The A - Z of Global Fashion Storytelling

Page 1

By Emily Dempsey



THE

A-Z OF GLOBAL FASHION STORYTELLING



I wrote the A - Z of Global Fashion Storytelling in less than a month. The thoughts behind it however have been developing throughout this master’s program. Whether learnt in lectures, industry guest talks, my time in work placements or even the late night conversations amongst friends. This book serves as a culmination of some of the learning throughout this course, it is a way of organising my thoughts, and it is also hopefully a starting point. An atlas of themes which are all introduced and considered, but by no means fully explored. I can see now upon reflection that its goal was three fold. First to serve as my personal elevator pitch as to why I was so drawn to study fashion in the first place, and why it is so much more than the clothes that meet the eye. Second, to spark interest, curiosity, and to guide the reader forward to carry out their own exploration of the many questions which this book provokes. Third, it is tangible proof for myself of what I’ve learnt, what I could get done in this short space of time, and a small teaser example of what I might be capable of doing.

Emily Dempsey


APPROPRIATION BUSINESS COMMUNICATION DISCOURSE EUROCENTRIC FLANEUR GLOCAL HONG KONG IDENTITY JAPAN KIMONO LONDON MATERIALS


NEW YORK ORIGIN POLITICS QUESTIONS REMIX SYMBOLS TEXT URBAN VANITY WOMEN XENOPHOBIA YOUTH-QUAKE ZEITGEIST



APPROPRIATION When Mark Jacobs sent out a majority white model cast in dreadlocks on the runway for his Spring 2017 Collection, the world was in uproar. Meanwhile Maria Grazia Chiuri has created a number of designs in the “Toile de Jouy” print inspired by 9th century Asian ceramics and we simply can’t get enough.


Though the difference between these two examples may be clear to some, the line between appropriation and appreciation is both blurry and in constant motion. In its most basic definition ‘appropriation’ according to the Cambridge Dictionary means “to take something for your own use, usually without permission.” Within fashion this definition needs more explaining. Fashion appropriation holds not only an element of adaptation but also takes a position of either critique or misuse. The word is purely used for when an adaptation has fallen short of being appreciative and results in offence. What are some of the questions that can help unpick a case of adaptation to one of appropriation within fashion? An easy starting point is three Ws: What, Where and When: What is the source of inspiration? Consider the origin of the item in question. The simplest trigger for an audience is when an item or style originates from a traditional, cultural, or perhaps religious source. The use of it as a commodity without acknowledgement of this will more than likely be questionable. Is the source of inspiration a global phenomenon? As with the china porcelain print at Dior, this is a pattern which has been used by many designers for years and is continuously subject to reinvention. Though it has specific geographical and historical ties, it isn’t a sensitive source. If on the other hand what is being used within a design pertains to one specific


piece of history or work, you’re more likely looking at a case of downright copying. For example, to use the porcelain print would be far different to a French designer using the exact design from a Chinese artist to then sell on their runway without mentioning or including the source. It’s a basic form of plagiarism. Where do the creator and the audience stand in relation to it? As an example we can look at African wax prints on European runways. From the creator perspective, though the use of a traditional African printing technique in itself is not problematic, the marketing of these designs as ‘bringing African fashion to the catwalks’ both suggests that the African fashion can be summed up by a print, but also that it needs it’s western counterpart to bring it into ‘real fashion’ rather than standing alone.Here the issue of where is in part that the creator is not part of the culture he/she is appropriating. Now for the audience, many complaints over cultural appropriation in fashion are made by people outside of the appropriated culture. (See K for more.) For example, when a photo of an American student wearing a silk dress adorned with traditional Chinese prints to her graduation was shared on the internet, many strong opinions came forward. A short look into the source of the responses showed that the majority of the complaints came from Americans and Europeans on “behalf” of the Chinese people. When such


instances occur on the internet or the runway, the white privilege guilt is the first to stand up and “speak up for those who can’t” whilst the people of the appropriated culture, if nothing else, may rejoice in a small part of their heritage being represented in the mainstream. There is an argument to say that if you are to adapt too much and keep too little of the original source, you are fundamentally reducing a cultural product to a mere stereotype. On the other hand, the view of such patterns as appropriation could in itself be viewed as problematic as it reduces the Chinese fashion history to a stereotype that can be ‘appropriated’ in one swoop. However, if we flip both examples and consider the person who created or viewed the design as being part of the culture then the problem seems to diminish. The example here would be Zendaya wearing dreadlocks on the red carpet. The American actress/singer’s father is African-American. Her connection through him to his culture was what lead her to wearing her hair in locks on the Oscar red carpet. She saw this as a way “to showcase them in a positive light, to remind people of color that our hair is good enough.” For Bruce Ziff and Patima Rao appropriation is about “taking from a culture that is not one’s own.”


When is it taking place? Consider the social climate: can it be tied to timely sensitive issue or are it’s origins long enough past to be brought to new life? For Marc Jacobs, the dreadlocks where a particularly sensitive choice because at the time of the show, a U.S Circuit Court of appeals had just recently announced the legality, related to a specific example, of banning dreadlocks in a workplace environment. This was the result of another controversial story where Chastity Jones, a job applicant at Catastrophe Management Solutions was denied her position if she refused to cut off her locks. Despite a huge cry from the public of this being a clear case of racial discrimination, the court ruled that this was a case of personal grooming which had to meet individual company policies on staff presentation. As is so often the case the truth always seems to land in a grey area. A key note to remember: Nothing is new in fashion.


Marc Jacobs 2017 Spring Collection Photographed by Kevin Tachman


Zendaya 2015 Oscar red carpet



BUSINESS When an appropriation scandal hits the news, we point the finger to the companies and labels behind the issues. We demand to know how ignorance for a culture was let slip past employees and through the entire production chain into consumer’s vision. We are for the most part a reaction over a prevention society. When something goes wrong we react, but it takes a lot to encourage prevention in people when the problem isn’t yet tangible or loudly in their face.


For this chapter I will be using the recent issues with Dolce & Gabanna’s brand image to illustrate my points. In November 2018, Dolce & Gabanna received public backlash following a highly provocative, ill thought out campaign video which was then accompanied by co-founder Stefano Gabbana posting a series of derogatory comments on his social media accounts. The video showed a stereotypically dressed Chinese model trying to eat traditional Italian foods with chopsticks. Need I say more? The response to the video had potential for rectification if very clever and considerate business strategies had been put in place. Especially for a company with a reputation for making exaggerated fun of its own Italian culture. Instead, Stefano Gabbana had an unfiltered and audacious approach to his external communications. This all took place before a planned runway show in Shanghai which, as a result of the backlash, had to be postponed. In today’s social media era, the boycott is the first form of rebellion and it is precisely what followed. It came on behalf of one of their biggest markets, China itself, as well as throughout the world. All spurred on by angry social media influencers. Alibaba, Tmall and other online retailers took all D&G products off their site and many large department stores followed suit. According to Bloomberg, even in March 2019 there was still little sign of D&G on the shoulders and shelves of the original boycotters. When it comes to many


societal issues, there are expectations that the change starts behind the the scenes at production, and lessens the burden on consumers. The words ‘conscious consumer’ being used so frequently in itself shows the necessity for a company to be more ethic-proof. In fact, from an investment perspective, according to Wired, venture capital is increasingly more likely to invest in a company startup which promises to have an ethically sound business plan over future financial promises. Corporate accountability is not only about what we expect as consumers, but how companies themselves can be more future proof.

Dolce & Gabbana 2019 “Eating with Chopsticks” ad.



COMMUNICATION “The clothes we wear do not sit upon us or wait in the wardrobe shouting ‘I’m cheerful!’ Or ‘Open the door for me!’ Nor do they whisper seductive nothings from the depths of lingerie drawers.” – Malcolm Barnard


The chapters of this book are, in a sense, all concerning themselves with varying forms of communication. Clothing is a form of non-verbal communication. As writers we focus ourselves on the words we use. What makes fashion writing intriguing, is that the items we write about - have their own language too. With fashion writing we can influence, impact and alter the meaning of clothes. By encouraging trends, validating brands, or providing alternatives. The book “Fashion as communication” serves as a great port of call to start digging into this. It covers the etymologies of fashion, trying to define it as a cultural phenomenon, what it means as a reproduction of our society, and even tackles fashion as a social revolution. “The question immediately arises as to whether, given that they are nonverbal forms of communication, fashion and clothing may be treated as being in some way analogous to spoken or written language. ” - Malcom Barnard There are so many avenue’s in which fashion communication can be explored. For further starting points see chapters: A,B,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O,P,Q,R,S,T,U,V,W,X,Y,Z.




