25 August 2016

UK Introduces Gender-Neutral Uniforms for a Powerful Reason

Originally published on the 24th August 2016 here.

In the last few months, schools across the UK began adopting gender-neutral uniform policies, as part of a new Government-funded incentive called Educate & Celebrate, to reduce gender discrimination and to promote gender equality among the young generation during one of the most vulnerable and valuable stages of their life. The incentive provides funding to enable schools across the country to put measures into place to ensure improvement in the lives of LGBTQ students and so far 80 schools nationwide, including 40 primary schools have adopted the gender-neutral uniform policy. A primary school in Birmingham, one of the man schools apart of the curriculum, have introduced a policy that allows students to select the uniform they want to wear to school, and in doing so, have ‘aimed to promote each child’s right to express their gender and personality in whichever way feels right for them.’

This is a big accomplishment for a changing society, as LGBTQ students can choose to dress accordingly without having to abide to gender norms while eradicating homophobia and putting a much needed emphasis on gender equality in the school system. Gender-neutral uniforms could potentially become a gateway into the discussion of gender and sexuality-based discrimination in an authentic way where students can feel comfortable to voice their opinions and thoughts during a very important time in their adolescences, especially following the Orlando gun shooting at a gay nightclub in an act of homophobia back in June.

Although some have criticised this policy and have questioned the notion of ‘boys wearing skirts’ as a trivialising way to enhance educational values, this policy mars an important step into considering the needs of students and individuals who are subjected to discrimination due to their preferences, both within and beyond the school gates. Celebrities have also been open and supportive of the genderless-clothing movement, with Jaden Smith been most famous for sporting a skirt from the Louis Vuitton womenswear campaign, as well as various designers like Marc Jacobs and Vivienne Westwood pushing the boundaries of what genderless is by effortlessly creating skirts and dresses for men to wear – and in a desirable manner too.

Of course there will still be hatred and discrimination, no matter what steps are taken to try to improve the understanding of gender equality and LGBTQ rights, however it is important that the education system adopt and take the necessary steps to properly educate students towards an inclusive society to eradicate these attitudes at a young age. All students, no matter gender, preference or other deserve to be recognised and importantly, protected for the better of the future – the new policy within the UK is expected to encourage discussion and break down stereotypes and non-normative gender tropes.  Is it high time that Australia followed suit too in the name of gender equality?

Ban On The Burkini – Logical Or Discrimination?

Originally published on the 19th August 2016 here.

Following the Bastille Day attack in Nice back in June, the French Riviera remains on high alert with stricter conduct and security at the height of Europe’s summer holidays, the resort town of Cannes has introduced a ban on burkinins – the full body swimsuits worn by Muslim women at the beach.

From Cannes Mayor David Lisnard words, the burkinis are “the symbol of Islamic extremism.” He’s also stated that since France is currently the target of many terrorist attacks, beachwear that displays religious affiliation is liable in creating public doubt and disorder. The ban has already come into effect at the popular Cannes resort and while Muslim women are still allowed to wear veils to cover their hairs, violators who are caught wearing the full-body swimsuits will be fined €38 (equivalent to $50AUD).

Following the ban at Cannes, a mayor on another French island of Corsica has also announced the ban on burkinis, following a clash that disrupted much of the public. Mayor Sisco Ange-Pierre Vivoni has stated over a telephone interview that the decision to enforce the ban was not against the Muslim religion but to avoid the spread of fundamentalism and fear of.

Such secularism is rooted in the general idea that the state itself is neutral and that citizens within French and European soil should still be able to freely express their religious views, so it seems to be extremely ignorant that mayors of such prominent cities with obvious cultural wealth from international tourism would make such a generalisation that terrorist attacks that linked with wearing religious clothing. Research actually states that primary victims of terrorist attacks, regardless of the geological location, are actually Muslims, therefore implying that the decision made for the ban implies a link to fanaticism.

