Sunday, 1 February 2009

Editor's Letter: Second Draft

This is the 'clearer' update...

Welcome to the first edition of A Perfect Cliché, a new seasonal magazine produced in London.

Just as each woman varies, so does each opinion on what or who a feminist is. I have been rather apprehensive about calling this magazine a ‘feminist magazine’, because through my research I have found that there is no definite answer to distinguish feminism. A political leader will adamantly call herself a feminist as much as a pole dancer will. A man as much as a woman.

And so this is my definition of a feminist magazine, one that explores fashion and identity. I have called it A Perfect Cliché because both fashion and feminism have stereotypical connotations attached to them. Stereotypes that I will challenge by exploring what feminism means to young people today, those who consider themselves to be a feminist and those who distant themselves. I will look at fashion both as an aesthetic tool that uses beautiful clothing and people to create an otherworldly beauty, and also beneath the surface of fashion; looking at the ideas, inspirations and technical skill that go into creating this wearable art.

A Perfect Cliché also has a blog which will run alongside each issue to showcase the journey from ideas to magazine completion, an interactive mood board if you like. Here you will find ideas and images that have inspired shoots or content, or fonts and layouts, and a sneaky peek of what is happening today behind the pages of a launching magazine.

 I will hopefully have this vetted by Judith on Tuesday


  1. Hey,

    Love your blog. Would you be interested in exchanging blog links?

    My blog is called T-shirt and Tails and offers an insight in to the worlds of fashion, style and beauty.

    Check it out:


  2. This idea of fashion as an aesthetic tool that creates an otherworldly beauty - this is I think the heart of most arguments about fashion. There is a conflict between fashion as a pure art form and fashion as part of a commercial process - the purpose of the cat walk is to sell clothes after all. No one walks into a gallery and agonises over the fact that they are not as beautiful as the artists models, but because you can buy the clothes - or more usually clothes "inspired" by them, people (mostly female) feel that they should be able to look like the models - who as we have all heard about till we're sick, represent a particular idea of "beauty" plus are extra thin and tall because designers find those size clothes easier to work with ect. ect. It seems to me weather you regard fashion as an art form or as commerce and advertising dictates a lot of the ethics you should uphold. If it is to be thought of as art then free expression protections should apply, if it is primarily commercial then much stricter controls are justified.

    Thinking about "fashion" (which I've done more of since reading this blog than ever before) and feminism, I've come to these conclusions:
    1. I am probably "anti-fashion" - I can't personally accept the form in which fashion is practised. It seems to me so much consumerist froth - an attempt to add value to a basic human need - clothing - by creating all kinds of artificial values around it. I do not object to the idea of clothing as art, or of variation or innovation in style, but to the value placed on "name-brands". This is probably because I am a person of the "left" - another vague word whose meaning is even more in dispute than "feminist" - and the legacy of William Morris and the Roundheads has come down to me - I can enjoy the beautiful, and approve of the functional, but trying to combine the two for profit seems wasteful.

    2. Although I am male, I would say I was a "feminist" but a better label might be humanist, or to say that I have concern over human rights issues. These work better, I think, because they convey a concern for all victims of injustice equally, and recognise that the word feminist can be associated with a "men vs. women" idea, while in fact all men and all women do not feel the same about anything, and that women as well as men can work against women's best interests (eg. female anti-suffragettes) while many men are willing to support changes in society that benefit women and realise that men benefit form them as well.

    3. Since, I and many other men would happily shop at the men's department of M&S for the rest of their lives, and never ware more than 3 or 4 colours at any one time (including ties) a question arises - how far is fashion a primarily female space?
    Do men care about fashion, and do women spend a large amount of time thinking they are dressing to please men, but are only dressing to impress other women? These questions really bring the two issues together - some feminists are critical of fashion because it is misogynistic, but is it in fact largely something women do to other women, in which men are only tangentially involved?

    I don't expect you to answer all these questions, but I hope you take them as a tribute to how thought provoking your writing can be ;-)

  3. oooh, lots to think about there David! It's a bit late now, let me get back to you...

