1st Global Conference
Friday 25th September – Sunday 27th September 2009
Mansfield College, Oxford
in association with Models 1: Europe’s Leading Model Agency
Fashion’s Relation to The New in Early 20th Century Fashion Magazines
Aurélie Van de Peer
Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Ghent University, Belgium
The research paper examines the role early 20th century (1914-1930) fashion magazines played in the construction of the discourse of fashion. Special attention is given to the relation of the discourse of fashion to Newness. The article examines the possibility of a link between the rise of modernism and newness in fashion by arguing for a ‘marketplace modernism’, most prevalent in the 1920’s discourse of the researched magazines. Whilst the contemporary discourse of fashion, as expressed in fashion magazines and newspapers, pre-reflexively considers the category of the New or the Innovative as a constitutive element of fashion, early 20th century fashion magazines tell a different story about fashion’s relation to the New.
A detailed Bourdieuan reading of two early 20th century fashion magazines – Vogue and Vanity Fair – shows that the New or the Novel were the most important signifieds in the magazines, though this does not entail a straightforward relationship between fashion and Newness. The magazines hold a paradoxical stand towards the New: both celebrating as well as discrediting it. The category of the New is not only perceived as highly ambiguous, it is also linked to other categories, like pleasure, taste, propriety and consumerism. These extensive discussions of the New in fashion stand in sharp contrast with the silence of contemporary fashion writings on the ambiguity of Newness. It seems that the paradoxical attitude towards the New made way for a ‘not becoming subject of discourse’ or a ‘growing self-evident’ of the New as the 20th century progressed. In order to critically reflect on the contemporary unquestioned ways of writing, speaking and thinking on fashion and the New, I propose an unravelling of the paradoxical roots of this value of the fashion field.
Niche Fashion Magazine Production: Fashion Capital, Codes and Values
London College of Fashion, London, United Kingdom
As a continuation of the small body of work on fashion magazine producers (Barrel and Braithwaite 1988; Crewe 2003; Gough-Yates 2003; Jackson et al. 2001; Jost 2004; McRobbie 1996; 1998; Moeran 2006; 2008), this paper explores the production cultures of niche fashion magazines. Based on eight months ethnographic fieldwork at DANSK Magazine, an international niche fashion magazine, it examines the codes, values and beliefs that inform the encoding of fashion into the magazine. Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s (1993) work on cultural production, it explores the logic of the cultures of niche fashion magazine production.
The producers of DANSK magazine are driven by an impetus to secure status, distinction and recognition via codes of, for example, newness and exclusivity. In order to know what constitutes news and exclusivity the editors rely on their knowledge of the field of fashion and other players as well as their network of culturally tuned in people, which they use to position themselves and their magazine. The field of the fashion press is highly competitive and producers are competing for the same advertisers, clothes and models. The Bourdieuian concept of ‘fashion capital’ (Entwistle and Rocamora 2006) constitutes the specifically acquired competence (knowledge, practice, habitus) players can use as a resource in order to position themselves, compete for positions and take positions, in the field of fashion.
Symbolic value and recognition make up the economies of niche fashion magazine production, which is driven by peer and connoisseur recognition, which Bourdieu coins ‘production-for-producers’ (1993; 46). Rather than mentioning the receiver as an actual reader, the editors are more concerned with addressing and impressing ‘the industry’ as a whole.
The paper relates mostly to Theme 3. Cultures of Fashion and Theme 5. Fashion and Representation.
‘Style Surfing’ Changing Parameters of Fashion Communication – Where Have They Gone?
University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom
This paper sets out to explore the changing face of fashion communication and its role in creating fashion ideas and promoting trends. The focus is on the generation that do not know life without the internet, looking particularly at the online material that they engage with and the influence this has on their style ideas. It draws on the theory put forward by Roland Barthes (1983) ‘The Fashion System’ and the importance of textual dissemination of fashion through specialist magazines and editorials.
The authoritative voice of the fashion journal is being challenged by assertive fashion bloggers, so much so that even a blogger can gain international recognition for their own predictions on next seasons fashion trends. If the internet has changed the process by which an expert is declared, so too is it changing the way in which the discourse or message is received and the meaning conveyed. It is therefore important to consider the fashion content of the online communications that are engaging this generation from websites, music sites, U-tube and social networking sites like Face book and Bebo.
The internet allows time and space to be treated differently. The control has shifted from the sender to the receiver as audiences are no longer passive but actively seek information and engagement with ideas and relevant discourse. However, how does this technologically savvy generation deal with a communications network that gives free access to infinite amounts of information on fashion without editorial guidance. Can they really push parameters of fashion style without a concept of the boundaries they are challenging? Do the boundaries exist within themselves and there own conflict driven by the need to express themselves and assert individual identity opposing the need to belong to a collective. Does communicating fashion ideas on the internet give them both?
Fashion Criticism Today?
University of the Creative Arts, Rochester, UK
With the growth of fashion blogs and ever increasing number of fashion magazines there seems to be no lack of commentators wanting to have they say about fashion. However most of the writings that are published through these channels appear to only have a promotional purpose. As a polar opposite academic writing mainly appears in publications that reaches a narrow audience, mainly consisting of fashion professionals. What is the role of a fashion journalist in between this? To what extend can a journalistic account provide critical analysis.
Fashion is often seen superficial and frivolous, though in some way or another it affects all of our lives. Richard Martin thinks that ‘few fashion writers know anything about criticism or fashion history’. London based fashion designer Giles Deacon gives his view about the state of fashion criticism to Colin McDowell in an article published in The Sunday Times in 29.03.2009. Deacon states ’despite often ridiculously grand titles, most of the front row are ignorant: they can’t tell a print from a jacquard. What can anyone learn from what they have to say?’ If the quality of writing or more importantly criticism is at this state, how can we expect the audience to have informed views about fashion?
Taking Richard Martin’s ‘Addressing the Dress’, as a starting point I want to explore the current state of fashion criticism. Drawing from current issues and debates affecting the critical discourses in art and design I want to expand the discussion to cover cross-disciplinary views about criticism and examine those against fashion. How can we create a healthy culture of criticism within the fashion industry? Encouraging fashion to grow and innovate, ensuring it doesn’t fall further into the dark ages.