Body Politics – Fashion & The Challenge of Identity Talks discussed the transition between the performance society and the hybrid state of society.
The conversation in fashion industry has shifted. Creative people, brands or institutions do not prefer to be represented as sterilised and idealistic figures anymore.
Last week, I was invited to Body Politics – Fashion & The Challenge of Identity Talks as a ‘responder’ by the Consulate General of Sweden in Istanbul as a part of Swedish Fashion Days. The talks took place in Atölye İstanbul and offered us a different model of panel, engaging the speakers with professionals and academics in the creative scene in Turkey. Together with Dr. Bilgen Coşkun, Zeynep Tosun and Eda Cakmak, we triggered the conversation through the presentations of Philip Warkander, Ana London, Minna Palmqvist and Iman Aldebe.
Fashion has a great communication potential. Today, not only fashion or design campaigns promote a specific gender or society; but also the cities we are living in are promoting a stereotype of living with architectural projects related to urban transformation.This situation creates an area which has a high risk of losing the authenticity. Today brands succeeding a sustainable growth are keeping what is original, creating value engaging with the already existing ground, creating not from scratch but using the potential of geography and identity.
By keeping your darlings and engaging them to what you are doing, it is likely to improve their life quality, so that the authenticity and the new can emerge and sustain. Fashion is now an important cultural impression of who we are and where we are going. Here below is the review of the talks.
The landscape of fashion has changed
Philip Warkander is the first, and so far also the only, to hold a PhDin Fashion Studies.
What is actually a fashion study? Philip explained the field of fashion study is quite abroad that we can use fashion to enhance identity. The concept of fashion studies can be described in two parts. The first one is connected to consumption to feminine fields. The second one is connected how people’s clothes communicate with their identities.
Fashion is a cultural phenomena as well as a profit-driven industry. Philip says that it can also be a lens through which we can study and investigate the mechanisms of contemporary society and culture. Therefore fashion can also be used to both strengthen traditions, but also to introduce new ways of thinking and being. For this reason it is important that we continue to discuss and reflect on the choices we make in relation to fashion.
The intention in the fashion industry created a blurb identity. Philip gave the H&M ladylike, AW 16 campaign as an example to the idea of slim and young models does not really represent the campaign’s communication. He also explained Weekday’s s/he, SS14 campaign as an example of expressing stereotypical gender roles.
How the design of clothes can be linked to concerns of segregation and marginalisation
’This is Sweden’ is a fashion design company made up of the siblings of Ana and Pablo Londono. Ana and Pablo are two Colombian refugees who have established a fashion linefocusing on what is Swedish and what is not. The duo is questioning how fashion can work to create both awareness and challenge excepted norms of identity.
Stories behind the collection and the label is based on Swedish history and society. The siblings both studied in London where punk and youth came up with a movement. Their infamous bomber jacket idea came from background studying in London.They took the bomber jacket as a symbol and asked what happens if we take the bomber jacket and make it on our own.
Minna Palmqvist is a fashion designer and artist. She created one of Sweden’s most interesting and socially engaged figures in the field. Intimately Social is an initiative Minna started with a social anthropologist.
Minna explains the human body in two ways: intimate actual body we were born with and the social body we represent through clothes.
Minna is actually practicing art with a feministic point of view through fashion. She always put the female body at the core of her work. She wants to discuss about what a woman and her body is allowed to be and forced to be. In her recent works, she focused on the unwanted body shapes trying to find the impossible balance of the body image.
What makes our differences?
Iman Aldebe is a Swedish based designer, journalist and a lawyer. With a Jordanian background, she questions the female identity as a covered woman. She wanted to open a market for covered woman, making them more visible by the help of fashion.
The female body is pictured as more attractive and sensual then the male body in the media. Her recent works are focusing on making the men look more feminine to show that power isn’t within the gender.
From performance society to hybrid state of society
We are obsessed with body image because of the “performance society” Dr. Bilgen Coşkun points out that the body image is struggling with outdated formats that do not correspond anymore to today’s needs.
If you look at the media, just picking the titles of articles published on fashion and design blogs & magazines, we can see a repetitive rhythm of words styled up to attract more attention without any inference such as: Perfect elegancy, the modern woman, the Miu Miu woman, new girl in town, street style, update your style, style stars, it girls, tom boys, fashion weeks, design blocks, design districts, eatable design, touchable designs, minimal elegancy, smart technology, iconic brand and so on. Today’s media, with the lack of experienced journalists, serve us millions of information without any filter and want us to be in a certain shape, to be in a certain place and to stand with a certain someone.
The identity is not a static phenomena anymore. Everything is fluid and hybrid now. The new consumer prefers to lend, share and borrow. The act of selling does not refer to the product but the attitudes and ideas. We are co-living, co-creating and being co-more.