“Highland Rape” FW 1995 Collection By Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen is a household name in fashion. When we think of McQueen we think “provocative”, “genius”, “rebellious”, “anti-establishment”. Now, there isn’t much room for successful or impactful defiance in the industry as we know it, neither is there an acceptance of the abnormal. However, Lee created it in such a way that couldn’t be refuted. He was an anomaly. In a series of articles beginning with this one, I will be discussing some of his most iconic collections. My reasoning behind starting with this show aside from personal preference is that I aim to abolish the negative light in which this show is perceived.

Highland Rape” is the first collection that McQueen debuted at the British Fashion Council, thus revealing himself to the world due to its controversy and its meaning. A runway show that garnered worldwide critique and shame yet is now portrayed as one of the most creative and heartfelt runway shows in recent times. This shows background is one of pain and anguish for Lee as he explained that the show highlights the violence of the Highland Clearances and fashion’s appropriation of Scottish culture. However, journalists and reporters portrayed this show in a different light, one of misogyny and glorification of rape.

The title itself references the colonization and destruction of Scotland by England during the “Highland Clearances”, thus the use of wordplay by McQueen. Although, at the time most believed the name to simply be a reverence of rape.

As I watched the show I was fascinated by the emotions each runway outfit evoked in me. It was a mix of disgust and admiration. You could see the worn and torn pieces on the model’s bodies that signified the brutal colonization of Scotland by the brits.

This green dress caught my eye as it has a tear around the chest in the middle referencing the violation of Scotland by England. The shade of green and material also referenced Scotland’s colours. In the same manner, I was attracted to the dress itself the beautiful form it took as the model strutted down the walkway.

In this look, you can see the iconic bumster that later became a statement piece in many people’s collections. I would have to say this piece is what I love most about the look. I personally need a pair of bumsters myself. Similarly, there is also his signature tartan look on the neck which I would interpret as referencing the chokehold England had on Scotland during the “Highland Clearances”.

Some models walked as though they had been violated while others walked as though they owned the show. It created a juxtaposing effect. McQueen wanted to give these women the respect they deserved without taking away from the story of the show. You can see the signature use of Tartan he used referencing his Scottish heritage. There were instances in the show where the breasts of some models would be on display, to which the crowd would revel. Although to me, I saw it as a misunderstanding on the crowd’s part of what McQueen was trying to convey, which was boldness and strength as opposed to lust and desire. This reminded me of a statement McQueen made in an interview where he refuted the journalist’s accusations of misogyny by saying “If people do say I portray women like that, its because I want to portray the way society still sees women in some ways, not the way I see women.”

Shaun Leane, a master jeweller who worked with McQueen on the show even stated,

“What me and Lee did, was that we dressed those girls for battle, but in a beautiful, empowering way. They were warriors, beautiful humans identifying their delicacy, their romance and femininity, but at the same time McQueen made them strong and powerful”.

I believe this show to be iconic due to its impact on the industry at the time and now. Lee once said that he wouldn’t want to have a show that didn’t make the audience feel some emotion, be it disgust or joy and with this show he reaffirmed himself. What made me even more amazed by this show was that it was a statement rather than a sale pitch. These clothes were not going to be sold in stores, it was more of an artistic experiment than anything. Moreover, this likened to my belief in fashion as an art form and not a commodity. People called him a misogynist, perverse yet what he did with this show allowed designers down the line to experiment more with emotion, art and culture. It was a perfect synthesis of cultural history and clothing. 

Citation:

Fast Fashion’s 6 Part Relationship With Sustainability

“Fast Fashion”, a term associated with negativity and criticism, is a structure believed to be inherently flawed. “Fast fashion is a term used to describe a highly profitable and exploitative business model based on replicating catwalk trends and high-fashion designs, mass-producing them at low cost”. The main goal is to maximize profits and minimize costs, like any profit-based business model. However, this becomes a detriment when the line between ethical cost reduction and unethical cost reduction is blurred, when slave labour and overpollution become the norm. 

Nevertheless, we live in a capitalist society where fast fashion has become the go-to avenue for clothes shopping for the middle and lower class. As a result, I will be organizing this shortlist of six fast-fashion brands from best to worst, because I believe that if you do have to shop fast fashion you might as well shop the more relatively sustainable brand. 

Now, this list of brands are as such; 

  1. H&M (Best)
  2. Uniqlo
  3. Bershka
  4. Zara
  5. Urban Outfitters
  6. Forever 21 (Worst)

I shall talk extensively about the best and worst brands out of the six and provide links for an in-depth analysis of each brand in order to inform yourselves on the topic. 

