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'Untitled' by Craig McDean

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The first words – “Tell me about politics and fashion” – open up a veritable Pandora’s Box as Craig McDean’s camera gives us an insider’s view, reportage-style, of the industry’s own answers (or arguments) as to what is Political Fashion. Face –to-face, straight up, and distinctly black-and-white.


  1. la
    07:33 2 May 2008
    always love Craig.
  2. harley
    08:26 2 May 2008
    well there you have it Muccia Prada thinks politics and fashion are relevant to each other.
  3. GalileosUniverse
    08:50 2 May 2008
    Wonderful mix of opinions ! ... but I seem to have been fascinated mostly by the illustrious Muccia Prada faceless interview while holding that empty glass .... just exactly like a homeless person would do while begging on the streets for a coin to have a meal ...... surreal ... beautifully surreal... the effect !
  4. BabyAnne
    09:06 2 May 2008
    Great film
  5. KirstyAlsoppFanclub
    10:31 2 May 2008
    Is she saying 'relevant' or 'irrelevant'?
  6. bamia
    14:07 2 May 2008
    Yeah, well, Miuccia Prada thinks a lot of things. She also happens to be a self-proclaimed communist who peddles prohibitively expensive bags to russian prostitutes and puts badger-faced fashion editors in cocktail dresses.
    Something tells me the woman isn't necessarily the best authority on politics. Why would she be? Aside from exhibiting severe intellectual confusion, she's a dressmaker who can't even sew for Christ sake.
    Apropos of the whole film, thank God, it was the best, most interesting and most glamorous of the whole project hands down! If anything, it reassured me that the fashion industry isn't completely populated by delusionoids - there are plenty of people out there who know exactly what fashion is and, more importantly, what it isn't. Bravo to all those who look fashion in the face and who have enough common sense and humility to understand where it fits in with our lives. Unlike certain dangerous minds (you know who you are...) who try to naively promote its propagandistic power and pull one over on us.
  7. bamia
    14:26 2 May 2008
    And on that note:
    "Fashion is allowed a creative space in which it can enjoy a free quotation of visual references. This is what makes fashion stimulating - it can use ‘controversial’ imagery to create an exciting, sensational effect that feels contemporary and arresting – think of the way you felt when you first saw the Bennetton campaign with the gay guy dying of AIDS or the ‘shocking’ heroin chic look of the CK ads. Fashion has license to use these elements in order to create exciting sensations to sell clothes. Now, I’m totally okay with this; I think it’s harmless provocation on a fun, superficial level. But that, I’m afraid, is all there is to it.
    I am not saying that fashion creatives should be forbidden from using ‘political’ imagery. On the contrary, I think that fashion creatives can use whichever imagery they want in order to get the reaction they are looking for. However, to claim that fashion itself is ‘political’ on the grounds that it appropriates a provocative slogan or a controversial image is deeply foolish. Fashion will never be political because fashion does not have any points to make. Fashion is ideologically castrated, it is decorative, the eunuch of the visual arts. Fashion is also not Art. When fashion has been appropriated by political thinkers in the past it becomes instrumental in the creation of a fascistoid model - an order based on visual idealism. The only points that fashion makes are ones governed by fantasy, idealism and aesthetics. Period."
  8. saint
    14:56 2 May 2008
    and you do what?
  9. jondones
    16:16 2 May 2008
    McDean gives us a view into fashion world’s psyche, a low blow interrogated version of it, but there is some realness to what our subjects are saying and not saying. If someone stopped me point blank, I don’t know how I would fare in that confrontation. It’s tough to say but do we need to be fair to these people? Probably, but I personally admire McDean’s gull.
    But how do we define Fashion? How do we define Politics?
    If we are talking about parliament, presidents and policy most of the ways are not very fashionable. I think the ways we learn about governmental politics could be more savory, but over saturating political motivations with aesthetics could be a dangerous path to take. I wouldnt especialliay in regards to the end of "Bamia's" suggestion of it becoming an instrument of fascism, Hitler's platform was a purely aesthetic one based on classicist ideals.
