Archive for the ‘Sociology of Fashion’ Category
The fashion industry in communist Romania was a far cry from the glamour, artistic freedom and creativity we associate with the biz. Like all under businesses in communist Romania, the fashion industry was run by the state. Clothes were sold at one store, Romarta, which only stocked clothes made by craftsmen’s unions such as UCECOM (The National Union of Craftsmen’s Cooperatives) and UCMB (the Bucharest Union of Craftsmen’s Cooperatives). And these unions only sourced used materials from one state-owned supplier.
Still, a core of government-employed models and a few designers managed to carve a memorable niche for themselves in very forbidding circumstances. In a fascinating interview with Vice magazine reporter Lorena Lupu, model Romaniţa Iovan shared her experiences during the 80s under the Ceaușescu regime. Here are a few snippets from the interview (photos by Dinu Lazăr).
Getting hired as a model was a rather subjective selection process by a jury consisting of the committee’s chief accountant, its economic manager, and the editor-in-chief of Moda magazine, who was the only person who had anything to do with fashion.
They were interested in your social status and your relation with the state security—you could only travel abroad if you had a clean file. We were part of an international Socialist system and we worked a lot in former commie countries, like the Democratic Republic of Germany, the Soviet Union, and Czechoslovakia.
ON THE SELECTION OF DESIGNERS:
Even if there was a selection scheme, it was never applied. As far as I know, the designers were the same throughout the Communist years. They launched two collections annually, made from fabrics produced exclusively by Romanian suppliers. The clothes were not meant for consumption; they were samples made to promote next year’s trends to cooperatives that were then free to select what they wanted to produce for the mass market, which would then be sold at Romarta.
No one acknowledged a specific designer. A cooperative team included several designers and the fashion show was presented by the union, which placed no importance whatsoever upon the individuality of the designer. They all had precise roles: some only designed garments, others designed knitwear and others focused on shoes.
ON BEING A MODEL:
As there were only 25 of us throughout the country, there was no modeling school. We were basically self-taught. We practiced the runway walk, learned how to style our hair and do our own makeup and smuggled in professional products from abroad through someone who knew someone who had a relative who had an arrangement somewhere. But it was a real profession; my union card said “Model—fashion presenter.”
ON FASHION SHOWS:
They lasted for three days and were held at Bucharest’s only luxury hotel, the Intercontinental Hotel. It was the only hotel that accommodated international tourists. There were morning shows for fashion experts and then evening shows for special guests. The shows lasted for over an hour and always started with folklore-inspired stuff. Foreign music was prohibited; they mainly played Aura Urziceanu.
Read the full interview here!
The next time you’re adjusting your fascinator to attend Cousin Trudie’s wedding, you may think, why am I doing this? Not in the sense of why am I supporting this wedding which I know is a sham because he’s intellectually inferior to her, he’s a cat person and he’s a Scorpio, so it’ll never work…but more in terms of why the urge to pin feathers to your hair? Well, according to recent studies, you are responding to an ancient urge for feather adornment that goes back as far as Neandertal civilization.
A recent article in Scientific American magazine described how new evidence suggests that Neadertals used bird feathers as adornment. This flies in the face of previous theories that Neanderthals were not advanced enough to exploit smaller prey, such as birds, and that they did not yet express themselves through symbolic behaviours. Such shortcomings, according to previous theories, put Neandertals at a disadvantage when more modern humans with more skills invaded Europe.
Paleontologist Clive Finlayson and zooarchaeologist Jordi Rosell and colleagues recently reported their analyses of animal remains at 1,699 fossil sites in Eurasia and North Africa spanning the Pleistocene epoch. Their findings indicate that Neandertals were strongly associated with corvids (ravens and the like) and raptors (eagles and their relatives).
The evidence gathered from these bird remains suggests that they were not eaten for food (people do not eat corvids or raptors today), but that the beautiful flight feathers were used as adornment. Further, cut marks were found on wing bones—not the meatiest part of the bird. Additionally, according to archaeologist John Shea, the Neandertals’ preference for dark-feathered birds mirrors their preference for black manganese pigment, which is known from a few sites. Finlayson believes the Neadertals may have used flint tools to separate the plumage from the wing bones still attached to the skin to create a kind of cape or headpiece.
Though Neandertals may not have had the most sophisticated tools, Rosell points out that many of these birds would have been easy to capture by hand. Vultures, for example, often hang out in tree branches waiting for a current to carry them. Gibraltar—where many cutmarked bones have been discovered– is on a major migratory route for many species, and the birds often arrive tired from the shifting winds and easier to catch.