Interestingly enough, the European Convention on Human Rights has a section on religious freedom where “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

This is not the first time that Muslim women have been targets of discrimination in France, with the nation being the first country ever in Europe to ban the burka in 2011. The collective Against Islamphobia in France has condemned the ban and are expected to take the case to the highest administrative court to bring down the discrimination against Muslims and specifically, Muslim women who choose to wear their headscarves. The French media has also questioned the legality of the ban, stating that no French law bans the wearing of full-body swimsuits as “the law on the burka (full-face veil) only bans covering the face in public… the burkini, which covers the body but does not hide the face, is thus a totally legal garment.”

The Big, Bad World of Child Modelling

Originally published on the 17th August 2016 here.

When the term child model comes into discussion regarding the fashion industry, Thylane Blondeau is the first name that comes to mind. A child model that first rose to prominence, or rather, notoriety back in 2010 when an editorial of her was released as part of a Vogue Paris issue, Blondeau’s scandalous photoshoot fuelled debate about the sexualisation and exploitation of children, namely young girls in the industry.

Blondeau was only 10 in at the time of the publication in 2010, causing many insiders and outsiders of the industry to condemn ex- Vogue Paris editor-in-chief, Carine Roitfeld, for publishing the photographs.

Following the infamous spread, which was one of Roitfeld’s last, a summit was called in Britain where Fleur Dorrell of the Mothers’ Union described the images of Blondeau in heavy make-up and provocative poses “physically disturbing.” The fever eventually passed, and Blondeau has since grown up to be a happy, healthy and normal (albeit her ridiculously photogenic looks) teenage girl who’s still modelling but with more age appropriate jobs. But, everything in fashion if cyclical, even controversy.

Taking a look at things in the industry closer to home, Australian reality T.V star, Noni Janur of the Bachelor is now under fire for exploiting young models for her swimwear line through unethical means. Posted back in 2014 on Janur’s swimwear Instagram account, the photo in question that has people slamming Janur’s business ethics shows a then 15-year old girl clad in a bikini blowing smoke from her mouth.

Despite attempts of investigation by The Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB), Janur’s business remains safe as the swimwear line itself is based in Bali, not Australia. Niki Paterson, case manager at the ASB who oversaw many complaints, stated that “because Instagram can be viewed globally, there is nothing on the page which appears to be targeting an Australian market”.

Regardless, the child model debate rises again with sexualisation and objectifying of young girl – as well as the unethical. Vanessa Friedman has once criticised the industry for the industry for the image that it delivers to audiences and young children, by saying that, “The medium [of sexualisation] is wrong for the message. Kids’ fashion should be – even more than adult fashion – a place of freedom for children to start playing with identity.”

Janur however has defended the photo, stating that the photoshoot had been approved with the model’s family and that it was taken in the “family home in Bali, with her parent’s consent. The smoke seen in the image was a tobacco-free and legal vapour.” Melinda Lizewski, member of Collectie Shout in Brisbane, also home to Janur, has expressed her outrage by saying whether or not “there is photoshopping involved with the smoke, the suggestion of smoking is there, so the message is pretty clear.”

The swimwear line continues to grow as Janur goes back and forth from Australia to Bali, where she resides for half the year.

Why you should never buy a $10 shirt

Originally published on the 24th July 2016 here.

In today’s society, $10 gets you an average (but good!) lunch and if you’re heading to the movies on a good day, an adult ticket. So it becomes a norm to think that $10 is the maximum budget that you’d want to spend on a plain white tee, right?

Due to the increase of mass production in fast fashion and consumerism hitting its peak, the ideal social thinking has brainwashed us into thinking that extremely cheap and mass produced clothing is an acceptable norm, and anything over that standardised price is ‘too expensive’ – too good to be true. As consumers feed the wants and desires of cheaper clothes, mass production businesses seek to benefit the best they can by dropping the prices of their products to meet deadlines and boost the most profit against their competition. However, in any industry where one side benefits more, the other side is being taken advantage off – and this is no different in the fashion industry. With expected prices of products dropping to an all-time low, it becomes less consistent and realistic to meet the minimum standards of workers’ rights, with an emphasis on businesses that contract overseas and offshore factories.