    However if we realize the definition of politics, (separate from governmental politics) as the ways that we, individually or collectively, mitigate conflict and power in our daily life, than there are many ways in which fashion influences our political dispositions; race, class, gender, sexuality, identity and so fourth.
    Fashion in this sense is a tremendously powerful communicator of political messages. Messages we absorb most ubiquitously from imagery, moving and still but also in design.
    You can insert the vast post-modernist rhetoric on visual culture here: Barthes, Foucault, McLuhan, Baudrillard, Lyotard etc. It’s important, but I will spare it.
    Is it fair to assume most of us are equipped with this knowledge or at least the visual literacy that it professes? I would instead like to go back to Baudelaire’s essay “The Painter of Modern Life,” one of Modernity’s formative texts.
    "The aim for [the artist] is to extract from fashion the poetry that resides in its historical envelope, to distill the eternal from the transitory. .... Modernity is the transient, the fleeting, the contingent; it is one half of art, the other being the eternal and the immovable.”
    Baudelaire defines for us a duality in modern life. To embrace and balance our lives between the temporary external and that which carries gravity and spirit. What I would like to convey with this passage is the ethos of style and consciousness… a way of life for the ‘spiritual citizen of the world’ and a disdain for “the many thoughtless people … who are grave without having gravity.”(Baudelaire)
    Historian and activist Howard Zinn states in ‘Artist’s In a Time of War’ that the role of the artist in society is to be transcendent.
    Before anything we decide that we are, professionally or individually, we are citizens and humans. The political device is one area of modern life in which we all share a duty.
    If the goal of the avant-garde is to close the gap in consciousness between art and daily life, to live life freely and transcend autonomy, monotony, hegemony etc, than we shall consider ourselves citizens first then artists and then whatever else we choose.
    Fashion is one of the many delicious coatings of the eternal.
    Fashion and politics are both transitory, as are morals.
    Spirit is eternal. Spirit is of the individual.
    On a final note…
    If I can yield one prime example of a creative entity in which the dialogue between politics and fashion is immanent it would be Rei Kawakubo. Her work through design, textile and architecture, allows us to consistently consider and redefine imperfection, ugliness, gender, identity and many other things. Her work is the crossroads of many things, politics and fashion being one of them.
  10. jondones
    16:21 2 May 2008
    Jon Dones
    Artistic Director
    Terrance Sullivan
  11. Sandrine
    17:32 2 May 2008
    So, are you saying that to be politicised and design fashion, you should create clothing that's unattractive to the consumer? Or to down tools immediately and take up another profession?
  12. Jarvis
    19:04 2 May 2008
    "Fashion is one of the many delicious coatings of the eternal." What a ridiculous, pompous and muddled post.
    It seems to me obvious that fashion is political - in the way that all things that play a role within human interaction are political. Obviously, day to day choices about what to wear support our desire to belong to social groups, individual notions of display, concealment and personal ambition - in other words purely selfish human impulses. Theres nothing wrong with this of course - it is one element of the oil that has kept the wheels of social interaction turning for centuries. However, it is possible to see this for what it is and minimize it's importance in your life.
    The more pertinent question is what general political position does the fashion industry take. The answer to this is simple - the fashion industry supports the status quo. It's primary goal is to make money and to achieve this aim it bolsters the western capitalist model. Bamia you are missing this point when you say that fashion doesn't have a point to make. No ideology is an ideology. Not taking sides allows you to take the position that best suits your personal interest. More damingly it trivializes life thereby distracting attention from events/issues/politics that truly matter. It is decidedly right wing and reactionary...
    Any discussion of fashion and politics that doesn't address the fashion 'industry' is foolish. Take a look at this website for example - the latest 'project' is a clumsy campaign for a women's lingerie company. This isn't art - its advertising with the primary goal to flog product. Nick Knight has gone out of his way to distract attention from this cold hard fact by employing smoke and mirrors and cloaking his work/this site in a fog of 'creative culture'
    Finally, I might forgive this if the end result (the art produced) had any real value. But unfortunately it is generally clueless, obsessed with the surface of things and full of posturing. BAD art in other words. The series of films in this 'art + politics project' are a case in point - almost without exception they are shallow and clumsy with nothing interesting to say.