  • H&M: They have an overall 3 out of 5 rating of “It’s a start” on the good on you website which measures brand sustainability. Likewise, they rank highly, with a 68% final score ranking on the fashion transparency index as of 2021. This index is an annual review of 250 of the world’s largest fashion brands and retailers ranked according to their level of public disclosure on human rights and environmental policies, practices and impacts in their own operations and in their supply chain. Now, this tells you how clear H&M is with the infrastructure of their brand which in turn displays their efforts to make distinct changes within their brand on all fronts including sustainability. Specifically, in the fashion transparency index, H&M ranks in the 81-90% range for governance responsible for highlighting the social and environmental impacts of a fashion brand. H&M uses some eco-friendly materials including recycled materials. It has fast fashion traits such as on-trend styles and regular new arrivals. It has a policy approved by CanopyStyle to prevent deforestation of ancient and endangered forests in its supply chain. It has set a science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated from its own operations and supply chain but there is no evidence it is on track to meet its target.
  • Forever 21: They have an overall 1 out of 5 rating of  “We avoid”. This speaks lengths on the type of brand and structure forever 21 is built on. They aren’t even properly ranked on the fashion transparency index because they do not communicate sufficient information about their environmental policies. As a result, you as a consumer remain unaware of the products and practices you buy into. Likewise, they have a very poor labour rating which explains their lack of care for their workers. None of its supply chains is certified by labour standards which ensure worker health and safety, living wages or other labour rights. It received a score of 0-10% in the Fashion Transparency Index. It publishes zero or very limited information about its supplier policies and audits. It does not disclose any information about forced labour, gender equality or freedom of association. There is no evidence it ensures payment of a living wage in its supply chain. It does not disclose any policies or safeguards to protect suppliers and workers in its supply chain from the impacts of COVID-19.

These two brands should serve as a scale of what to avoid and what to buy into when looking at fast fashion brands. Fast fashion is prevalent due to its accessibility, price and size inclusivity amongst other variables. Now, this list is not one you have to follow as buying into it is not necessarily wrong, especially if you’re unable to afford anything else. However, buying into it becomes an issue when you overconsume it. Fast fashion is becoming more sustainable as time goes by and more people raise concerns about overproduction and fashion’s impact on our environment. We may not have all the solutions yet, however, if we keep working towards a more eco-friendly and labour-friendly industry we will find it in the future.

Links:

Fashion Transparency Index Dataset 2020/2021:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1aIkl4-gcC24Fc9K41p8BFLszgf-c2x-8/edit#gid=1474833547

Fashion Transparency Index 2021:

Good On You Ratings:

http://www.goodonyou.eco

Grails Part1: Craig Green Scuba Jacket

Craig Green’s Fall 2017 collection show left a mark on whoever attended. A seamless amalgamation of texture, tone and design. We were immersed into the depths, and yes the irony is not lost on me seeing as Craig himself stated he was thinking about the sea, and its connotations of peril, fear and isolation.

Craig Green A/W 17

Now, I am not here to discuss the collection itself in length, that is for another time. I am here specifically to highlight my favourite piece of the collection. A piece I can confidently say is amongst my top grails. It is their scuba jacket. Ah yes, an item perfectly suitable to where nowhere but the sea. Nevertheless, its cropped fit, heavy-duty wear and customizable fit are some of the few features of this piece I find myself falling in love with. 

The price of this masterpiece is currently anywhere between $1500 and $6000 as it is a highly coveted piece. Only a select few can be found on sites such as grailed and middleman store along with other archive and consignment stores.

Craig Green A/W 2017 Cropped Scuba Jacket

The texture of the tubes lining the jacket gives it a delicate yet rough look, with the metal buckles elevating the jacket. Likewise, as I mentioned before the cropped fit serves the ideal proportions of an outfit to me. With this jacket, we can tell that Craig did not sacrifice the form nor the design, rather he combined them cohesively throughout his collection and this piece. This jacket may be unappealing to others or not as good, however, I believe this is a pivotal part of Craig Green’s fashion history and one that proves how deserving he was of his British Fashion Award.

What are some of your grails? Let me know in the comments.

Lonely Saturn

An abandoned planet, no signs of life,

The heart of this being painted with strife.

Cruel conditions. A harsh reality.

A call for help was sent into the galaxy.

Stargazing, head empty, nothing but a wish,

Longing for the feeling, a day of the solstice.

A comet may come, a comet may go,

The fate of this planet, a story untold.

Hear this here, hear this now, as you read this tale,

Saturn may be lonely, but only the stars will dictate whether it succeeds or fails.

