Stylish Statements

naomicondom.jpeg

All the discussion of communist t-shirts overlooked, as far as I can tell, the use of fashion to make a statement about a political or a social issue, as opposed to being an aspect of the commodification of dissent. The photo of Naomi Campbell above is from British designer Katharine Hamnett’s London Fashion Show parade in 2003. Hamnett’s use of Campbell as a model had a specific aim: to raise awareness of condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS in Africa:

She said Campbell, still the world’s best-known black model, was the perfect figurehead for a campaign aimed largely at sub-Saharan Africa, where AIDS and HIV are rampant. “She’s such a huge icon in places like South Africa,” Hamnett said. “I designed the vest two years ago and I’ve been trying to track Naomi down since then. I’m very glad to have her on board and really happy she could do the show today.”

The Age today has an article reflecting on politics and fashion:

The program director of fashion at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Karen Webster, baulks at any suggestion that catwalks and chests are not appropriate places for social and political messages to be expressed. “Fashion has always been embedded in social issues and politics. We teach our students that they are obliged to study the broader social world. Smart designers see the bigger picture and they always have.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

might be a tad conspicuous for some :)

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

Since when did fashion designers and drugged up super models know anything about public health?

C’mon mark – get a grip. Next you’ll be telling us the Bennetton adverts were “sensitive”

Darlene
2022 years ago

In a sense, fashion is always political. Just not in explicit ways.

In terms of something like Ms Campbell’s glittery singlet, I’m not convinced it will make a shred of difference.

However, I do think fashion designers are perfectly entitled to use their medium to attempt to get across a message.

Rafe
2022 years ago

Mark, the really significant issue is not the T shirts, or the commodifacation of dissent, it is the silence of the left regarding the treason of communists and fellow travellers who enjoyed the freedoms and material benefits of democratic capitalism while they worked and schemed to destroy that system in favour of a rival system that enslaved hundreds of millions and tortured tens of millions of them to death. I know many people involved in this discussion would rather talk about other things and that is an interesting phenomenon which is worthy of further investigation. I wonder which school of Sociology will be the first to pursue that project.

Polly
Polly
2022 years ago

I actually wonder if those wearing Che t-shirst do so because of what he stands for or whether they even know what he stands for.
I asked a guy wearing a che t-shirt who he (che) was – he had no idea. He said he had heard of him but didn’t really know who he was and wore the t-shirt because he liked it.

So is is really ideology or just fashion.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I think it is a bit hazy Polly. The iconographic Che does look like a cool dude. As one of the commenters in a thread Sam Ward linked to yesterday said (in relation to the Cherry Guevara Magnum Ice Cream Revolution ), “he’s my hero. I was first introduced to him by Rage Against The Machine – who are carrying on his life’s work.”

You’d have to be a complete Santa-denying arsehole to cavil at that analysis.

TimT
2022 years ago

Geoff, Polly, you have a point, but we definitely have to start worrying when socialists defend the use of Che iconography as ‘a symbol of fighting oppression’, even to the extent of denying historical reality.

I picked up on such a debate in the early days of my old blog:

http://novocastria.blogspot.com/2004_02_01_novocastria_archive.html#107769276994908933

Tiny Tyrant
2022 years ago

“Since when did fashion designers and drugged up super models know anything about public health?”

Since when did the blogosphere know anything about fashion, public health or any real world issues for that matter? I hope I’ve missed the sarcasm in FXH’s comment. If not, christ, give it up.

Me? I enjoy sporting my current political Tees. Plenty of funny looks and many funny conversations with lefties, righties and no idea-ies.

Raising awareness is the point, like a billboard, ‘cept it talks.

Some sport Che images, Harry sports a swastika, both are just symbols with various meanings (depending upon your knowledge).

Ask somebody wearing an “I had an Abortion” tee if they know what it means.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

As a value-free sociologist, I’m not saying anything for or against political fashion, Francis, just throwing it out for discussion…

As to style in the blogosophere, remember the Hawaiian shirt:

http://troppoarmadillo.ubersportingpundit.com/archives/008070.html

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“Me? I enjoy sporting my current political Tees. Plenty of funny looks and many funny conversations with lefties, righties and no idea-ies.”

