Thursday, 29 September 2016

Anti-fashion, anti-modelling: the future belongs to the discerning consumer

A year ago Lidewij Edelkoort, a trend forecaster, published a ten page manifesto in which she declared that the fashion industry was more or less finished. The fashion industry still works in a 20th century mode, says Edelkoort. There are problems with fashion education, which is rather superficial, with marketing, with the display and the presentation of fashion. There is repetition, lack of true creativity, and lack of real support for emerging new talent.
Edelkoort's most scathing remarks were about contemporary fashion journalism, which she deemed to be of a ridiculously low standard, suffocated by the rise of sponsored blogging, by definition of dubious quality. In her assessment, the only type of fashion that has been successful and shows real promise is menswear.
The good news amidst all this negativity is that couture will be back, just as a new sustainable agenda becomes mandatory for we cannot keep on feeding the monstrous greed of global capitalism, buying clothes that are cheaper than a sandwich. Harsh though it may sound, Edelkoort's assessment, here barely summarised, definitely resonates. I am interested in her critique of presentation.
I agree that Fashion Weeks are boring and most models are treated as no more than clothes horses. Not long ago, the anti-agency was set up to represent models that are different in look from the mainstream - many sporting tattoos, and no longer selected on the basis of height but only on their personality.

Getting ready for a runway show. Model: Alex B.
 Similarly, with regard to age, even though we are quite deluged with classic models, in an attempt to respond to the demand of the high street, age is being 'beautified' and classic models have worryingly begun to resemble each other, thus subtly going against the valorisation of age, by definition diverse, expected by a growing cohort of older consumers. Even when meant to be celebratory, the attention given to some of the more successful older models is ambiguously underpinned by a logic of 'othering' which is unhelpful.
 The whole modelling industry needs an overhaul, being closely allied to marketing. In the words of Edelkoort "without doubt the perversion of marketing ultimately has helped kill the fashion industries."

An interview with Edelkoort, en français

The future belongs to the consumer, but a discerning one. As she says,"the consumers of today and tomorrow are going to choose for themselves, creating and designing their own wardrobes...they will share clothes amongst each other since ownership doesn't mean a thing anymore. They will rent clothes, lend clothes, transform clothes and find clothes on the streets."

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Velvet and vintage fashion

All about Urban Root Eco 

(If you are a fan of the Spanish soap Velvet eagerly awaiting season four please do not read. This post contains spoilers)

I have been watching the Spanish soap Velvet, one of the great TV successes of the last couple of years. I chanced upon it in a moment of boredom, it's available on Netflix with English subtitles and other sites too, without subtitles, and I was immediately hooked.
Velvet is a telenovela, set in 1950s Madrid, the main storyline being that of the love of Alberto, son of the owner of Galerias Velvet, an exclusive store selling fashion and luxury accessories to the wealthy ladies of Madrid, and Ana, a seamstress working at the store who later blossoms into a star designer. They are childhood sweethearts but their love, predictably, does not run a smooth course. Around Alberto and Ana there is a whole range of secondary characters and storylines that give life to the soap.
The soap has already reached season three, with Alberto allegedly dead following a plane crash and Ana giving birth to Alberto's baby, whom she nearly lost when Alberto's enraged former wife Cristina - former wife not through divorce, which did not exist in 1950s Spain, but through annulment - had tried to kill her.
ATTENTION: SPOILER! 
SKIP THIS NEXT PARA IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO KNOW
Season four, the final temporada, is now being shown on Spanish TV and it is believed that Netflix will bring it out on 22nd September.  Unable to contain my curiosity to know how this long drawn love story  will be resolved I did my research, went through all the interviews with the actors and the press releases for season four as also the photographs of the new series published by Antena 3, the Spanish TV channel that broadcasts Velvet and I can confidently say that there will be a very happy ending. This research had the bonus of  improving my fluency in Spanish, it was a bit like doing an immersion course in Spanish listening and reading comprehension. Anyway, if you want to see the happy ending have a look at these images and draw your own conclusions.
END OF SPOILER
Velvet is unusual among soap operas in that the background and the clothes are truly showcased, they are what makes Velvet . Sure, the series The Collection , set in post-war Paris and focusing on the shady goings on behind the glamorous façade of a rising fashion house, also exhibits fashion but not with the same care and attention to details devoted by the stylists of the Spanish soap, nor is the process of making  the clothes truly at the centre. I would say that fashion is the real protagonist of the Spanish soap. Velvet also focuses on that moment of transition from the made to measure to ready to wear, which Ana introduces - this will be seen in temporada four. Season four is set in the 1960s so we also see the beginnings of menswear in Spain. The soap does not discuss the political situation of the time but it highlights the socio-cultural background and the ferocious gender inequality of Francoist Spain, where abortion and divorce were not legal, and homosexuality could lead to imprisonment.
A lot of research has gone into making the soap. Here is an interview (in Spanish) with Helena Sanchìs, one of the stylists.  I am giving below a gist of the description published on youtube:
Galerias Velvet are a benchmark of fashion, and of course, costumes are paramount in the series. In this video Helena Sanchìs tells us about the designs worn by the actors. They are based on the  documentation  and research compiled about  the time in which the series is set , but trying to give the costumes some  uniqueness, without sticking rigidly to the historical fashion. Many of the dresses were designed and made anew, others are vintage wear  bought and adapted to suit the characters. Helena here also talks  about the famous red dress Alberto gives to Ana, and discusses the period lingerie worn by the girls in the series. You can also see more images and read more about Sanchìs here 


