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Monster? Can The Unconventionally Beautiful Be Accepted by Fashion? Sarah Stothard FASH20031


Figures 2-8

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Contents Beauty and The Beast We Are The Future History Lessons Disability VS The Industry Don’t Create A Trend, Create Meaning Behaviour Change Let’s Get Started

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4 Figure 9


Beauty

and

The

Beast

Throughout this semester, lectures, seminars and tasks have centred around behaviour change within fashion, and how behaviour affects attitudes towards beauty. Through these projects I have noticed that photography is a central part of how a beauty or identity trend is adapted and expanded by both professionals within fashion communication and promotion, and in the eyes of the public. Approaching the topic of beauty within fashion reveals the trends preferred by the industry; tall, very slim, white, able bodied (Derrick and Muir, 2002). Despite the slow introduction of more and more ethnic races within fashion campaigns, and more recently, of plus size models, fashion is still missing out on one major element of society; the disabled. This essay aims to uncover the reasons behind fashion’s prejudice towards people with mental and physical disabilities, and how I as an FCP student can alter the perspective of the ‘monstrous’ (Oliver, 1990) within this competitive world.

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We

Are

The

Future

Fashion Communication and Promotion can be seen as the driving force behind the fashion industry. Within this area of fashion, we discover the new trends that designers will showcase next season; we decide if a trend will last; we pinpoint which trends will come back time and time again, and what designers should avoid to enjoy success. FCP professionals are listened to by the entirety of the fashion industry; they are the influencers. As a FCP student with a career fast approaching in this competitive environment, I will be able to create such influences over the industry. If we have such a power and influences over choices made within this field, we have therefore already created negativity towards certain aspects of everyday human life, and of everyday humans. Vogue has already told the world that skinny is better, white is preferred, being able bodied is better (Derrick and Muir, 2002). As part of the next generation of FCP professionals, we should have the power, the skills and the influence to change fashion’s perceptions of beauty, and to help those who are not currently recognised to break the industry and change it for the better.

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7 Figures 10-13


Figure 14

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History

Lessons

Disabled theorist Finklestein developed three historical phases towards disability; ‘phase one…existed in the feudal, pre-industrial revolution period. At this time ‘cripples’ were not separated from society. They were not segregated…in institutions.’ (Hevey, 1992) During this time those who were different were accepted, however these outlooks were sadly short-lived. Attitudes towards disabilities throughout our history as a race then developed to portray those with disabilities as monsters. In his book on the combination of disability and photography, Hevey (1992) discusses that the disabled have always been shown through ‘negative manifestations’. This idea is confirmed by disabled theorist Oliver (1990) that ‘in societies dominated by religious or magical ways of thinking, impairment may be perceived as a punishment from God, or from evil magic’, therefore setting the view that the disabled are another race, an monstrous race, firmly in the minds of our ancestors and their society, and therefore passed through literature and imagery into our minds.

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These ideas have further been supported when looking at the portrayal of some typically evil, world and human hating characters. New James Bond baddie, agent gone bad Raoul Silva, was left hideously deformed by his suicide attempt failure. During his imprisonment in a glass vault, Silva reveals his disfigurement to M, by removing a plate which holds the left side of his face up. When this was removed, horror rendered on M’s face, and gasps of disgust could be heard around the cinema (Mendes, 2012). Hevey (1992) also makes reference to characters in literature; Graham Greene’s Raven, Frankenstein’s Monster, Richard III; all of whom have physical impairments, all of whom are considered to be monsters; as creatures to avoid. Characters such as these, Oliver theorises, are still human but due to their impairments changing the body and mind so drastically, their ability to be truly human, with human emotions and actions are put into doubt. If these theories, despite being based on historical and literary references, were still in place today in our world of political correctness, disabilities would be accepted. We would be horrified by our ancestors practices of showcasing the ‘freaks’ to the public, that they locked those who were unusual behind closed doors. (Oliver, 1990)These horrific practices have ended however as a race we have chosen to hide the ‘monsters’ in a different way; through a lack of acknowledgement, only being recognised through that childlike curiosity that possesses us all. 10


