Book Review: Naked Fashion

My daily wardrobe doesn’t reflect it, but I love fashion. I was one of the thousands that waited semi-patiently for hours to see the Alexander McQueen exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum last summer, and I subscribe to Vogue primarily to drool over pictures of exquisitely crafted garments. So it was with great interest that I opened Naked Fashion: The New Sustainable Fashion Revolution – but also no small amount of trepidation. Would I come away feeling guilty about buying the occasional tank top from Old Navy? Would I be depressed by the inhumane working conditions that so many garment factory workers experience every day? Would I be overwhelmed by all the myriad ways that the mainstream fashion industry could make its practices more humane and environmentally responsible, yet fails to?

Well … yes, to varying degrees. But this collection of essays and interviews is also incredibly empowering, presenting a clear-eyed look at both what is wrong with current business practices and what individuals and designers can do to effect positive change. The contributors, including actress Emma Watson and designer Vivienne Westwood, don’t just offer their insights on fashion, but also on the related industries of graphic design, modeling, and advertising to give readers a fascinating look at what really goes into the clothes we buy.
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Abortion in Advertising

I read a ridiculously high number of fashion magazines for someone that doesn’t wear makeup and considers a new pair of Levi’s a major splurge. But what caught my eye while flipping through the latest batch of glossies was the advertisement for Kenneth Cole that appears to the right of this post.

Ads seeking to make a social or political statement are nothing new. In the 1980s and 1990s, the clothing company Benetton used striking and often controversial images in its advertisements. From the famous image of AIDS activist David Kirby on his deathbed surrounded by family; to a picture of a white child, hair in blond ringlets, grinning next to a black child, hair in devil’s horns; to an array of multi-colored condoms, Benetton made a point of tackling the hot-button social issues of those decades.

Though Kenneth Cole’s new abortion-themed ad is part of the company’s recently launchedWhere Do You Stand” campaign, which also addresses gun control, gay marriage, and war, this isn’t the first time that the fashion company has combined advertising with social awareness. A handbag ad from 1997 includes the words “It is a woman’s right to choose. After all, she’s the one carrying it”; other ads from that decade focused on AIDS, homelessness and, perhaps most amusingly, Dan Quayle. [Read more...]

Fashion Model Andrej Pejic Pushes Gender Binaries

At first glance, you would not guess that model Andrej Pejic is male. The 19-year-old native Bosnian began modeling in Australia three years ago, and credits his success to hard work and being at the right place in the right time. Pejic, who models both women’s and men’s clothing, has been received very well by the fashion industry; he is part of the gender-bending trend of fashion campaigns that embrace gender fluidity.

Much of the reaction Pejic has received is simple curiosity. Pejic is breaking the norm that only female bodies may model women’s clothing; mainstream fashion is learning that male bodies, too, can be feminine. His participation in the fashion industry is a step towards disconnecting the binary that only female bodies can be feminine. Pejic’s ability to exemplify femininity and masculinity is reconstructing the static notions of gender. Performativity of gender becomes more apparent with Pejic’s changing representations in modeling.

While Pejic deconstructs the relationship between femininity/masculinity and female/male, the matter by which his body is presented solidifies what it means to be feminine. The fashion industry accepts Pejic, whose body is thin and fragile, and this acceptance indicates that femininity is considered to be slimness and delicate features. Body politics is at the forefront of this discussion: Pejic’s inclusion in the fashion industry is at the cost of representing an exclusionary view of what it means to be feminine. [Read more...]

Tuesday News Roundup

mouse2Welcome back from the holiday weekend. Hopefully it was a good one for you!

Poll Finds Support for Domestic Partner Benefits – Gay Politics
Racism in the Fashion World – Womanist Musing
Utah Considering Comprehensive Sex Ed – Salt Lake Tribune
Planned Parenthood to Close 5 Clinics in Indiana – Fox