28 July, 2015

will disability ever be in fashion?

Written by Abi Buchanan, in conversation with Laura Bizzey.
Illustrated by Ludovica Colacino.

Given the recent progress made in the inclusivity of the fashion industry for plus-size women (following the ‘Plus-Size Wars’ documentary aired on Channel 4 and the increasing power of plus-size fashion bloggers and models such as Tess Holliday and Georgina Horne), it could easily be assumed that the same progress has been made in the fight for inclusivity for those with disabilities. Sadly, however, this does not appear to be the case. When conducting research for this article I contacted Laura Bizzey, a friend of mine and a fashion enthusiast who suffers from a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. For Laura, and others in the pioneering group of young muscular dystrophy sufferers she’s a part of called ‘Trailblazers’, exclusion from the world of fashion extends further than the obvious societal expectation of a body ideal that is impossible to attain. I discovered that accessibility on the high street and the actual style of clothes commonly on offer also need to be addressed. 

The MD UK Trailblazers executed a campaign called ‘shortchanged’ that explored access to facilities on the high street for people with disabilities. For Laura, the biggest issues are the width of aisles in high street shops, access to changing facilities and the attitudes of staff: ‘Some people [as part of the ‘shortchanged’ campaign] did a ‘secret shopper’ kind of thing - they went and viewed changing rooms and accessibility without any prompting to get an accurate idea of what the service was like. It highlighted a lot of issues. Very often, places like Next and Zara use their disabled changing rooms as storage spaces.’ Speaking on the attitudes of those working in high street shops, Laura said ‘Shop assistants tend to act like it’s not their problem if the necessary facilities are not available for me. If you then ask to speak to the manager, they’re frequently very defensive and don’t address the problem.’ Laura and her peers frequently turn to online shopping to avoid the hassle of the High Street: ‘You can try stuff on in your own time and space and not have to worry about navigating aisles or searching high and low for things.’ This illustrates how being able to shop at your own leisure is something so many of us completely take for granted. 

The actual clothes on offer on the high street also present a problem for those who differ from what Laura describes as the ‘very narrow body type’ mainstream fashion typically caters for. ‘I don’t think this is a problem that’s exclusive to me and my disability, I think it’s universal,’ she says. ‘Generally there are a lot of things that are too narrow a fit for me to wear - a lot of cropped tops and form-fitting things that would be the farthest thing from flattering on me.’ By Laura’s own admission, fashion is a big part of her life, and I ask her if it’s difficult to feel so excluded from something important to her. ‘It’s horrible going into shops and seeing all these things that that you know won’t work for you because of the styles that are on offer and in fashion. It can make me feel very low about my body and wish I was someone else, when actually there’s nothing wrong with the way I look. It’s hard to keep that in mind when everything is tailored for a certain body type. For me, Fashion is a key way of expressing myself and my personality - I’m quite shy in new situations. My disability makes me feel self conscious, but if I’ve got a good outfit on I can regain some confidence in myself.’ 

What appears on the High Street is, of course, dictated by what is happening in high fashion. Fashion Week after Fashion Week of willowy size 0 models serve to perpetrate a High Street culture where that (for the most part unattainable) body type is the ideal around which clothes are designed for the general population: ‘I know that New York Fashion Week included disabled models, but London Fashion Week had no representation of disability at all - disgraceful given it’s 2015.’ If things are to improve, there is a definite need to start at the top- start with representation of disability in runway shows and high fashion collections. ‘I think it’s really bad,’ says Laura, ‘because young people look at fashion and see that that’s the only type of person represented. It’s not possible for everybody to look like that. As a young person with a disability, I look up and see a model and think ‘there’s no way I’m ever going to look anything like that. My body’s not made like that.’ It’s incredibly demoralising.’ 

There are some things, however, that suggest this situation is changing for the better. Laura cites Australian model Madeline Stewart as a key inspiration for her. Stewart is an 18-year-old with Downs Syndrome working to change the face of the fashion industry. ‘I’m not trying to be conceited and say I could be a model, but I’d love to do something like that,’ says Laura, ‘I just want to say ‘Look, this is me, it doesn’t really matter what you look like.’ I could be an accurate representation of an everyday person who happens to have a disability.’ Laura infers that her disability is not what defines her - and I completely agree. ‘I think it would be really encouraging for others to see someone who has had struggles stand up and say, ‘Actually I’m happy with the way I look.’ If we can change society’s mind, it will benefit everybody.’ 

This exclusivity has a markedly negative impact upon the self-esteem of those who feel they are on the outside looking in: ‘I think it’s very easy to end up looking at loads of images of people who are conventionally beautiful, especially when advertising adheres to this ideal (particularly clothing companies.) You can see something on a model and it looks great, but on you it looks terrible. It’s so easy to sit on social media and keep scrolling and scrolling and thinking ‘I wish I looked like that.’ It’s so easy because that’s how we are. It definitely doesn’t help my self esteem.’ The ferocity with which we are bombarded with flawless images on social media contributes to the toxic self-hate and body dysmorphia that is seen so frequently in young people, particularly teenage girls. When this is added to the obvious difference that is the result of disability, the result is an overwhelming feeling of being excluded and set apart. ‘Fashion, as it stands currently, is not an accurate representation of society,’ Laura concludes. ‘Fashion is Fashion, it should be open to everybody.’ 

