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'Gasmasks' by Steven Klein

To open our Political Fashion film season, photographer and provocateur Steven Klein’s piece plays like one of his dark, brutal photoshoots brought to life. Mixing elements of high fashion with the paraphernalia and imagery of the military, Klein’s film is a powerful yet abstract interpretation of the Political Fashion brief which inevitably opens the field for heated discussion.

Each day, a new Political Fashion Film will premier on SHOWstudio, made by a different member of the fashion or art community reacting to the Political Fashion brief set by Nick Knight.


  1. la
    12:52 3 Mar 2008
    there's something dark and in some way reminiscent of the 1930s photogrpher George Platt Lynes, the homoerotic aspects of his work seem in some way to join the darker aspects of Steven Kleins work. Different eras but similar desires.
    On a lighter note it makes me wonder how much of this is Mr Klein everyday life and how much is his fantasy. I am sure he is wealthy enough to live out his fantasies so is this just reportage?
  2. marko
    14:27 3 Mar 2008
    As you know, George Platt Lynes mainly concentrated on real ballet dancers and actors; I think the work by Klein is related to caged fighters, and is probably a comment on the latent homoerotic possibilities that lie within the context of this very macho sport: reportage?
  3. la
    15:35 3 Mar 2008
    I would be very interested to hear what Steven himself says this is about. i am sure he will be reading this. It would be good to hear his thoughts...
  4. VikramKansara
    04:33 4 Mar 2008
    Most "political fashion" isn't about the expression of personal identity, but its radical transformation and annihilation in favor of anonymity and group conformity. It's amazing that the power of these political masks can be both terrifying and darkly sexy.
  5. GalileosUniverse
    07:37 4 Mar 2008
    .... and to what extent is this indeed, indeed, political fashion ? I'm curious :):)... apart of course from wearing gas masks religiously as a rather ' dreamlike ' sexual dark fantasy , with the masks by the way becoming a rather beautiful aesthetic element that works perfect in the whole styling .....
  6. KirstyAlsoppFanclub
    11:58 4 Mar 2008
    Wasn't it from an editorial for W magazine on climate change?
  7. GalileosUniverse
    14:21 4 Mar 2008
    ....thank you indeed! I missed that one ...
    unfortunately !
  8. PennyMartin
    15:02 4 Mar 2008
    In the opening of his 'Politics and Fashion' essay to accompany this project (, Christopher Breward argues that initially, fashion appears to be a good vehicle for governmental/business control because of its involvement in the production, promotion and display. in that sense, i guess you could say identity is conformed in some sense.
    But as for individual identities being given up in favour of anonymity/for the sake of the collective: which collective do you think is powerful enough to inspire such a thing in the present day? Are you talking 'Mao suit' or 'shopping-at-Gap'?
  9. marko
    20:00 4 Mar 2008
    The image does not look menacing or even scary, it just looks like three male models wearing masks: subversive?
  10. DavidArt
    00:31 5 Mar 2008
    It's really awfull, you know, big saturated Nick Knight, Steven Klein.. this Showstudio-"political fashion"-thing is just one more sad exploitation of Johnny de Brest's long-term-project "WAR-FASHION-FAKE", he's working on since 1997.
  11. VikramKansara
    04:49 5 Mar 2008
    Fashion has the potential to be the most radical medium of political control, because it operates on the body itself. When I think of how "political fashion" can suppress or even erradicate individual identity, it's not so much "shopping at Gap" that comes to mind, but burqas, the KKK, and military uniforms.
  12. GalileosUniverse
    05:34 5 Mar 2008
    Oh yes the burkas ! .... God almighty ! ...thanks for bringing that up ! ... and can 'fashion' get more political, dark , mental paresis and extremely relevant than that today .... in the matters of totally debarring individual identity ?
  13. GalileosUniverse
    05:45 5 Mar 2008
    ... interesting ! .... but at the moment ' under construction'
  14. KirstyAlsoppFanclub
    11:51 5 Mar 2008
    Are you suggesting that women that wear a Burka do so as a fashion statement?
  15. Sandrine
    11:55 5 Mar 2008
    Would you say conceptual authenticity is the most important issue here? Or, indeed, this century or last?
  16. VikramKansara
    14:25 5 Mar 2008
    Not at all. "Fashion statements" ultimately comment on fashion. "Political fashion" has two sides:
    (1) I use the language of fashion to express a political statement.
    (2) Fashion acts upon me in a political manner.
    In my previous post, I am referring to the second definition.
  17. KirstyAlsoppFanclub
    15:32 5 Mar 2008
    Thanks Vikram, but I was actually asking the Universe.
  18. marko
    17:39 5 Mar 2008
    From Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings, ed. Mark Poster (Stanford; Stanford University Press, 1988), pp.166-184.
    The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth, it is the truth which conceals that there is none.
    The simulacrum is true [for the postmodern era].
    Conceptual authenticity does not come from fashion photography/videos, however, they do produce a fast food visual spectacle.
  19. GalileosUniverse
    17:40 5 Mar 2008
    Not exactly as you put it..... but the burka has often being borrowed frivolously by some fashion creatives to be used as a kind of 'statement ' , although not quiet clear what their motivations or intentions were/may be in the first place .... as if indeed a burka could ever be placed in the context of woman's' fashion ' at all !.... but for the burka to become a fashion statement that I would find, personally, totally perverse ... if the motivation is to make the subject kind of 'fun to be ' and that, in my personal opinion, is very worrying to me personally who I passionately and absolutely believe in the free spirit of the mind ... having said that ... there is also another piece that has indeed become ' fashionable' and highly political, although , mistakenly, we would rather prefer to look the other way for very obvious reasons..... a rather 'innocent 'piece of fashion , a square of fabric , but nevertheless ... 'highly political fashion' ..... the headscarf !
