He, She, Me

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Telfar Clemens Spring 2015 Ready-to-Wear[1]

During Wednesday’s Fashion Cultures Lecture, Professor Christina Moon interviewed a fashion designer, Telfar Clemens, who has a multicultural background (born in New York and raised in Liberia). Clements introduced a new term, “simplexity,” as his design philosophy and emphasized the fact that his collection is made for both men and women. That struck me as particularly intriguing this week. Though he pointed out that traditional media often responds to social phenomenons slower than the Internet (e.g., Instagram), interestingly, Vogue contributor Katherine Bernard complemented his latest 2015 Spring collection by saying, “Clemens plays with gendered silhouettes and color palettes…in a considered way—he was, after all, first in the wave of designers to find the sweet spot between a man and a woman’s wardrobe.”[2]

Moreover, Clements argued that the Internet tends to normalize social categories and as a result new norms would be created. I second his notion here because the mass media often chooses certain groups of people (LGBT in this case) or minorities and then values their social status. To some degree, it seems fair enough that the media gave them a voice to be heard in society. However, we do not usually realize that it involves the power of dominance and a sense of hierarchy. Through the recognition of their existence, the mainstream actually puts new tags on them and draws invisible lines in between. It reminded me that a “Harry Potter” fan recently asked J.K. Rowling why Dumbledore is gay on Twitter, because she could not see him in that way. Rowling had the perfect response for the confused tweeter (see image below)[3].

JK ROWLING

Yes! Everyone is the same since we all belong to the only category – human. Interestingly, most of the time judgments do not come from outside but inside. We tend to judge each other from within and meanwhile complain about the external inequality, which to me is quite problematic.

From a historical perspective, subverting gender in fashion has been a popular point of departure for designers from the postmodern era such as Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano and Walter Van Beirendonck, who have redefined our assumptions with theatrical flair. These designers rebel against gender norms to offer a transgressive act in the constructed system. Nowadays, unisex fashion, on the other hand, is concerned with the union of menswear and womenswear as one streamlined entity and therefore offers equality rather than rebellion.

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Jean Paul Gaultier, 2011 Spring Ad Campaign with Karolina Kurkova (left) and Andrej Pejic (right)[4]

[1] http://www.style.com/fashion-shows/spring-2015-ready-to-wear/telfar/collection

[2] Zarrella, Katharine. “Why Telfar Spring 2015 Sent Up Smiles, Cheers—and #Telfies,” Vogue.com, September 7, 2014. http://www.vogue.com/1173131/telfar-spring-2015-collection/

[3] https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/580414479604822016

[4] https://podofsweetpeas.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/androgyny-a-genderless-fashion-2-2/

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3 responses to “He, She, Me

  1. I really like how you incorporate the quote from Bernard in this post. In a fashion culture that is obsessed with gender and sexuality, it’s a bold statement to say that Clemens is “first in the wave of designers to find the sweet spot between a man and a woman’s wardrobe”. I think this makes sense though because he focuses on what feels good to wear regardless of gender instead of focusing on gender. The Gaultier image you’ve included is a highly sexualized and voyeuristic, for example. How does Clemens’s work in relation to this?

    • Thank you for the comment, Colleen!

      I agree with you that Clemens actually focuses on what feels good to wear. I included The Gaultier image because I thought it would be interesting to bring the idea of androgyny into conversation since Andrej Pejic was still an androgyny model (instead of transgender) at that time.

      I think designers and fashion houses typify gender and plural sexuality represented in their designs. Although they act against traditional feminine/masculine norms and promote gender-neutral sexuality, their efforts thrive on the ruling system of age and sexual desire. The binary oppositional sexuality centered on men has been pushed towards sexual plurality, but it is still positioned in traditional heterosexual norms, keeping the vertical power relationship between men and women. As a result, humans are perpetually boxed into categories of masculinity vs. femininity.

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