DISCOURSE Weedon describes Foucault’s theory of discourse as: “…ways of constituting knowledge, together with the social practices, forms of subjectivity and power relations which inhere in such knowledges and relations between them. Discourses are more than ways of thinking and producing meaning.”


In the basic sense of the word discourse is a language. More specifically it can be looked at as what is understood without being said. Like an inside joke, discourse is the context in which conversations take place. For fashion, language is paramount. The way clothing is described and understood within the discourse of fashion is what transforms it. The phrase “A cashmere, Stella McCartney jumper dress was shown on the catwalk this spring”, with no sense of discourse, simply describes an item of clothing that seems perhaps a bit off for the spring weather. The understood fashion discourse is what gives the sentence even more meaning: “A cashmere (expensive, high quality), Stella McCartney (Designer, sustainable), Jumper dress was shown on the catwalk this spring (seasonally appropriate as springtime catwalks showcase autumn/winter trends.)” “It is indeed, the use of language that transforms clothing into fashion, in particular through its articulation of concepts of “taste”. As in other “Social worlds” of cultural production, people in and around the fashion world use language to talk…” - Brian Moeran Discourse, like fashion, can change. Though the same words may be used frequently in fashion magazines, they are infused with new meanings as the seasons change. Like trends within fashion, trends within words can occur.


‘Boho chic’ was heavily used in the early 2000s but is now a term which feels severely outdated within fashion discourse. Discourse is also affected by culture, for example “glamorous” in America is a positive, well received descriptor within fashion. In Asia, glamorous can be linked to ‘tacky’ ‘tasteless’ and ‘over the top.’. Therefore, the same item might be described as “glamorous” in one place, and “elegant” in another. “The reason why evaluative terms become keywords in the first place is that they are imbued with multiple condensed meanings.” - Brian Moeran Discourse is articulated in more detail within both Foucault and many other academic’s work. It has it’s place here as it is, I would argue, an important thread to maintain within our fashion communications. To keep in mind our audience, and to which discourse they may or may not be sensitive to. It is in basic form not what is said, but what is meant.



EUROCENTRIC This book offers first and foremost an individual perspective. It would be wrong to ignore the fact that it will also be a European one. One which I hope, with enough research and consideration will successfully cover each topic with sensitivity. But it is important to acknowledge that no amount of research replaces real experience and I therefore would never be speaking on behalf of anyone but my personal discoveries and insights through my research.


However, even without my own personal Eurocentrism, this letter is less about me, and more about our fashion world which through time seems to have been, for the most part, subject to a very Eurocentric view. Specifically, the worlds original ‘Fashion capitals’; London, Paris, Milan and New York seem to uphold a sense of superiority which is in need of challenging. Angela Jansen approaches this by suggesting to “decolonise fashion”. For her, this is about “obliteration of the Eurocentric cultural episteme, whereby European fashion remains ‘the norm’ while Other fashions continue to be considered ‘in relation to.’” This notion has previously been touched upon from an appropriation perspective (see A). Developing from that, decolonizing is about removing the differentiation barrier between “real” and “other” fashion. Words such as ethnic, exotic and oriental all play part in building this barrier. I would argue that this differentiation sometimes happens as a way of avoiding insults or perhaps appropriation. By acknowledging the cultural background of a trend, print or designer we are safe. But this if anything can add insult to injury. We use Orientalism as a way of dealing with th e orient, we explicitly discuss it and in turn impose our view of it. When a generically colourful print which happens to resemble popular colour schemes found in Morroco can’t just be a ‘colourful print’ but has to be a “Moroccan print” it becomes exoticised and is unnecessary. A consideration for our fashion writing would then be to challenge whether the


mention of the country is truly necessary. It is safe to assume that a French designer with Peruvian heritage will at times have influence which translate as culturally relatable to Peru. But in the same way we will all be influenced by our surroundings and upbringings; it does not need to be central or even discussed when looking at what we create. Unless she specifically sets out to represent her background within her collection, her mother’s birthplace is as relevant as her astrology sign when it comes to writing about her shows. “Eurocentric fashion discourse [argues] that designers outside the dominant fashion capitals are ‘modernising traditional dress,’ as if it was happening for the first time in centuries. We conveniently forget that, as part of indigenous fashion systems, these practices have been innovating and adjusting to new fashions throughout history by merchants, craftsmen and designers, a fact that has been and continues to be systematically erased and denied by our Eurocentric discourse.” - Angela Jansen



FLANEUR The term flaneur really just means “to stroll�. It is used to describe someone who is wandering around the city unaffected by time constraints or concerns. It has also been connected to a specific image of the French Flaneur Woman.


Within fashion discourse (see D) the term immediately evokes an image of “la Parisienne”. One of the first examples of ‘city related fashion’ goes back to the 18th century. Pandora dolls where used during the reign of King Louis XVI. These were small dolls dress in replicas of court clothing. Thesy where sent to different cities as an example of current style. They were shortly replaced by fashion plates and eventually by the fashion magazines we know today. The association of city within fashion has grown stronger with time, allowing garments to develop a sense of geographical style, connecting the item to a city which in turn was proof of possession of the wealth needed to acquire fashion from further afield and gave the wearer a sense of being worldly. Soon it became practically impossible to talk about fashion without talking about Paris, or vice-versa. A strong desire developed not only to buy into Parisian fashion, but to experience the city through the lens of fashion. Helen Grund, a writer in 1920s Germany, documented accounts of her “enchanting travels, strolls, and encounters in the French capital.” Her work told of a specific feminine experience in the modern city. “Made in Paris” became a desirable label and “Parisian chic” styles covered the pages of magazines. Paris became synonymous with being chic, feminine and timeless. As clothes then became more widely available through manufacturing, the response was to shift the focus from what one wore, to how one wore it. Parisienne chic was a style which


couldn’t just be bought off the rack (even though it was still sold that way). Paris became the fashion capital; it was the place for shoppers to buy and for designers to show. “But the domination of global fashion by Paris is long gone. Paris is now part of a wider oligarchic power structure in which four fashion capitals - Paris, London, New York and Milan - Dominate the global fashion scene.” - Frederic Godart Paris earned its status through its deep history of haute couture houses combined with a clever use of the emerging areas of fashion within media. Pushing forward Parisian chic and putting its home-grown artists on centre stage. “Each of these cities has its own identity and occupies a specific symbolic and economic position in the industry.” - Frederic Godart If you’re interested to know more about la Parisienne and the fashion city phenomena, a perfect place to begin is Agnes Rocamora. “Fashioning the City” is one of Rocamora’s works and it addressses the discourse that surrounds Paris, specifically in the French fashion press. She observes the way in which the city has developed an allure as glamorous, fashionable and classic: “A city is more than simply the sum of its physical and human components. It is also an abstract entity, an imagined space.” - Agnes Rocamora



GLOCAL Fashion knows very different borders than your typical atlas. With Italian designs being made in Hungary from fabrics dyed in India, what do these ‘made in’ labels even mean?


