by Daryoush Haj-Najafi
Glamour's constituent parts, sex and power, are easily worn but great clothes must serve not just the groin and our inner wage slave but also the head.
Last week’s launch of The Force, a Lucas Arts game based on Star Wars and light-sabre fighting in particular, brought home the realisation that fashion as quick fix of glamour is being challenged by the electronic. First let's define fashion itself; the moment, the situation as something that happens to clothes and not short hand for the apparel industry. Now lets get wordy with glamour - a corruption of an old Scottish word for magic, the spectacle if you like. Glamour's constituent parts, sex and power, are easily worn but great clothes must serve not just the groin and our inner wage slave but also the head, that means considering glamour's most overlooked ingredient: spirituality.
Most designers don't do spirituality, materialism being an innate quality of those who are in love enough with material to devote their lives to working with it. For our purposes, understand spirituality to mean tribalism: it’s designers on that track who understand the world we living in today. Think feminism and Chanel or YSL circa Rive Gauche, the Westwoods and McLarens, and Cassette Playas who turn cloth into a billboard for mindsets, amplifying and financing their ideas, leading. The new ever-deeper electronic realm is deeply spiritual because within it we are in continual communion with the tribe.
If glamour is part power and the welding of power, as Zizek pointed out, always involves violence, the electronic realm is deeply glamorous precisely because within it, like in music, violence becomes harmless enough that it ends up indistinguishable from that other frenetic kinetic, sex. Music is group mind-fucking, even listened to on your own, a fantastic dance floor can best the in-out, with all the agony and the ecstasy. The electronic realm melds violence with the metaphysical. Rap is the obvious reference here: through well chosen words rappers seek to unite might and right, to bear light.
Glamour’s un-reachability, our momentary want to be iconic - or more precisely an icon, the Hindu Om, the infinity symbol of within you and without you - is best by expressed by those avowed Wu-Tang clan fans These New Puritans singing in Swords of Truth: 'You know I'll be thinking this music's symbolic, this music is weightless and when I sing, so am I, You'll be slashing at the air, describing nothing'.
In music and the electronic, the self-actualisation causes the group euphorics. It's that rapturous amplification that makes being within the musical and electronic so glamorous: temporarily you're situated within the spectacle, you're experiencing Mihály Csíkszentmihályi's Flow, wherein a person is fully immersed in what they are doing. We used to pose like our favourite actors; the new glamour sees us not in but as the music video. We want to be the spell, to move with sound.
It's this opening frontier that's going to be the source of new fashion. The easy rebellion of the sexual revolution has run its course - although soon we might be allowed to be deviant, in the daylight and sober, and still run for office. Aspirational used to mean pretend-rich, a high level of sexual appeal, promiscuity or career success. Now however, as cyberspace conceptualist William Gibson, 59-year-old author of seminal cyberpunk text Necromancer, pointed out in The Observer in answer to an attempt to identify his inspiration, 'I was always struck by the idea that the kids pushing the buttons wanted more than anything to be on the other side of the screen. The look on their faces suggested that.' This cyberdellic frontier simplistically wrought in Disney's Tron and the emergence of the latest 'creative/procedural generative music' videogames: such as Japanese artist and pioneering innovator in the field, Toshio Iwai's Electroplankton and cult hit REZ, is the new black and a positive move from ‘Me’ to ‘We’.