  20. MarkPavey
    17:11 24 Mar 2008
    Looks like some very bad out takes from Doctor Who circa 1975 - or was it the Goodies? No, definitely Dr Who. Un fucking beleivable!!
  21. MarkPavey
    20:45 24 Mar 2008
    Steven Klein, this is your film:-
    6 men in black on a beach, man with crucifixes walks towards us
    5 men in a greenhouse
    3men + a horse
    1 man and a pram
    3 men shower 1 man at night
    2 men in wind
    6 men on a beach
    6 men 1 in a pool 4 on recliners 1 walks slowly by a fence
    3 men in a greenhouse
    4 1 w surfboard by some uprooted trees
    5 men 3 in a cage 2 outside
    2 at a scene of crime
    6 on a beach
    At first i thought it might be a version of "One man went to mow"....but alas not as complex, nor lucid, nor erudite a piece of artistry as that particular ditty.
    I presume they are all wearing gasmasks because the whole thing STINKS!!!
  22. MarkPavey
    02:09 25 Mar 2008
    Thursday, 13 September 2007 18:05
    Leading British fashion stores today face a dressing down in a new report that claims they have snubbed efforts to lift the workers who make their clothes out of poverty.
    The report includes detailed profiles of 23 retailers, naming and shaming another 11 which have cold-shouldered the only detailed study on the case for garment employees to receive a living wage. The culprits listed are Bhs, Diesel, House of Fraser, Matalan, MK One, Moss Bros, Mothercare, Peacocks/Bon Marche, River Island, Rohan Designs and Ted Baker.
    Read the 2007 update »
    Read the detailed profiles at »
    The report, launched on the eve of London Fashion Week, comes from the anti-poverty charity War on Want and the anti-sweatshop coalition Labour Behind the Label. War on Want and Labour Behind the Label warn shoppers that the 11 retailers "deserve the most severe criticism and consumer scepticism." They say the culprits "make no reasonable information available on the living wage or other labour rights issues" and "continue not to respond to our enquiries about their policies and practice."
    Let’s Clean Up Fashion 2007 also attacks other brands, including Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia group, Tesco and Marks & Spencer for giving huge rewards to their chiefs and models compared to poverty wages for employees who produce their clothes:
    Topshop owner Green’s £1.2 billion dividend was enough to double the salaries of Cambodian’s whole garment workforce for eight years.
    A worker making clothes for Green’s Arcadia group in Mauritius would need to toil for almost 4,000 years to gain the £3 million model Kate Moss earned for her Topshop clothing range.
    The £4.6 million in salary and bonuses for Tesco’s chief executive Sir Terry Leahy could pay the annual wages of more than 25,000 Bangladeshi garment employees who supply its stores, based on average wages of about £15 a month.
    Coleen McLoughlin, the fiancée of footballer Wayne Rooney, collected a reported £1.5 million as a spokesmodel for George at Asda - clothes made in Bangladesh for five pence an hour. Coleen’s £3000 Hermes Birkin handbag cost more than a Bangladeshi garment employee could earn in 16 years.
    The £2.3 million in salary and bonuses for M&S chief executive Stuart Rose would pay the annual wages of almost 12,000 Sri Lankan garment workers.
    In the report one Bangladeshi worker, Mohua, who earns about £16 a month producing clothes for Asda and Tesco, says: "The wages I get are not enough to cover the cost of food, house rent and medicine." Nadia, paid 70 pence an hour in a Moroccan factory making clothes for a well-known fashion brand, is 35, but cannot afford to have children and shares her three-room home with nine family members.
    The report says that, even taking into account cheaper living costs in developing countries, garment employees in Bangladesh earn on average just 7% of a UK living wage, 9% in India, 11% in China and Vietnam, 14% in Thailand and 25% per cent in Morocco. It censures more brands for lack of action on a living wage. Three of the companies which responded - French Connection, Laura Ashley and Mosaic Fashions (Oasis etc) – had "nothing to show", while the bulk of the high street is branded as "disappointingly slow."
    Only three retailers both accepted the need for a significant improvement in wages and had any apparent genuine plans to address them - Gap, New Look and Next.
    Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer for War on Want, said: "This report exposes retailers’ empty rhetoric on ethical treatment for workers who make their clothes, but remain trapped in poverty. The British government must introduce regulation to stop UK companies exploiting overseas workers."
    Martin Hearson, campaign coordinator at Labour Behind the Label, said: "The brands’ public statements suggest that everything is OK for the labour behind their labels, and that workers are earning a decent wage. This is quite simply untrue, as our research shows."
  23. 1cal1
    23:05 25 Mar 2008
    Oh cut the man some slack. It doesn't fucking stink. He is just trying to have a go at saying something political with his work. We can't all be perfect all the time. Poor man tries to do something new and everybody just stamps on it .
    It must be hard to get fashion photographers to break the mold a bit. I recon encouragement might yield better films rather than armchair critics.
    I like this film. It has its narratives and visually his work occupies a respected and original space in the world of fashion photography.
    I admire him for trying something new ,I wish there were more around like him,not all fucking petrified of stepping out of line.
  24. MarkPavey
    10:47 2 Apr 2008
    Let's have a sexy girl for a change ..... with a sexy body.... and just a knockout-10.......................... figure