In the last few years, the biggest fashion movement to sweep Indonesia might be best called “back to the culture.” The traditional Indonesian blouse called the kebaya is having revival in its popularity. Even though it was first worn in Indonesia during the 15th century, not until the Dutch colonial period the kebaya took on a new role as formal dress for the European and elite women in the country. During the 19th century, the kebaya in white color came to symbolize the emancipation of women in Indonesia, as it was often worn by the Indonesian feminist, Raden Adjeng Kartini.
Kartini was born into an aristocratic Japanese family and was a pioneer of women’s rights and education in Indonesia. In her era, at the end of 1800s, the highest education available for Indonesian girls was primary school. Kartini’s letters Out of Darkness to Light, Women’s Life in the village and Letters of a Javanese Princess were published together as a book in 1911 in the Netherlands, which changed the world’s perspective of the Indonesian woman’s role in society.
The 21st of April is celebrated as National Kartini Day, when women in Indonesia wear Kebaya Kartini. Kebaya Kartini is a long V-neck blouse-dress that covers the thigh area. Traditionally, it is made of white cotton and trimmed with handmade European lace, often worn over the corset-like wrap or kemben. It is used together with a 10 foot long unstitched fabric or kain and is only fastened with the modest safety pins.
The Kebaya has been worn as a wedding gown for generations. Indonesians believe when you wear a kebaya as a bride, you will be the queen for the day; remember, only royal families and high societies were able to afford wedding kebayas back then. The old-fashioned wedding gown in Indonesia came in bright colors. With the Western’s white wedding dress influence, which was made popular by Queen Victoria in 1840, Indonesians also adopted white as a wedding color. The white kebaya is the symbol of poise and beauty, as well as purity. Now the Javanese also link the white color with fertility.
It is not easy to wear a traditional kebaya. Prestigious women used to have maids help them dress every morning. The tight kemben and kain makes it hard for the wearer to walk and breathe; that’s why a modern woman often views wearing a conventional kebaya as a restriction. As a muslim country, Indonesians believe that aside from the woman emancipation, a woman still has to behave in certain ways and manage to be a good wife and mother for the family. Wearing constrained white kebayas for weddings also represents the fact that Indonesian women have to follow these certain boundaries while adapting to global modernization. (MT)
“Kartini.” Wikipedia. Web.
“Kebaya.” Wikipedia. Web.
“Queen Victoria.” Wikipedia. Web.
Remember Lady Gaga’s 2010 Alejandro video? How about the Equinox breastfeeding campaign or Kendall Jenner’s nude curve-static Love Magazine spread? The creative genius responsible for these is Steven Klein who has been revealing the twisted side of fashion and celebrity photography since 1985. His dark and emotionally isolating images have infiltrated the new fashion’s vernacular.
Gone are the days when fashion photography was merely about the beautiful clothes and of-the-moment imagination. Just like the debatable fashion week transformation, the fashion industry is questioning its tradition and conventional wisdom. It’s hard to find taboos in fashion these days. What used to be scandalous is the new normal.
“The thing that gets frustrating about fashion is that as a photographer you always want to grab on to something that reflects what’s happening in the world, what’s in the street,” said Klein to the New York Magazine. “You don’t want to just fabricate these dream lives of these idealistic Barbie dolls that don’t even exist anymore.”
If Man Ray, Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton were known for setting the tone for provocative fashion photography, and Terry Richardson for setting the bar of what is trashy, then Klein’s tangible sexual themes provide the right mood for today’s fashion bawdiness.
Klein regularly collaborates with Condé Nast and international publications, including Vogue, L’Uomo Vogue, W, and i-D. Klein also continues to shoot for high-end advertising campaigns such as Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen, Calvin Klein, Alexander Wang, D-squared, and most recently, Nars.
Part of his success is his ability to portray celebrities without letting their personas get in a way of how he interprets them. He strips the most iconic pop figures from their fame and injects his own vision and concept. With Madonna’s Unbound X-static photo-shoot, he set clothes on fire and made her crawl and run around like a crazy circus queen. With Brad Pitt, the disturbingly good-looking actor was purposely portrayed facedown on a concrete floor, revealing his half naked ass. With Kylie Jenner, Klein put the youngest Kardashian sister in a wheelchair, wearing patent leather corset, motionless like a sex doll. The pretty-smiley-retouched magazine covers don’t exist in Klein’s world.
