By Margretta Sowah
We have all, at one stage in our lives, took a deep breath and whispered; “Show me a sign!” We linger a little longer, breathe a little deeper, think a little broader and act a little different. This is a conscious effort (biologically) to perceive different situations and outcomes. Signs and symbols have always held significance with promises of fortune and wonder. We look for meaning in words, objects, dreams, people and decisions. It is a human need to connect with our surrounding for pleasure and protection.
When Stylists ‘creates a look’ they are placing pieces of relevant information in front of an audience. Their language is stitched together in a tightly bound monologue, always ready for its next scene. Fashion is able to be playful and flippant in its promotion because of the delicate and sensitive nature surround clothing – fabric. Clothing is something we adorn ourselves with to create distinction, but left alone to its own devices clothes become just colorful rags. When it comes to Fashion we are constantly been told a visual story that is undeniably transformative.
Social Psychology has found there is cultural, cognitive and symbolic perspective associated with clothing to create meaning. In simpler terms; we wear clothes that have personal meaning. So what does that meaning… mean? Does it change or are we restricted to one set culture?
David Bailey is known for being a pioneer in Fashion Photography since the early 60’s. His style can be seen as poetic and confronting because of his views on sexuality. His 1970 “Shoe in Bikini” was a post-modern and conceptual statement about the whispered female dialogue of honesty and emancipation. The photograph is a close-up of a woman with her lace-up heels in her mesh bikini. It is a provocative pose without the grievances of bad taste. The monochromatic filter allows the negative spaces between the models body and its accessories to simplify an otherwise demanding representation.
Jimmy Choo has been a shoe lovers’ favorite since his appearance in Sex and the City for the Gen Y’s and Millenniums of today. His flirty and feminine designs give the wearer a piece of signature style that they can slip in and out of. Terry Richardson headed Jimmy Choo’s SS 2009 campaign that aimed, as quoted by an article on Upscalehype.com; “to demonstrate that the right shoes and accessories will accentuate any outfit, even if it’s just lingerie.”
These two men almost 40 years apart had this one identical photo in their collections. It is fair to say that Richardson took the obvious symbolism of Bailey’s image and highlighted its cultural, social and cognitive significance in today’s society by placing the image Jimmy Choo’s Spring/Summer campaign. The message of honesty and liberation are still present but now the actual shoe becomes the focus as opposed to the female with the shoe. The life of this fictional and aspirational woman will not change; she will always be this mysterious and alluring figure who embraces femininity and all its blessings and curses, but now we can direct our focus onto other variables of the landscape and find other meanings within meanings.
This is the language we are free to share if the intention is the dominant point in the equation. If not the message can be lost or worse, misunderstood. It is hard to say whether society ever fully understand personal language because of our reliance on the environment and culture.
It’s a bit like the chicken and the egg argument… who clucked first? Who was left scrambling? Was it culture that brought about our society or was it language? With fashion we all can speak to each other in our language (style) of choice. As they say, bird of a feather flock together…