Thursday, November 15, 2018

#ThisIsNotConsent - the Cork Trial, Consent, and the Spring 2019 Shows

“Does the evidence out rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone? You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.” 

Those were the words from a barrister following a recent alleged sexual assault case in the Central Criminal Court in Ireland. Rallies took place across the country in protest against victim blaming yesterday. The vocal response to the trial comes after the man accused was found not guilty and the barrister touted a victim blaming stance. 

Many women have posted images of their underwear to social media with the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent. An Irish opposition leader, TD Ruth Coppinger displayed a thong in the Dáil, Ireland’s lower house of government, calling for an end to “routine victim blaming.”

It’s in times like this when the politics of one’s appearance enters an arena larger than the one originally intended. One thing should remain clear in all of this, there is no such thing as dressing like you’re asking for it. Consent is not a revealing dress. Consent is not a lace thong.

When the spring 2019 runway shows unfurled two months ago the biggest questions raised were those surrounding the portrayal of women. How should designers present women in a world which often fails to honour and represent them in the way it does men? Should designers adhere to a strict code of dressing women in protective layers of luxurious fabrics? Does the notion of dressing in an outwardly revealing fashion belong to a bygone era?  The language of how women present themselves was embedded in the narrative, whether designers looked to the beach for inspiration or if they issued direct feminist declarations. It was unavoidable.

The designers responded in different ways. Chiefly, during Paris Fashion Week, the landscape became increasingly fraught. The spring 2019 shows unfolded during Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony at Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Blasey Ford alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both teenagers in 1982. 

Anthony Vaccarello presented a collection for Saint Laurent, two days before Blasey Ford’s testimony, which exuded sexuality. The New York Times’ Vanessa Friedman heralded it “the second coming of sex” but continued that “showing the most leg, the most cleavage, the most sheer, made for a revolutionary statement back in the 20th century, but not a particularly nuanced or relevant one in the 21st.” It was replete with abbreviated hemlines, plunging necklines, and sheer fabrics. 

Elsewhere during Paris Fashion Week, artistic director Hedi Slimane’s debut for Celine featured mini dresses aplenty. Largely, the female models sported more exposed looks while the men were attired in polished tailoring. It was criticised for objectifying women, treating them in an unfair, unequal light that their male counterparts didn’t face.

The conversations both Saint Laurent and Celine instigated, however, stretched further than those around the representation of women. 

When framed in what society considers to be a hyper-sexualised context—an expression of female physicality—women are subject to much more than the judgement of their fashion statements. They aren't 'asking for it' but that's how it can be viewed. Legal professionals can use women's attire as a means of supporting arguments, engendering victim blaming in the legal system, and claiming victory in court cases. 

It's possible your clothing can be weaponised and used against you. Should dressing for a party or a night on the town be a political act? Should one consider the consequences of one’s outfit choice? The answer is a resounding no. Undoubtedly, what a woman wears revolves entirely around her bodily autonomy and her self-expression. But it appears, the shorter the hemline, the sheerer the fabric, the more likely women are to be subject to society’s sartorial despotism. How wrong is that?

Monday, November 12, 2018

Bdluxed Understands the Irish Woman

Beth Haughton’s restaurant, Dockland, which she co-owns with her husband, Harold Lynch, was filled with colourful rails of clothing. It was the second day of her Bdluxed pop-up shop in Cork City.

“I love colour,” Haughton said, surveying a flotilla of chartreuse, fuchsia, turquoise, and peach separates.  “I think people were scared of colour. For years and years, people only wore black or grey. I think it’s changing now because when you wear the right shade it can do everything for your skin.” There is no black or grey in sight. The darkest the palette becomes is midnight blue.

“The collection was built around the idea of separates,” she said. “I like the idea that people could wear it in lots of different ways, it’s something that is feminine but sexy and grown up at the same time using beautiful fabrics and colour.” The resulting line of multi-purpose, handmade silk separates prioritises the functionality that respects the fast pace of modern life. Everything is washable. The tops come in carefully considered permutations which can be worn in whichever way the wearer desires. “They’re pieces you can do a lot with and depend on your lifestyle.” 

Bdluxed started four years ago with a trip to India. Haughton and her friend, Deirdre, travelled to Mumbai, India for over two weeks. She made contact with the Irish Trade Board in India upon arrival. They connected her with members of the Indian fashion industry who introduced them to markets and silk shops. They trawled souks to source fabrics and inspiration. They returned with the foundations of the brand. 

The fabrication has changed over the four years. The first collection was produced in India. Production was then moved to Tunisia, to the same factories that work with Marc Jacobs and Burberry. Haughton described the process as “hands-on” but “fun”, collaborating with a group of hard-working women in the Tunisian desert. Resort 2019, the collection on show in Dockland, was made in China. “The collection is much more expensive to produce because I’m not mass-producing. Also, because I like colour, I’m not asking for four or five styles, I’m asking for thirteen or fourteen.”

Haughton earned her stripes at Camouflage, a Cork boutique, in the 1980s. She launched her standalone store, Beth, in Douglas Court Shopping Centre, a retail hub twenty minutes outside of the city centre which allowed her to develop a profile. She moved the boutique a stone’s throw away to East Village, also in Douglas, before taking the store to town. It closed in July 2009, preempting its demise in the wake of the economic downturn in Ireland. 