Globalization is a big word and far too vast to tackle within a number of pages. For this letter I therefore choose the portmanteau term ‘Glocal’, which according to Wikipedia means “reflecting or characterized by both local and global considerations.” I find it comes in to be relevant in so many areas of fashion studies, and indeed many of the chapters on this book refer to both global and local influences. For the purpose of this brief introduction, and in the context of our “fashion storytelling” there will be a focus on the way globalization impacted the fashion supply chain and created a huge increase in our buying options with the aid of international shipping and online retail. This in turn impacts how we discuss fashion. With visibility on glocal trends, we see things like fashion travel writing and city specific guides and publications. Brands once exclusive to their home country can be purchased online from more and more locations around the world. Glocalisation has served to create new vehicles for fashion consumption and communication, though this can create the environment for new trends, it isn’t Globalisation itself that created them. More than anything, it’s a catalyst. “Globalisation always increases the variety of fashion, whether by globalisation is meant the trade on the Silk Road or the ubiquity of the Internet, but it in itself does not create fashion.” - M. Angela Jansen and Jennifer Craik The textile industry has specifically also been impacted by subcontracting. This is what I touched upon earlier about


fabrics made and dyed in different places. This has transformed the industry where cheap third world labor is increasingly used for the benefit of Western Fast fashion. Simona Segre refers to this as a transformation of the “cultural system of Western prêt à porter into a system with different characteristics, which are global and geared towards rapidity, in which China can and does play a prominent role.” From this, a very interesting phenomenon has developed. We witnessed occasions when a city was seen to deliver better versions of another cities staple. Have you ever heard phrases like “oh Milan has the best sushi!” ? A parallel example of this, in the context of fashion glocalization, is the Japanese take on American fashion (see J). The Japanese’s affection for all things Americana delivered creative variations of their western examples. Then it became a belief within fashion that the Japanese brands where creating more desirable American style clothing than Americans themselves. Young Americans interested in fashion began to take note and in 2010, people around the world would be grappling for reprints of Take Ivy; A rare Japanese book which contained collections of photos taken on the Ivy League campuses in 1965. This is arguably part of the fashion cycle; trends circling both through time and space. “Japanese consumers and brands saved American fashion in both meanings of the word- archiving the styles as canonical knowledge and protecting them from extinction.” - W.David Marx



HONG KONG Here I have made space for an example of how many of the other things discussed in this book play out in real life, more than hypothetical wonderings. As our case study we have a joint venture company in Hong Kong, specifically an Italian/Chinese company.


Observing how their differences in culture affected their workplace I think serves as a good lesson in cultural sensitivity for anyone working in today’s practically borderless work world. When you’re on “a call with China” or any other country, taking a small minute to consider how that audience will receive your information will do you no harm. And it might just save you some valuable time avoiding misunderstandings. Simona Segre is serving as my guide here and is a useful follow up reading to this short introduction. His paper is based on fieldwork which took place in several locations in south-east China and tackles this exact relationship within joint venture companies in China. “‘Same bed, different dreams’ - an ancient Chinese saying that was quoted during an interview by an Italian lawyer acting as consultant to enterprises operating in China.” - Simona Segre So, what causes the clash of cultures here? In general, Italian workers have a much more impulsive approach to decision making. A quick email will do the trick to communicate a thought or suggestion. The Chinese on the other hand have long been fond of formal discussions held in official meetings. In some respects, this difference works; for example when it comes to feedback a simple yes or no is usually quite happily taken for the Chinese business man or woman. It allows him or her to decide on the distance they will take from the response and whether they want more


detail. It may sound odd, but this is often a general rule to not get too personal when it comes to critique. Though the Italians may not have purposefully been sensitive to this, their quick ways happen to work out well. A difference in culture like this won’t always result in anything more than a short misunderstanding, but it can certainly lose valuable time. Simona Segre touches on such examples in his work. It is worth mentioning that this case, does involve an obvious element of stereotyping. I would hope it goes without saying that not every Chinese or Italian worker will have the traits I mention, another principle of cultural sensitivity which will always be useful.



IDENTITY I was once at a talk where a photographer said that the moment he stopped doubting whether he should be in fashion was when he realised that how we present ourselves is the most basic form of self-expression, it is a fundamental part of our identity, and that is powerful.


For many of us a starting point of our identity might be the simple question: Where are you from? For many this statement brings more questions than answers. Despite holding attachments and relating to many of the cultures we are associated with, be it place of birth or where a parent grew up, it doesn’t always seem to fit as an identifier. What we consider our cultures can at times fit more like second-hand clothes, kneed in jeans and elbows pushed out to the seams, worn in by the shapes of our elders. “Our clothes are worn, and they get worn out. Our bodies help them disintegrate into the landscape of the city. The wear-and-tear is proof that we are active participants in city life…. The only thing between our skin and the city is our clothing, simultaneously shielding and exposing us.” - Emily Spivack For identity, I ask that we consider our clothes to be more than simply a representation of our taste, but that they hold a connection to a deeper meaning of when and how we have lived. As we build ourselves from childhood to adulthood, a huge amount of that is dictated by how we are ‘seen’. Our clothes have gone from a demonstration of class, imposed by societal rules and sumptuary laws, to an expression of gender and now to a much wider scope of performance of multifaceted identities. We start young with favourite colours, tomboys determined to chose blue over any shade of pink. Our pocket money then goes from being spent on sweets to being spent on chains to clip onto the belt hooks of our jeans. We beg our mothers to buy us the less comfortable but


cooler looking sports shoes, because gym class is embarrassing enough as it is.We have the heirloom pieces that transcend the years, mothers earrings and fathers oversized t-shirts. The ‘lucky blazer’ we wore to the interview. The outfit that says ‘hire me’ and the dress that says ‘dance with me’ to the hoodie that simply tells the world; ‘not today.’ We dress in our emotions and when necessary we force confidence into ourselves one zip and one seam at a time. We learn, to carry the mirror’s eye within the mind, a subliminal awareness of how we ‘look’ to the outside world. One of the ways in which we learn to present ourselves is through fashion media. Brands sell us a certain image attached to clothing. Perfume advertisements are a classic example of selling a ‘feeling’ and a ‘look’ which the consumer would want to wear as, in this moment in time, we are unable to send smells through a screen. In the fall 2018 campaign for Burberry’s new ‘Her’ eau de parfum, Cara Delevigne sells us the ‘London girl look’. Singing the infamous Hubert Gregg ‘maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner’ inviting people to either express their personal connection with the city or entice them with a way of borrowing the cities ‘cool points’ by wearing the scent. This kind of marketing has been examined relentlessly by writer theorists. It hints towards a habit within fashion media to categorise by geographical identity. This creates a pressure for designers who feel the need to explicitly represent their cultural identity through their designs. When describing a designer’s work, it is foolish to think that


consideration for their personal heritage wasn’t made or indeed played a small part in the process, but it is equally foolish to assume it is the most important aspect of a design. “many designers outside the established fashion capitals have been limiting themselves to a selective set of garments, materials and decorations considered representative of their cultural identity” - Angela Jansen How does this relate to our identity politics? By imposing stereotypes when discussing ‘Italian style’ or ‘British sensibility’ our fashion communication becomes no better than the secondhand clothes, which in this case would be molded with our western perspective of a nation. It is for us to deliver the tools for identity rather than the definitions.




JAPAN It’s summer of 1964 and the police are receiving calls from panicked elderly Japanese women about “strangely dressed teens” in the Ginza neighbourhood of Tokyo.


A month to go before the Olympic Games in Tokyo that year, this is a crucial time for Japan to keep up appearances. So, in the traditional Olympic capital fashion, the city begins to be built anew from the ground up; not in the interest of its local citizens, but for the eagerly apprehended millions of visitors that the games would inevitably attract. The same process that meant that our homes and dorm rooms never look better than when a parent’s visit is expected. Books are neatly aligned; the laundry is hidden from sight and any evidence of student social life is carefully discarded. Tokyo exchanged its rickety train cars for a sleek monorail and took to the Ginza neighbourhood to prep it for the hordes of tourists who would undoubtably visit Ginza for its designer shops. As part of the clean-up, police are sent out into the affluent neighbourhood with strict instructions to apprehend any individual sporting a “John F. Kennedy haircut” or a button up shirt. All done under the pretense of “protect(ing) these youth from becoming delinquents.” Strange as it may seem, there was a genuine root to the fear of alternative fashion at this time. In a similar way that we associate Mohawks with yobs, Japan’s fear of westernised fashion was based on it being grounded in rebellion. Now, some background about the importance of the games to Japan, and what lead to teenagers aspiring to look like their own version of their western counterparts. A short bit of history. In the 19th Century Japan entered the Meiji period, starting with a political revolution in 1868 which


ended the reign of the previously military government of the Edo period, and took Japan from being a feudal society at risk of colonisation to a nation-state. This new political period is associated with a drive for great power and was, it so happens, heavily influenced by western aspects of lifestyle. Of course, several succesors followed emperor Meiji’s rule but knowing this helps understand that the starting point for Japans desire to incorporate elements from the west into their life lies relatively deeply in their history. Furthermore, the Olympic Games was its first return to spotlight since the second world war, it would “symbolise the country’s full return to the international community” and they would not have their image jeopardised by teenage delinquents. Though there was clearly a fear around some of the manifestations of ‘westernised’ fashion in Japan, it is in part the incorporations and in turn Japan’s interpretation of western styles which is responsible for Japan being seen as a Fashion city. Despite having been disrupted during the Olympic games, Japanese teenagers continued to rebel against the narrow identities they had been prescribed. Their first important response was to choose their own stylish clothes over the traditional school uniform. Japan’s interest in American fashion was continuously on the up. Ivy League fashion taking centre stage for much of this time. The result of Japanese takes on American fashion is collated together in a guidebook: Ametora. Ametora is the Japanese abbreviation for “American Traditional” and is the go-to guide for how Japanese Americana came to be.


