of ”What is the meaning of fashion?”.Fashion magazines give us no deeper meaning of fashion trends only, what is trending, raving reviews on fashion designers and endless list of shopping tips.
Critical fashion is not thinking about the box. It is going deeper into its contents and observing just more than sporting trends on the runway.