The designs presented in Dockland were the first sample of resort 2019. They will eventually be sold in Olori, a small boutique on Oliver Plunkett Street in Cork City, and Nina, a shop in Barnes, outside London. For now, the operation is quite small but this doesn’t daunt Haughton who is intentionally controlling everything from production to selling herself. “I want to keep it to myself while I’m learning what works and what doesn’t.”

The customers who shopped at Beth are returning to support Haughton’s latest venture. They have been with Bdluxed since the start. “I think the difference between yesterday’s pop-up and the last one was that people coming in were focused on what they were looking for. I had previous customers who were returning because they wanted a certain style they like wearing but in a different colour.”

The other aspect of Bdluxed is a bespoke jewellery line. “Everything is handmade by me. Everything is a one-off piece because I like doing things that are different. They’re deliberately odd pairings.” She composes earrings and necklaces using Swarovski crystals and she works with a Parisian company, which collaborates with major Parisian houses, on the finishing touches for her pieces.

What’s next for Bdluxed? Haughton is hoping to get an agent in London to open the line to a new market. Following on from that, wholesale and e-commerce are on the cards. But the conclusion one can draw from her attitude towards the fashion industry is that she won’t succumb to the breakneck speed of the industry.

Juggling a successful restaurant and fledgling clothing line, one must ask if it’s difficult to manage? “No, I’m used to multitasking and I’m not afraid of hard work.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Creatures of the Wind Alum, Christopher Peters Launches CDLM

Dover Street Market opened its Los Angeles outpost last weekend. One of the labels launched there was Christopher Peter’s new title, CDLM. (The name derives from “Cueva de las Manos” or “cave of the hands”, the same name as cave painting Peters likes.) He debuted it at the Peter Freeman Gallery in Lower Manhattan during New York Fashion Week in September. 

Peters is no stranger to the fashion industry. He co-designed Creatures of the Wind, another New York brand with his partner, Shane Gabier for 11 years. Creatures of the Wind still exists but only operates on a project-related basis. The duo decided it was time to develop solo ventures. Gabier is focusing on furniture while Peters directs his attention to CDLM, a unisex label which repurposes deadstock fabrics. He collaborates with a network of vintage stores across America to source fabric for production.

His solo outing featured casting by Midland Agency which street casts faces in New York. (Eckhaus Latta, Hood by Air have also consulted the agency.) Actress and editor, Tavi Gevinson, and poet John Giorno were among the models in this show. They walked in circles alongside a coterie of unknown faces.

The clothes were decent if a little staid. He played with punk influences and dandy styles. Elsewhere, he reworked Polo Ralph Lauren hoodies and Oakland Raiders varsity jackets. (The use of Polo called to mind a milder version of Miguel Adrover’s manipulation of the Burberry check in 2000.) It also holds some cultural capital, what with the recent announcement of the Palace and Polo Ralph Lauren collaboration. The menswear approach didn’t define the collection, nor does Peters want it to. He told Vogue the collection is for everybody. CDLM can be added to the list of progressive brands foregoing gender constructs without it being the principal focus. Genderless fashion isn’t so much a concept as it is a reality for Peters’ generation. 

The strengths were the designer’s articulation of both tailoring and consignment store fashion in the same collection in a distinct manner without it losing touch with the overall mood. But next season, it would be nice to see him push the envelope a bit more. The debut played it safe: old fabrics but no new ideas.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Marques'Almeida's Paris Debut is an Optimistic Message of Pre-Brexit Community Spirit

Marques’Almeida decamped from London Fashion Week to Paris for the spring 2019 shows in September. To their advantage, they will have greater access to the buying market. The disadvantage, undoubtedly, is the press attention they’ll lose to the big advertisers, like Dior, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton. Alas, the show must go on. It took place at the Palais de Tokyo. The starting point for designers Marta Marques and Paolo Almeida was to “use the roots which are secured in the brand to experiment with change, open up new roots and find new ways to move forward,” read the show notes. They updated their denim offering with aprons and subverted prairie dresses. They added fringing to louche silk dresses and tunics and featured a host of hoodies. They’ve mastered the art of imbuing the haute-urban aesthetic with a playful, feminine frisson.  

At present, Marques and Almeida are producing relatively accessible garments which, thanks to their sense of community, are connecting with a youthful audience. (This was made possible when they collected the LVMH Prize in 2015.) One needn’t look any further than the models who walked in the show to see their attitudes. Friends of the brand, magazine editors and models. The diverse casting skewered ethnic background and shape. Their aim is to “be the brand that can lead real change by focusing around its people.” 

It is a widely-shared opinion amongst the British fashion industry that the threat of Brexit to business and the free movement of persons poses a threat to the fashion industry. In an increasingly divided world, Marques and Almeida’s optimistic message of community spirit and inclusivity felt as much relevant to today’s politics as it does to the brand’s vision.

Despite the discord between their designs and the connotations of Paris Fashion Week, perhaps it makes sense for them to show in Paris: London-based, Portuguese designers showing in Paris, France. (They even acknowledged the underlying Portuguese sensibility present in the collection, possibly denoting the “self-deprecating”, awkward quality to the silhouettes.) Fashion is a global industry and Marques’Almeida is hoping it’ll stay that way.
Photo Credit: voguerunway