Velvet  also  clearly outlines the politics of the workshop, the tension between innovative designers and the conservativeness of the technicians of fashion, such as seamstresses and cutters, used to working in specific ways: the dynamics of the team working under a designer are exemplified by Raul's relationship to his equipe.
Fashion has changed tremendously, haute couture and ready to wear  are no longer so clearly demarcated, most fashion weeks lean heavily on the ready to wear. Haute couture is now for the Oscars and such events, completely out of reach. Yet I still remember when as a young child I accompanied my mother to the Luisa Spagnoli boutique in my hometown where she would be measured and the clothes altered to fit her. It was already a time of transition but something of the older made to measure style was retained, as sizes were not standardised.
Sanchìs talks about vintage clothes and this is very relevant, in that fashion now is attempting to free itself of mass production and a new awareness is spreading among fashion consumers and fashion designers. Many emerging designers are reinterpreting fashion as being about valorising the old and renewing it and using ecological fibres, as Auguste Soesastro, whom I met in Jakarta,  does.
I had the good fortune to model for one such designers for this current fashion week, Ruth Woldeselasie of Urban Roots Eco. I wore a 1920s bridal outfit, which for me was quite amazing, as I do not normally model bridal wear, due to the age imperative (as if older women did not marry!). Below is a snap taken prior to the catwalk, better pictures will follow.



In sum: if you are interested in fashion, Velvet will not disappoint. And don't forget, if you are trying to learn Spanish, this is exactly what you need to practise your language skills!



Saturday, 3 September 2016

Anonymous birth: when maternity is an option

Image reblogged
I never thought I would be reading, in my spare time, articles in legal journals but that's exactly what I ended up doing yesterday after an acquaintance casually remarked that the practice known in France as  accouchement sous X does not exist in England whereas it still exists, very much so, obviously in France, then in Italy, where it is known as 'mother who does not consent to be named' and in Germany, known as Babyklappen. In Spain it was recently abolished, it seems. English law is more child-centred, said my acquaintance.  I have really been  intrigued by all this, as it highlights how women are still totally tied to their biology.
What is accouchement X? Basically, mothers have the option to give birth in  safe surroundings with medical care and yet preserve their anonymity so that  their name does not appear on either the birth certificate or any documentation relating to the birth, including medical notes. The baby is then, in the majority of cases,  given out to adoption. The father is not involved in all this or, in some cases, may  be, by taking the baby as his own, without acknowledging and registering the name of the mother,  who by choice loses all connections, from a legal point of view, with the baby.  She and the baby are, and will remain, strangers for life, even if they continue to live together as indeed sometimes may happen.