Though there is a distinct connection between the classic Americana styles seen often in the US, there is a distinct touch to the Ametora look that gives it its own life. There was such a loyal following from people taking on the Ametora look that publications fully dedicated to the style began to emerge. Japan was careful in its incorporation of western styles. They have a separate alphabet which is used purely for English terms. The concept of ‘Double-life’ emerged where people would wear western clothes styles and work in westernised offices outside, but inside the home remained a traditional space. This is why Japan got a whole letter to itself, to explore these themes is a rabbit hole in itself. But to at least introduce them here helps illustrate many points which can be used as perspective regardless of geographical location. “The story of Japan’s embrace, reappropriation, and exploration of American style thus stands as a highly illustrative episode of how culture globalises.” - W.David Marx Japan also managed to turn the tables. To see this as western styles ‘inflicting’ or ‘imposing’ themselves on Japan would be wrong. It would also be wrong to say that it is the west or America which brings Japan into “fashion”. America, despite having a population over 2.5 times bigger than Japan has today less than a dozen magazines aimed towards men’s fashion. Japan have more than fifty. Over the last thirty years Japan has gone from being seen not only as


a fashion market, but now as a hub for designers who have gained massive attention and increasingly export and showcase their clothing worldwide. “An absolutist understanding of Japonisme as “inflicted” upon Japan also robs Japan of its own agency: Japan in fact actively fuelled this originally French fascination, but also exercised its own fascination with the west.” - Julie Valk The way Japan incorporated the Western influence I would argue is a fascinating case study and example of using the impacts of globalisation to develop a fashion centre whilst retaining a sense of tradition. “Japanese fashion is no longer a simple copy of American clothing, but a nuanced, culturally-rich tradition of its own.” - W.David Marx


miyuki-zoku members August 1966 featured in JapanTimes


“Take Ivy” Photograph by Teruyoshi Hayashida



KIMONO The Kimono is now a ‘style’ which you can find on many western high street and online shops. You find them as ‘kimono beach cover ups’ on ASOS and “Denim Kimono Jackets” in &Other Stories. These kimonos usually hold little resemblance to the traditional garment.


In this case, the Kimono stands as an example of the process of deconstructing traditional items for the use in fast fashion. The Kimono is arguably one of the most quintessential fashion symbols of Japan. And rightfully so; it has a long history and has known a great deal of forms over time whilst keeping enough key elements to remain recognisable. There are many examples from many cultures where a traditional garment has been appropriated into westernised fast fashion. The Kimono proves an interesting case study as, despite some of its adaptations being considered problematic, the appropriation of the kimono through both Japanese and Western trends begun as a purposeful necessity. The Kimono was a garment that saw the body as something to be wrapped, rather than fitted and done up. This explains it’s ‘boxy nature’. Traditionally the kimono is made from one square piece of fabric, divided into 8 sections and sown together to create the classic kimono shape, with no excess fabric to be seen. It was traditionally worn by women for ceremonial occasions. Hand made and expensive, it was to be bought and cherished. As women slowly stepped away from this role and began to bring their own style to ceremonial events, the Kimono industry suffered. The extravagant Kimono was no longer a staple in a Japanese woman’s wardrobe and the tailors had to compete with the popularity of western influenced fast fashion trends. Between 1982 and 2012 Kimono sales declined to a tenth of its former figure of 2 trillion yen a year. How do the remaining Kimono tailors respond? They innovate, diversify, and collaborate.


The Japanese openly invited overseas markets to bring new life to the old Kimono. However, this at times can go wrong. The ever popular interest of Japanese imagery by the French is embodied in Monet’s 1876 La Japonaise. La Japonaise depicts Monet’s wife, Camille Money in an Uchikake Kimono; the wedding kimono. This interest in Japanese culture, which spread across the west was known as “Japonisme” “Japonisme is more of a spectrum, with some pieces that reflect a fascination with the exotic “Other” that has fuelled Western misunderstandings about Japan, and Asia in general, and other works that reflect a sincere admiration for Japanese aesthetics and a wish to emulate them, which in turn deeply restructured Western understandings of beauty.” - Julie Valk This brings us to ‘Kimono Wednesday”. Thats right, on Wednesdays, we wear kimonos. Monet’s painting is what takes literal centre stage in the case study for this chapter.In 2015 an exhibition was set up at the Boston Museum of arts. With this came an activity instillation called “Kimono Wednesday”. Inspired by Monet’s work, a kimono resembling Camille’s was out for exhibition and available for visitors to put on and be photographed as their own living version of “la Japonaise” in front of the original artwork. As you can imagine, what proceeded was a variety of reactions, and not many of which stayed quiet. Protesters were quick to show up at the installation brandishing signs with the words such as “This is Racism”, “This is Orientalism”


and “This is appropriation”.However, there are certain elements of this story which make it interesting. A topic introduced in the letter A chapter of this book, this study serves as a real life example and an alternative way of interrogating cases of potential cultural appropriation. Who is behind the event? Yes at first glance the people behind this event work for the Boston museum and are therefore assumed to have minimal if any personal connection to the history to Monet’s painting let alone the Japanese Kimono. However this event was originally created and exhibited in Japan by The Setagaya in Tokyo and The Kyoto Municipal Museum, during their displays of “La Japonaise”. This makes the argument of cultural ignorance wear a little thin. It was then the Japanese institutes which suggested and took part in the process of taking this exhibit to America with the purpose of sharing and celebrating a cultural exchange. A combination of cultures doesn’t always have to constitute appropriation, collaboration in this way can be a source of creativity. “When early 20th century French designers “appropriated” kimono styles and transformed European women’s dress lines, Japanese textiles manufacturers happily accommodated these trends. For their part the Japanese reciprocated with their own fascination for, and assimilation of Western fashions.” – Shaun O’Dwyer


Who are the protesters? Again an interesting case, it seemed the majority of protesters where self identified Asian Americans. More interestingly the counter protestors which latter arrived where Japanese and Japanese Americans holding signs with words such as: “I am Japanese, I am not offended by Kimono Wednesday”. The question becomes, who can speak on ‘behalf’ of another culture? “Japanese-Americans, Japanese residents in the United States and their supporters counter-protested at the museum and on social media in vain. Counter protesters pointed out that very few of the protesters were Japanese, and that they had no right to dictate what counted as racism or cultural appropriation against Japanese or Japanese-Americans. ” – Shaun O’Dwyer Think about provenance In this specific case, there are multiple layers to the exhibition. The kimono has it’s own history, and so does Monet’s artwork. Therefore, how far does the criticism reach? Does it also refer to the ‘Japonisme’ fascination of the French as being problematic? “Again, the ability to see the event at the Boston Museum as offensive depends on how salient the link between Japonisme, Orientalism and modern-day representations of Asian Americans is felt to be.” - Julie Valk


In short, we should question the view of Japan as a victim of the west. As Kaori Nakano (Professor of fashion history at Meiji University) says: “Cultural appropriation is the beginning of new creativity. Even if it includes some misunderstanding, it creates something new.” It may be the key to the future of kimono fashion.”


Museum guest at the 2015 Kimono Wednesday Exhibit



LONDON Redbrick houses, liberty windows, sirens and the faint fairground style music emanating from Hamleys. Welcome to central London. “It is surprising that when reading fashion magazines, only a couple of urban spaces and cities are reviewed and thought to be influential fashion centres. In the eyes of fashion industry stakeholders, New York, London, Milan and Paris matter much more than Tokyo, Shanghai, Mumbai or Sao Paolo.� - Breward and Gilbert


London has long held its reputation as a ‘fashion city’. Historically, if we look back to the 15th - 18th century, fashion was predominantly a social marker. The higher your social status the more luxurious the material of your clothes. Fashion has also, over time, maintained a relationship to geography; countries and cities. One of the first instances of a specific city-related fashion trend can be traced back to the 17th century and the Robes a L’Anglaise; a dress designed and worn in France which was inspired by the British style of the time. The Robes a L’Anglaise gained its appeal through its connection with a city which in turn is perceived as fashionable, in this case London. Then there’s the impact of war. Though World War II lead to a pushback for the textile industry in London and Paris, it had quite the contrasting effect for London’s fashion ‘look’. Ironically, the damage to the city of London proved to be the building blocks setting the scene of its rise to fashion powerhouse. A 1949 issue of Vogue contained a series of now considered iconic photographs by Cecil Beaton. The photos showcased women’s outfits with the backdrop of Londons war debris. We now see so many examples of ‘London’ as a selling point. Rimmel is forever selling their “London Look” and infamous designers such as Alexander McQueen will forever be remembered for their contribution to the industry as well as their personal connection to the city.


