Art and fashion have always been interrelated. For example, it is due to fashion’s ability to so quickly capture social shifts that artists (think here of Manet, Degas, Sargent) have repeatedly turned to it. Traditionally, artists, collectors, critics, and others have also used fashionable clothes to render their projects more convincing. With issue 102, Texte zur Kunst takes “Fashion” as theme for the fourth time. While the previous installment (in 2010) considered the promise of “democratization” that online editorial and distribution networks were to bring (via, e.g., street style, more relatable models), this issue now argues that the structural changes in fashion that resulted from these late-’00s developments in fact only fortified established industry hierarchies. Indeed, more recent years have seen significant creative turnover in fashion’s top tier as the path from periphery to center has shortened on account of the market’s desire for access to younger designers’ community core. Meanwhile, the standing definitions of “luxury,” “discount,” and “underground,” while ever tenuous, seem to have lost their hold. And while fashion has indeed opened up to “real”-er bodies, they are, it would seem, now each pitched as exceptional hyper-individualized identities – each a “nodel” or a particular “othered” body – as if to be better differentiated from the stream.
How has fashion itself exteriorized these evolving conditions; how have the traditional markers of what fashion is now – the silhouettes, materiality, attitude – changed in response? While this is a question that the issue does variously address, we are more interested in considering here how the system itself is now functioning differently and what strategies are used by the more contested protagonists in the field. It is our view that the correspondence between fashion and art lies increasingly in various conceptual practices, many of which – e.g., parasitism, collective or veiled authorship, détournement and forms of institutional critique (whether these institutions be LVMH-grade power labels or Zara and Net-a-Porter, among other mass market platforms) – longtime readers of this magazine should be quite familiar.
The main proposition of this issue can be found in the 13 profiles interspersed herein. Selected and photographed by Rob Kulisek and David Lieske (who, alongside Isabelle Graw and the editors, conceived this issue), the portraits highlight individuals and collectives – from Martine Rose to stylist Kyle Luu to Bernadette Corporation’s Bernadette Van-Huy. Taken together, these short takes make visible the spectrum of themes discussed: a new emphasis on community over (the conventional aesthetics of) sex; a refusal of mega celebrity, even as star-logic is promoted within a more local sphere; and the embrace of sportswear on the runway, the functionality of these garments reduced to the sign value of their tasks. These profiles, which borrow from the conventions of commercial fashion journalism, are anchored via short texts penned by Harry Burke (HB), Tess Edmonson (TE), Jack Gross (JG), and Bianca Heuser (BH).
Taking as precedent the late ’90s music industry – which, after a period of extravagant denial, was rapidly forced to change – and using that era as a prism through which the present fashion industry might be read, Jessica Gysel (editor-in-chief and publisher of Girls Like Us magazine) sat down with stylist Lotta Volkova Adam (Balenciaga, Gosha Rubchinskiy, Vetements) and Atelier E.B. (the art/fashion label of painter Lucy McKenzie and Beca Lipscombe) to discuss parasitism, collectivism, and ego disruption, among other tactics for success (and possible definitions thereof) within a system that, having exhausted its producers – and consumers – has lost its relevance.
New York-based writer Natasha Stagg, meanwhile, locates the current moment in the imploding terms of luxury; the strategies that brands are employing – in the face of increased image distribution, the power of social media celebrity, and a mandate to offer instant sales – in hopes of generating the desire by which fashion is driven. “Desire” is also a theme in Philipp Ekardt’s text as he considers how it operates in Jonathan Anderson’s notably gender-open J. W. Anderson line. Including, in particular, the London-based designer’s decision to livestream his AW 2016 menswear runway via Grindr, Ekardt identifies an evolution of community-focused gender coding. In Caroline Busta’s text for this issue, she examines the rhetoric of “purity” in wellness discourse and the notion of the body as threatened, on a cellular level, by a “toxic” external world. She sees in this a difference from older ideations of healthcare: a social requirement to engage in methods of, now, internal reprogramming as the preferred forms of (Foucaultian) care of self.
Fashion, however, continues as it always does to echo the past. But when the influence of 1980s Japanese design and the ’90s club scene (in e.g., the deconstructed shapes of Vetements or the repurposed technical-clothing-turned-club-wear of Nasir Mazhar) is demonstrated in current styles, it appears, now, less out of nostalgia than as if in an effort to materialize a present-tense image of the often evoked “crisis.” Here, literary scholar Ingeborg Harms attempts to locate the origins of this aesthetic of vulnerability, of “used” looks, of veiling and transforming the body’s form. Are they to be found in identification with radicalism? Fascination with the perceived other? Or maybe a desire to remain anon?
In a culture wherein everyone must be a (micro-)celebrity now, invisibility has indeed become increasingly prized – perhaps even a true luxury. Unpacking the post-millennial party photo, artists Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff consider whether the practice of image rejection has become an even more powerful form of contemporary branding than the mid-’00s nightlife picture (as crystalized by Purple.fr or 032c.com). And indeed, these proposals for a more open industry, these new dark styles and forms of rejection that are coded as revolutionary – all of this may suggest that the skinny shapes, glossy hair, and perfect smiles are fading. But as Henkel and Pitegoff also remind us, branding itself is certainly here to stay.