Previous findings of cut bird bones from Neandertal levels in Fumane Cave in northern Italy were dismissed as an isolated event. But Finlayson and Rosell’s study indicates that feathers were almost definitely a kind of fashion statement for thousands of years, possibly across Eurasia, and indicative of a certain level of sophisticated, symbolic behaviour. “A purely utilitarian kind of person does not put on a feathered headdress,” says paleoanthropologist John Hawkes.
Indeed—on the heels of tools follow feathered headdresses…followed by heels!
The Public Domain Review website uploaded a fabulous book published in 1887 called Fancy Dresses Described or, What to Wear at Fancy Balls by Ardern Holt.
It is a comprehensive guide to all things fancy dress, with detailed descriptions of costume ideas, from the more abstract such as “America” or “Five o Clock Tea” to historical figures to everyday objects such as “Toilet Table” or “Champagne Bottle”.
Here are a few favourite examples, but you can also flick through the entire book at your leisure here!
The costumes are quite elaborate. You’d have to have plenty of pocket change or be an expert seamstress/craftstress to manage these outfits! But they are brilliant and very well thought-out. Great inspiration!
We’re always pleased to see an e-mail newsletter from Emerald Street in our inbox. They’re chock-full of interesting titbits.
Recently, readers were treated to an overview of the upcoming nail and manicure trends for 2013 — so we’ll be on-trend from our fingertips to our toes!
EMERALD CITY: Shades of green will be big this year, the beauty experts say. Fresh greens, candy shades and rich emeralds. Pantone predicted its colour Emerald 17-5641 to be dominant in 2013.
NUDE NAILS: At the SS 13 Donna Karan shows, manicurist Marian Newman reported to Stylist deputy beauty editor Samantha Flowers that “nude nails were the strongest nail trend she’d seen in 15 years” .
IT’S GROW TIME: Celebrities like Rita Ora and Rihanna have inspired a longer nail trend, says nail expert Leighton Denny. Almond-shaped nails are also on the rise: “The shape makes nails look slimmer and more elegant.” He recommends using a buffer to gently shape the nails.
WE’RE TALKIN’ TEXTURE: Colour mixed with texture was big at the SS13 shows, says Laura Hughes, head of Orly education. Experiment with neon and metallic polishes as well as with adding textures such as crystals or mesh.
THAT’S OMBRE, MY HOMBRE: Andrew Style of Filthy Gorgeous cites ombre as his favourite nail trend for this year. He loved the way it was executed at Gareth Pugh’s SS13 show. “It works great with the nude trend, fading into a bright neon tip,” says Style.
The Nailympics is a fascinating competition for nail technicians and nail-ists (the opposite of nihilists), which is held in the US and UK. The 11-year-old organisation held its most recent event in June in Long Beach, California.
Nailympians are measured by judges in all sorts of categories, including nail structure, shaping, application, surface smoothness, product control and cuticles. There also are numerous divisions including Fantasy Nail Art, Stiletto Nail Art, Mixed Media, Acrylic Sculpture and more.
The results, as pictured by Vice photographer Simone Lueck, are impractical, amazing and a little frightening. Just makes us wonder….how do the models use the toilet? Yikes!
In his recent book, Clarks in Jamaica, DJ Al Fingers (Al Newman), examines the importance of Clarks shoes to Jamaican rude boy culture and dancehall music both historically and in present day.
Fingers’ study explains how rude boy culture sprouted up among young men in Jamaica during the early 1960s, when the country was still under British rule. Even after Jamaica gained its independence, conditions of high unemployment, overcrowding and general unrest continued. This led to the emergence of the rude boy as large numbers of males in their teens and early 20s became, in the words of historian Garth White, “increasingly disenchanted and alienated from a system which seemed to offer no relief from suffering.” He adds, “Many of the young became rude.” Many of the young, in turn, embraced the term.
Rude boys liked to look sharp and dress expensively. “Clarks was always part of that uniform,” says Fingers. When Clarks desert boots came out, Fingers continues, rude boys adopted them because they were made in England and were an exclusive luxury. “You had to have a pair of desert boots;” he says, “if you had to steal them you stole them. The association became so strong that if the police saw you wearing Clarks back in those days they would assume you were a rude boy and automatically want to arrest you or beat you. Because how else could you afford to wear such expensive English shoes?”
Additionally, Clarks boots were low-maintenance and comfortable. Their crepe soles were considered conveniently silent for sneaking around, adding to the element of criminal chic. Women loved the money and intrigue that Clarks represented. Even today, they are a rude boy badge of success and coolness.
In a recent interview with Esra Gurmen of Vice magazine, Al Fingers also shed light on how Jamaican dancehall music has paid homage to Clarks over the years. Dancehall was the rude boy music of choice and, as it evolved, it began to separate from roots reggae and Rasta ideals in connection with the country’s post-independence economic downturn. Fingers cites John Dillinger’s 1976 tune “CB200″ as the earliest song referencing Clarks that he could find. “It’s about a Rasta driving around Kingston on his Honda CB200, getting various things from different parts of town,” says Fingers, including new Clarks from the popular rude boy shop Baracatt’s in downtown Kingston.