The general rule of thumb as per the argument within the industry to consider buying ethically (which tends to be more expensive, understandably with the sustainable development and production) is that the cheaper the product at retail level, the more harmful its life cycle is to the environment. With the textiles sector of the industry being one o the most resource-intensive in the world, it certainly doesn’t help that society thinks on a throwaway approach to fast fashion in an obsolete sense.

And yet so many people still roll their eyes and scoff at the very idea of spending $50 or more on a plain shirt, let alone the thought of a $500 jacket, or $800 denim jeans, forgetting that the time, commitment and dedication towards sustainable thinking in developing ethical clothing is simply a way to ensure that those involved in the industry are given their dues with proper wages and working environments. The environmental awareness is not limited to ethical, sustainable and young designers however, with many luxury companies also striving to prove a point with the importance of buying ethical products beyond the purchase for materialism and brand names. François-Henri Pinault, CEO of luxury group Kering is such an example of an individual in the fashion industry who is strongly committed to sustainability, using Gucci as an innovative experiment to be more sustainable with their resources.

No doubt that sustainability and ethical consumerism is a conscious and ongoing battle between the industry and consumers, and it’s not a battle that can be won overnight – understandably many people can’t justify buying a $50 shirt, deemed too expensive, when they could buy a handful of $10 shirts for better value. However it’s interesting to consider the human psychology thought process that buying one expensive shirt will last longer than buying lots of cheap shirts that get discarded repeatedly. It’s about what happens in the long run that will see the outcome of a more sustainable and ethically budding industry.

But it doesn’t always come easy.

Are you willing to spend $50 on a plain tee?

Tiffany & Co Gets A Make-Over You Won’t Want To Miss

Originally published on the 16th August 2016 here.

Earlier in the year, Grace Coddington, legendary creative director at Vogue, stepped down from her position to take on external projects that had been limited when she was at her day-to-day job at the office. While she has parted ways with Vogue, she quotes Vogues as being the beginning that has ‘opened so many doors’ to new opportunities.

While no longer at Vogue as a whole, Coddington still has a respective office and assistant at the Vogue HQ, and is still contracted to produce at least four editorials a year for the magazine. But now as a free name in the industry, Coddington has already gotten a foot into a few other projects, with her most recent collaboration project being a new fragrance with avant-garde brand Comme des Garçons and now her latest project with jewellery giant Tiffany & Co.

The project sees Coddington working on Tiffany & Co’s Fall 2016 advertising campaign, celebrating the jewellery company’s classic designs with a very legendary tagline reflective of the director herself: some style is legendary. In a statement released by Tiffany & Co. back in June, Coddington stated “Tiffany—and its famed Blue Box—has always held special meaning for me. To me, this is not just an ad campaign, but an opportunity to portray a legendary house of luxury through modern portraits of uniquely talented subjects.” With individuals such as Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o and Elle Fanning set to be apart of the campaign, much anticipation is set on seeing what Coddington will bring to the project with her classic and romantic art direction.

What makes this campaign so unique is that Coddington is well documented to hold much disdan for celebrities being enlisted to advertise a brand for the sake of it, rather she prefers to take a more traditional route of using the right faces and names – even if it takes a little longer to seek out the right individual. Caroline Naggiar, chef brand office at Tiffany & Co has stated that “[Grace] Coddington is a style legend in her own right, we’re excited to have her serve as a creative partner for the development of Tiffany’s brand.”

The campaign, set to feature multiple Tiffany collections with the ad of Coddington’s romantic vision, will make its debut in the September issue of Vogue, alongside many other industry publications. Until now, you can view some of the campaigns on their official website.

Vivienne Westwood: The (Forever Young) Queen of Punk

Originally published on the 15th August 2016 here.

