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Lucio Vanotti and Fashion Humanism

Originally posted on [In]Tangible: Redressing Fashion:

By Giuppy D’Aura

Today, all of a sudden, I came across the name of an Italian designer: Lucio Vanotti. I did a Google search of his name and I simply fell in love with the demureness and sophistication of his silhouettes. After a brief infatuation, though, I started questioning the reason of my appreciation.

As a student of fashion history I am often tempted to avoid quick judgements about the present. History after all is a specific interpretation that the present gives about the past: selecting it, dismembering it, and trying to build relationships between distant facts or object. Therein resides the awkwardness of evaluating something that did not become history, because it has not become past, just yet. However, what a fashion historian can do while looking at a new designer is read his work against the specific heritage of the context in which his work sprang into…

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Schiapparelli and The Missing Pink

Originally posted on [In]Tangible: Redressing Fashion:

By Giuppy D’Aura

It is almost couture season again, and the next collections are ready to go on the catwalk. What remains of the fabled “100 years system”, to use social philosopher Giles Lipovetsky’s definition, resides in those handful of labels that still produce the exclusivity of haute couture. The dresses are waiting for models to wear them, waiting for our eyes to watch them, and waiting for the few purses in the entire world that can afford them.

Last season, Spring 2014, the rolling sound of applause welcomed Marco Zanini’s attempt to revive the House of Schiapparelli, over sixty years since the last Elsa Schiapparelli collection. The cheers came from the notorious hands of Jean Paul Gaultier, Pierpaolo Piccioli, Mariagrazia Chiuri, Carla Bruni and the many other stars that were sitting on the front row. Despite the fleeting success of Zanini, the question to be asked is: did we really…

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BB in Soho does not mean Brigitte Bardot.

Soho is one of the most iconic areas of London. Soho is nonetheless one of the most important gay corners in the entire world, to some extent can be said that is the capital of a certain gay lifestyle. And is a gay issue, related with Soho’s lifestyle, that I want to rise in this article. A gay, unceremonious, uncomfortable matter: unprotected sex.

Bare Back is becoming a common place, an accepted practice. In some gay apps, like grindr and hornet, the third ritual question that occurs after “hi, how are you?” and “are u top or bottom?” is, indeed, “do you like BB”. No wonder then, that scientists are registering an increase in HIV infects amongst the gay population in this City.
What is the reason of this rejection of condom? Is it its use so desensitizing or uncomfortable? Or the reason is to be found somewhere else, maybe in some symbolic, rather than physical exchange? this is precisely what I am going to talk about in the following paragraphs.

One of the contradictions of capitalism is that the so called liberalism, namely the production of commodities that aim to create desire, are today killing desire itself. The death of desire is decreed by the easiness and the accessibility of enjoyment. Desire, indeed, is always generated by a prohibition or a lack. There is something very precious about desire, this thing is its transgressive and unconventional nature; but, since transgression is becoming mainstream and highly standardized by the market, the possibility of transgression itself is fading away.

We are constantly pushed towards transgression, because conservatism and morality, in our contemporary world, don’t help capitalism and liberal economy any more. What remains, though, when desire disappears is the endless practice of enjoyment, which is precisely its opposite.

As the brilliant and provocative genius that Pier Paolo Pasolini was, he once stated that, in a liberal society, where a limited amount of freedoms are allowed, everything else is forbidden, whereas in a dictatorial regime, where everything seems to be forbidden, everything is actually allowed. This makes total sense, because it is prohibition that creates desire. This idea is entirely applicable to our contemporary secularized society. When the ultimate moral law, the religious power, stopped being the repressive/productive force that created desire, than we started looking somewhere else to find new prohibitions. But what is left in a society without god? Science, obviously.

Doctors, indeed are constantly inviting people to use condoms; by saying so they are generating a taboo, making bareback sex appealing. Science is slowly taking the place of religion in ‘forbidding’ actions, and god knows how much prohibitions we need in order to challenge their limits.
There is another aspect that i would like to point out while thinking about all those practices. Another uncomfortable one.

We like risk, but, incapable of accepting the limitations of enjoyment, we like relatively ‘safe’ risks; another of the safe features of capitalism.
contracting HIV in a City like London today, is not as it was twenty years ago, and is not as it would be in a poor country. Life expectancies for HIV+, if treated properly, are indeed pretty high. So even the obvious risk is somehow reduced to minimal terms. Taking a full risk, indeed, is not the way in which contemporary society works.

