Keeping Luxury Alive
Fashion has always been a reflection of its time, but, too, is a shapeshifting clairvoyant that looks with stalwart nerve into the future. It lends a sense of solace in turbulent times — this event is an attempt at either redefining luxury or grappling with the fact that luxury has already been, somehow, below the radar, redefined. Regardless, its goals are a harbinger of a new zeitgeist, and hints, in the way only fashion can, at the rest of the world to catch up already.
- Interview by Anna Zanes
office had a tête-a-tête with Jose Teunissen, curator of the event, about the history and evolution of luxury, homemade clothes, and how to bring down the system.
What is luxury? What dictates whether a design or concept is categorized as “luxury”?
Since antiquity, luxury has been the dream that embellishes life’s decor. Luxury stands the test of time, amazes us, makes us happy, and can be compared to a divine or aesthetic experience. Luxury has to do with the human need for jouissance or 'sensual pleasure,' which is a quote form Roland Barthes. It enables us to experience emotional and physical pleasure as a necessary counterbalance to the logic and rational thought that permeates our culture and which we take pleasure in also, but in a different way. Luxury always relates to values of a specific time period. In the 19th century, department stores, sidwalks, and promenades in lush new parks were the ideal luxury environments to show off in public, to enjoy one's leisure and admire each other's fashionable outfits. In 2018, New Luxury appeals to a new sense of conscious consumerism, and evokes a world we can feel connected to. Notably, these new visions of luxury are no longer taken from a uniquely Western tradition, but are defined in an open, global network of designers, putting forward their ideas, solutions and proposals from all over the world.
How do you think that this has changed over time?
The definition of luxury simply changes with fundamental changes in culture and values. For example, in the 1960s and 1970s, second-hand clothes, jeans, working clothes, and homemade garments became not only an expression of youth culture, but also expressed a further democratization and informalisation of culture as well as pointing to the rise of feminism and fashion as a more personal expression than in previous eras.
What do you feel the “old” idea of luxury was lacking?
The classical world of luxury expresses a conventional glamour world with an ideal young, white and slender man and woman wearing expensive watches, cars, living in glamourous hotels and homes. This just doesn’t relate to our new values and lifestyle and current global challenges. Millenials, for example, want to shares instead of buy, and are working out of thier pockets and trying to be a conscious consumer at the same time. New ways of living that affect the boundaries between private and public lives are prioritizing experience over possession. Stella McCartney and Iris van Herpen are the new ambassadors of these values, and their campaigns, images and films give shape to a completely new, fresh world with no references to heritage, retro trends.
If the project's purpose is primarily to reverse the unethical elements of the fashion industry— do you also see the medium of fashion as a form of activism and forward action far into the future?
State of Fashion: Searching for the New Luxury embraces brands and designers who are trying to make a difference by changing the system: some of them try to make their production process more sustainable and transparant, such as Bruno Pieters and G-Star. Others, like Maven Women and Mud Jeans, present even a new business model. Vivienne Westwood shows her work with UN and Ethical Fashion Initiative. All the participants take leadership to make a difference, to change the system overall. They present new, groundbreaking proposals that also show the enormous power and strength of fashion. That's the good news. We hope it will stimulate the visitors to become more aware and active, even activistic, to coin a phrase, to help continue to evolve how fashion functions in the world.
- Images courtesy of State of Fashion