London photographed by Cecil Beaton 1949



MATERIAL “Fashioned from Nature asks what we can learn from the past in order to design a better fashion industry for the future. It challenges designers to create clothes that are both beautiful and responsible, but also encourages us to all consider our own choices more carefully.� - Tristram Hunt


You’ve heard it before, fashion is one of the biggest pollutants. You’ve seen images of landfills across the world and read the stories about designer brands burning their excess stock in the interest of exclusivity. And there’s the ever concerning “where will all our trash go” now that China has decided to stop being Europe’s waste-bin. From animal rights to eco-warriors, the fashion industry has built some enemies. The word ‘sustainability’ is hard to miss today. It can now be found on almost every online retailer’s website; it’s thrown into manifestos and campaigns to reassure customers that they can buy guilt free. The topic could and has taken up entire books in itself, such as Safia Minney’s “Naked Fashion”, or the documentary film, “The True Cost”. As a fashion storyteller making conscious decisions about what is promoted and how is one small step in the right direction. Increasing transparency when discussing materials and offering alternative eco-friendly ways to make space for new items. Discussing the potential for closed loop production chains, where items are returned and recycled to create new without waste. In April 2018 the Victoria & Albert museum opened Fashioned From Nature; an exhibition dedicated to the relationship between our planet and the clothes on our back. The exhibition is a celebration of the myriad of ways that the earth has inspired fashion. Organised as a walk through time, from 1700 until present day and, of course, a note to the future.


“Fashioned from Nature is not just a tribute to the versatility and enduring influence of the natural world, but also a crucial and timely reminder for us all to reconsider the contents of our wardrobes.� - Tristram Hunt Most people would say that they care for the environment, and would make eco-friendly changes if the opportunity arises. However it is making these changes more accessible, understandable and realistic which is key. Small steps lead to big changes. Actions may speak louder than words, but our words can be what provoke action. Within fashion communication lies the possibility to change the narrative.



NEW YORK New York, one of what is considered the main fashion cities. New York’s fashion history, like many of the cities mentioned is so extensive and diverse that it would be foolish to attempt to over it in these pages and it would inevitably fall short of doing it justice.


For a city to become a fashion centre, it must first be regarded as fashionable by other cities. Historically fashion followed power, thus the most powerful cities would set the trends through the clothing worn by the courts and nobility. World War II had a significant and specific effect for each fashion city. It created an environment for New York to elevate itself as a fashion centre. As the war reached an end, Paris and London had to put Fashion production aside as a low priority due to fabric restrictions imposed during the war, whilst New York was allowed to emerge as a city of fashion production. New York’s next big push into the fashion elite came in 1973 at a fashion show in Versailles organised by a New York fashion publicist which showcased among a predominantly French cast, five American designers. The media reports the event to have been outshone by the American designers. This would not have been as crucial to New York’s case had it not been picked up by media, as seen written in the New York Times; “‘Fashion at Versailles; French were good, Americans were great’”. New York had now developed ground on both fashion production as well as design. Since, the city became a backdrop for iconic fashion film and television; from Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), to Sex and The City (1998) and The Devil Wears Prada (2006) to name a few. New York did gain “Fashion points” through other cities and through this couture, fashion-week world. But it is arguably


New York’s ‘underground scenes’ that speak volumes for the city know as a hub for diverse and expressive styles. New York is a multi-national space, it is international yet dominant in owning what it claims is its own ‘New Yorker’ culture. It was not always the Big Apple, or the tourist spot it is today. During the 1970s, the city was hit by a major financial crisis where housing, transport, education, and sanitation were particularly hit. During this time, young groups of men across the five boroughs began forming gangs who prided themselves in sporting their gang ‘cut’, or cutout vest with a patch displaying the Gang’s name (e.g. The Warriors, Savage Skulls, Black Spades) as depicted in the 2015 documentary ‘Rubble Kings’. Eventually gang life shifted from turf wars to more constructive activities, including the block and house parties that incubated the wild style of hip-hop break dancing, M.C.ing and D.J.ing. But for a solid period between the late 60s and 70s, gang life was imbued with an aesthetic, a collective of symbols representing the struggle in the streets. New York’s vibrant fashion scene grew from many other storylines like this one. Sources which are completely detached from the couture Sex in the City image are actually part of New Yorks flare. What the world is demanding to see today is evident with the popularity of Street style platforms such as The Sartorialist. As I mentioned, this is far from an extensive dive into the cities fashion culture, but it is an introduction given to you in a New York Minute.


Sex and the CIty 1998 release poster


Rubble Kings 2010 release poster



ORIGIN Where do we stop the clock and determine when and where a style came from? Often when we trace back through the inspiration of a design it goes much further back in time than we think.


Origin is about addressing and introducing the debate around how to decide upon a “first” manifestation of a design. Whether intentional or not, elements of a design can be linked to so many different examples through time from literature, art, architecture and more. What we perceive as an original source; for example, the traditional white and blue French porcelain pattern used in many fashion designs today, is not only inspired by the French but therefore also by the Chinese porcelain pattern from which the French staple was originally copied. The French pattern is after all referred to as “Chinoiserie” - the French for “Chinese” so this is a more obvious link, but it isn’t always so easy to trace back the origin of an idea. “Given that almost every cultural form has been purloined from somewhere else, it proves tricky to tell what belongs to whom, and to separate the offensive jerks from those pursuing respectful cultural innovation. The line between insider and outsider can be surprisingly indistinct.” - Nabeelah Jaffer This also begs the question of which is more relevant? Take the white and blue pattern. Are we more interested in the French porcelain that the designer was inspired by? Or in the traditional Chinese pattern which predates it and the designer was unaware of? It is something to consider within our fashion writing when describing anything which has a specific cultural influence because it will definitely impact how the reader then interprets it.


French made, Chinese inspired porcelain



POLITICS Admittedly it’s not the most exciting word. In fact, if anything the word itself holds so much baggage that it almost didn’t make it into this book.


By this point, the mere existence of this book is, to me, personal proof that fashion is so much more than clothes. Fashion has infiltrated so many aspects of modern life; not least of all poilitics. Whether it’s the fact that headlines about female politicians unnervingly often refer to their choice of clothes, or something a bit deeper. Fashion and politics often meet at unexpected times. “Politico-cultural ideologies, Aesthetic choices and even marketing strategies, all played out predominantly on the bodies of women and their clothing.” - Jansen and Craik I previously mentioned Japan’s choice to incorporate western fashions in the fight to abolish feudalism and discourage colonization (See J). This is clearly already getting political. It is fundamentally about how we are seen and represented, whether from an individual, a political party, or even a country’s perspective;. In 1869 the Duke of Edinburgh visited Japan. The imperial court made a decision to welcome him wearing western dress. This could be seen as submissive or just accommodating, but it means something. If you see a man in a navy British-Style uniform dated 1870 or onward; look twice - you may be looking at an officer from the Japanese Navy. The style of dress in itself says something about their political position in relation to other global powers.


“In 1883, Japan built an entertaining hall in the style of a Western casino, where the most elite levels of government would host foreign guests, dress in perfect Japanese versions of western fashions, and dance perfect Japanese versions of Western dances, with the idea of impressing foreign dignitaries and making them feel among equals.� - Jansen and Craik On a more individual level, Joanne Entwistle observes 19th century women from the mid-west of America. Their choice to emulate fashionable dress from Paris can be seen as simple admiration, but also as an attempt to appear equals. Clothing has been used as status symbols to both differentiate and connect people. It is criticised for being both materialistic and superficial and yet we give it full attention when it comes to our news media. We can denote time periods in photography based on the way people are presented, and we have historically marked various traditions with dress. Whether the white wedding dress or the black morning suit, white tie, black tie, business casual and the political pink pussyhat at a Trump protest. Whether it is a dress code or a political statement, the history of fashion politics is much more than skin deep.



