Fashion Designer's impact on Modern Society

How far is too far away?

4 DECEMBER 2013,
All is connected: also fashion and society
All is connected: also fashion and society

A well known fact, which we never should underestimate, is a great influence of fashion industry on modern world as well as our perception of reality, value and quality.

Famous and established designers use their positions in fashion industry to promote and impose certain conceptions constructed through discourses that are shaped in the fashion world through various channels. These conceptions mostly regard to identity questions, sexuality, distribution of power and formation of various social and cultural discourses.

In the last couple of years fashion industry entered the faze where androgens principle became pretty important. This time concepts overcame mixing male and female garments, female collections inspired by masculine principle as well as femininity in male designer’s collections. Step beyond is made by Jean-Paul Gaultier, when he expressed his fascination for androgyny through his creative work. He used fashion shows, advertising campaigns and certain kind of public speech and behavior to promote certain discourses and identities.

In fall-winter 2011/2012 Gaultier’s fashion show, androgynous model Andrej Pejic participated in both shows both as male and female. At the male show inspired by ultimate symbol of masculinity and machismo - James Bond, Pejic wore man’s suit, and in the second appearance he presented more feminine Bond, dressed in coat and high heals with golden accessory. At the female fashion show, Pejic was ‘honored’ to wear the most important piece - wedding dress. In this case Gaultier consciously plays with the fluidity of male and female principles and identities. Although this fluidity stems out of transformation of male and female social roles seen in the last couple of decades, Gaultier significantly exceeds social part of the problem and use it to play with sexual identity. Another message he sends is the annulment of the feminine attributes of the body, what stems out of his decision that male should present a wedding dress- the ultimative female garment.

Source of confusion that follows relation between transvestitism, androgyny and homosexuality is related to the construction of gender and sexual attractiveness. If a person is androgynous or transvestite this does not imply person’s homosexual identity. However, it is far from easy to make a distinction and boundaries are ever so thin. Cultural effect of using transvestitism and androgyny in the way Gaultier does manifests in a destabilization of binary oppositions such as male-female, gay-strait, sex-gender.

The other Gaultier’s campaign regarding this theme is intriguing visual advertisement for his brand, where he presented Andrej Pejic and model Karolina Kurkova kissing. Both models are dressed alike, have similar haircut, differentiating gender identities can’t be identified, what gives the impression advertisment is about two women. In this case, explicit homosexual message is evident. Gaultuer went on with his campaign, promoting it through public speech. One of the statements he gave to the world's media about Pejic was: ‘’I love him! He is my wife! Everyone can see his beauty. He can be a man, but not a straight man, only gay man, woman…It is a modern boy/girl of today. Like a future!’’

Jean Paul Gaultier’s ways to blur lines of gender identities and produce something innovative and new, what is essential in fashion world, are evident. Meanwhile, in this way, he consciously promotes alternative sexual identities. The biggest problem regarding this theme is the huge influence fashion industry and media campaigns have on young people and teenagers. It can be very negative because of manipulation and imposition of taste and attitude of powerful people in media and fashion industry. They create certain discourse that becomes the rule that is followed, and can affect young people’s choices, future, identity and relation to others and themselves. That is why it is so important always to requestion and critically observe everything what fashion industry and global media impose to us.