If once the best metaphor for society could have been some examples of the Body Art, or the ‘Viennese Actionism’, where the artists during the performance experienced pain, somehow testing the extreme points of human limits; today the best metaphor is the Art corporel by the French artist Orlan, where the body of the performer goes through the knife of the surgeon, changing its shape but protected by painkillers, and by the safe, aseptic, operating theatre’ s environment. The apparent extreme, then, turns to be a ‘fake’ extreme. So we did remove our condoms from our cocks, but only to put them on our heads.

it remains to figure out what will happen to desire when science will find (hopefully very soon) a cures for all the STDs.
Which prohibition will, then, give new shape to our desires?

AdR and the extreme use of fashion


Finally my article on London College of Fashion’s Blog

Originally posted on [In]Tangible: Redressing Fashion:

By Giuppy D’Aura

Anna dello Russo, the editor-at-large of Vogue Japan, is best known for her extravagant, peacock-like displays of the latest fashions. Is she merely a passive victim of fashion? Or can we see her as a ground-breaker? Although she seems to move across these categories, I would not hesitate for a minute to call her a ground-breaker. The reason behind my choice is that she embodies the abstraction of fashion itself, or at least aims to do so.

Since the publication of Roland Barthes’ The Fashion System in 1967 (trans. 1983), fashion is regarded both as a social abstraction and a personal decision. In a way, this makes everyone a social effect and an active participant in the choice of a particular style. Anna dello Russo plays with these two categories; by trying to locate herself only on the side of the total victim of fashion trends, she in fact asserts herself…

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Decaffeinated clothes

That our era is the age of surrogates is a widely known fact. Criticizing the fake promises of today’s marketing seems a consolidate fashion amongst the most important critical thinkers. The pop-philosopher Slavoj Zizek, for instance, labels our world as the world of “laxative–chocolate”; “decaf-coffee”; and “coca-light”. Paradoxes that clearly represent the schizophrenic desires of contemporary customers: “I want to sip a coffee without having the bad side of the caffeine”, “I want to drink a coca-cola without getting fat”, namely I want to enjoy but I refuse the limitations that come along with this enjoyment. And if the “real” pleasure in this way is not possible, then I will go for a surrogate, a fake copy of the original.

05_a24090_1680_b3sergio rossisergio-rossi-gold-hammered-heel-sandal-product-1-7782294-626574453_large_flex  Francesco Russo for sergio rossi artworks  imageszara-blue-combination-high-heel-sandal-product-1-7981729-081674164_large_flexzara version

But what about fashion?

In the realm of clothes and style this question is even more urgent, because fashion epitomises the essence of every present moment. Fashion is in a way an “intensified present” because it pretends to last only for “today”.

 _ON_0984.450x675 _ON_1102.450x675 Balenciaga runway

elegant-outfits-from-zara-twelve-holiday-2012-lookbook-2Zara-Black-Dress-B zara version

I was quite shocked the last spring, walking into a Zara store and spotting a pair of high heels that were the unashamed copy of a Sergio Rossi’s design. A smart shoe with a metal heel. And then in the same store I found a bag, a Prada bag, a Zara-Prada bag. And here it is: a black and white dress conceived following the same idea of Nicolas Guesquiere for his last collection at Balenciaga. An ingenious idea, in Guesqiuere’s pencil, not anymore in a messy shop floor; there it was only a bad copy with ugly stitches on it. But quality is obviously not Zara’s point. What is at stake here is that this kind of brand gives a simulacrum to people that cannot afford the original. In this sense clothes become decaf-coffee. The nth fake, vicarious mean of enjoyment that surrounds us. Brands like Zara (is important to repeat that Zara is just an example, but there are many more likewise) are high street brands, their price makes theme high-street, but do not call theme street style.

green-kenzo-sweater-tigerKenzo Green tiger sweater3548042800_1_1_1zara tiger sweater

Styling the streets is a different matter, and has nothing to do with copying, and copying, and copying the catwalks.

Mary Quant, for instance, dressed an entire generation of women. She invented a new way for femininity; fulfilled the desires of young people in the streets and she did it by creating the fabled miniskirt. Inventing, reinventing, proposing newness, not mimicking.

MNS-prada-bag-saleprada two zips bag 8389204040_2_1_1zara two zips bag

I prize, I love street style when is such. When has his own mark, I like it when is not a bastard son of pret a porter, this happens in American Apparel, TopShop, All Saints, Cheap Monday, amongst the others. One may not like their style, but must be recognised that they have something to say.

Now, everyone knows that Inditex group (the group that owns my “case study” Zara) is one of the most successful in the world, but yet I think that it fails precisely when it succeeds. It succeeds because of the huge income, but it fails in creative terms. It does’t invent. It does’t remain. it has a specific type of customer, but doesn’t have a specific stylistic identity.

Their clothes cannot even be called ugly, because they are not! Obviously, when a brand crawls cannot fall off. Only daring brands can miss some collections. Then give me ugly, give me failure, give me questionable taste, but leave your OWN mark on the streets.