Fashion and Signification

The deconstruction of image or product as text lies at the heart of any totalizing definition of a cultural studies methodology. In direct opposition to traditional art and design history and literary criticism methods, cultural studies offers a way of studying objects as systems rather than as the simple product of authorship. Borrowed from European structuralism, most specifically the work of linguist Ferdinand de Saussure,11 the theory of language looms as the most essential of cultural...

Creativity and Fashion

It is widely agreed that clothing is a language, but a very ambiguous one. Its vocabulary changes or evolves, and can express different meanings at different times according to the wearer and the observer.6 We might say that clothing is a dynamic language open to endless resetting. Some adhere to the view that fashion follows a 'trickle down process'7 whereby innovative ideas are transmitted from the elite top layers of the social pyramid to the bottom. Others consider it mainly a matter of...

Reka CV Buckley and Stephen Gundle

Few words are as ubiquitous in the contemporary mass media as glamour. 'The new glamour burns bright' headlined Interview in March 1997, while Elle of December 1996 tempted readers with the following cover title 'Glamour The people who live it - the clothes that scream it - the make-up that makes it'. Yet quite what glamour is frequently remains unclear. When fashion and women's magazines from time to time conduct enquiries into the meaning of glamour, they invariably seek opinions from a range...

To View This Figure Please Refer To The Printed Edition

Marc Jacobs, Spring Summer 1998. Copyright Niall McInerney. So how might the meaning of the style be assessed The various attitudes that are reflected in minimalist designs discussed - the controlled, confident elitism of Armani and Sander, the avant garde modernity of Chanel and McCardell, the intellectual introspection of the Japanese designers, the edgy urban cool of Prada and Lang, and finally the decadence sparked within the recent trend in pared-down-dressing presents an...

Ian Griffiths

I have been told that I am a typical product of the British fashion-design education system, and to an extent this is true I graduated from Manchester Polytechnic in 1985 and the Royal College of Art in 1987, and like many of my contemporaries became a designer working for one of the large Italian manufacturer retailers that flourished during the 1980s, in my case the MaxMara group. But my career took a more unusual turn in 1992 when I became Head of the School of Fashion, and Professor at...

Contemporary Glamour

The term glamour is employed continuously in connection with fashion, showbusiness and entertainment, beauty and beauty marketing and the social worlds that are determined by, or associated with, these industries. It is scarcely possible to open a copy of Marie Claire, Vogue or Hello without finding the word used to underline the allure of an occasion, a dwelling, a product or a person. Even the broadsheets make use of the word's evocative power in presenting leisure, fashion and entertainment...

Glamour and Modernity

In this chapter, we have shown that glamour is integral to capitalist modernity. It emerged at a specific point in history characterized by the shift in terms of the general order of meanings and priorities from a society dominated by the aristocracy to one governed by the bourgeoisie the extension of commodification into ever wider public and private spheres the development of a new urban system of life permeated by consumerism and the importance of fashion the closer proximity of the theatre...

Amy de la Haye

In 'The Cutting Edge 50 Years of British Fashion' exhibition staged at the Victoria amp Albert Museum in 1997, four key themes of post-war national fashion identity were identified Romantic, Tailoring, Country and Bohemian. The latter category embraced the work of designers that drew upon classical and medieval revival styles and ethnographic sources. The striking, mainly exuberant exhibits included ensembles by Thea Porter, Yuki, Zandra Rhodes, Mr Fish, Charles amp Patricia Lester and Georgina...

Antipathy Thinly Veiled and Undisguised Hostility

The reading list for first-year students of fashion design at Kingston University includes The Fashioned Self by the anthropologist and sociologist Joanne Finkelstein. It is my fervent hope that none but those students whose interest in the subject is unshakable should ever chance to get their hands on a copy the book's arguments are presented with a devastatingly seductive logic and an authority that would persuade anyone else to abandon the profession without delay. In the author's words, It...

Nicola White

The Italian fashion industry is currently one of the leading players on the international fashion stage, and ranks parallel with Paris and New York.1 Yet before 1945, there was no industrial production of fashionable womens-wear in Italy, and little innovative made-to-measure haute couture. The well-known Italian fashion style currently seen in the world's glossy fashion magazines rose seemingly from nowhere in the post-war years, and was not widely recognized until the early 1980s. It is...

Rebecca Arnold

Simple, elegant and restrained, American designer Marc Jacobs' work epitomizes the 1990s minimalist aesthetic. His spring 1998 collection comprised a series of easy separates, little soft grey cardigans, flirty pleated skirts, contrasting fuschia macs and sporty clamdiggers. There was a slight hint at 1950s style in the cut, but not so much that the modern feel of the collection became swamped with nostalgia there were enough references to trend-based shapes and colours that the potential...

Brian Godbold

This chapter takes the form, initially, of an autobiography. Its story is not only that of my own life, but that of British fashion since the 1960s I was fortunate to find myself right at the centre of the art school culture of that period, which as I hope to show, sparked off the design-conscious mass-market phenomenon by which I, as the Divisional Director of Design at Marks amp Spencer was ranked as number 8 in The Face magazine's 100 most powerful people in fashion,1 and at number 15 by...

The Development of Franchised Branded Designer Products in the 1950s

The behaviour of much of the Paris couture industry during the Nazi occupation of the city unravelled all this commercial success. The industry was left in a truly dire moral and economic position in the 1944-7 period, only overcome with the help of foreign buyers, the international fashion press and the vitality of the designs of the couturiers themselves with the success 16. Iribe, P., D fense de Luxe, Montrouge Draeger Freres, 1932 no page numbers . 17. 'Bulletin des Soies et de Soieries',...

