The fashion industry: No industry connects my research interests of culture, labor and gender/patriarchy better. First of all, I love fashion. It’s art, self-presentation, identity, expression, society and culture, not to mention millions of jobs and billions of dollars, all wrapped up in one. I watch pretty much every fashion show on Bravo, eagerly await my issues of Elle and Bazaar each month, and seriously salivate when I find the perfect vintage maxi dress on eBay or a chic cropped jacket at a sample sale. But underneath the glamorous façade of designer runway shows in Paris or the cheap prices at your local Walmart and Target, is a complex, somewhat insidious industry that exploits just as easily as it empowers. While young people, often women, are enjoying increased visibility in the industry as fashion bloggers and ‘creators,’ few are questioning the status quo of retail, which includes both the mainstream consumption of ‘fast’ fashion and the unattainable high fashion of haute couture. And while shows like Gossip Girl and Sex and the City tout the importance of high fashion for women’s status and empowerment, we seem to have lost the conversation that we had in the 90s about the exploitative labor upon which these labels rely, whether it is the workers exploited in textile factories, the fashion interns who are paid barely nothing for their labor, or the models who are packaged and sold as a prized commodity for very little in return.
This section of my blog will try to navigate through the contradictions of an industry that I both love and find so challenging.