Raphael  Nativity  CC
In  France the accouchement X , first introduced around the time of the French Revolution to protect unplanned and unwanted babies from being abandoned, has been modified, so that mothers leaving the hospital  give their medical details in a sealed envelope to be opened if and when requested by their child once he or she becomes an adult.  They  can also choose to reveal their name. This is not so in Italy, where the name is withheld for at least one hundred years.  France recognises that the accouchement X is reversible, but Italy does not, in that the name of the mother cannot be revealed to the now enquiring adult son or daughter. Not in their life time.
Whether anonymous birth was ever allowed in England I am not sure, I have not investigated this fully. I know however that in England the principle followed is that of mater semper certa est and that birth is always a public act, which cannot be kept secret under any circumstance. In order to give birth anonymously (and obviously there are cases) a woman would have first to give birth in secret and then abandon the new born, thus committing a double crime because a birth must be registered giving the name of the mother and abandoning babies is definitely a crime. Renouncing maternity is in other words a crime. A woman is in no uncertain terms legally defined by her motherhood.
This whole issue of anonymous birth has been given some thought by feminists as it raises issues of identity, privacy and also it begs the question of why paternity and maternity should be treated differently. On the surface the English system protects the child but only up to a point, and the mother, unlike the father, is not given any option to forfeit her maternity, whereas in some cases this could be beneficial.
Madonna with Child and St Anne. Masaccio and Masolino CC

In case I am here misunderstood I should premiss that I am personally not in favour of abandoning any new born, in fact I believe parenthood should be well thought out and babies welcomed, loved, and cared for.  But I am intrigued by the implications of these views on who and what is a mother, as Michael Freeman and Alice Margaria discuss in their 2012 article.
Feminist writer Catherine Bonnet believes for example that accouchement X is but an extension of abortion rights so that even if it is too late to terminate the pregnancy or unfeasible to do so, for reasons  of health, a woman can still choose not to be a mother. Women never really have a choice over their pregnancies. In England, it should be remembered, women cannot terminate pregnancies by themselves, it is a doctor that does so, ending your own pregnancy without a doctor is also a crime.
Borgognone. Virgin and child CC
Freeman and Margaria believe that the woman's right to autonomy as endorsed by accouchement X is pitched against the baby's rights as an individual and the baby's right to know his/her origin. A baby is not a foetus and is born with rights. Not to mention the implications, in terms of inheritance law, of an offspring who is legally a stranger but who does have blood ties.
If the accouchement X sounds like a cruel practice, think again.  It should be remembered that in pre-divorce Italy, married women separated from their husbands and co-habiting with new partners could not acknowledge their maternity or their children would by default have had to be registered as fathered by their estranged husbands. To prevent the splitting up of the new family unit such women would give birth anonymously, their newborn being registered with only their new partner's name. Had accouchement X not been an option, they could not have done so.  Divorce changed everything but up to a point, as it is not that easy to get a divorce.
Moreover and with due respect,  I am not convinced that fathers and mothers should be treated differently, nor that the mother's anonymity truly violates a baby's rights. And  I am not convinced by the emphasis on consaguineity and what Lefaucheur has called the 'biologisation of society', whereby several women regard accouchement X  a practice to be supported against such a biologisation.  As Freeman and Margaria note,  English law, chillingly,  links motherhood with biology and supports, implicitly, a view of society based on biology.
Accouchement X and related practices need to be looked at again, in the light of contemporary developments in society. But as a woman I cannot help asking myself why men are not obliged to acknowledge paternity, whereas women should always acknowledge their maternity.  Nor is it the case that one's origins are primarily biological. And why emphasise 'origin'? We have a history, yes, but origin is a loaded term, of the 'blood and homeland' variety. Not in the 21st century, I sincerely hope so.




-------- My article 'Coming of Age' for Vestoj is now available online --------------

Anonymous birth: when maternity is an option

Image reblogged
I never thought I would be reading, in my spare time, articles in legal journals but that's exactly what I ended up doing yesterday after an acquaintance casually remarked that the practice known in France as  accouchement sous X does not exist in England whereas it still exists, very much so, obviously in France, then in Italy, where it is known as 'mother who does not consent to be named' and in Germany, known as Babyklappen. In Spain it was recently abolished, it seems. English law is more child-centred, said my acquaintance.  I have really been  intrigued by all this, as it highlights how women are still totally tied to their biology.
What is accouchement X? Basically, mothers have the option to give birth in  safe surroundings with medical care and yet preserve their anonymity so that  their name does not appear on either the birth certificate or any documentation relating to the birth, including medical notes. The baby is then, in the majority of cases,  given out to adoption. The father is not involved in all this or, in some cases, may  be, by taking the baby as his own, without acknowledging and registering the name of the mother,  who by choice loses all connections, from a legal point of view, with the baby.  She and the baby are, and will remain, strangers for life, even if they continue to live together as indeed sometimes may happen.

