Recently, the politics of dress has been occupying the media debate and has become a subject of interest for fashion scholars. But to what extent does it affect the way we define and conceptualise fashion? The deeply political nature of fashion has been revealed by the recent effects of digitalisation and the new agenda defined by activist movements, brands, manufacturing industries, and magazines in the fashion industry, who consider environmental and social challenges as the main issues to be addressed globally.
It has only been for a limited time – the last decades of the consumption binge of the 20th century – that we have forgotten how fashion and costume make social changes visible and contribute to their consolidation when they are not anticipating or promoting transformation.
On many occasions, the aesthetic content of dress has contributed to defying the dominant values of fashion and their inherent politics of power. Examples range from the relapses of the Dress Reform of the mid-19thcentury (Riegel 1963; Ormond 1970; Kesselman 1991), through the resistant subcultural styles of the 1950s, to the controversial democratisation of fashion operated by prêt-à-porter in the 1970s (Lipovetsky 1987), and the revendication enacted by civil rights movements.
All these examples can be included in another frame of meaning that establishes the primacy of the modern and Western-centred fashion system on the basis of stylistic innovation, as well as on the visual suggestions influencing our imaginary and shaping people’s experience all around the world.
The first attempts to discuss this framework can be dated back to 30 years ago (Craik 1993). It is, however, only recently that professionals in the field of fashion – and not only academics – have started to breach the constrictive and self-imposed boundaries of the dominant model of creativity in their productive and communicative practices.
Some political issues, in particular, have emerged in relation to the representation of the Caucasian, slender, tall, and non-disabled as the only aesthetic norm, and efforts have thus been made to include a variety of different body types – plus-sized, geographically heterogeneous, disabled, transgender, older etc.
On another level, the politics of image have become central in fashion brands’ practices. Take, for instance, nostalgia for what is authentic, which has produced the (ab)use of ideas related to vintage, original, cultural heritage, memory, tradition, archive (Smelik 2011) as evidence of fabricated authenticity (Peterson 1979). Other questions have been raised from the hunger for authenticity, which characterises the cultural industries at large and fashion in particular (Jones et al. 2005). This is even more evident in the field of influencer marketing, where the work of fashion brands and lifestyle bloggers/Instagrammers/content creators aims at creating and keeping an aura of authenticity around products and personae.
In recent months, the Covid-19 pandemic has produced unexpected effects on both fashion and its politics. Close-downs of shops during the lockdown period, as well as their subsequent downsizing, have had an impact on the living conditions of workers and employees. The fashion industry has contributed to tackling the health emergency by donating funds and turning over factories to produce sanitary products. A new attitude has emerged, epitomised by Giorgio Armani inviting the fashion industry to slow down. But the crisis has also jeopardised the process of consumption, on the one hand, by determining a decrease in purchases of clothes and accessories, on the other hand, by stimulating the birth of new aesthetic ideals, for example, the search for functional but elegant clothes for remote/smart working.
At this very moment, when the fashion system is challenging its epistemological framework, the political potential of its creativity explodes and uncovers a huge ability to design contemporary aesthetics and imaginaries.
The conference will discuss controversial aspects that are constitutive elements of the very structure of fashion, such as:
- Culture vs commerce. The intertwining of creativity and marketing, art and trade, which is the cause of all the contradictions but also of fashion’s dynamism and attitude to innovate and anticipate scenarios, habits and visions.
- Sustainability vs capitalism. The contradictory coexistence of environmental emergencies and the need for expanding production, as an instance of the neoliberal mimetic ability of capitalism to include all the possible objections into the dominant discourse while leaving, at the same time, legitimate room for criticisms.
- Exclusion vs inclusion. The imbalance between the promotion of restrictive visual standards and the aspiration for inclusive forms of representation.
- Political dressing. Representation of political dressing through art, photography, cinema and social media.
- Slowness and the pandemic. The impact of Covid-19 on brands, consumers, and gatekeepers; the emergence of a fashion imaginary oriented to slowness, and its implications for the fashion industry.
- Geo-politics of fashion. Western and non-Western perspectives, including shifting notions of sustainability and contemporary forms of cultural appropriation.
- Politics of authenticity. Narrations of authenticity and practices of self-construction, especially related to the professional practices of brands and gatekeepers, such as digital influencers, as well as the role of the audiences in the ‘politics of authenticity’.
- Labour. The issue of labour rights and the forms of self-exploitation (for both workers and consumers) of which social media are part and parcel.
- Gender. Gender transition through fashion, gender and identity issues.
- Privacy and data security. Social mediated self-representations, such as those shared on Instagram and Facebook, are new forms of market exchange; people accept the transfer and commodification of personal data in exchange for personal visibility and digital interaction.
- Fashion and costume. The relation between costume and fashion, and the narratives on cultural appropriation.
- Fashion and architecture. The appropriation of architectural language as a strategy adopted byprivate enterprises – and especially fashion companies – to merge creativity and marketing, art and trade. The socio-political implications of such an approach.
- Fashion and the city. Events (e.g. fashion weeks and shows) and places (flagship stores andmuseums) contributing to establish fashion as an urban phenomenon. Issues of urban governance raised by the presence of the fashion system in cities, and their implications in terms of democratisation and sustainable transformation of the urban environment. The valorisation of local dimensions of consumption during the pandemic and the effects on urban economies.
- Fashion and the media. The relations between fashion and media through celebrity culture, new forms of audio-visual narrations and film culture. The role of fashion media in the narration of the pandemic.
A special plenary session titled Global Narratives on Fashion will be organised by the International Research Centre ‘Culture Fashion Communication’ under the supervision of Simona Segre Reinach (Università degli Studi di Bologna).
The conference organisers welcome individual papers and panel proposals.
Individual submission can be completed by clicking on this link: https://forms.gle/fZsjD2kfnxdukDFU7.
Scholars who wish to propose a thematic panel are invited to deliver their proposal to firstname.lastname@example.org providing a title, a rationale (max 800 words) and a list of papers (up to four). For each paper included in the panel, please provide: the author(s)’ name, affiliation and email, an abstract (max 500 words), and up to five keywords.
Deadline for submission: February 15, 2021.
Authors will be notified by March 31, 2021.
Proposals must be submitted in English and should not exceed 500 words in length (individual papers) or 800 words in length (panels proposal).
Please make sure to also attach a short bio (max 150 words).
Proceedings and Publications
We are glad to announce that we have an agreement with the International Journal of Fashion Studies (Intellect Books) for the publication of a special issue (Spring 2022), with a selection of papers.
ModaCult is in contact with further scientific journals and academic publishers to facilitate the publication of selected papers after the conference. More details will be communicated in the coming months.
Modacult - Centre for the Study of Fashion and Cultural Production, Deadline for submission: February 15, 2021. Authors will be notified by March 31, 2021.
Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
Primary Contact: Email: email@example.com Tel: +39.02.7234.2505
Due date: 02/15/2021