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  • Fashion and Politics, FIT
credits:(1) Dolce & Gabbana, – pictures contributed of The Museum at Fit in New York (2) Stephen Sprouse for Knoll Textiles, Graffiti Camo, (3) Rudi Gernreich „Monokini“, (4) Obama dress


    10 May 2016

    by Katja Schmolka

    Fashion is a mirror of society's zeitgeist and environment. Fashion can be beautiful or ugly. But most of the time it’s a statement. Fashion represents cultural revolution with many facets: whether it’s  feminism, sexism, erotic, innovative or creative – fashion is an instrument on which the rebel youth has learned to play.

    It is a political mouthpiece and boldly demonstrates the East-West rivalry from the beginning of the 50's into the 70's. Latest achievements, as the petrochemical fiber, change the attitude towards life. The advancement became a symbol for modern life. The textile industry is booming and fibers like nylon, acrylic and polyamide arise. Those fibers are flexible like the youth and can be controlled in their quality. They are changeable and adapt to particular requirements. “Plastic gives beauty and bread!” an excited Germany announced. It’s women got rid of their delicate silk stockings and swear by the ultra-modern sturdy nylon stockings.

    Creative work requires money, at least that's the impression. But crises are never the end but are also a wonderful breeding ground for „new, creative work“. The innovative products which are created in times of crises are incredible. Spanish designer Paco Rabbane, who originally studied architecture at Beaux-Arts in Paris, developed the first paper dress, which he sold in an envelope in his boutique, and which only costed a fraction of the price of a regular dress. No washing, no ironing and therefor no power consumption. After wearing it 2 or 3 times, you dispose of the dress. Another contribution to throwaway society as the beautiful new paper dress is ready, so uncomplicated like the nice, new attitude towards life.  American sociologists are quick to criticize this very particular trend – therefor the paper dress is loosing its popularity and the petrochemical fibers celebrate a triumphal return.

    Social turbulence results in people looking for bearers of hope. Charismatic heads of state, celebrities from movies, art and fashion are role models. They glitter and shine in their illusionary world and trigger a new cult. Particularly designed dresses replace the crucifix & co as ideological attributes.For example the famous black and white suit by Vivienne Tam which is printed with countless portraits of „Mao”. Also dresses with Barack Obama's Counterfeit conquer the world of fashion. They can be found on purses, cups and jewelery, and deliver a clear political statement. It's cool to come to the office in an Obama shirt, and it's cool to carry a banner printed with the face of Barack Obama on your stroller.
    To express your social and political views through fashion and style has already been a delicate issue of our parents' generation. A classic example, the mini-skirt, the americanization through wearing blue jeans and the bikini or rather as the icing on the cake – the scandalous monokini. Nice panties and on the top, well topless – too much for many, or better, to little. Designed by Austrian visionary and designer Rudi Gemreich who at the time turned the New York fashion scene inside out. He had a new vision of the female body and sexuality, which at the time was a taboo issue due to conservative politics and often religious reasons. He proceeded to become a scandalous designer. The press blasted him, the artists of the pop art community and young people loved Gemreich. His motto „Rudi breaks you free“! According to that motto the rebellious designer from Austria started to use materials of vinyl and plastic in his collection and therefor realizes his „cybernetic visions“ – his personal vision of the cy ber fashion of the future, which proceeds to become a social trend. Spacesuits, helmets and plastic suits of armor are his legacy to the hyper reality.

    Adrenalin rush and urban jungle can't do us harm today. After that many years of social change we are prepared. Anything is possible and – „Yes we can!“

    THE Museum at FIT in New York
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    New York City 10001-5992



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