Raphael  Nativity  CC
In  France the accouchement X , first introduced around the time of the French Revolution to protect unplanned and unwanted babies from being abandoned, has been modified, so that mothers leaving the hospital  give their medical details in a sealed envelope to be opened if and when requested by their child once he or she becomes an adult.  They  can also choose to reveal their name. This is not so in Italy, where the name is withheld for at least one hundred years.  France recognises that the accouchement X is reversible, but Italy does not, in that the name of the mother cannot be revealed to the now enquiring adult son or daughter. Not in their life time.
Whether anonymous birth was ever allowed in England I am not sure, I have not investigated this fully. I know however that in England the principle followed is that of mater semper certa est and that birth is always a public act, which cannot be kept secret under any circumstance. In order to give birth anonymously (and obviously there are cases) a woman would have first to give birth in secret and then abandon the new born, thus committing a double crime because a birth must be registered giving the name of the mother and abandoning babies is definitely a crime. Renouncing maternity is in other words a crime. A woman is in no uncertain terms legally defined by her motherhood.
This whole issue of anonymous birth has been given some thought by feminists as it raises issues of identity, privacy and also it begs the question of why paternity and maternity should be treated differently. On the surface the English system protects the child but only up to a point, and the mother, unlike the father, is not given any option to forfeit her maternity, whereas in some cases this could be beneficial.
Madonna with Child and St Anne. Masaccio and Masolino CC

In case I am here misunderstood I should premiss that I am personally not in favour of abandoning any new born, in fact I believe parenthood should be well thought out and babies welcomed, loved, and cared for.  But I am intrigued by the implications of these views on who and what is a mother, as Michael Freeman and Alice Margaria discuss in their 2012 article.
Feminist writer Catherine Bonnet believes for example that accouchement X is but an extension of abortion rights so that even if it is too late to terminate the pregnancy or unfeasible to do so, for reasons  of health, a woman can still choose not to be a mother. Women never really have a choice over their pregnancies. In England, it should be remembered, women cannot terminate pregnancies by themselves, it is a doctor that does so, ending your own pregnancy without a doctor is also a crime.
Borgognone. Virgin and child CC
Freeman and Margaria believe that the woman's right to autonomy as endorsed by accouchement X is pitched against the baby's rights as an individual and the baby's right to know his/her origin. A baby is not a foetus and is born with rights. Not to mention the implications, in terms of inheritance law, of an offspring who is legally a stranger but who does have blood ties.
If the accouchement X sounds like a cruel practice, think again.  It should be remembered that in pre-divorce Italy, married women separated from their husbands and co-habiting with new partners could not acknowledge their maternity or their children would by default have had to be registered as fathered by their estranged husbands. To prevent the splitting up of the new family unit such women would give birth anonymously, their newborn being registered with only their new partner's name. Had accouchement X not been an option, they could not have done so.  Divorce changed everything but up to a point, as it is not that easy to get a divorce.
Moreover and with due respect,  I am not convinced that fathers and mothers should be treated differently, nor that the mother's anonymity truly violates a baby's rights. And  I am not convinced by the emphasis on consaguineity and what Lefaucheur has called the 'biologisation of society', whereby several women regard accouchement X  a practice to be supported against such a biologisation.  As Freeman and Margaria note,  English law, chillingly,  links motherhood with biology and supports, implicitly, a view of society based on biology.
Accouchement X and related practices need to be looked at again, in the light of contemporary developments in society. But as a woman I cannot help asking myself why men are not obliged to acknowledge paternity, whereas women should always acknowledge their maternity.  Nor is it the case that one's origins are primarily biological. And why emphasise 'origin'? We have a history, yes, but origin is a loaded term, of the 'blood and homeland' variety. Not in the 21st century, I sincerely hope so.




-------- My article 'Coming of Age' for Vestoj is now available online --------------