In the presentation, editor and publisher Jeremy Lewis described fashion as a business (not art). That stuck me as particularly intriguing this week. It resonates with Elizabeth Hawes’ statement in Fashion Is Spinach that “fashion is a parasite on style” and “now we have the advertising agency and the manufacturer, the department store and the fashion writer all here to tell us that the past, present, and future of clothing depends on fashion, ceaselessly changing.” To me, fashion is temporary and opposite to style, which is relatively permanent and gives us the fundamental feeling of a certain period in life. If, as Lewis says, fashion is a language, which we learn when we grow up, I believe style is a universal language that human beings all share the same letters, vocabulary, and pronunciation. We do not need to study a language (or fashion) to understand different cultures. Art sometimes also becomes a business in modern era.
The presentation and recitation afterward leads us to the discussion of Orientalism and cultural appropriation (what Hawes called “influences”). This reminded me of an article from Minh-Ha T. Pham, highlighting that fashion’s appropriation depends on a one-way power flow from the top down and “white Western domination over and exploitation of culture at the expense of everyone else.” It means power relations are in play, which tend to be based, at least in part, on the majority’s ability to persuade. A much deeper problem is “the almost-exclusive control of white perspectives to define what is beautiful.” To a great extent, I agree with her statement, but Lewis told us he did not think appropriation offended other cultures as they reintroduce interesting elements to a group of people not familiar with that culture. I tend to be positive here and think we are actually moving towards cultural appreciation and cultural sharing instead of cultural plundering or cultural borrowing. Many Asian designers are re-Orientalizing and re-appropriating the Western symbols and styles in their work. Junya Watanabe is famous for producing Western-inspired workwear and Xander Zhou created a collection called “Wild West” for Autumn/Winter 2015. They, along with other fashion designers and scholars, challenge the idea of the absolute power and authority of the West to control how the world sees, knows, and talks about the East.
Xander Zhou “Wild West” Autumn/Winter 2015
Junya Watanabe Autumn/Winter 2012
 Elizabeth Hawes, Fashion Is Spinach, (1938): 6.
 Ibid, 8.
 Minh-Ha T. Pham, “Fashion’s Cultural-Appropriation Debate: Pointless.” The Atlantic, http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/05/cultural-appropriation-in-fashion-stop-talking-about-it (accessed 03/12, 2015)
 Minh-Ha T. Pham. “Diversity” in Fashion Will Never be enough.” SALON, http://www.salon.com/2013/10/02/diversity_in_fashion_will_never_be_enough_partner (accessed 03/12, 2015)