Klein realizes not everyone get the shocking nature of his photographs to New York Magazine: “So I got a call from my agent saying, you know, ‘I spoke to such and such editor, and a lot of people think these ads are kind of vulgar, and you’re going to get a lot of people afraid to work with you,’ … The funny thing is, I put these pictures out there with only good intentions, in a neutral way, but I find that what happens is that people react based on their fears and desires.”
Many of his recurring themes — nudity, bondage, and implied violence — are simply the symbols of our humanity. That’s why he is arguably one of the most prominent photographers today. He captivates the fashion world with his surprisingly self-aware pictures that are surreal, liberating, and at times gruesome. (MT)
Business of Fashion. “Steven Klein Biography.” BOF, 2015. Web.
Dumenco, Simon. “Fashion Photographer Seeks Models/Celebrities for a Little Rough Play.” New York Magazine, 2016. Web.
Hear the word “Iconography” and plenty of images come to mind: the icon on your phone, the emoticon when you chat online, and the sign you see on the street. Iconography has a huge role in our everyday life. In the fashion world, we can spot iconography through religious, pop culture symbols, and brand logos. However, fashion never fails to surprise us, what appears on the surface usually has a bit of irony behind it.
From the early ages, religious symbol has been a key example of iconography. People use it as an expression of their spiritual belief. When people think about religion, they immediately think of the symbols connected to it: the cross, Star of David, and Islam’s crescent moon.
Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring 2007 collection. Source: Vogue.com
Religious use of symbols in fashion was seen in Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring 2007 collection. His aesthetic statement inspired by early Christian and Byzantine art. His appreciation and ingenious view of the Virgin Mary’s shining beauty was captured in a full religious runway experience. The models’ faces were painted like plaster statues, with halos as headgears. Gaultier’s saints were wrapped in beautiful dresses made of chiffon, crochet work, and lace, and accented with beaded sacred heart and appliques.
Outside the haute couture world, the mass production of the classic Christian symbol might lessen the spiritual value of those holy details. When it is not done tastefully, using religious iconography in something as clichéd as fashion raises controversies. Religious communities are very protective of their icons. Treating religious iconography in a provocative way is the same with mocking the religion.
The iconography in pop culture and fashion are often linked. The public looks up to pop idols, what is famous in pop culture often become an iconic fashion trend. A great example is the legendary David Bowie, who we dearly miss. He was a brilliant singer and eclectic fashion icon, known with his avant-garde futuristic costumes. Homages to both David Bowie and his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, have been ruling the fashion runways. Burberry, Gucci, Maison Margiela, Katie Eary and again Jean Paul Gaultier are few that who paid tribute to the zigs and zags of Bowie’s legacy.
From left to right: Gucci, Maison Margiela, Jean Paul Gaultier, Katie Eary, Burberry. Source: Vogue.com
Each luxury brand has its own iconic logo. When people see those logos, they tend to believe that they are paying good money for the best quality. If branded stuff is what celebrities and prestigious socialites wear, then the item must be good, right? Wearing an expensive designer logo becomes a symbol of pride for some.
However, be wary of becoming a brand whore. It is ironic when someone on the street flaunts a series of giant logos from head to toe. When this happens, luxury labels, which are supposed to project elegance, ended up looking tacky.
Fashionistas who understand the humble luxury of high-end brands believe that brand iconography should be hidden inside the outfits − the lining, small buttons or zipper. Instead of becoming “logomaniacs”, they are paying for the design, rather than the logo.
From left to right: Moschino’s Fall RTW 2015, Menswear Spring 2016, Pre-Fall 2015, Spring 2015, Resort 2016. Source: Vogue.com
The rebellious designer, Jeremy Scott, takes an opposite approach. He purposely sneaks in gigantic iconic logos in each collection. In his way of thinking, the bigger the logo the funnier it is. Moschino used McDonald’s, Barbie and other topical symbols in his past collection. His apparel was built around retail clichés, for example is the instantly iconic “Sale!” tag dress. Scott has turned a joke into an art form, and the public seems to be in love with his vibrant cartoonish collection.
Iconography loses its original meaning when it comes to fashion. Sometimes it becomes too subtle that we don’t even realize the existence of fashion iconography. Designers adapt the icons and add another layer of their interpretation. Fashion consumers then also add their personal style and believe. It is all about multilayers perception in this crazy cycle of fashion; the change could be a very exciting constant. What could be more exhilarating than that? (MT)