Figure 15

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Disability VS The Industry In 2008 we were given an insight into the lives of aspiring disabled models through the BBC three reality shows, Britain’s Missing Top Model (BMTM). The models were treated like any other fashion model, however some photographers found their disabilities hard to work with. Photographer Amelia Troubridge worked with the three finalists. When talking to the camera, she stated that, ‘it’s got to be a photograph of beauty and perfection’, and that is what the final images were. Three stunning girls out on a location shoot, but all of whom looked able bodied. This caused outcry amongst the judges; ‘This photographer has been asked to work with three disabled models and she has made them all look able-bodied and it’s fucking offensive. I think it’s outrageous.’ (Masters, 2008) Further outrage came out when the judges heard that the photographer had also stated that her favourite contestant to work with was Kelly Knox, born with one arm; ‘The limb I was able to cover up quite easily.’ (Troubridge, 2008) We have glamorised disabilities, made them chic and a trend when using able bodied models, however when working with disabled models, we feel the need to hide their impairments, as though our audiences will disapprove. 12


Figure 16

Garland-Thompson (2005) suggests that ‘the subject of disability both discomforts and compels many people.’ This was shown in 2009 as parents complained to the BBC that Cerrie Burnell, a one armed CBeebies presenter, would ‘frighten the children’ (Taylor, 2009) due to her disability. We therefore are no better than our religion bound ancestors; do we still see disabilities as unacceptable monstrosities? For many people in fashion, disability is simply a wall they are not willing to get over. Sophie Morgan, runner up of BMTM, model and disability campaigner believes that ‘the industry has always struggled with these sorts of topics.’(Morgan, 2009) It seems that those who decide the fate of a model, a trend or a campaign can use the idea of disability in an imaginative sense; as a creative tool to be edgy and on trend, however when it comes to incorporating the real, everyday aspect of disability, they struggle. When disability is seen in everyday life, and when it affects so many of us either now or in the future, why can’t it be accepted by fashion? (Hemmingway, 2008) 13


Figure 17

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Don’t Create A Trend, Create Meaning Through exploring attitudes and behaviour towards disabilities within the fashion industry as a whole, I have come to realise that where disabilities have been used, they are one off specials, and turned into trends rather than an acceptable and normal aspect of the industry. One disabled model will be used on the runway, such as Amy Mullins for McQueen in 2001, and this will be seen as ground-breaking. Intricately carved splints will be made for her, and despite some critics disagreeing with this particular shock move by McQueen, this breakthrough was celebrated by style magazines such as Dazed and Confused. A disabled fashion campaign will be used as the cover of a magazine, like i-D magazine’s role model issue in fall 2012, featuring the stunning Isabeli Fontana in a neck brace. A pop star will incorporate braces, crutches and wheelchairs for their video, like Lady Gaga in Paparazzi. These one off pieces of ‘disability-chic’ inspired photographers and stylists for a brief period of time, however the result was not centred on disability, but on ‘fashion-victims’. We are all slaves of the industry. They make us desire the trends they sell, and we will do anything to get them and be a part of them; be it through expensive shoes or surgery. 15


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Few photographers have grasped this ironic comparison better than Steven Meisel. His editorial in Vogue Italia featured the price that women in fashion pay to keep up with current trends, even if it means disabling themselves for a period of time. The women featured were in wheelchairs, heavily bandaged and bleeding on hospital beds, texting all the time. These images, as compelling as they may be, go against the very nature of the term disability; ‘the disadvantage or restriction of activity’ (Hevey, 1992). The models can simply wipe off their makeup and discard their crutches. Through misunderstanding the original message McQueen and Nick Knight created through their 1998 Fashion-Able shoot for Dazed and Confused (a shoot celebrating rather than masking disabilities), editors and photographers have created a short lived disabled trend, making it harder than ever to break the industry. Disability should not be a trend; it should be accepted as a part of everyday fashion.

