Experimental distancing: why avant-garde fashion is starting to sound tone deaf

Suzanne Collins’ popular 2008 novel and subsequent film adaptation Hunger Games, is speculative fiction aimed primarily at teenagers. Despite this, a more mature reader can grasp the social commentary offered in the plots. At the time of publication, a golden age of reality television, you could interpret Collins’s novel – where teenagers participate in violent television competition – as a critique of shows like Big Brother.

But now there’s another, seemingly innocuous element in Collins’ book to consider in 2023: ruling-class fashion. In the wealthy Capitol, they wear colorful and impractical clothes, while the poor wear tough clothes made for utility at best and rags at worst. Of course, this, like most other parts of the novel, is an exaggeration intended to entertain: but, in a time of global economic crisis, we can begin to seriously question our culture’s obsession with celebrity fashion.

“Golden Glamour?”

The place of avant-garde fashion in our current society was recently called into question last year, when the theme of the infamous 2022 fashion show Met Galaheld in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was announced as “Golden Glamour.” Harking back to a time in America’s history that saw great advances in technology and industry, “Gilded Glamor” was intended to showcase the clothing of the golden age (1870-1900) with a modern twist.

The organizers were not only criticized for celebrating a time of prosperity as Ukraine suffers from Russian invasion, but also because much of America’s economic success at this time is notoriously undermined by huge disparity in wealth between rich and poor.

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This isn’t the only time the Met Gala and its attendees have been confronted with their ignorance of economic issues. In 2021, US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attended the Met Gala in a dress with the slogan “Tax the Rich” printed on the back in a jagged red font.

To get a seat at a Met Gala table, tickets it can cost anywhere from $35,000 to $300,000. But as elected, Ocasio-Cortez was invited for free. This has led to questions about his character, as she presents herself as a voice for the american working classbut goes to an event attended by the elite in a dress she claimed on Instagram it was borrowed.

While some praised Ocasio-Cortez, others from across the political spectrum were quick to highlight the disconnect in her Met Gala appearance and her message. Writer David Hookstead asked in twitter: “If (AOC) hates the rich so much, why is she attending an event that only the richest in America can attend?”

Another user tweeted: “She’s not radical, she’s not socialist, she’s not fighting for workers, or any kind of fighter against the status quo”, going on to question Ocasio-Cortez’s political integrity in light of the criticism leveled at her.

The Met Gala has always been a fusion of art and fashion, so it’s not surprising to see the eccentric outfits modeled by celebrities on the Met steps. It may even have become an annual ritual to scroll through article after article of “who wore what” to decide for ourselves who was best dressed, who was on topic. But avant-garde and experimental fashion, along with its price tags, is slowly insinuating itself more and more into the public mind.

The relevance of avant-garde fashion

Fashion house Schiaparelli presented its Spring 2023 collection at Paris Fashion Week and it wasn’t so much the models on the runway that caught the public’s attention, it was the attendees – Kylie Jenner of Kardashian fame among them – which gained the most publicity. Jenner’s dress featured a disturbingly realistic lion’s head on the shoulder of a fitted black dress and others. celebrity attendants wore entire Schiaparelli clothing retailing for $22,000. Arguably, it was singer Doja Cat who most intrigued in her all-red outfit that featured 30,000 Swarovski crystals to cover your skin.

In times like these, you can’t help but wonder how much cultural value this kind of avant-garde luxury fashion has.

According to UNCTAD, 2023 marks one of the lowest economic growth rates in recent history. We are living in a time when inflation is higher than it has been in decades, a time of rising poverty and a lack of job recovery.

Why don’t we get angrier at celebrities in expensive and often ridiculous clothes?

Repetitive articles detailing celebrity fashions expose their dogged detachment from everyday struggles. Perhaps for some it is a much-needed relief to look at beautiful people wearing things they could never afford and decide it looks tacky or unappealing.

But this is useless because celebrities use their clothes as status symbols, far removed from the reality of everyday life. More and more it feels like a slap in the face or a suggestion that if we can’t afford bread, we should just eat cake.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed herein by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.comIn the featured photo: Cover of Vogue magazine. Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette/Unsplash

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