Bill Cunningham on Deconstructivist Fashion

BILL CUNNINGHAM, PHOTOGRAPHS oF MARTIN MARGIELA, SPRINg/SUMMER 1990, "The COLLECTIONS"  DETAILS,  MARCH 1990

BILL CUNNINGHAM, PHOTOGRAPHS oF MARTIN MARGIELA, SPRINg/SUMMER 1990, "The COLLECTIONS" DETAILS, MARCH 1990

In remembrance of the great fashion photographer and critic Bill Cunningham, we are showing some of his lesser-known work, which he did for Details magazine in the 1980s and 1990s. During those years, Details was strikingly different from its later Condé Nast incarnation as a men’s style magazine. The magazine centered on fashion and featured extensive coverage of the Paris shows, often exceeding 30 pages—both written and photographed by Cunningham.

It is in these pages that Cunningham coined the term “deconstructivist” fashion to refer to the work of Martin Margiela. Against commonly held beliefs that tie the term to Japanese designs from the early 1980s, it  was first used in the English language by Cunningham to refer to fashion, in an article he published in Details of September 1989 to describe Martin Margiela’s autumn/winter 1989/90 collection, which was shown in Paris in March 1989. Only retrospectively was the word used to refer to Japanese designers of the 1980s. (Francesca Granata, "Deconstruction Fashion" The Journal of Design History, vol. 26, 2)

BIll CunninghAM, PhOTOGRAPHS Of MArTIN MArgiela SPRING/SuMMER 1990, "The Collections"  Details  March 1990

BIll CunninghAM, PhOTOGRAPHS Of MArTIN MArgiela SPRING/SuMMER 1990, "The Collections" Details March 1990

Cunningham used the term in its literal sense of undoing, taking apart a garment and accompanied his written articles with beautiful images from the collections:

Martin Margiela, formerly a Gaultier assistant, in this, his second collection on his own, provided quite a different vision of fashion for the 1990s: a beatnik, Existentialist revival … The construction of the clothes suggests a deconstructivist movement, where the structure of the design appears under attack, displacing seams, tormenting the surface with incisions. All suggest a fashion of elegant decay.

    Bill Cunningham, ‘The Collections’, Details, September 1989, 246.

BILL CUNNINGHAM, IMAGES AND TEXT ON MARTIN MARGIELA, AUTUMN/WINTER 1989,  DETAILS,  SEPTEMBER 1989

BILL CUNNINGHAM, IMAGES AND TEXT ON MARTIN MARGIELA, AUTUMN/WINTER 1989, DETAILS, SEPTEMBER 1989

 

BILL CUNNINGHAM, IMAGES AND TEXT On MARTIN MARGIELA, SPRINg/SUMMER 1990,  DETails,  MARCH 1990

BILL CUNNINGHAM, IMAGES AND TEXT On MARTIN MARGIELA, SPRINg/SUMMER 1990, DETails, MARCH 1990

 

Off the Runway: Print as Performance in Contemporary Fashion

Coming up on Friday, September 26th, I will be speaking together with K8 Hardy and Susan Cianciolo on a panel about art, fashion and independent publishing at the New York Art Book Fair taking place at MoMa PS1. The panel runs from 12:30 to 2:00pm. The talk is organized by James Mitchell and Susan E. Thomas, who will moderate.

Below is the full description:

"The fashion industry has long used publications as a means of marketing, typically in glossy magazines and coffee table books. Throughout the 20th century these print forms embodied complicated relationships among artists and designers, the fashion industry, and publishers. The punk wave of the 70s and the later rise of lifestyle magazines like The Face, i-d, and Paper Magazine marked a shift from presenting fashion for the affluent to promoting the anti-fashion of youth subcultures. By the end of the century, new serial publications like Visionaire and Purple had dispensed with any obligation to present fashion, per se. They adopted the techniques of artists’ books and zines to make print objects that investigated fashion subjects. At the same time, individual fashion designers and artists produced print publications and worked as guest editors or art directors for magazines. Other book artists have parodied the fashion industry. This session explores the intersection of art, fashion design, and independent publishing."

Francesca Granata

New Journal: International Journal of Fashion Studies

The first issue of the International Journal of Fashion Studies was recently published. Edited by Emanuela Mora (Università Cattolica di Milano), Agnès Rocamora
 (London College of Fashion) and Paolo Volonté (Politecnico di Milano), it presents an innovative publishing model, by allowing articles to be submitted and peer-reviewed in a number of languages besides English. This approach acknowledges the scope and geographical breadth of the field and allows for a greater range of scholarship to be widely read, as the accepted articles are translated and published in English—which has become (for better or worse) the lingua franca of academia.

The first issue presents a diversity of approaches fully aware of the complexity and multi-disciplinarity of fashion studies. A few years back, I wrote an article on the topic for Fashion Theory, and thus found the introduction co-written by Mora, Rocamora and Volonté particularly interesting and an important addition to these discussions. Among other topics, the introduction makes evident the anglo-phone bias of the field (not unlike most academic fields) and calls for a post-colonial fashion studies.

The issue is a beginning toward the fulfillment of that wish with a number of contributions from Latin America alongside those from the U.K., Finland, the U.S., France and New Zealand.

To find out more, you can read the first issue, free of charge, on the Intellect site

Francesca Granata

Fashion Projects # 4 on Fashion Criticism -- Out Now!