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Behaviour

Change

In order for disabilities to be fully accepted by both fashion professionals and the public we need to create a norm. More and more disabled models need to be included in advertising campaigns, catwalks and fashion and style magazine editorials. In a recent interview with Dazed and Confused, photographer Nick Knight was asked about his career which has constantly challenged accepted notions of beauty (Morris, 2012). Knight simply replied, ‘Beauty isn’t universal. My perception of beauty changes depending on how I feel inside.’ (Knight, 2012) Knight has always celebrated differences in humans and their appearances. His photography is wonderfully simple, and allows the audience to explore his personal feelings towards the subject, as well as expanding the knowledge of their views towards the unconventionally beautiful. Through his collaboration with Alexander McQueen in 1998, their issue of Dazed and Confused celebrated disabilities, and if done again, more frequently and just as successfully, then disabilities will become a distinguished part of the fashion industry. 20


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When photographing the winner of BMTM Kelly Knox, Rankin expressed his passion for the unconventionally beautiful. ‘I like people not to be perfect. So for [Kelly] to have this unique quality, for me it’s something that I want to show in the image. I don’t want to hide it.’ (Rankin, 2008) His statement goes against the views of Troubridge, and many other photographers and editors. We are living in an age where incredible disabled people were celebrated through the summer of sport, and therefore should be shown to other industries and accepted further into society. More and more photographers are beginning to incorporate disabilities into their work, including Elizabeth Waight. Her latest project, started in 2012, aims to recreate some iconic images from the past 100 years, using only disabled models. ‘The purpose of the project is to subvert the current obsession with physical perfection.’ (Waight, 2012) Photographers such as these have questioned the original attitudes of ‘punishment…evil magic’ and ‘monsters’ (Oliver, 1990), and created imagery that broke traditional fashion values of perfect skin, teeth, hair and bodies. They have started to create a world where disability can be accepted by all, not just as an occasional element in magazines. 22


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Collaborations between photographers and disabled models can also increase the visibility of disabilities within the fashion industry. Sophie Morgan, disabled model and campaigner, took part in a nude photo-shoot as part of the BMTM final. Her image allowed her to become a part of her disability; the image reflected a bond between humans and metal, the metal which gives her the limited movement she has. Before the photo-shoot, Sophie hated her chair and saw it as a restriction on her life and her career. In an interview in 2009, Sophie discussed her passion behind the shoot, ‘I really wanted to make a bloody massive statement with the picture…it wasn’t all about beauty and all about the disability, but one conquering the other.’ (Morgan, 2009) Surely enough, the final image, of Morgan’s leg resting on the wheel of her chair, the majority of which is hidden in darkness, you first see her, you see her beauty. Once your eye moves to the chair you realise that her and the chair are one, and that doesn’t change the fact that the image is truly stunning, and ground breaking. Through Morgan’s passion for the industry and for disabled people to have the acknowledgement and acceptance they deserve, there is hope in the near future that disability will be as normal in fashion as the current trend for androgynous models.

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Figure 23

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Let’s

Get

Started

I recommend that in order to have disabilities fully integrated and accepted as an everyday part of the fashion landscape that they need to be introduced into all aspects of fashion. In the future I hope to see more disabled models in fashion publications. It would greatly benefit our knowledge as an audience to photography if those with disabilities were not used as a trend, allowing them to be defined as a person, not as a disability. The negativity towards differences should be left in the past with our novels of deformed evil villains, and of public shows of those with physical differences. We should celebrate that uniqueness makes each of us perfect, and constrained views should not make anyone feel like a monster.

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List

of

Images

Fig 1 – FRED EVERETT, 2009. Abandoned Wheelchair. Preserve Pennhurst [online]. Available at: http://www. preservepennhurst.com/default.aspx?pg=22&ssgrp=2&ssitem=36 [Accessed: 20th January 2013] Fig 2 – PATRICK DEMARCHELIER, 2012. Kate. [online] Available at: http://ftape.com/media/?p=44041 [Accessed: 20th January 2013] Fig 3 – SARAH STOTHARD, 2013. New Seasons Colours. [photograph] Fig 4 – UNKNOWN, 2009. Old Wheelchair and Porch. [online] Available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ anajune/3356470577/ [Accessed: 21st January 2013] Fig 5 – RANKIN, 2008. Kelly Knox. Kelly Knox Online [online]. Available at: http://kellyknox.com/fashion [Accessed: 28th November 2012] Fig 6 – AMELIA TROUBRIDGE, 2008. Britain’s Missing Top Model Finalists. [online]. Available at: http://www. fabsugar.co.uk/Britains-Missing-Top-Model-Do-You-AgreeWinner-1825346 [Accessed: 28th November 2012] Fig 7 – DANIELE AND IANGO, 2012. Fashion Victim i-D cover. [online]. Available at: http://nascapas.blogspot. com.br/search?updated-max=2012-09-22T20:34:00-07:00&maxresults=25&start=450&by-date=false [Accessed: 21st January 2013] Fig 8 - STEVEN MEISEL, 2005. Fashion Victims for Vogue Italia. [online] Available at: http://theboyinskulls. blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/flashback-steven-meisel-edwardenninful.html [Accessed: 21st January 2013] 28


