‘Fashion and Power’ is a subject as well-trodden as it is open to new interpretations. Dress, we know, can be a powerful weapon of control and dominance but it can also be both subversive and empowering. The power of fashion is of course integral to identity and body politics, but today it is as important in terms of global economy, nationhood and celebrity culture as well as in all practices aiming to subvert the status quo. In contemporary consumer culture the link between power, social discipline, conformity and fashion is often so entrenched that existing norms are beyond our discernment, causing us to often regulate and control ourselves without any deliberate coercion from others. What then happens when we step out of line?
In this issue we explore what you risk when you deviate from the norm and what you gain from following the beaten path, but we also examine the consequences of a system that doesn’t encourage discord or opposition. We have looked at how the politics of the fashion system allow power relations to be built and maintained, why it is so hard to be critical in fashion and who gains from the industry’s rigid and static power structure. Seeing as fashion is often described as a mirror of our culture, we have been curious to better understand how the demonstrations of power within the fashion industry are displayed and why so few today appear to challenge them. Could it be that this is endemic of a more widespread attitude in society?
PART I: ON FASHION AND POWER
Shaun Cole, THE FIG LEAF MENTALITY
Peter McNeil, ALCHEMICAL POWER
Djurdja Bartlett, ART INTO LIFE
Jane Tynan, POWER DRESSING
Anna Akbari, WHAT DOES POWER LOOK LIKE TO YOU?
Hank Willis Thomas, FAIR WARNING
Charles Colman, ‘A FEMALE THING’
Ane Lynge-Jorlen, IN THE NAME OF THE STYLIST
Simona Segre Reinach, CHINA CHIC
Matthieu Lavanchy, CHINA CHIC
Jean Kilbourne, THE MORE YOU SUBTRACT, THE MORE YOU ADD
Danielle Levitt, FEMALE ARCHETYPES
Mary Ping, THE BEST, FOR THE MOST, FOR THE LEAST
VESTOJ FLASH FICTION
Bette Adriaanse, CLASP
Winnie Ha, KALEIDOSCOPIA
PART II: CONVERSATIONS ON POWER
Valerie Steele in conversation with Robin Givhan
Floriane de Saint Pierre
Margareta van den Bosch
Geoffroy de La Bourdonnaye