– Zero

Discussing Subversive Basics

The rebellious reform of basics. “Subversive Basics”, a term coined in April 2021 by Agus Panzoni (thealgorythm on tiktok) in a TikTok video. In this video, she explains the change in how we use basic clothing, such as tank tops, black dresses and so on. Simple garments becoming complex pieces of clothing. This change brought upon the fashion industry was said to be a reflection of the times. Uncertainty and anxiety become our rulers and the restructure of basic clothing was our escape. I will not be giving an in-depth look at this microtrend, however, this article will pose as an introduction and base insight into it.

@thealgorythm

The layering opportunities ✨ how would you style this? Top by @clarissa.larrazabal #fashiontrendpredictions #trendtok

♬ Caution – Kaytranada
Agus Panzoni Tiktok Video

Now, amongst other growing trends, I have to say that this trend caught my eye the most. You see multiple people every day attempting to make a simple knit top a masterpiece, utilizing creative skills never used by them till today in a bid to follow a trend. Subversive basics pose more utility than previously perceived. A trend said to rebel against the utility, bringing about artistic change to the fashion industry. Likewise, this same trend allows everyone to part take in it as it employs the basic clothes we all have in our wardrobes. In the same manner, that feature, in turn, creates a sense of community amongst all niches of the fashion industry, be it streetwear, luxury and anything in between. In a twist of fate, a rebel of utility becomes one of its biggest supporters.

Some of my favourite brands utilizing this trend are Hyein Seo, Spencer Badu and Dion Lee. These brands have turned basics into statement pieces in an unexpected shift.

I suggest you take a look at these brands if you plan on shopping for said trend. Although, I urge everyone to take a shot at making subversive basics themselves. It is an innovative way of elevating your style. As a result, I believe this trend is here to stay.

References/For More Information:

Fashion Or Functionality? : Heliot Emil

Heliot Emil is a Danish luxury streetwear brand based out of Copenhagen. The brand got its name from the two founders’ great-grandfathers, as homage to him. Co-founded by the brothers Julius and Victor Juul in 2017. Julius being the creative director and art visionary of the brand. Meanwhile, Victor handles the business and operations of the brand. In recent years, the brand has become more popularly known for their innovative tailoring, rebellious approach to the fashion industry and their unique materials.

Heliot Emil became a brand known for pushing the limits of gendered clothing as they produce unisex clothing, while breaking the preconceptions of menswear. Menswear known for its “manly” tailoring and monotone cuts and fittings is challenged by this new era and Heliot Emil is taking the reins on this movement. Although, they are not the first to challenge the boundaries of “gender” in clothing, they are the first to do it in their specific approach. Heliot Emil is accomplishing this by using unheard of materials, oversized cuts, bizarre tailoring and questionable proportions to construe the image of man. “Liquid Metal”, a term for one of their more popular materials made into pants and a jacket released in 2020 that showcases the brands unique material creation ability.

Their ethos is one of innovation, supported by the belief that there will always be multiple ways to accomplish a task. They even went as far as to state that their work is open to interpretation by the consumers, leaving the final evaluation to us as an artist would do. 

A line that will forever resonate with me, stated by Julius, “The Heliot Emil universe is not linear”. Possibly the best description of their brand and fashion as a whole, their approach to their label, consisting of blurring the lines between streetwear and high fashion. People tend to forget that fashion is at its base art, in this retail world, prioritizing sales over art, they are the malcontent. They continually push the boundaries with each collection seemingly shifting away from streetwear and closer to avant-garde and high fashion. However, this shift can be interpreted in a singular manner, it is more than that. It is a move to industrial elegance, one where functionality and fashion coexist, something rarely seen in the past and a merge achieved by few. The most similar instance I could think of A-COLD-WALL*. 

In the first Fall Winter 17 collection we see the first collection by the Danish brand, straight off the bat we understand that it is a purely streetwear based brand. However, we progress to their Spring/Summer 18 collection and see military underlining’s and full military wear which changes our previous notion. Likewise, with their Spring/Summer 19 collection we see another shift to techwear, and a pattern emerges. The growth becomes evident. Fall/Winter 20 would be a defining collection as we now see the direction of the brand, the perfection of art in formality, “industrial elegance” arises. Now, Spring/Summer 21 we are fully immersed in this vision and moving with the Heliot Emil universe Julius Juul spoke of. It can be noted that with each collection, though the theme changed, the designs still improved and so did the tailoring and material. 