Where do we go from here? Although much is said about ‘society’s idea’ of beautiful, little action is taken to combat this damaging ideal. I’m unsure whether an attempt to include models of a wide range of body types in runway shows, including people with disabilities, would be met with a general reaction of relief or resentment. Recent progress in Plus-Size fashion has been incredibly heartening - it is my hope that inclusivity for people with disabilities will quickly follow suit.

Q&A with Abi Buchanan

Dominika Wojciechowska: Tell the readers a little about yourself. 
Abi Buchanan: I’m an 18 year-old student from the east coast of England and in September I’m going to be studying English Literature. I’m easily excitable and a total people-person, I don’t like being by myself for extended periods of time. 

DW: What are your passions? 
AB: I’m very passionate about literature- but I’m also passionate about writing things of my own. I believe I have something to say, so I plan on saying it! I love fashion - it’s an art form we see around us all day every day and live our lives in. My favourite designers are Alexander McQueen and Mary Kratrantzou, although I find it almost impossible to decide.

DW: What would you like to bring and gain from your work at Fashion Philosophy? Is there anything you’d like to see on the site? 
AB: I’m looking to expand my online portfolio and grow as a writer, so Fashion Philosophy is perfect for me as it’s aligned with my interests. I hope that I can contribute some fresh perspectives and interesting pieces.

DW: How did you first get interested in writing? Do you see yourself working in the fashion industry?
AB: I’ve always written, from stories when I was little to articles now. There was no definitive point at which my interest began, I’ve just always loved stories. I would love to find a permanent job in fashion journalism, either writing or editing.

DW: Do you have any fashion magazines that inspire you? Are there any recent news from the fashion world that caught your eye?
AB: Last year I did some work for a magazine called Stylist that’s distributed in large cities around the UK. I found their work - a feminist twist on fashion and lifestyle - totally inspiring. Most recently I’ve been interested in inclusivity in fashion - I watched a Channel 4 documentary on plus-size models like Tess Holliday and it highlighted for me that maybe things don't have to stay how they currently are, I can hope to see the development of a fashion industry that doesn't solely accept one (largely unattainable) body type. While fashion at the moment could be seen to cater for only a narrow range of people, I'm hoping to see this change.

DW: Do you think the fashion industry has done everything it can in terms of inclusion? 
AB: Unfortunately, I still think there’s a long way to go! That’s partly what I’m interested in trying to develop - inclusivity. I would love to see a development in the range of body types represented in runway shows and advertising campaigns. I would also like to see a shift in the way female-centric media presents women - we are at our best when we are building each other up as opposed to taking an interest in tearing each other down.

20 July, 2015

Inspiration #16 - Lily Jones

Written by Jessica Holden,
illustrations by Lily Jones.
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Lily Jones graduated from Buckinghamshire New University in 2014, studying BA (Hons) in Graphic Arts and graduating with a first class honours degree. She uses mixed media aesthetics to create bold and striking images. Ideas and concepts are the main focal point of Lily Jones work. I love the textures and patterns which make up her eye catching designs. I think all the different methods such as hand rendered marks, collage and photographs used in their creation make the images so interesting! Some recent projects include designing lettering for Beyond Retro and creating designs for Next Menswear SS15. See more over at Lily's fantastic website.

18 July, 2015

#LCM recap - Pause Presentation

Q&A with Ludovica Colacino

After her review of Sonia Delaunay exhibition at Tate Modern published on Friday, we now would like to introduce you to one of our newest members - Ludovica Colacino.
Here in short conversation with Fashion Philosophy's Editor-in-Chief, Dominika Wojciechowska.

Dominika Wojciechowska: Tell me a little about yourself. What are your passions? 
Ludovica Colacino: I’ve always had a wide range of interests, but, among them, I’m more passionate about the one regarding arts like drawing, photography and painting. I adore reading, writing and traveling too.

DW: What would you like to bring and gain from contributing to Fashion Philosophy? Is there anything you’d like to see on the site? 
LC: As a past History of Art student, I’d like to see more of it on the website - hopefully I’ll be able to enrich it with my reviews of the exhibitions I will attend, giving to Fashion Philosophy’s followers recommendations of what’s happening in London artistically speaking. I look forward to gain a deep insight of the world of Fashion and to learn as much as I can from the rest of the team.

DW: How did you first get interested in illustration? 
LC: Arts have been my deepest passion since ever, and I’ve always been very keen on drawing - so I’d say my interest for Illustrations grew naturally.

DW: How do you see your future? Are you hoping to establish a career in the fashion industry? 
LC: My aim is to make my future revolve around arts, especially photography. I’m more of a portrait and traveling photographer rather than fashion, but, on the other hand, I’ll focus more on the fashion industry for my illustrations. I look forward to collaborate with magazines or galleries.