We are thrilled to announce the publication of Fashion Projects #4,  available for purchase here and in specialized newsstands and bookstores.

This issue is devoted entirely to the subject of fashion criticism—the first such study devoted to the cultural field. It features extended interviews with leading practitioners of fashion criticism including W editor Stefano Tonchi, International Herald Tribune critic Suzy Menkes, The New Yorker’s Judith Thurman, New York Times writer Guy Trebay, and Robin Givhan, the first fashion critic to receive a Pulitzer Prize.

Table of Contents

Editorial Letter

Transdisciplinary Practices: An Interview with Stefano Tonchi by Francesca Granata

Fashion Criticism—A Critical View: An Interview with Robin Givhan by Michelle Labrague

This Is Not a Fashion Critic: An Interview with Guy Trebay by Jay Ruttenberg

“Women’s Work”: An Interview with Judith Thurman by Francesca Granata

Bill Cunningham Multimedia Man by Jay Ruttenberg

Fashion Criticism as Political Critique: An Interview with Lynn Yaeger by Sarah Scaturro

The Critic as Artist: An Interview with Mariuccia Casadio by Marco Pecorari

On Fashion Futures: An Interview with Suzy Menkes by Lucy Collins

Punk Style

The young and inspiring fashion scholar Monica Sklar recently completed her first book. Titled Punk Style, it takes a wide look at the punk movement, following the 40-year subculture through its various manifestations beyond its 1970s origins. Fashion Projects discussed the book with Dr. Sklar.

What inspired you to write on this topic?

I started high school in the fall of 1991, a year often referred to as “the year punk broke.” Although punk predated this by over 15 years and had seen crossover success before it reached a new level in this era. The underground and mainstream were blurring in music, fashion, and ideas. This grabbed me and impacted how I would shape my adolescence and adulthood. My career paths always related to this intersection and as I went on to become an academic I wanted to explore it in depth, particularly the fashion and its meanings.

The music and fashion of punk have always developed simultaneously and in conjunction as part of an overall lifestyle developed by communities of individuals who think along the same lines. However the body of literature mostly covers the music and its personalities with fashion as an afterthought, or sometimes, the fashion as trend and not “important.” Also much of the literature isn’t thorough or is out of date. I wanted to fill some of those voids.

It turned out to be complicated to study because punk style has simultaneously maintained some of its relevance and original subcultural intent, it has also developed mainstream appeal and cache. This begs the question whether dressing punk means a person is punk, and/or, whether a person can be punk without dressing punk. Further muddying the waters is that punk is an esoteric and amorphous concept that is not easy to define and not all of those who self-identify as punk share the same perspectives. Through its 40 year history and various incarnations, as well as through personal experiences of the participants there are many ideas about what punk is and that made it fascinating to dive into.

Another reason I wanted to study it was to give the research the energy and perspective I felt it deserved. As someone who self-identifies with the punk subculture, I felt my voice positively affected how the interviewees for this research addressed me and it was reflected in my ability to understand the language and symbolism as well as know the background to add context. I wanted to then pass this hopefully thorough approach to readers who are not familiar with the subject and also to have accesses to the scene in ways an outsider academic might not have. I worked hard to step back and holistically unite ideas to answer the research questions as a scholar of dress, design, and social theory.

How your view of it changed from when you first approached it to the end of your research?

Since it is something I feel personally connected to and have my own experiences with I wouldn’t say I had great changes of mind over the years of research, however I did learn things in more depth and explored some ideas that were new to me.

It was interesting to learn about the differing perspectives of the UK (and some other global regions)and the US. The UK has the idea that commitment to punk means fully dressing the part and highlighting one’s efforts. The US has the idea that commitment means it is no ingrained it’s natural and should appear effortless and more subtle or coded. Also since the UK apparel was (mostly) initiated by artists and fashion designers it is more flamboyant than the US which was initiated by musicians and street kids.

The most important thing I learned is about how punk style is embedded in the wearer’s perspective. The wearer dictates that something is punk, less so than the viewer defines them. This relates to another thing I really took away from the research about how individuals grow with the style and transform it with age. Since it’s a 40 year subculture I was able to research people at different points of life and I could see how it is not only a passion of youth. Punk style morphs with age and lifestyle changes and many people have developed ways to incorporate it into their maturation. However for some that means the visuals become less relevant as they enact the ideas they were trying to get across visually in other aspects of their lives such as jobs and manner in which they maintain a household and family. This validated that the style is symbolic of a larger lifestyle choice, and not a passing fancy. Some I researched felt the cliché notion that punk died whenever their version of it moved on (or they got older), however often those same people will explain how the lifestyle they now lead is related to the way they dressed in the past. Also something about punk is so flexible and accessible that new generations keep picking it up and making it their own and feel valid in their interpretation.

Monica Sklar has a Ph.D. in Design-Apparel Studies from the University of Minnesota, focused on Socio-cultural and behavioral aspects of dress; 20th/21st century design history, theory, and criticism; aesthetics, innovation & creativity; retailing and consumers, with Supporting Areas of Study including: Social movements, subculture, popular music, deviance, and visual culture.

She has taught numerous college level courses in dress and retailing, worked in art and design museums/galleries in multiple capacities, done many projects in fashion and art journalism and wardrobe styling, and worked on endless retail floors