She appeared in the London fashion scene in the 70s with her outrageously bright hair and devilishly charming attire, taking the industry by storm. Against the backdrop of 70s brutalist council housing and the rock atmosphere of what London once was, Vivienne Westwood and her then partner Malcom McLaren opened their first boutique store that would today evolve into a legacy of rock and roll retailing and the reinvention of what it means to just be, punk.

75 years young and Westwood is still very softly spoken, wearing her own magnificent designs with confidence. The iconic of her time, Westwood had started her legacy by running a quaint little boutique on Kings Road, which is now known famously as Worlds End – and as the origin and birth of what punk fashion has become, it’s a church for the generation of today who live for disengaged social cultures, ripped denim and the very humble beginnings of anti-fashion. Her first runway show was in 1983, which had landed her worldwide acclaim as an outstanding designer that reflected the drowsy, sleepy and rebellious lifestyle of London in the 70s. With her fashion-forward thinking and her political mind, she influenced a generation of new contemporaries, from innovative shapes, colours and cuts to ideologies, she resonated with the audience in a way that no other designer, let along female designer could do, thus launching her eponymous label, Vivienne Westwood, into fame for the next 30 years.

From her pioneering work in the studio to her endless work as an activist in and out of the industry, from diversity to female empowerment, Westwood’s impact on culture and subculture is immeasurable to that of her counterparts. As of 2016, Vivienne Westwood, the name itself of the household brand as it is just a name on her birth certificate, has become as iconic and quintessential of British as anything. 75 years young and Westwood is still thinking outside of the box, from going green to pushing towards the advocacy of women’s rights. She claims to do things because she wants too, for her, for the belief and her philosophy.

Through quality of the now iconic label to the most charming smile that Westwood can give off to flashing cameras, that’s true rebellion. Long live the punk-rock queen!

Raf Simons To Rebrand Calvin Klein as Creative Director

Originally published on the 10th August 2016 here

Thought you were up to date with all the new names, positions and switches in the name of fashion? Well, you’re probably already a name or two behind with another major shuffle in the industry as of recent, following Dior’s new female head.

This time, the spotlight is on ex-Dior creative director Raf Simons. Following his departure at Dior in Paris and months of speculation as to where he’d go to next, Simons is now cemented as the new creative director of Calvin Klein.

As with all young and hip businesses in the industry nowadays, the brand announced the news via Instagram, stating that the Belgian fashion designer will be overseeing all of the creative processes from the Clavin Klevin Collection. CEO of Calvin Klein, Steve Shiffman, stated in early April, months before the official announcement amidst rumours that ‘the [potential] arrival of Raf Simons as Chief Creative Officer signifies a momentous new chapter or Clavin Klevin.’

What makes Simons’ return into the industry as creative director once again so interesting for many in the industry is the hectic schedule that he’ll be running on once again after departing Dior due to personal reasons and conflicting schedules. Back in 2015 during an interview with Cathy Horyn in System magazine, Simons himself stated that he wasn’t fond of doing so many shows a year, so many things at once with no time ‘incubation time for ideas’.

However, considering that Simons himself has played a major role in transforming the menswear landscape since the early 90s with his eponymous menswear label and then moving into womenswear with Jil Sander, it’s no wonder that everyone is anticipating great changes in silhouette, atmosphere and branding. His modern minimalistic aesthetic that he created with his designs at Jil Sander and Dior will no doubt revolutionise Calvin Klein, which has become languish over the last few years.

With Simons’ non-compete agreement with LVMH Moët Hennessey Louis Vuitton now expired as July is over, Simons is now free of his official contract from Dior (meaning that Simons can now go design for any house he wishes too), it’s to be seen that a critically acclaimed European designer will have major impact on a classic American household name – and with so many sub-labels now under Simons’ control, from men’s, women’s and even homeware), the whole namesake and brand of Calvin Klein would undergo a complete makeover.

With Calvin Klein expected to pay Simons a salary of $18million a year, Shiffman hopes that Simons’ exceptional contributions to the industry will continue to phase into the brand of Calvin Klein to help modernise and shape the house as a leading global lifestyle brand.