    If your talent is to be a stylist - to experiment with form and function then be honest enough to embrace this. Attempting to dress your work up (ahem) any other way is just wrong headed and disingenuous.
  13. GalileosUniverse
    13:20 3 May 2008
    'Any discussion of fashion and politics that doesn't address the fashion 'industry' is foolish.' .... The clue the whole clue and nothing but the clue ! .... it is not so hard to understand the direction where the wind should blow or is it ?
  14. GalileosUniverse
    15:28 3 May 2008
    ' Jarvis ' ... let him be ' ridiculous, pompous ' etc .. at least we the viewers know exactly who is behind such a ' pompous ' thinking and that is ironically rather commendable. Forgive me but I cannot understand why a person with such a highly intelligent thinking, very articulate, with very valid points of view and who does seem rather knowledgeable in the matter and of who I dare to speculate is a kind of authority in the subject, didn't take such an opportunity to make your strong points of view known by taking part in the Political Fashion project, a theme that does seem to interest you I assume .... and then perhaps help to raise up the quality of the contributions as a consequence. It is not very brave to just hit and run ! ... so in the end the merit of the comments do seem to be overshadowed by lack of personality and preferring to stay in the hidden totally anonymous and therefore deny yourself the copyright that
    belongs to you and you rightly deserve !
  15. saint
    16:16 3 May 2008
    jarvis,it might be a good idea to get some of your facts straight before you post on this forum. You would do yourself no harm by reading the discussion that has been going on during the course of this Political Fashion project especially the comments of Brooke Taylor pointing out very clearly the basic fact that this is fashion and politics and not as you have mistakenly written and seemingly based your whole critique on that it is "art+ politics".
    Incidentally ,to my knowledge Nick Knight has never claimed his work to be "art" and has in nearly every interview I have read he has acknowledged that he is a commercial image maker and indeed on this site has said very clearly that the label of artist is not one he feels is relevant or of any interest to him.
  16. GalileosUniverse
    16:31 3 May 2008
    QUOTE: ' When fashion has been appropriated by political thinkers in the past it becomes instrumental in the creation of a fascistoid model ' ...
    .... and ironically political correctness in fashion does seem to be going exactly that way !
  17. GalileosUniverse
    18:06 3 May 2008
    it seems indeed that Fashion and Politics do not mix ... for obvious reasons and yet to simply fold back and do nothing is rather unrealistic when the facts are that the fashion industry does bear a great responsability in many aspects of the work conditions it provides, its business ethics and the negative way in which it contributes to the detriment of the environment. When such utterly relevant urgent agendas are brushed aside because fashion cannot mix with politics that in a way is rather to easy and seems to perpetuate the thought of its inability to be taken serious therefore changing nothing in the end .... being intellectual about 'fashion and politics' is very interesting and fascinating reading but it doesn't offer any solutions to the problems in need to be addressed but on the contrary it just tends to validate the argument that Fashion cannot be taken serious and is rather irrelevant when it comes to politics and that seems to justify its keeping of the status quo as it is today which in the end we don't want to continue as it is or do we ?
  18. Jarvis
    01:02 4 May 2008
    Beyond mistakingly titling this project 'art + politics' rather than 'political fashion' (I was distracted while posting - such is life) I'm not really sure which 'facts' I failed to get straight.
    My post was a response to THIS thread, not the entire ongoing discussion. My main point was that fashion is inherently political since it forms a part of human social interaction. However, for me the more important issue is the political position of the fashion industry - which on the whole supports a reactionary, right leaning libertarian world view. It seems to me that Mr Knight/Showstudio's position in this industry should be questioned, since the project itself was initiated and titled by Knick Knight/Showstudio.
    Finally, perhaps you should read the 'about' section of this website. If you do you will find the following quote from Mr Knight;
    “SHOWstudio is based on the belief that showing the entire creative process—from conception to completion—is beneficial for the artist, the audience and the art itself.”
  19. Jarvis
    01:38 4 May 2008
    Galileo. My intention wasn't to 'hit and run' but rather to join the discussion. This is my first post because I generally try to concentrate my energy on production rather than criticism. My reasons for not taking part in the project itself can surely be gleaned from my comments.
