Tuesday, April 7, 2009
THINKING OF PAULA AND LUISA
Like in any other big city (London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid), fashion is an important part of everyday life. I will try to skip common places and put it straight: it is not only a way to manifest oneself (which is the self-expression-aesthetic point of view behind which lies the marketing strategy), but it is -over all- a huge business. Broadway stores to say the less are merely the iceberg peak of it.
As any other business, fashion industry is being affected by the world economic crisis. On my fist day in New York City, I missed the scheduled conference they (Apexart) had set up for me; it was my mistake, I recognize it, and I ended up attending a panel discussion on fashion at the New Museum. That is basically why I’m starting with this matter, but also because the residency program wants the residents to get involved with the city from an expanded cultural perspective.
The panel was part of a program called “Berlin on Tour”, a celebration campaign around the world that precedes the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
I won’t discuss here if Berlin is “the place to be” (or not to be) as the campaign puts it, and I won’t make a review of the discussion either, but I want to point out a few thoughts that may be applicable in other fields as the main questions were on sustainability:
1. The way it [fashion] is done and thought has to change: the idea of “season” has to be overcome.
2. The way the business is conceived hast to be reviewed due to sustainable issues.
3. By looking for sustainability of skills and business, we’re looking for the sustainability of culture.
Although Marx had expressed some of these ideas a long time ago, crossed of course by the dynamics of dialectics and social class fight, the world credit and financial crisis has led to nowadays capitalist societies and democracies to rethink their own basis, to reconsider the way they are built on.
A few days later I went to Williamsbourgh, a Brooklyn neighborhood where many young-trendy people has moved on. It is just one metro station away from Manhattan. This place has an interesting relationship with the city as it has a definite character, in the same way some other neighborhoods of the city have it, like Chinatown and Little Italy.
At the beginning it seems to be distant enough from Manhattan to consider it a dislocated anachronism; later on you understand that it recognizes its own impossibility of not being “a part of”. Williamsbourgh keeps its distance from the city, not coinciding perfectly with it, but being quite connected to it at the same time. There is a tension derived from that situation that makes this place very contemporary.
At the beginning you may have the impression that Williamsbourgh people are into the “reduce-reuse-recycle” way of thinking. And in a way, they are: Beacon’s closet and all sorts of second hand clothing shops and book stores are at hand (literally) in every corner. So, reuse and recycle, yes, but after a close look I don’t think they are really reducing the amount of things they buy; it looks quite the opposite and "Vintage fashion" is something you can read up until four times on the tents of a single block. Although in the middle of a crisis, marketing still has the power to domesticate and affiliate conducts. But I want to be optimistic and finally say that although it may be a trendy behavior, it may also be a starting point: people tending to buy used stuff instead of buying new ones, that could denote a change in the way of thinking, a very useful one for the times we are already in.