Fig 9 - PATRICK DEMARCHELIER, 2012. Kate. [online] Available at: http://ftape.com/media/?p=44041 [Accessed: 20th January 2013] Fig 10 - SARAH STOTHARD, 2013. New Seasons Colours. [photograph] Fig 11 – ACNE, 2012. New Collection. [online]. Available at: http://trendland.com/fashion/fashion-designers/page/2/ [Accessed: 21st January 2013] Fig 12 – GO RUNWAY, 2012. Giambattista Valli Runway. [online]. Available at: http://www.vogue.co.uk/brand/ giambattista-valli [Accessed: 21st January 2013] Fig 13 – PATRICK DEMARCHELIER, 2013. Vogue February. [online]. Available at: http://www.vogue.co.uk/magazine/ archive/issue/2013/February [Accessed: 21st January 2013] Fig 14 - UNKNOWN, 2009. Old Wheelchair and Porch. [online] Available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ anajune/3356470577/ [Accessed: 21st January 2013] Fig 15 – SAM MENDES, 2012. Still from Skyfall of Raoul Silva. [online] Available at: http://breakinggeek. com/2012/12/10/better-class-of-criminal-iv-2012s-terrible3-featuring-bane-and-silva/ [Accessed: 15th December 2012] Fig 16 - AMELIA TROUBRIDGE, 2008. Britain’s Missing Top Model Finalists. [online]. Available at: http://www. fabsugar.co.uk/Britains-Missing-Top-Model-Do-You-AgreeWinner-1825346 [Accessed: 28th November 2012] Fig 17 – NICK KNIGHT, 1998. Aimee in Wooden Legs. [online] Available at: http://www.wornthrough.com/2012/08/06/youshould-be-reading-fashioning-the-disabled/ [Accessed: 10th December 2012] 29


Fig 18 - DANIELE AND IANGO, 2012. Fashion Victim i-D cover. [online]. Available at: http://nascapas.blogspot. com.br/search?updated-max=2012-09-22T20:34:00-07:00&maxresults=25&start=450&by-date=false [Accessed: 21st January 2013] Fig 19 – HELMUT NEWTON, 1995. Woman in Leg brace. [online]. Available at: http://karaj.tumblr.com/post/327205063/ helmut-newton-obviosly-did-not-know-or-care-about [Accessed: 30th November 2012] Fig 20 - STEVEN MEISEL, 2005. Fashion Victims for Vogue Italia. [online] Available at: http://theboyinskulls. blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/flashback-steven-meisel-edwardenninful.html [Accessed: 21st January 2013] Fig 21 – NICK KNIGHT, 1998. Aimee Lays Down. [online]. Available at: http://www.aimeemullins.com/gallery/index. php [Accessed: 10th December 2012] Fig 22 - RANKIN, 2008. Kelly Knox. Kelly Knox Online [online]. Available at: http://kellyknox.com/fashion [Accessed: 28th November 2012] Fig 23 – OLIVER PEARCE, 2008. Sophie Nude. [online]. Available at: http://sophiemorgan.com/disabled-model/ nude/#!prettyPhoto [Accessed: 28th November 2012] Fig 24 – REVEAL MAGAZINE, 2012. Reveal Magazine and the Mannequal. [online]. Available at: http://sophiemorgan. com/modelling [Accessed: 28th November 2012]

