Phony Is the New Trendy
Magazine UNIFORM 2nd Issue
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A friend of mine articulated in my “Tipsy Talks” interview that the word “industry” never goes hand in hand with freedom. Does it? Do you think the fashion industry have freedom? It is in questions that we reflect to our inner voice and think outwards. In this creative business, freedom and liberty are naturally considered the two fundamental components to the content creators, almost taken for granted. However, stereotypical thinking is still actively alive just like the bacteria that never dies – blunting the freedom of mind and limiting the liberty of deeds. The thing that gets increasingly better is only the hypocritical disguise, skilful yet playful. I suppose we all have a phony moment of “I-like-your-shoes”.
“Industry” is such a tricky word because it sounds so professional that no individuality is allowed in the panopticon of it, meanwhile “the industry” itself possesses a personality. The panopticon that Foucault introduced with Jeremy Bentham in 1785 was not only an architecture style but also a physical manifestation of docile body. Due to the nature of this building, visibility becomes a trap. The occupants in the cell are visible to the central tower – which symbolizes surveillance - without knowing when and who is watching from where. The uncertainty of the visibility asks everybody in this system to behave hence forming a docile body whose panel disciplines ask everyone to “conform to its ‘constraints’ and privations, obligations and prohibitions” almost 24/7, noted Gillian Rose. In an “industry”, fashion for example, designers are dictated by the currents events, brands response to consumers’ shopping behaviour and factories have to follow laws. Given the arising sensitivity towards culture appropriation, discriminations and sexual harassments, the global fashion industry is facing an unprecedented tension that can toxically cancel a brand or a figure simply by a clickbait. Notably, Loewe’s recent backlash of appropriating holocaust uniform, the cancellation of Charles James on social media and the Gucci blackface problems are the real-life examples. Not to mention, with the wane of OK boomer and the rise of Millennials, vegan lifestyle, ethical values and blogger phenomenon – just to name a few – had imposed quite a formidable impact on the fashion business concerning actions and promotions. Although these changes can be seen as passive reactions to the market, Maria Kasmirli points out, “we accept these restrictions on our freedom as a trade-off for other benefits, such as peace, security and prosperity.” The growing awareness alongside actions of brands brings talks to the topics where we used to pay inadequate attention. In this manner, the docile body in the fashion industry constitute a healthy system of education if not manipulated.
Deeds can be trained but the stubborn minds may not really change. As in the panopticon of fashion, it is usually the audience that call out for an attention over a particular issue. The role of supervisor, despite the existence of British Fashion Council, Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode or CFDA, has been shifting, binary and ambiguous. These aforementioned associations are too focused on the trends of styles to spontaneously improve the potential social issues or give rise to the enduring societal factors that are eager to break the silence.
A black large-size female rapper could be considered “trashy”, but how to define “trashy”? A male model could be uncomfortable with the “gay” image he embodied in an exaggerated makeup look, but why does makeup have to be associated with “gay” when applied on men regardless of scale? “Black”, “large-size”, “female”, “rapper”, “gay” and “makeup”, these tags, if applied, are infused with the inherent logic that shows the relationship between power and knowledge. Foucault explained, power generates knowledge and knowledge endorses power in return. The perception of “trashy” leads to the power of defining a person, and the firmer a male model believes that certain features are gay, the more reluctant he will be to consider these features irrelevant to sexuality. Makeup itself doesn’t know about gender, but we do.
“Discourse produces the world as it understands it” and “our sense of our self is made through the operation of discourse”, Gillian Rose added. In short, people talk and talk according to themselves. In the fashion “industry”, these people don’t necessarily produce the knowledge of “trashy” or “gay”, but they certainly conduct the power to carry out these notions by employing the vantage point of the panopticon. Under the restrictions of the docile body, they pretend, act or simply by addressing the phrase - “with all due respect”. However, the harm can still be done. Discourses in this manner, with or without demeaning attitudes, continue to run into our lives as a “normal” subject matter because the minds rarely challenge their knowledge or realize the power that comes along. When All I Want for Christmas has been realised for 10 years and Lady Gaga doesn’t even sing Poker Face on its original beats at her concerts any more, it sounds a bit kitschy that we are still struggling with the men-in-makeup situation and the real-life scenario of Pride and Prejudice. However, a change can never be made without talking about it. David Salle once describe idea as “the passing intellectual weather”, because “sometimes what we call an idea is really more than an enthusiasm.” If not given forms, ideas are quicker than an orgasm, faker than the illusion of intimacy, weaker than the bond of friendship and more ephemeral than affection. Therefore, you should make the blame and the hard feelings worth something not only for you as an individual, but for all that you stand by as a value.