Sun shines bright when one sees people on the streets, speak their mind by the clothes they wear. Hues of sensitivity and care seem to be the colour of the aesthetics in the fashion world today. Fashion is ‘making a statement’ and the statement is increasingly seen trending towards a voice of concern; concerns of environment, politics, ethnicity, colour and a whole lot of issues.
The tee’s and fashion accessories are themselves become posters and it’s a welcome change to see teenagers and the young having meaningful involvement rather than just be concerned with trends that are superficial.
As it has been in the Art World, Fashion world too, is responding to the social and humanitarian concerns. It is heartening to witness this shift in the vocabulary of Fashion shows. The Fashion world is communicating at a deeper level, with meaningful and mindfulness beyond the realm of vanity. Making a fashion statement is making a statement, a personal statement.
Of late, a lot of celebrities are seen backing up their speech with a message on their clothes, it is trendy to take stand, an it is a welcome change. The areas of concern besides being environmental and social in nature, one can see how these message are used in the area of politics. Wearing an attire that is close to the region that a leader is visiting is a old ritual. It immediately resonates with the local audience.
Globally, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid made a sartorial statement wearing a hoody with a message “Sõna on vaba” (Speech is free). The act was drawing attention to the importance of freedom of speech This was followed in January 2020 by his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Urmas Reinsalu, wearing a sweatshirt that read “Money is Free” in a Government press conference to draw attention to the ongoing pension reform.
Recently one saw Fashion take an anti-war stand after the Ukraine-Russia war. Models in stylised military uniforms filled with dung walked the ramp in protest to the ongoing war. Milan fashion week too, provided a space for many varied propositions, including social and political messages, and in its own way welcomed the environmental demands of the new generation.
Yet another Fashion Show had an Unexpected Focus: Sexual Assault Survivors. It took up the issue of victim blaming, wherein it implies that “You incurred the violence against you because of the outfit you were wearing,” the show, organized by Rise, was designed to upend a question often asked of survivors: ‘What were you wearing?’
In the middle of New York Fashion Week, at the Museum of Modern Art was this sow that wasn’t about a new collection of clothes or the designers behind them. The focus was on sexual assault — a form of violence so pervasive that the World Health Organization has deemed it as a ‘global health problem of epidemic proportions.
For the survivors walking — dressed by designers including Chloé, Diane von Furstenberg and Veronica Beard — the show represented a way to confront that question head on and upend the stigma associated with sexual assault.
Sustainability and staying eco-friendly remains a priority, as demonstrated by major international fashion houses, 500 European brands got ‘B Corps’ certificate, which stands for companies that comply voluntarily with the highest standards of responsibility and transparency in the social and environmental area.
Performance Art, an expression that is popular in the Fine Art world is also seen gaining ground in the Fashion World. For example, the mise-en-scene at the Milan Fashion Week, had a red-lit room when an aggregation of models, dressed in straight jacket uniforms, some bare foot, and walked down a conveyor to open the Gucci SS20 show.
The show, saw motionless men and women appear on a conveyor belt wearing uniforms clad in all white, models were strapped, harnessed and sullen, raising their palms to photographers at the end of the catwalk, which were inked with the slogan “Mental Health is not Fashion”.
Yet another show had models in work clothes and straitjackets, thereby illustrating the most extreme version of uniforms imposed by society and those who control it. The lines between visual Fine Art, design, performance, technology are all blurring. Museums for Modern Art have become favourite venues for fashion shows. Fashion is not just about colour forecasting anymore, but is about far more impacting issues.
It’s all converging to have a heart that beats to the rhythm of a heartbeat that belongs to the entire human community.
Empathy is beautiful and the Sun seems to shine brighter for the coming 2023!
(Sonal Motla has curated Kala Ghoda 2020 with development and art as a theme and is currently working towards the issues on education on art, craft and design with a few educational institutions. Send your feedback to: [email protected])