Other Clarks-related songs include “Clarks Shoe Shank” by Trinity, “Wa Do Dem” by Eek-A-Mouse, “Clarks Booty” by Little John, “Put On Me Clarks” by Scorcher and Ranking Joe’s “Clarks Booty Style”. More recently, the shoes get a big up from Vybz Kartel in “Clarks”.
Full of amazing photos, interviews and extensive research, Clarks in Jamaica is a fascinating study of how one particular item of clothing can impact culture on so many levels.
Exactitudes is a project started in 1994 by Dutch photographer Ari Versluis and profiler Ellie Uyttenbroek. Over the past two decades, it has evolved into a passionate anthropological documentation of the dress style of numerous varied social groups or subcultures.
The subjects are photographed in groups of a dozen in a uniform manner against a white background in order to emphasize the overall similarity of their look as well as the subtle differences between them. The subjects are not styled at all– they all wear their own clothing to the studio.
“[F]ashion is a language,” Versluis explained in an interview on Vice Style. “It can be a very delicate language, or one that you can shout out loud, and there’s always an identity aspect connected to it. We try to find identities rather than trends but, of course, the first thing you see is fashion, clothing and apparel so we try to be very precise with what we portray, because styling is all in the details with these groups.”
“[O]nly history can tell if this social group is really as relevant as you thought it was at the time,” says Versluis to Vice Style interviewer Jamie Clifton. “It’s like that Susan Sontag quote about how, as a photograph gets older, it either becomes much more important, or it proves to not be important whatsoever.”
Of his work on the Exactitudes project over the years, Ari Versluis says, “After nearly two decades of observing people and scrutinizing every detail, deep down, I’ve developed the rooted principle of never judging anyone. That’s a very humanistic kind of view, and might not be the way people interpret the project, but that’s really how I feel.”
In the city of Matehuala, Mexico, in the northern state of San Luís Potosí on the high plateau of the Huasteca Potosina, a small team from Vice Magazine discovered a daring, swaggering subculture of rodeo dancers who enjoy extreme pointiness in their foot wear.
Fans of this botas vaqueras exóticas phenomenon customise their boots, some of which have been known to measure upward of 5 feet. The boots are further pimped with paint, glitter, LED lights, bits of hardware, mirrors or sequins.
Various cowboy venues in Matehuala, host dance-offs to music known as tribal guarachero. The music is described as “a combination of thumpy house music, ancient Hispanic chants and flute work, and Colombian dance songs known as cumbia.” Pointy-toed participants in these dance contests spend ages choreographing intricate footwork routines and creating original outfits out of fabric and paint. At these events, there usually are pointy boot contests as well. The prize may only be a bottle of whiskey or the prestige of winning, but pointy boot designers and wearers are devoted and serious.
Though the Vice team found the subculture to be flourishing in Matehuala, there is some disagreement on its origins. For example, Gabriel Amaro Barajas, aka Minri, insisted that his crew, Barrio Apache Hyphy, started the trend—not in Matahuala but in the small neighboring community of Zaragoza de Solís.
See original article on Vice.com. Words by Esteban Sheridan Cardenas. Photos by Edith Valle.
These amazing looks are brought to you courtesey of the Takanakuy fighting ceremony from the Peruvian state of Chumbivilcas. The roots of this rather brutal ceremony reach back to the Andes’s pre-Spanish, pre-Incan history as a way of settling grudges without a real active police force. Villagers and townspeople from the region bring their built-up grievances from the past year into the fighting ring each Christmas Day (of all days) and duke it out.
The costumes are meant to be intimidating and original. They involve knitted ski masks, stuffed animals and leather boots and chaps. They often use symbols and regional styles and invoke animal spirits. Part Mad Max, part WWF, it sure looks like one heckuva way to spend Christmas.
Article from Vice Magazine: The Fashion Issue, March 2012, vol 10, no 2. Photos by Lele Saveri
Japanese fashion designer Mikio Sakabe’s Autumn/Winter 2011-12 was inspired by the Tokyo district of Akihabara, which is home to a subculture of star karaoke singers and performers and their devoted followers. The fashions are also based on the culture of gaming, comic books, manga and cosplay (short for “costume play”).
“[C]osplay is such an interesting thing,” Sakabe told Junsuke Yamasaki of Vice magazine*. “Traditionally western fashion has always been concerned with making yourself look better, whatever that means, but on the other hand, cosplay is for people who want to transform themselves.”
In a similar vein, Sakabe’s Spring-Summer 2012 collection was inspired by princesses.
*interview and photo in Vice: The Fashion Issue, March 2012, vol 10, no 2