25 September 2010

Freedom in afemininity?

This is Heikki Salonen's second consecutive season as a part of London's coveted Fashion East programme:

The Finnish designer graduated from London's Royal College of Art in 2008 and has since had his graduate collection exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum, worked with Erdem, launched an eponymous label and become a creative consultant for Diesel.

I hadn't really noted his name before but this collection really stood out amongst the general monotony of this season's offerings. I'm not really sure why, because he doesn't seem to have done anything radically new, but there is a sense of nonchalance toward stylistic conventions here that really appeals to me. I might call it 'afemininity' if I could say that without needing to refer to femininity itself.

What I mean is that it's not about being 'unfeminine' but rather that it moves away from a need to define things in such bipolarity. I look forward to a day when femininity and masculinity are not even on offer, are not questions we bother to register - are not on the proverbial table - but for now they are still well-and-truly lurking, hence I need to say 'afeminine' to define Salonen's step away from this trope. Dress is skirt is trousers is shirt: the message is one of fashion(style)-thought not of fashion-trend, pushing not solely toward a new proportion but a new conception of how we need and want to dress - of what is supposedly 'attractive'.

I think it is important to always bear in mind the external forces which tell us that women 'naturally' look feminine and men 'naturally' masculine and indeed that a dress is the former, trousers latter; long hair former, short latter; high-heels former, flats latter. What has created these dichotomies if not a society whose success depends on the traditional (and increasingly hypocritical, paradoxical) relegation of woman to home and man to work (i.e. work/home dialectic)?

I don't want to sound like I'm reading too much into this (I am), because of course we can say "androgyny has already been done a hundred times", "the notion of femininity is what oils the cogs of the fashion industry", "Rick Owens, Ann Demeulemeester, Gareth Pugh, et al. have already done the femi/masc melange", etc., etc., and these would all be both true and missing the point. [Namely that those designers still work within notions of the feminine and the masculine even if they are ostensibly 'subverting' such notions, thus they uphold the relevance of the terms. In another world we wouldn't speak of it. (I'm going to shut up soon!)]

The point also being that it took Salonen's collection for these thoughts to concretise in my mind, for something I've been feeling and desiring for a while to manifest itself (at least to me) on a catwalk - a domain I'd been starting to feel was becoming utterly devoid of anything but empty barks from a priveleged few about how the new trend "will be 'glam', for sure" or how "the girls" should look "hot, modern and sexy" this season.

And if I can see a thought manifest itself on the catwalk (even if it wasn't intended from the designer), perhaps others see it too? Maybe we can all begin to see something more than 'trends' in clothes and see, rather, statements, possibilities, opportunities: openings not narrowings. Perhaps when catwalks show thoughts instead of trends we're on the right track to ditching femininity and (re?)gaining freedom. Did I mention that Salonen's models are wearing Birkenstocks?


Blogger doctork said...

LOL at the Birkenstocks! Interesting thoughts.

26 September, 2010 04:27  
Blogger Asta Meldal Lynge said...

I see it.
Great post!

26 September, 2010 11:32  

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