Modernity into Postmodernity

There are many competing usages of the terms modernity, modernization and modernism, particularly between the social sciences and the humanities traditions. A number of historians, for whom the idea of modernity is bound up with an analysis of industrial capitalist society as a form of rupture from 42. Nava, Mica, 'Modernity's Disavowal Women, the City and the Department Store' in Pasi Falk amp Colin Campbell eds , The Shopping Experience, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi Sage Publications, London,...

Introduction

All 'things' carry within them a weight of cultural complexities, including the products of the couture industry, whose meanings are centred specifically on overt notions of elitism. The cultural power of couture clothing and accessories remains so strong that it now impacts on the style of clothing at more market levels than ever before. All around the world, a shoe is just a shoe, a perfume just a perfume, until magically transformed by a 'designer' logo or house style into a symbol of global...

Christopher Breward

The first serious use to which research in historical dress was applied in British academia during the post-war period lay in the area of art historical studies. The careful dating of surviving clothing and its representation in paintings was seen as a useful tool in processes of authentication and general connois-seurship. The emphasis on the creation of linear chronologies and stylistic progressions that art historical directions dictated at the time has to some extent influenced the nature...

The Crisis of the Early 1930s

After the 1929 Wall Street crash, panic ensued in 1930 following the US imposition of a 90 per cent import tax on Paris haute couture garments under the new Hawley-Smooth bill. Paris lost its entire fleet of US buyers over the 1930-2 period and costs simply had to be cut. Thus in 1931, Chanel designed the first range of couture evening dress in cotton to bring costs down as her company was hit badly when both commercial and private US consumers stayed away. What on earth was to be done It was...

Nicola White and Ian Griffiths

This book derives from a series of lectures organised by Kingston University in collaboration with the Italian manufacturer retailer MaxMara. The lectures, entitled 'Perspectives in Fashion', were launched in 1994 to explore emerging themes in the history and theory of fashion, with the objective of considering them in the context of contemporary industrial practice. Both Kingston and MaxMara shared the view that this would primarily benefit students of fashion design, opening their eyes to the...

The Function of Couture Clothing

As Alexandra Palmer, has so well explained, the basic function of the making of individual couture clothing is, and always was, to provide the etiquette-correct 'social uniform' for its private clients.3 The basic financial problem within couture is the inevitability that it will only ever be bought by the tiniest minority of women and that in times of economic trauma, they too balk at spending cash on luxury clothing. Thus this industrie de luxe can never run securely and smoothly. It never...

Galliano 1990s

Figure 9.1 shows a moment in the Christian Dior Autumn-Winter 1998 9 couture collection designed by John Galliano. Entitled 'A Voyage on the Diorient Express, or the Story of the Princess Pocahontas', it was shown in the Gare d'Austerlitz in Paris, where the models arrived on a steam train while the audience were seated on sand-covered platforms decorated with huge bronze platters of spices to look like an oriental spice market or souk. As the visitors sat surrounded by canopies, potted palms,...

Modernity and The Spectacle of Women

The wholesale rebuilding of Paris in the second half of the century, in the grand scheme concocted between Napoleon III and the Baron Haussmann, transformed it into the city we know today and allowed the development of the 'society of the spectacle' which, I have tried to indicate, still resonates in the imagery of the contemporary fashion show. 26 In the rebuilding of Paris the old, medieval quartiers were broken up and replaced with wide boulevards, open spaces and parks. With...

OwiorroujValerie Steele

As we enter a new millennium, fashion journalist Teri Agins proclaims The End of Fashion. Of course, fashion has not ceased to exist. We are not all identically dressed in a unisex uniform of tee-shirts and chinos. Nor are we likely to be. Many people still care passionately about the way they look. Yet fashion, as we have known it, is definitely disappearing. Certainly, over the past fifty years, fashion has been completely transformed. The empire of fashion has fragmented into hundreds of...

Dialectical images

In the nineteenth century it was through the spectacles and dreamy scenarios staged in the department store that female consumption was nurtured, trained and encouraged, as well as in the great exhibitions which granted a vision of luxury consumption to a mass audience. Many of these visions have striking parallels in the staging of Galliano's shows in the 1990s, which drew on illusion, drama and theatre for their effects. Just as in the nineteenth-century 'reveries were passed off as...

Luigi Maramotti

What is creativity How are ideas generated How do we define a creative person Such questions have probably crossed our minds more than once, but rarely do we realise how much we depend on this very special output of human intelligence. If we look at the products around us, most of which today are manufactured industrially rather than handmade, we can appreciate how their design is related to creative thought and to the necessity for innovation and change. As the Chairman of the MaxMara group,...

The Intellectual Assault Course

In his introduction to The Fashion System Barthes asks 'Can clothing signify without recourse to the speech which describes it, comments upon it, and provides it with a system of signifieds and signifiers abundant enough to 23. Finkelstein, J., 'Chic - a Look That's Hard to See', Fashion Theory, vol. 3 issue 3, Oxford Berg, 1999, pp. 363-85. 24. Palmer, A., 'Book Review After a Fashion', Fashion Theory, vol. 1, issue 1, Oxford Berg, 1997, pp. 111-14. 25. Craik, J., The Face of Fashion Cultural...