QUESTIONS Yes, there are few words that start with Q that seemed to fit here until the obvious dawned on me. The true essence of this book, which I hope transpires; is curiosity. It by no means attempts to deliver answers, but I hope it serves as a starting point to explore rather than answer many questions.


Below is our essentially a bibliography. Within out dear alphabet, you will find the readings which form the backbone of this book and can serve as the next stepping stone in answering the questions that these chapters hopefully sparked.

A

Bruce Ziff and Patina Rao, Eds. (1997) “Borrowed Power: Essays on Cultural Appropriation” (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press 1997) “There is nothing new in fashion” based on the famous quotation attributed to Rose Bertin (1747-1822), dressmaker to Marie Antoinette and widely considered to be the first celebrated fashion designer: “there is nothing new except what was forgotten”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Rose_Bertin

B

Bloomberg March 2019 at https://www.bloomberg.com/ news/articles/2019-03-07/dolce-gabbana-is-still-paying-forinsulting-chinese-women (accessed on 15/08/2019)

C

Malcolm Barnard (2002) “Fashion as Communication” (second edition) (Routledge, Oxon & New York).


D

C. Weedon. (1987). Feminist Practice and Poststructuralist Theory. (Oxford: Blackwell) B. Moeran. (2004) “A Japanese discourse of fashion and taste” Fashion Theory, 8(1): pp.35-62

E

Angela Jansen, (2019) “Decolonising Fashion: Defying the ‘White Man’s Gaze’”; Vestoj Opinion at http://vestoj.com/decolonialising-fashion/ (accessed on 15/08/2019)

F

M. Ganeva, (2003) “In the waiting room of literature: Helen Grund and the Practice of Travel and Fashion Writing.” Women in German Yearbook: Feminist Studies in German Literature and Culture 19(1), pp.117-140. Frederic Godart, (2014) “The Power Structure of the Fashion Industry: Fashion Capitals, Globalization and Creativity.” International Journal of Fashion Studies, 1(1), pp. 39-55 Agnes Rocamora, (2009) “Fashioning the City.” (I.B. Tauru; London)


G

M. Angela Jansen and Jennifer Craik, eds (2016) “Modern Fashion Traditions: Negotiating Tradition and Modernity Through Fashion.”. (Bloomsbury Academic) Reinach Simona Segre (2015) “China and Italy: Fast Fashion versus Prêt à Porter. Towards a New Culture of Fashion.” Fashion Theory, 9(1): pp 43-56 Teruyoshi Hayashida (1965) “Take Ivy” with Text by Shosuke Ishizu, Toshiyuki Kurosu and Hajime (Paul) Hasegawa. (PowerHouse) W. David Marx (2015) “Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style” (Basic Books)

H

Reinach Simona Segre (2015) “China and Italy: Fast Fashion versus Prêt à Porter. Towards a New Culture of Fashion.” Fashion Theory, 9(1): pp 43-56

I

Emily Spivack, (2017) “Worn in New York: 68 Sartorial Memoirs of the City.” (Harry N. Abrams) Angela Jansen, (2019) “Decolonising Fashion: Defying the ‘White Man’s Gaze’”; Vestoj Opinion at http://vestoj.com/decolonialising-fashion/ (accessed on 15/08/2019)


J

W. David Marx (2015) “Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style” (Basic Books) Julie Valk (2015) “The ‘Kimono Wednesday’ Protests.”, Asian Ethnology; 74(2): pp.379-399

K

Shaun O’Dwyer, 2015 “Of kimono and cultural appropriation.” Japan Times, August 4th at https://www. japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2015/08/04/commentary/japan-commentary/kimono-cultural-appropriation/#.XVVqL-gzY2w (Accessed on 15/08/2019) Julie Valk (2015) “The ‘Kimono Wednesday’ Protests.”, Asian Ethnology; 74(2): pp.379-399

L

Breward, C. and Gibert, D. (2006). Fashion’s World Cities. Oxford: Berg Giuseppe Santamaria (2015) “Women in this Town: New York, Paris, Melbourne, Tokyo, Madrid and London.” Hardie Grand Books.


M

Tristram Hunt (2018) “Director’s Foreword” in Edwina Ehrman Ed “Fashioned from Nature” (V&A Publishing.) Safia Minney (2012) “Naked Fashion: The New Sustainable Fashion Revolution.” (New Internationalist.)

N

Frederic Godart, (2014) “The Power Structure of the Fashion Industry: Fashion Capitals, Globalization and Creativity.” International Journal of Fashion Studies, 1(1), pp. 39-55 Breward, C. and Gibert, D. (2006). Fashion’s World Cities. Oxford: Berg Enid Nemy, 1973. “Fashion at Versailles: French Were Good, Americans Were Great.” New York Time, November 30th. At https://www.nytimes.com/1973/11/30/archives/fashion-at-versailles-french-were-good-americans-were-greatcaps.html (Accessed on 15/08/2019)

O

Nabeelah Jaffer (2014) “The Line Between Creativity and Stealling from Another Culture” Aeon, 09 June at https://aeon. co/essays/the-line-between-creativity-and-stealing-from-another-culture (Accessed on 15/08/2019)


P

M. Angela Jansen and Jennifer Craik, eds (2016) “Modern Fashion Traditions: Negotiating Tradition and Modernity Through Fashion.”. (Bloomsbury Academic) Joanne Entwistle, (2002) “Fashion and Its Social Agendas: Class, Gender and Identity in Clothing by Diana Crane.” Fashion Theory, 6: pp 331-333

R

Reinach Simona Segre (2015) “China and Italy: Fast Fashion versus Prêt à Porter. Towards a New Culture of Fashion.” Fashion Theory, 9(1): pp 43-56

S

B. Moeran. (2004) “A Japanese discourse of fashion and taste” Fashion Theory, 8(1): pp.35-62 Nabeelah Jaffer (2014) “The Line Between Creativity and Stealling from Another Culture” Aeon, 09 June at https://aeon. co/essays/the-line-between-creativity-and-stealing-from-another-culture (Accessed on 15/08/2019) Angela Jansen, (2019) “Decolonising Fashion: Defying the ‘White Man’s Gaze’”; Vestoj Opinion at http://vestoj.com/decolonialising-fashion/ (accessed on 15/08/2019)


T

Hurley Write Inc (2005) White Paper “Considering Cultures: How to Write for Global Audiences”. At https://www.hurleywrite.com/images/hurleywrite/2015site/white-papers/Considering_Cultures.pdf (Accessed on 15/08/2019)

U

Julie Valk (2015) “The ‘Kimono Wednesday’ Protests.”, Asian Ethnology; 74(2): pp.379-399

V

James Smith (2018) “RRL - History, Philosophy and Iconic Products.” Heddels, June 6; at https://www.heddels. com/2018/06/rrl-history-philosophy-and-iconic-products/ (Accessed on 16/08/2019) Red Wing Heritage Boots at https://www.redwingheritage. com/eu/EUR/page/our-story (Accessed on 16/08/2019)

W

Bloomberg (2019) “In Wake of Reckoning – Victoria’s Secret Pull’s Fashion Show from Airwaves” Business of Fashion Professional, May 10th at https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/news-analysis/in-wake-of-reckoning-victorias-secret-pulls-fashion-show-from-airwaves (Accessed on 16/08/2019)


X

The BoF Podcast, (2018) December 22, Christopher Wylie: “Fashion Data Was Used to Help Bannon Build the Alt-Right.” Available at https://www.businessoffashion.com/ articles/podcasts/the-bof-podcast-christopher-wylie-fashiondata-was-used-to-help-bannon-build-the-alt-right (Accessed on 15/08/2019)

Y

Tracy Francis and Fernanda Hoefel (2018) “The Influence of Gen Z – the First Generation of True Digital Natives – Is Expanding.” McKinsey Insights, November 2018 at https://www. mckinsey.com/industries/consumer-packaged-goods/our-insights/true-gen-generation-z-and-its-implications-for-companies (Accessed on 15/08/2019)

Z

Barbara Vinken (2004) “Fashion Zeitgeist: Trends and Cycles in the Fashion System” (Berg)



REMIX Here come the iPad kids, the Fitbit parents and the computer commuters working from home who only have to travel the internet to check in to their job. Welcome to the digital era! This term probably got old before I even finished typing it.