  4. Hey there, I'm just re-reading your comment... Perhaps you may see my writing as ‘thought provoking’ because I am still trying to decipher and question what fashion means to myself?
    Having studied fashion and fashion history for quite a few years now, and will graduate this year, I find it rather frustrating that fashion is seen as such a whimsical subject when it actually has a lot of depth, (in terms of historical meaning) and can communicate ideas instantly. Which is perhaps why I am using this tool to change perceptions of feminism also. For whatever reason- people, men and women, do love clothes, and those who protest not to at least have considered opinions on them. I would tend to disagree that many men would happily shop at M&S, menswear is growing considerably and is adopting its own trends and followers. Not as much as womenswear, but it is a growing market.
    I wouldn’t say any woman would admit to dressing day-to-day to please a man. There is a famous quote about women dressing to please other women, I think an old Hollywood movie star said it and it’s probably true! But I don’t think it is in a spiteful way… I see it more on par with a sport- for better or worse! It is to such a point that shopping is a female hobby…men have literal sport to play and watch and bond over, as derogatory as it may sound women do bond as they shop- sharing, laughing, talking… I do not think caring about ‘fashion’ is a negative thing. And I know when I walk around Topshop I’m not thinking what will my husband like? I cannot speak for all but for me fashion is expressing myself, my mood, my character without speaking…It is wearing yellow because it will lift my mood, or a darker colour to make me appear more serious.
    You mention advertising and consumerism which is interesting because I have several articles in draft that concentrate in that area! Namely the way in which fashion can be promoted: for example, female celebrities stripping to their underwear in the name of a lipstick… This is perhaps my annoyance in fashion- and media itself, the sexualisation and objectification of women. I think this is what feminists and ‘humanists’ must take a stand against.

  5. Thanks for writing such a detailed reply!
    ‘Thought provoking’ – maybe it’s because I’m imaginative :-P
    Maybe it’s because you are a good writer (more likely.)
    I must say again that I know very little about fashion – these are just the opinions I have developed over time. I don’t want to put down the subject you study because it is a part of human history and society, and it does interest me to some extent. I also think I have been unfair or unclear by not making a distinction between ‘fashion’ as trends generated by the clothing industry in order to increase sales and ‘fashion’ as a practice of creative use of clothing by individuals.
    I don’t object to people enjoying clothing for itself, rather than as a functional item. It’s not a feeling that I share to any great extent, but I wouldn’t want to seem harsh in my criticism of it – I just want to be clear (to myself mostly) were my differences lie.

    Would you be happy for me to say (putting it in my own terms) – that you would uphold fashion as an art form and that we might consider that use of different items of clothing to construct an outfit might be equivalent to use of colour or objects in a painting – as symbols that can be interpreted?
    I’d be happy to accept such a definition – then it would be a simple matter of dividing up the fashion artists as follows; those poor and striving geniuses who do it for love of the art form (you) the crass and commercial and grossly over-rewarded (who ever you consider the Damian Hirst of the fashion world) and the plain and functional (the fashion equivalent of house painters – Marks and Spencer probably ;-)

    I think your comparison of clothes shopping with sport is quite a good one – but I would suggest that perhaps collecting – the hobby of men who are supposedly uninterested in sport or fresh air – is a more exact parallel?
    I don’t know if it could be called sexist, but it is certainly true that clothes-shopping or (clothes-collecting perhaps?) is looked down upon in culture generally – while at the same time the fashion establishment has far more influence than any dozen Nobel prize winners – and while many stereotypically male hobbies that are based on collecting and offer a busy social life revolving around it are indulged and thought worthy of polite interest.
    Although we might well put menswear down as an equivalent of women’s football – neglected and patronised, with a hardcore of dedicated fans.

    The consumerism angle; first a working definition of consumerism; the definition of the self by the products one consumes and the focus on the act of consumption, rather than use, as the primary enjoyment of life. Distinct from materialism; which is an analysis of life through empirical examination of the world around us and leaves to one side ‘spiritual’ claims – leftist variant concerned primarily with giving the poor the chance to consume more and encouraging the rich to consume less.
    Huh-humm – throat clearing over –
    Going with the idea of fashion as an art form, fashion advertising is the use of the art form for commercial purposes.
    Female celebrities stripped to their underwear to sell lipstick – this is the idea I wanted to get at in my first reply – a female targeted product advertised in a way that could be called sexist.
    >”This is perhaps my annoyance in fashion- and media itself, the sexualisation and objectification of women”
    Who are the people who drive this and what is their agenda?
    In the case of the lip-stick add it seems to be an add agency targeting women – they don’t believe they can sell the lipstick on it’s own so they want to associate it with the highly sexualised model who acts as an aspirational figure for the people who buy the lipstick, and in buying it, attempt to become a little more like her. (That’s my beginners level Media Studies analysis of it anyway.)
    You are quite right about the need to oppose this – and I would like to position myself firmly against the unhealthy sexualisation and objectification of women – and men come to that, it’s an image I couldn’t possibly match. The problem is I have little idea of what that could mean in practice – other than stricter advertising standards codes in this area.

    I don’t expect you to do a big reply to this one – I’ll take your work as an answer.

    On a personal note – I may not be big on fashion but I know one thing; I like wearing ties. When you read this you must imagine me wearing my red Gelfer tie (inherited) my grey Pierre Cardin shirt (nicked from family member) and Ciro Citteiro suit jacket (charity shop £1) with my black M&S jeans (£9.30 Jan sale with VAT discount.)