    I also don't feel it's necessary to disclose who I am and what I do - in the same way that I don't feel its necessary to know who someone is in order to engage in a logical argument with them.
  20. Landon
    04:14 4 May 2008
    I agree, the post you are responding to is ridiculous, pompous and muddled - I don't blame him, though - I blame Foucalt, who he's obviously influenced by. Poor guy.
    So, the fashion industry is about making money. Of course, but this doesn't mean that nothing good can come of it as an externality.
    The music and film businesses are about making money. So, by your logic, they are inherently right wing and reactionary, too? Nothing good or of value can come out of them either? Obviously, that's nonsense.
    Even the highest forms of fine art can be said to be about making money. Oh, but that's 'western capitalism' and so it's inhernetly wrong!! Right?
    I also have an issue with how you disingenuously slag off Nick Night and Showstudio. So, the latest project isn't really art, it's advertising! You don't say! Wow, nothing gets by you, huh? As some guy pointed out in this film 'soup can - art. art - soup can.' It's hardly like he's trying to pull a fast one on the audience. It's obvious to anyone with grey matter that it's a promotional campaign for a company, and it doesn't make any pretension to not be. It's also smacks of 'THIS is art! THAT is not!' which is simple-minded.
    You also go on about 'shallowness', the 'surface of things' - it's photography, fashion and visual art, isn't it? Of course it's about the visual, the 'surface of things'. If you want something more deep, read a book.
    Ach, I have more to say but don't have time.
  21. Jarvis
    06:38 4 May 2008
    Wow, what a sneering response.
    Firstly, nowhere in my first post did I say 'nothing good' comes from the fashion industry. Go back and read it again. My comment is about the STRUCTURE of the industry, it's political position (on the whole) and the importance of discussing this. Amazing things are produced by creative people from inside this system and it's interesting to look at the different ways they embrace this or keep it at arms length. My point is that surely this is something worth discussing within the framework of a debate about fashion and politics.
    Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with making money! And running a buisness DOES NOT make you right wing. It is possible to run a business and still be broadly responsible and socially engaged. To value quality of life over profit in other words. The fashion industry (like the music and film industries) are not autonomous machines. They are collections of people who have the option to decide the path they would like to take. And yes, in my opinion the western capitalist project is inherently wrong. Look around you for a moment!
    So, in the light of the above I'm distrustful of many of the elements of this site/project. It depresses me that so much of the content engages with form (how things look and/or are made) rather than content (history and context). I am simply calling Showstudio out about its particular choices and its position in the fashion industry within the framework of a discussion/project about fashion and politics - a discussion started by Nick Knight. If I can't do this now then when?
    And yes, I am dissappointed with the quality of the work presented (on the whole). Why must fashion be shallow/only about the surface of things. Why can't clothes, cloth, stitching engage deeper ideas? After all, it is possible to look at a hunting jacket from the 18th century and treat it like a book - as a historical document about class, technology and trade. At the end of the day Showstudio is not promoted as a run of the mill forum/showcase for the workings/mechanics of the fashion buisness. Nick Knight actually makes some big statements about art/creativity which I think it is important to call him on.
    Finally, I find that making a strong personal decision about what is and isn't art/good/bad very liberating. I have my own particular manifesto which I've tried and tested over a number of years. Warhol wasn't necessarily right (or wrong) you know - he was simply applying his own particular manifesto to the culture that surrounded him...
  22. GalileosUniverse
    07:28 4 May 2008
    Thank you for the response and indeed you don't need to disclose your identity ... but I'm not so sure if it is done to attack others in a rather unsavoury manner whose identities are known to you ... but then you yourself can enjoy the privilege of remaining anonymous in stead , that was my point ... but then again nobody is totally perfect ... and I can respect that from you ! And joining in the discussion to contribute with interesting constructive criticism is indeed a great plus in such relevant topic, this is my very personal point of view of course as a Show studio viewer who feels that however imperfect Showstudio and their projects may be, it does have a very positive and constructive attitude as far as letting everyone join in to discuss about their projects ..... and if you do have any ideas how to improve things we the viewers would love to read them because constructive criticism is the best way to go forward and help improve our imperfect world .... however much Fashion seems to be immune to the ' bug ' so far ..:):)
  23. GalileosUniverse
    07:51 4 May 2008
    Excellent ! ...."in my opinion the western capitalist project is inherently wrong. Look around you for a moment!'' ... this is an understatement !