DW: Do you have any favourite blogs or fashion magazines that inspire you? 
LC: Some of my favourite magazines include i-D, Dazed and Confused, Suitcase, Frieze and Interview Magazine.

DW: How does your creative process look like, do you do any preparation or research before you start working on your illustrations? Whose work inspires you? 
LC: I hardly ever program what I’d like to draw, therefore my research is mostly “visual”: I take inspiration from other illustrator’s work. My favourite illustrators are Agnes Cecile, Miss Led, Monica Ramos and Chiara Bautista - I also owe a lot of my style to the tattoo artists Hannah Snowdon and Bouits.

17 July, 2015

Sonia Delaunay: Rhythm of Colours

Written by Ludovica Colacino,
images sourced from Tate.
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Sonia Delaunay is an exhibition currently featured at Tate Modern, and it will be displayed until the 9th of August. A glance around the first room is all we need to be sent back in the history of arts, to the first decades of the last century when the post impressionist movement was seeing its last years. Sonia Delaunay lived in the old Russian Empire (Ukraine today) and in Germany before settling in Paris in 1905, finding her greatest inspiration in the style of Paul Gauguin and the fauve (from the movement of “fauves” - which translates to “wolves”) Henri Matisse. At the beginning of her painting career she was still strongly bounded to the impressionist movement, starting with the use of figurative art: her inclination to modern art was strong already, but we can see how she retained strong references to the human features at first, through a series of portraits. As we can see in Yellow Nude (1908), the colours are unnatural and the lack of an highlights and of black make the painting appear overall flat - this evident lack of perspective may be easily related to Henri Matisse’s bi-dimensional style.

Her art could be intended as the point of conjunction between post-impressionism and the cubism movement. The walk towards abstraction was characterized by a great change of her style: the brush strokes became more unorganized and far less compact as they were during the time she painted portraits, and also, Sonia started working with ink and its thin texture, rather than just oil paint. Looking at her progression we understand how she wasn’t scared of experimenting various techniques: she is indomitable as she starts sewing patches of fabric and creating new geometric patterns, which, at first, don’t seem to follow a precise order - but they were actually thought as studies of colours. The portraits started to lose their facial features and begun to follow the concentric and rhythmic pattern of vibrant colours, which could be considered Sonia’s fingerprints in the world of graphic arts - as it will be present until the end of her career.

Her success hit its peak when she started designing textiles: Sonia created her own fashion signature: Simultané - which brought her to international popularity and demand until 1929 due to the economic crash, but she kept undertaking commissions anyway. Her husband Robert Delaunay, even though he was a modernist painter himself, didn’t seem to be open to the international popularity his wife managed to acquire. Nevertheless, he was invited with Sonia to contribute to the decorations of “The International Exhibition of Arts and Technology in Modern Life” which was intended to celebrate international scientific innovations in Paris, year 1937. It took them two years to design and paint large scale panels; during the exhibition, the judges rewarded them with a golden medal (unfortunately part of those panels have not survived, but three of them are still intact and displayed in Room 9 of the exhibition in Tate Modern).

When Robert died, she introduced a large and invasive use of black, significantly darkening her palette. Her already geometric patterns became even more sharp and precise, as she does a stronger use of symmetry. Although the vibrance of the colours remained pretty much the same, we can see how her style became more rigid. This important change will accompany her in her later years, until her death in 1979.

This Tate Modern exhibition doesn’t just consider her artistic career and skills, but it also explores the cultural surroundings of Sonia during the first half of the 20th century. 

Polyglot, creative, open minded - and a dear friend of the then influential writer Émile Zola - Sonia managed to hit the national and international audience even through war times - showing how untameable and determined she was. Personally speaking, I strongly recommend this exhibition to those who are interested in the history of art, design, fashion, and painting.

12 July, 2015

1ndependent15 presentation

Written by Tskenya-Sarah Fraser,
quote below sourced from the official Press Release.
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Fashion Philosophy Team headed into Shoreditch yesterday morning for the 1ndependent15 Graduate showcase at the Kachette Space on Old Street. The event was organised by a collective from London College of Fashion, set on presenting graduate collections from various disciplines from across the University in the hope to promote, showcase and celebrate the talent that LCF produces. 

It was bustling with friends, family and industry professionals waiting to set their eyes on the new unique collections. The space was 'urban bijou', meaning that the audience got the chance to be up close and personal with the collections, seeing every stitch, and not one was out of place. The event was supported with the help of SUARTS (Students’ Union, University of The Arts) and sponsored by Motorola, with some of the funds raised through fundraising and crowd surfing. Congratulations to all of the young designers that showcased their work, the Fashion Philosophy Team wishes you all the best of luck in your future careers!

"The aim of 1ndependent15 is to go against the usual selection process for graduate shows and showcase graduates and students how they want to be showcased, the entire event has been curated by students with the guidance of industry experts creating a partnership of creative talent and industry knowledge across all different sectors such as design, hair and make up, events planning, PR and a full media team."