Remix is about this ‘digital era’ and how it gave birth to the concept of a global audience. Thanks to technology, we can write an article and in a click of a button send it to the whole world (of people with access to a screen and the internet). To write about Global Fashion Storytelling I had to address somewhere the catalyst behind its title. I have mentioned a lot about how to tailor content to different audiences and their cultures. Arguably, the content for a ‘global audience’ would have to be so neutral that it wouldn’t threaten to be distinguishably from anywhere. Interestingly, the impact of digitalisation on communication is speed. So much of our writing is time sensitive and threatens to be ‘old news’ before it is published. As every aspect of our life is innovated and digitalised in the interest of efficiency and speed, for internet based publishing being one step ahead of the game is crucial. “…a new fashion culture is now emerging in this age, which we might call “postmodern,” despite the ambiguity of the term. It is the culture of the instant or fast fashion, born of the globalisation of trends, of a global concept of production and domestic marketing.” - Simona Segre The way the internet also produces its own content is of interest here. Shares, filters and algorithms all help us to take existing content and give it new life. The Remix is the classic example of this. We can use old songs mashed up to a new beat with some special effects and it can be sold as an


entirely separate thing. Idea generation in the black hole that is the internet is overwhelming. There is so much information flashing in front of our eyes every day that we sometimes can’t remember if we just thought of something new or if it is something we briefly saw in our scrolling marathons. It seems in our ‘digital era’ that the rules of inspiration and copying are still in need of refining. “In fact, fast fashion copies the most attractive and promising trends spotted at fashion shows - which are now available in real time on the Internet, thanks to the technology of digital photography… fast fashion servers up trends à la carte.” - Simona Segre



SYMBOLS The crosses on our jewelry, the ohm symbols on our clothes and those Chinese character tattoos that we all suspect read more like a take-out menu than prose.


Cultural symbols are easy to find within fashion. But what exactly are symbols and how do they manifest in clothing? There are multiple paths from here to deepen our understanding of the world of cultural symbols. When trying to understand symbols in fashion, a great starting point would certainly be Barthes’ theory of semiotics. In basic terms, his research is a discussion on signs and meanings. Looking a little deeper, what Barthes does is explain ways to use and read language in different mediums. Literature, art, architecture or photography, each have a language beyond the writer or spoken word which is available to be understood. Brian Moeran looks at clothing as a symbol within itself, discussing “signifiers in written clothing”. The symbols mentioned above are the more literal, rather than the clothing being infused with meaning and becoming a symbol in itself, these symbols are physically placed and continue to keep their original meaning whether the wearer is aware or not. They are often more likely to be used for their look than their meaning, they are there to add an “exotic flair” which is why often the cultural meaning gets lost by the time these items hit the high street. This being said, this doesn’t remove their meaning altogether. It isn’t done explicitly for this but if we look at the ohm symbol, in recent years there is a clear “type” of person who wears it. Whether it is to express their newfound love for meditation or yoga or just to show off their travel finds, the symbol grows new meaning with each varying wear.


“Symbols of any sort are a means to an end – they stir our memories in order to activate emotions. The cross reminds us of Christianity, and the story of the passion; Ronald McDonald of processed meat in a bun. Using a symbol for any new purpose can alter its meaning irrevocably. The swastika conveyed strength and good fortune to Hindu and Jain communities for centuries until it became, for much of the world, inextricably linked to Nazism. Today we appropriate symbols of other cultures in order to signal exoticism, or sensuality, or our rejection of mainstream society – but even the best intentions can seem to excuse a trade in stereotypes that harm others, and are the accreted sum of a hundred small offences besides our own.” -Nabeelah Jaffer This is taking place all over the world. India has been witnessing a commodification of its culture in recent years. The whole writing on traditional Indian scarves is being turned into a fashion trend. So little attention is paid to the history behind the writing that many of the recreations are misspelled and completely discard the white, ecru or yellow colour palette they are primarily restricted to. Religion and spirituality have become a trend. These items where made with so many considerations; rules of how they should be designed, produced and stored. All of this is discarded when they become commodified into a fast fashion trend. Just because a symbol is widely seen or used, doesn’t exempt it from the potential of having been misused. The responsibility still falls on the consumers to develop awareness of what they are being sold.


Another reason to be careful of certain symbols or signifiers is the risk of “othering”, as explained by Angela Jansen in a piece for Vestoj magazine: “The so-called ‘globally recognised signifiers,’ be it wax-print for African designers, bold colours for Latin American designers or minimalism for Asian ones, are not only a stubborn heritage of Eurocentric imperialist thinking, but also a persisting means to differentiate, diminish and exclude ‘Other’ fashions from the dominant Eurocentric fashion discourse.”


Traditional indian scarf used in religious ceremonies



TEXT It’s not what you said, it’s How you said it.


We’ve all misinterpreted a text message before or tried to soften the blow with extra exclamation points or ‘kisses’ in the shape of Xs.Here we start at unpacking the mechanics behind the text used in fashion communication. The variety of meanings a word can hold based on audience and context. When considering instruction-based texts, whether beauty tutorials or fashion how-to’s, the level of detail can be a small but impactful aspect to pay attention to. The way you present your instructions will impact how it is received depending on the country it is aimed for. Obviously online content aims to be more ‘global’ but these nuances remain something good to keep in mind. For example, in countries like Germany and the US a greater amount of detail is favoured and seen as useful. However, in Asian markets, too specific an instruction can be seen as patronising. Though this is a generalisation, it is worth noting that a more simplistic format for content directed to these markets is a more favourable option as relying on the intelligence of the reader is received as flattering rather than inconvenient. There are some basic steps, helpfully expanded upon in Hurley Write’s guide on writing for global audiences which can help keep your writing ‘global friendly’. Don’t get down with the kids. Avoid slang, slogans or region specific humour when communicating with a global audience. No joke is made better by having to explain it.


Repeat This is useful for both good SEO (search engine optimisation) and also helps avoid people getting lost. We are taught to vary our writing but when talking about products and objects or trends, use the same word throughout. DNAIYDEI (Do not abbreviate, if you do explain it) Also useful for SEO (search engine optimisation), if you are going to abbreviate - say “LBD (Little black dress)” be sure to explain the abbreviation and give you double search engine points! Hug or handshake? In the same way that it helps to know if someone is a hugger, a handshaker or a 7 kisses on the cheek-er; knowing how your audience is used to being addressed helps. Are they more accustomed to a “Dear Sir, Madame...”? Or a “Hi there!”?



URBAN Let’s talk terminology. What’s in a name? A lot.


Similarly to cultural symbols (see S), the names and words we use to describe items can also hold cultural meaning which deserves sensitivity. Trying to avoid taboos, sidestep faux-pas, and remain politically correct, all whilst keeping an individual style can be extremely tricky. The simple tactic to use is to consider your position; who are you in reference to who you are talking to. With this, also consider that what a word means to you, could mean something different to your audience. The word “Asian” in the United Kingdom is often used to refer to people from India. In the United States, and in my upbringing as you may notice from this book, it designates people from East Asia (China, Japan and Korea) as well as Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and so on). In Japan, Asia means people from the continent, so most Japanese would not refer to themselves as Asian in Japan. ““Asian” is therefore a mutable and context-specific term. as indeed are many terms used to designate ethnicity, given that ethnicity itself is a highly variable construct.” - Julie Valk The reason for the title of this chapter, you may be wondering, is based on a true story. I was once collecting products for a written review on beauty supplements - another controversial topic - when the title of them was pointed out to me. Not being part of the culture it took me a second to notice, but the choice of titles for each skin toned bottle of supplements very quickly felt innapropriate.


In front of me stood a pale pink bottle labelled “Pure Glow”, next to that a peachier shade called “French Glow”, and finally the darkest shade - on a deeper tone of brown read “Urban Glow.” Ubran is often used as a lump in category R&B, Hip hop, Soul and Grime. Defining these forms of black music by the fact that a majority of black people happen to write about or live in the city is offensive. It is a complete stereotype and many have vocalised their dislike for the derogatory term which seems to “other” these genres of music and refine them to a stereotype of city living. Therefore to use this on a beauty supplement, where skin tone is implied, is simply insensitive and a complete faux pas. Consider who you are, who you are speaking to, and if in doubt - ask. Sometimes some cultural or racial definers are purely unnecessary. We won’t always be politically correct, and some would argue it wouldn’t help, but we can be culturally sensitive which is a much more realistic, refined alternative.