    The western capitalist project has gone totally, totally wrong, madness is the right word and we only need to look at how it has China under its
    spell, combining the very worst of 'socialism' with the very worst of capitalism .... a deadly combination, an unstoppable Pandora box !
  24. saint
    13:26 4 May 2008
    The reason I suggest you look at past comments is that a lot of the ground you cover has already been discussed at length and so there is a frustration from regular forum contributors at repeatedly going over and over the same ground.
    In regard to your comments about Nick Knight the quote you mention is outlining a manifesto for a website and not how the man sees is own work.
    In general it appears that SHOWstudio offers a platform for just such discussions as this. I see no parallel for this anywhere else in the industry. What would you rather see just more and more and more Mario ?
  25. saint
    13:49 4 May 2008
    You say in your post that "fashion" trivializes life but your argument is that then fashion should be just about the trivial .
    I can't reconcile your position with the obvious realities that I see in the fashion world. Just to take one example ,that of Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons,Please explain how can you possibly call her work "right wing" or "reactionary" or how can you look at her work and dismiss it as trivial ?
  26. la
    17:07 4 May 2008
    " Why must fashion be shallow/only about the surface of things. Why can't clothes, cloth, stitching engage deeper ideas?"
    The people that Show studio works with on a regular basis are exactly the sort of people that would believe and agree with that. Look through the archive you will find work with Hussein Chalayan, Watanabe, Bjork, Viktor and Rolf, Margeila ,Westwood, Mc Queen, Bernard Wilhelm, Peter Saville,Raf Simmons,Jason Evans, Yamamoto, the Chapmans,Tracy Emin,David Chipperfield, the list goes on and on opera ,a two year long project on contemporary performance art , previously unseen films of Bourdin and Blumenfeld. All for free. Doesn't seem much to do with the capitalist system to me.
  27. la
    17:36 4 May 2008
    "Why must fashion be shallow/only about the surface of things." because when anyone tries to talk about issues such as politics and fashion which is clearly trying to widen the parameters of what fashion can express people like you react with such hostility.
  28. la
    17:56 4 May 2008
    "The series of films in this 'art + politics project' are a case in point - almost without exception they are shallow and clumsy with nothing interesting to say."
    I feel you have missed the point ,these are films made by people not using their primary skill set ( sorry I can't think of another way of putting it ) ,these are films by make up artists , models, set designers , photographers, nail technicians, stylists and so on virtually no one is a film maker but they are all willing to try and experiment and try to say something. The point is that they all brave enough to try and say something and for that I applaud them.
    If projects like this didn't exist I fail to see how the fashion will ever change.
  29. Landon
    23:47 4 May 2008
    'It is possible to run a business and still be broadly responsible and socially engaged. To value quality of life over profit in other words.'
    Of course, who's arguing against that? Who wants UNBRIDLED capitalism with no government oversight? That's not what 'western capitalism' necessarily entails. The other side of the coin to western capitalism is liberal democracy - which in the larger scale of history has been incredibly beneficial in so many ways - indeed, just 'look around you for a moment!' Why it's failing is the 'liberal democracy' part - governments are failing to rein in capitalism and steer it in a way that's in accordance to the will of the people.
    I still disagree that there is something inherently wrong with 'western capitalism' - and apparantly so do you as you assert in the same breath that there is nothing wrong with making money, or that running a business doesn't make you 'right wing, reactionary'.
    You were still saying that for an artist to maintain any integrity they shouldn't be associated with corporations - or else they are maintaining the status quo and are inhernently right wing and reactionary...I mean, come on! It's shallow, polarized and binary thinking.
    Re: the Political Fashion project, they are not the authors of the films, they are providing the venue for fashion in a political context. As an experiment, to see what will come of it.
    Your other aesthetic criticisms of this site just don't ring true to me at all.
    (btw, I know it's Nick Knight, not Night - sorry!)
  30. KirstyAlsoppFanclub
    09:30 5 May 2008
    How do you know how Nick Knight sees his own work?