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References Carlson, T., 2012. Disability Photography [online]. Available at: http://www.newmobility.com/browse_thread. cfm?id=412&blogID=19 Accessed: 5th January 2013 Collett, R., 1992. Access to Image: Photo Work Book: Disability Photography Series. Bradford: VALID Derrick, R and Muir, R., 2002. Unseen Vogue: The Secret History of Fashion Photography. Great Britain: Little, Brown Hemmingway, W., 2008. Britain’s Missing Top Model, 2008. [TV] BBC, 1st July-29th July 2008 Hevey, D., 1992. The Creatures That Time Forgot. London: Routledge Masters, L., 2008. Britain’s Missing Top Model, 2008. [TV] BBC, 1st July-29th July 2008 Morgan, S., 2008. Sophie Morgan Nude. [online] Available at: www.sophiemorgan.com/nude Accessed: 10th December Morris, L., 2012. Flora by Nick Knight. [online]. Available at: http://www.dazeddigital.com/photography/ article/14863/1/nick-knight-flora Accessed: 18th December 2012 Oliver, M., The Politics of Disablement. (1990) London: Macmillan pages 3-40 Rankin.2008 Britain’s Missing Top Model. [online]. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/missingmodel/ news/050808_rankin.shtml Accessed: 10th December 2012

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Shakespeare, T., 2002. Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying Disability Theory. London: Continuum International Publishing Group Skyfall, 2012.[film]. United Kingdom: MGM Taylor, J.,Victims of the Fashion Industry’s Prejudice [online]. Available at: http://www.independant.co.uk/lifestyle/fashion/features/victims-of-the-fashion-industrysprejudice-1634237.html Accessed: 5th January 2013 Garland-Thompson, R., 2002. The Politics of Staring: Visual Rhetoric’s of Disability in Popular Photography. In: Snyder, S.L., eds. Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2002, pp. 189-205 Troubridge, A., 2008. Britain’s Missing Top Model, 2008. [TV] BBC, 1st July-29th July 2008 Waight, E., 2012. Iconic. [online] Available at: http:// www.newmobility.com/browse_thread.cfm?id=412&blogID=19 Accessed: 10th January 2013

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Bibliography BBC, 2008. kelly’s Photo Shoot. [online]. Available at:http://www.bbc.co.uk/missingmodel/news/050808_rankin. shtml Accessed: 10th December 2012 Britains Missing Top Model, 2008.[TV] BBC, 1st July-29th July 2008. Carlson, T., 2012. Disability Photography [online]. Available at: http://www.newmobility.com/browse_thread. cfm?id=412&blogID=19 Accessed: 5th January 2013 Collett, R., 1992. Access to Image: Photo Work Book: Disability Photography Series. Bradford: VALID Derrick, R and Muir, R., 2002. Unseen Vogue: The Secret History of Fashion Photography. Great Britain: Little, Brown Hemmingway, W., 2008. Britain’s Missing Top Model, 2008. [TV] BBC, 1st July-29th July 2008 Hevey, D., 1992. The Creatures That Time Forgot. London: Routledge Masters, L., 2008. Britain’s Missing Top Model, 2008. [TV] BBC, 1st July-29th July 2008 Morgan, S., 2008. Sophie Morgan Nude. [online] Available at: www.sophiemorgan.com/nude Accessed: 10th December Morris, L., 2012. Flora by Nick Knight. [online]. Available at: http://www.dazeddigital.com/photography/ article/14863/1/nick-knight-flora Accessed: 18th December 2012 Oliver, M., The Politics of Disablement. (1990) London: 34


Macmillan pages 3-40 Rankin.2008 Britain’s Missing Top Model. [online]. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/missingmodel/news/050808_rankin. shtml Accessed: 10th December 2012 Shakespeare, T., 2002. Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying Disability Theory. London: Continuum International Publishing Group Skyfall, 2012.[film]. United Kingdom: MGM Taylor, J.,Victims of the Fashion Industry’s Prejudice [online]. Available at: http://www.independant.co.uk/lifestyle/fashion/features/victims-of-the-fashion-industrysprejudice-1634237.html Accessed: 5th January 2013 Garland-Thompson, R., 2002. The Politics of Staring: Visual Rhetoric’s of Disability in Popular Photography. In: Snyder, S.L., eds. Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2002, pp. 189205 Troubridge, A., 2008. Britain’s Missing Top Model, 2008. [TV] BBC, 1st July-29th July 2008 Waight, E., 2012. Iconic. [online] Available at: http://www. newmobility.com/browse_thread.cfm?id=412&blogID=19 Accessed: 10th January 2013

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Monster  

Essay exploring disability within the fashion industry

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