After doing further research on the issue of the lack of racial diversity among models in the fashion industry I have decided to narrow my focus down to the casting of Vetements designer and Balenciaga artistic director Demna Gvasalia’s shows. This designer has gained a lot of attention recently for his work and has been described as ‘revolutionary’ by critics (Business of Fashion). However, the casting of both his shows this Fall ’16 season consisted of solely white models. As a brand that draws inspiration from urban youth culture, this as casting director James Scully says: ‘must feel like a slap to all of the people of color who line up to buy your clothes that your message to them [is that] you don’t see them in your world’ (NY Mag).
As fashion is a form of art, we have to analyse the messages that these aspirational brands convey and the ideologies they support through their work. It is critical to understand that these brands have the power to impose certain ideologies and standards of ‘beauty’. These messages filter down from the front row to fans of the brands to customers to blogs and magazines and to fast fashion stores affecting those at all stages. Gvasalia however, does not seem to understand his potential to influence and his social responsibility. “Well, I thought at a time when Donald Trump might be a President of the United States that I, a clothes maker, have to make political statement about ethnic diversity is funny” (Gvasalia as quoted by Telegraph UK).
Upon reflecting on this comment I have decided that I will create an art work that draws attention to the Vetements brand. This is a brand that is known for their current, cool and edgy streetwear aesthetic. I will play with their recognisable, distinct silhouettes and create digital collages that raise awareness of the lack of racial diversity in their casting. The works I make are what I would imagine would accompany a theoretical social media campaign with a hashtag along the lines of #boycottvetements. The campaign would approach social media influencers to help spread the message on instagram – a platform so critical in the fashion industry right now. In deciding this I have made myself a brief of sorts. There should be a series of at least four works. They should be recognisable as being associated with Vetements without plagiarising. They should be Guerilla style to make a statement about how the lack of diversity from a designer with such an influence at the moment is unacceptable.
I have looked at other successful social media campaigns such as #LastSelfie and #FreeTheNipple to see how I could theoretically use instagram as the platform to share my work. I also researched the work of Naomi Campbell, Iman and Bethann Hardison who’s campaign ‘Balanced Diversity’ was successful in publicly chastising designers for their white washed runways. Iman, an incredibly successful black model ‘redefined popular conceptions of black beauty’ (Koda and Yohannen 104). She asserted that black women should not stand in the shadows of Eurocentric beauty standards (Koda and Yohannen 104). The campaign ‘awakened a lot of designers to their subconscious prejudices’ (The Washington Post). As this method of activism of publicly shaming or calling out specific designers seems to have been successful in the past I will continue along this path with my final work.
Shand, Rosa. Vetements Sketches. 2016. Illustrator.
These are some illustrator sketches of Vetements F/W 16 collection that I will use in my final work.
Campbell, Jason. “Op-Ed | Whites-Only Policy at Vetements and Balenciaga.” The Business of Fashion. N.p., 08 Mar. 2016. Web. 07 June 2016.
Finnigan, Kate. “Demna Gvasalia on Race, That DHL T-shirt and Why He Wouldn’t Pay for His Own Designs.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 18 May 2016. Web. 07 June 2016.
Givhan, Robin. “The Fashion World Is Keeping Stats on Runway Diversity, but What’s the Real Goal?” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 21 Mar. 2016. Web. 07 June 2016.
Hyland, Véronique. “Why Do Designers Get a ‘Cool-Kid’ Pass on Diversity?”The Cut. NY Mag, 7 Mar. 2016. Web. 8 June 2016.
Koda, Harold, and Kohle Yohannan. The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009. Print.