Recently there was a cover on British Vogue that was much applauded for making history because it included a diverse group of models. Finally, the many articles proclaimed, diverse women are being recognized on the covers of high fashion magazines. “To me they represent a new global idea that anything is possible,” wrote Edward Enninful, the magazine’s Editor in Chief. He further states, “It’s about diversity across the board – whether that’s race, size, socio-economic background, religion, sexuality. That’s what I want to celebrate with this cover.”
I have never used this platform to talk explicitly about age but I must say given Mr. Enninful's statements about diversity somehow he has completely negated age as being “on board”. This is the first and maybe the last time I will address age but somehow it felt important for me to do so. In a world where there are 823,675,788 women between the ages of 25-65 (compared to 572,229,547 ages 15-25) that is a pretty large segment of the population that wears clothing, see themselves as having endless potential and much to contribute, and yet are not being represented. Disappeared and erased.
Even more I notice, the faces of diversity are all still representative of idealized notions of beauty. As I have written before it makes me feel that fashion is still talking to mannequins, representations of bodies that are now just changing shapes and colors. I get no sense of what stories these women can tell.
I worry that Muslim or plus size or Asian girls will look and think they have to be as beautiful as the model on the British Vogue cover to feel included. If you are over 25 does that mean you are not part of this global idea that anything is possible? A comment on my instagram today is a kind of data that supports this idea, "I am 25 going on 26 and as I age, I am afraid to get older. Seeing you rock your style makes me think differently about getting old. Love, love, love everything about you and thank you for this". I have received countless similar emails and comments from this age group saying the same thing. How very terrible is it that one begins to fear the end before life has even really begun? That women are only important and beautiful for a very short period (10 years) of their lives during an era where we are now are expected to live until 80 and beyond. Perhaps this is the more important part of my project to convey to everyone you have limitless potential regardless of your positionality. Clearly it is something bigger than age.
In talking with a young designer from Parsons about how we could collaborate on the design of a garment that would realize the voice I have inside, the word transparency keeps coming up. For me I have been experiencing a dissonance, a distancing between my inner and outer (body) selves, a lack of continuity that I often took for granted before. My inner self is energetic, boundless, free, rebellious, strong, fearless, risk-taking and not congruent with the changes in my body, skin and hair. My body demands dignity, modesty and respect yet my inner self wants to be a wild child. Our challenge is how to figure out if a garment can reflect both. I think this is the underpinning of my adoration of Yohji Yamamoto, many of his garments can achieve this. How can there be a transparency in fashion that allows the voice and manifestation of the inner women to emerge? There needs to be a real activism that can transcend the societal constructions of our bodies.
So this shall become my new research project. To find the women and/or men inside and share what I find with designers who care to listen. To maybe even make some upcycled designs myself that transparently tell the story of the owner. As always my clothing tells my tale and in this photo I wear a shirt that both reveals and conceals.
Who is your woman/man inside? Do others see it?