VANITY Worn-in leather boots, the same shape you heard mineworkers wore in the 20s. The ring on your finger, it was made in the same workshop as the ones your favourite 70s rock band wore. The dress you save for best, made in the same atelier that the dress the woman on the black and white poster on your wall is wearing.


Many designers carry diffusion lines. A collection set with a slightly alternative name and at a lower price point. Moschino has Love Moschino for example. These lines create access for the customer that wants to be part of the brand but perhaps doesn’t have the budget to stretch there. It ends up often being an entry point for someone starting off in the luxury fashion space. Then there’s the other extreme; the bespoke, heritage lines. The inner lining and fine details; your name embroidered on the inner pocket; the triple stitches and the hand-made touches. Haute Couture and heritage lines provide more than an expression of taste or even wealth. The items become a personal pleasure and an experience which transcends the years. Ralph Lauren has RRL, a collection inspired by early 20th century America, including salvage denim, hardwearing chore jackets and hand knit wool sweatshirts. At a much higher price point, far fewer units of production, these collections are for those looking for something exclusive, unique and with a view of longevity. Furthermore, a selling point for these collections is the history behind them, we get to buy into a story. Red Wing is another example of selling a heritage story. A family owned brand started in Red Wing, Minnesota. Charles Beckman started to create Red Wing boots when he saw the need for physically demanding jobs to have sturdy footwear. Mineworkers and farmers needed boots that worked as hard as themselves. Red Wing also went on to servicing WWI boots for the US military. It has through time kept a diligent


view on how the manufacturing process should be. Maintaining the same original sewing machines throughout the years. Customers now buy into Red Wings not for the need of a boot to survive mining conditions, but for the history and its promise that they are made to last. Our stories, our writing, promote a healthy vanity. A sense of self, of presentation, character and taste. By deepening our realm of fashion writing and taking the time to truly showcase the brands that have this sense of heritage, we deliver better outlets for creativity and for us to develop more meaningful relationships with clothes in a fast fashion world.



WOMEN An interest and an industry which is assumed to be dominated by women. However, the vast number of women in fashion are not always represented in the world of fashion media. On top of this, marketing more often tells us about women’s bodies than minds.


Clothing first and foremost is placed on or around the body. How women’s bodies are treated in fashion, as well as in other parts of society, is becoming more challenged every day. A significant change in the industry which is representative of the demands in womenswear and diverse female representation from brands is the changes made by Victoria’s Secret (VS). Since 1995, with the exception of one year, VS has held its yearly infamous fashion show. Taking place in the last two months of the year, the show is filled with the top models of the time; re-dubbed “Angels” who undergo extreme fitness and diet regimes to achieve the tall, toned and tanned VS Angel body. It is clear that such a strict code of appearance would never be reflective of their full consumer base let alone the rest of the world. However not every runway show can promise to set a perfect example for every societal issue. What is interesting is that the sales of VS products have recently plummeted almost as much as the number of views for the show. In May this year it was announced that the show would no longer be aired on national television. In July, this year’s show was reported cancelled. It is clear that the women of today aren’t even interested in flirting with a brand that does not attempt to be move diversified. Challenging the game are designers such as Rihanna, whose Savage x Fenty collection comes in a large range of


shapes, styles and sizes. In line with her make up range, which received praise at the British Vogue Beauty Awards this year for its contributions to a more diverse beauty world, has a demographic of different shapes and colours in mind. A secondary definer for these two brands is their communications. VS has always sold an overly sexualised image often geared towards attracting a man. It promotes international models with huge followings and lacks a genuine relatable selling point. Rihanna’s Fenty, along with many other new underwear brands, sell more directly to the woman. To the girl in her room getting ready to go out, it promotes the confidence boost you get from the new matching underwear under your outfit. The items are all beautifully designed, but they sell a feel more than a look. As female writers in particular, we can also speak by omission by giving limelight to the brands making concrete efforts to cater to all women, rather than those who simply promise to.



Savage X Fenty 2018 Basics campaign



XENOPHOBIA There are multiple reasons for this word’s presence in this book. First, that Xylophone didn’t seem quite as relevant. Second and more importantly, because it allowed the space to discuss a recent discovery which I found most fascinating.


We begin by defining the term. Xenophobia refers to an extreme fear or distrust of foreigners, their customs their religions, their presence. It is not a topic which is easily sugarcoated, nor should it be. There is a growing and alarming xenophobic sentiment across the globe, currently exemplified by alt-right movements and anti-immigration rallies. These movements are driven not only by their deep nationalist roots, but also by their resistance to change and diversity. The Xenophobic sentiments tend to have a symbiotic relationship to right-wing political ideals; both organisms simultaneously and adamantly thriving in today’s algorithm-powered world where one can, without realizing, find themselves in a digital echo chamber of their own views. Which brings us to my Tuesday morning, stuck in traffic, forcing me to listen to a second episode of the Business of Fashion (BoF) podcast. In this episode lies my aforementioned discovery, and the all-important link of xenophobia to fashion and communication. It was a BoF VOICES talk by Christopher Wylie. Christopher was the whistle blower in the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal where they ‘weaponised the fashion industry’.The story relates how Cambridge Analytica looked at the way Facebook users interacted with certain brands in order to refine political messages revolving around the elections that year. Part of this was premised on the idea that a Facebook user’s predilection for a particular fashion label gives a clear indication on how susceptible that user will be to populist po-


litical messaging. Essentially, they read people through their fashion preferences, which was then translated to a formula which helped predict what types of communication would resonate with what they already choose in day to day life. A tailor-made echo chamber. This letter is here, much like some others (see P), to show the lengths to which something as simple as a “materialistic fashion choice� can be translated into bigger world changes. Though many positive changes have been influenced or started within the industry, in this case fashion became the starting point for a carefully disguised xenophobic message predicated on fear, which was used to make people tick a certain box on a voting slip.



YOUTHQUAKE Remix touched upon digitalisation (see R). Youthquake is about the digital natives and who they are as consumers and content creators.


Todays ‘youth’ are associating themselves less and less with where they are from geographically. Which is why the Eurocentric or “where you are from” focus resonated less. What is a ‘french designer’? In today’s multicultural, anti-label youth, they are much more about the creative individual, than his/her cultural past. This impacts our writing and reinforces the arguments (mentioned in O) that a designers provenance is possibly only a box which they have been restricted to, which we can now forego. It has been suggested that generation Z feels more like they come from the internet than they do their home country. Finding that they discover much more in common with their peers from an internet world perspective than they do their cultural background. For the designers of tomorrow, this promises even more diverse opinions, well versed in the cultural nuances of the world. Labels and boxes won’t fly with these readers. They expect foundation shades in a full spectrum, ‘nude’ can no longer just mean light beige, more than two boxes for gender need to be available on forms and bodies of all shapes and sizes are demanded to be seen. Using this as a benchmark for diversifying our content will help our storytelling transcend into a new era where different is the new normal.




ZEITGEIST (tsî’tgîst) n. spirit of the times; trend of thought and feeling in a period. [G (zeit time, geist spirit)]


As shown through multiple chapters in this book (see P and X in particular) the fashion industry invades not only into other industries but also other aspects of society. Impacting our individual life, allowing us to share our culture, and playing a role in politics. Fashion is a reflection of the world today. A seemingly superficial trend can often be traced to a societal mood of the time. The 1960s hippies are more than a fun theme for your 30th birthday party. They were a reflection of the zeitgeist, an anti-establishment counterculture of peace and free love triggered by the Vietnam war. 90s nostalgia trends are a potential reflection of our desire to relive simpler times before complete digitalisation. Political slogan t-shirts in the likes of Maria Grazia Chiuris “we should all be feminists” are a result of our call out society, the MeToo movement and a consumer culture which refuses to stay silent and demands their favourite brands not only reflect their tastes, but their morals. This book in itself will hold connecting threads. For one It all revolves around our way of communicating (see C). The title in itself is a testament to globalisation, modernity, and digitalisation. For without these the potential to write in one place for a ‘global audience’ would be something from science fiction. This A - Z represents a desire for diversity, a difficulty in navigating political correctness in a watch dog world, and a result of the cultural melting pot that fashion storytelling has come to be. These shoes are made for walking, dancing and marching.


Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior Spring 2017 collection




The A - Z of Global Fashion Storytelling was created in parallel to a master’s thesis as part of a course in Fashion Media Practice at CondÊ Nast College of Fashion & Design.



Millions discover their favorite reads on issuu every month.

Give your content the digital home it deserves. Get it to any device in seconds.