Monday, December 5, 2011

Introduction into Postmodern Fashion at the V&A

Saturday the 3rd of December I attended V&A's afternoon event on Postmodern Fashion, hosted by Kristin Knox, Claire Wilcox and Lucy Norris.

The speech started with an introduction on the origins of Postmodern Fashion from it's early 70's until now, presented by the young fashion blogger, journalist and author Kristin Knox. She is the 'brain' behind the very successful blog The Clothes Whisperer, author of 'Alexander McQueen: Genius of a Generation' and she recently published 'Culture to Catwalk'.

Her speech was full of information and covered all areas in which Postmodernism was present. She talked about 'art being selfaware and self-critical', about youth subcultures, 70's and 80's PUNK Era and about EAST meets WEST in fashion design. Everything that the West designs, East takes and deconstructs and makes it alot easier to perceive and comprehend.

Terms like 'Bricolage', 'Deconstruction' and 'Pastiche' were explained and exemplified to better understand the postmodernist trend.


What does that mean ? It basicly means items which have a totally different purpose put together to result in a garment/accessory/shoe and so on. "to make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand (regardless of their original purpose)". The best example is the following :
Vivienne Westwood - Let it Rock-  Chicken bones T-shirt 1971


Deconstruction is used as a rebellious method to protest againt tradition and linearity. Designers which use this form of expression basicly dismantle and disassemble garments and put them back together having a different meaning. It is a deconstructive , reconstructive process to give another angle and point of view on the way a garment is being perceived. Designers like Alexander McQueen, Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawaukubo from Comme des Garcons, Maison Martin Margiela are using this concept in their collections.


Now that makes me think of pastry or pie and after some careful reading and researching I am not at all wrong. A pastiche is indeed a pie made out of many different ingredients. Now in whast percentage dfoes that relate to fashion is another thing. Pastiche in fashion is basicly a garment created in immitation of an original work . The example shown here by Kristin Knox was McQueen's 'Highland Rape' collection from 1995.
Alexander McQueen Highland Rape AW 1995                            The Jacobite Rebellion of 1745

'The highland rape collection was described as ‘aggressive and disturbing’ by the press. McQueen maintained the rape was not of the individual models themselves who looked brutalised on the runway, but the rape of scotland. The theme of the collection was based specifically on the Jacobite rebellion, McQueen conceded he had studied the history of scottish ‘upheavals’, Highland rape was about England’s rape of Scotland.'

For the second part of the speech we were introduced to Mrs Claire Wilcox, who is the Senior Curator at the V&A Department of Textiles and Dress and who also with great success devises the amazing V&A event 'Fashion in Motion', for which tickets need to be booked months in advanced as they get sold out in minutes! She talked to us about the exhibition she hosted , which was dedicated to Vivienne and told us the stories behind her life as a designer and a rebel.

The famous store on 430 New King's Road was opened by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren more as a 'memorabilia' for the 1950's clothing and music. The name of the store in 1971 was LET IT ROCK and then was changed into TOO FAST TO LIVE, TOO YOUNG TO DIE in 1972, when Westwood's attention was redirected towards bikers and rockers outfits. Mrs. Wilcox says that Westwood had a very 'academic approach to everything', meaning everything she was doing was very carefully studied and analyzed. She started hanging out in all the bikers and rockers bars to watch them behave in their natural habitat, to understand everything about the clothes, attitude and spirit behind them.
The store reserved it's right to sell their products to the 'right kind of people'. If Vivienne didn't think you would know how to wear some of her clothes she wouldn't sell it to you. You had to have that special kind of rebellion and open-mindness they were looking for.

In 1974 the store changed it's name once again to SEX, which was more than clear and transparent and very descriptive towards what was being sold inside. Westwood's attention now is drawn to very provocative, sexy, fetish type clothes. And once again she started studying the people in that particular industry, she started hanging out watching prostitutes and strippers on the streets, and in bars. She wanted to know everything.

1977 store is being once again rebranded into SEDITIONARIES and finally in 1980 it changes to 'World's End'. This store was described as an 'oasis' for the lovers of that style. 'The country was a morass of beige and cream Bri-Nylon and their shop was an oasis'. Marco Pirroni , Adam and the Ants

'A haven for the disenfranchised which in turn , helped to create the phenomenon known as punk rock' Malcolm McLaren.

The entire philosophy behind Vivienne Westwood's collections is based on the idea of 'using culture as a way of making trouble'
Vivienne Westwood wearing her DESTROY T-shirt

Then we got to see some of Vivienne's collection over the years. most of which were inspired by her reading the National Geographic magazine like the 'Nostalgia of Mud' FW 1982-3 , Punkature SS 1983 and Witches FW1983-4 collections.
Nostalgia of Mud Catwalk invitation

For part three of the seminar , Lucy Norris from, who works as a fashion journalist and trend consultant, presented us the legacy of postmodern fashion.

Now concluding the 2 parts postmodernism is based on the power of the individual and the rebelling against meta-narratives. Lucy covered all aspects of postmodernism in her speech, everything from social, religious and spiritual expression to fashion. That being said she also pointed out some annoyingly 'BIG TRUTHS that society has us believe', which are indeed very untrue!

Postmodernism in short but very suggestive images:

Plato's Atlantis Collection - Alexander McQueen

Marc Jacobs wearing Prada Womenswear line

transsexual model Lea T and Kate Moss kissing on the cover of LOVE magazine

the ueber - hip club of the 70's BLITZ Club in Covent Garden London
Used Magazine

Hussein Chalayan Memphis inspired collection

Jeff Koons 1955 Michael Jackson and Bubbles ceramic

David Bowie vs Pierrot
And to finish off in a very bright and funny mood, not that the presentation wasn't interesting enough, Lucy Norris showed us a video on youtube of the FW add campaign for the french fashion house LANVIN, in which the model play XBox Kinect and dance to Pitbull's song 'I know you want me'.
Check it out here:


Now if that is not postmodern , then what is?

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