It’s a risky business Tiny. For instance, if I see someone wearing an “I had an abortion” T at an abortion rights rally I’d think it was entirely appropriate. If I saw someone wearing it at the mall or a party I’d think it was either self-parodic, pomo ‘irony’ (particularly if it was a bloke) or more likely, a bit of a wank. If I saw an elderly Fijian grandmother wearing a “Dyke!” T in a village on Vanua Levu (and I have) I’d think that she probably isn’t (though I might ask her if she’s heard of k.d.lang). I would definitely reflect on how western self-advertorial ends up in the oddest places.

As a general rule, I think it’s best to share your worldview principally via conversation – unless you’re Naomi Campbell.

wbb
wbb
2022 years ago

One of the right’s hates is celebs promoting a message. And they don’t hate it because it’s ineffectual.

However they don’t mind voting for one themselves if he runs in Calif, but.

“the silence of the left regarding the treason of communists and fellow travellers who enjoyed the freedoms and material benefits of democratic capitalism while they worked and schemed to destroy that system in favour of a rival system that enslaved hundreds of millions and tortured tens of millions of them to death”

If we believed in the substance of “systems” as literally as this comment requires us to, then
yes, ex-communists would be in gaol as accessories to murder, otherwise the comment is hot-air.

The argument needs to be ratcheted down a bit. Strocchi put it best (roughly) “Oz communists’ political judgement was shown to be naive & ignorant”. Hardly a capital offence. Just like Australians who supported Bush & Wolfowitz in Iraq. (Of course, Bush actually has a case to answer. He killed a hundred thousand trying to get at non-existent WMD. His claimed motive needs to be tested by a court.

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

Naomi (and Mark B for that matter)can and will wear anything they like.

TinyT – I was responding to the high flying implication that anything a fashion designer in London or T shirt wearer does would have an impact on HIV in “sub-Saharan Africa”. Or anywhere much for that matter.

And I do happen to know a lot about public health (and HIV in particular)and fashion. On fashion Nabakov is my referee.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“On fashion Nabakov is my referee.”

He’s Svengali to your Trilby?

Tiny Tyrant
2022 years ago

Geoff,
yes, yes, discussion is the key. I also sound like an idiot (to complement my ‘bold’ t-shirt fashions).

FXH,
aah, I see, now.

Still, Naomi may know less, than most, she is known by many. Considering the Pope is doing his best to circumvent the solutions scientific knowledge has come up with, she’s ok by me.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“Still, Naomi may know less, than most, she is known by many.”

Indeed. And few people look as good as Naomi when walking twenty paces, turning and walking 20 paces. Still, it’s hardly a convincing life achievement oeuvre. I guess we’ll have to reserve judgement on the extent of her world-changing impact until her lingerie range is released.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

Naomi is just as effective as any other billboard. If it makes you look at the slogan, the advertisers are happy.

Because Naomi is black and prominent, she gets printed a lot in South Africa (I presume), so the image travels.

After all, when the armies of suit-survivors wear their Nike Tees around here on the weekend, Nike is laughing because they see them as billboards. Preferably taut muscled rather than saggy.

Ironically, the wearers adopt the slogan because they think it gives them cred. Not the other way, although I suppose with celebrities it is a kind of symbiosis.

FX, BTW, looks v. cool in a suit. In a Tee, I dunno.

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

“He’s Svengali to your Trilby?”

Boswell to my Wilde

In a blokey australian hetro way.

John Morhall
John Morhall
2022 years ago

I suppose this means that my Chairman Mao souvenir watch, a recently received gift, complete with mechanical waving arm is now de rigeur?

ms fits
2022 years ago

They used a Polichicks t-shirt in that article. They also referenced us rather vaguely as ‘Australian designers’, which I don’t loathe.

We’ve always thought – and I use ‘we’ in a completely non-royal sense here – that encouraging others to think about political issues can be done in a myriad of ways. Fashion is only a toe-dip in the waters.

Robert
2022 years ago

John: I’ve got one of those!

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

For interested readers, ms fits’ (and partner’s) range of political fashion can be found here:

http://www.polichicks.org/

TimT
2022 years ago

Apparently when Tory Minister, Spectator editor, and philanderer bonking Boris Johnson had a meeting with George Bush, he happened to be wearing one of the Chairman Mao wristwatches, as well…

yellowvinyl
2022 years ago

that’d be this Boris Johnson:

http://troppoarmadillo.ubersportingpundit.com/archives/007723.html

and:

http://troppoarmadillo.ubersportingpundit.com/archives/007884.html

Polichicks rocks, ms fits! I’m contemplating buying some political underwear to go with the yellow vinyl dress!

alex swift
alex swift
2022 years ago

i think katharine hamnett is great and her slogans really do have meaning to them.