Heliot Emil is not only a brand, it is a mindset. I believe it is the perfect amalgamation of skill and effort for a sole purpose. This purpose is change. Menswear has become stagnant, to be honest, it has been stagnant for a while. The patriarchy dominates the perception and mindset of too many, preventing the growth of menswear. We see anything outside of pants and tailored fits as feminine and taboo, thus, keeping us in a box, unchanged and unproductive. Heliot Emil possesses the progressive thinking and unique approach needed to break these chains of monotony. To reiterate, this is not overlooking previous brands that have made this effort, it is a highlight of a current brand attempting the same. Similarly,  they possess the traits required to accomplish this feat, such as ; rejection of the retail, honesty, artistic mindset and experimentation. You seldom find a brand that possesses all these traits, now all they need is time and support. 

I leave you with this question, what is fashion without functionality? I am not only referring to utility, but the concept of fashion to us as humans and its use to us.

Elevating Your Style

I previously wrote an article that touched on how to build your style. In a full circle moment, I will be building on said previous article. Note, this will be based on my view of style and experiences. At this point you at least have a base level understanding of how to build your style and are looking to make advancements on that.

Ways To Elevate Your Style:

  • Define Your Aesthetic
  • Accessorize
  • Adopt Statement Pieces
  • Know Your Sizes
  • Proportions and Silhouettes
  • Understand and Apply Color Theory

Defining Your Aesthetic:

In fashion, aesthetic in simplest terms is how you choose to portray yourself and how you want to look to others in a specific niche or context with regards to dressing. How do you get dressed every day? You throw on random clothes and go out. Some may go a little further and choose to follow a trend which at least highlights their individuality to an extent.

Defining your aesthetic is paramount to elevating your style. The easiest way to understand this is when you define your look, you reduce your scope of clothes, spending and time. You are now able to spend more time on developing that look. It would be equivalent to an artist dropping out of school to pursue their art fully, you eliminate the distractions that were hindering your growth. Be it Rick Sith Lord or Y2K Fiend, your style will drastically improve once you set your eyes on a look and stick with it.

Accessorize:

Accessories! You see them everywhere, on everything and employed by everyone. It can be defined as a thing which can be added to something else in order to make it more useful, versatile, or attractive. Key words, “versatile” and “attractive”. Two things with which you strive to in your style journey. From rings to hats, scarves to glasses. Accessories give your outfit completeness while raising the level of your outfits.

A

There is not much to talk about regarding accessories. I advise you to experiment with which accessories you like. However, keep in mind, colors and patterns. Accessories are meant to add to an outfit, but they should also match the colors and patterns of your outfit. It can be a signature accessory or multiple accessories, its your choice.

Adopt Statement Pieces:

A statement piece is simply an attractive or unique piece of your outfit. It does not have to fulfill any criteria aside from those, it could be something as small as an oddly shaped ring to Maison Margiela Tabi Boots. Statement pieces are normally only one piece for each outfit as the term “statement” would be redundant otherwise.

Once you adopt statement pieces your outfits and personal style rise by a level. It is what differentiates a basic outfit from a sophisticated one. Remember to build these pieces over time as they tend to be pricey. Don’t be rushed to get multiple items, style is not built overnight.

Know Your Sizes:

Getting the wrong sized clothing item could destroy your outfit, in the same way that getting the right sized clothing item could make your outfit. Proportions are aesthetically pleasing to the human eye. That is why you could have an extremely questionable outfit, but if it fits you well no one thinks twice about it.

I cannot emphasize how important it is to know your sizes. It saves you heartbreak, money and time. You don’t have to return pieces for not fitting well, lose money on clothes that don’t fit well or waste time figuring out what size a clothing piece would be for you because you have your sizes down. It literally gives you peace of mind while improving your looks.

Proportions and Silhouette:

Proportions refer to how your clothes should be proportioned to your body. In as much as that is the case, in order to elevate your style with proportions you need to aim for an unbalanced proportion. Why? Simply because it is appealing to the eye, which an important aspect of style.

There is a rule of thirds regarding proportions. It says,” With regards to proportion, look at yourself as cut in thirds from your shoulders to your toes. You want either one-third on top and two-thirds on bottom (as in a shirt and pants) or two-thirds on top and one-third on bottom (as in a dress). Never divide yourself in half!”

Silhouette simply states the basic outline of the body or the garment that it takes shape in. Wear clothes that compliment your body structure, its as simple as that. This will in turn advance your style.

Bloody Osiris: A good examples of proportions

Understand And Apply Color Theory:

Understanding how to combine colors and wear them individually is one of the simplest concepts people confuse themselves with. It is often due to their impatience or lack of effort.

There are five color combinations:

  • Analogous: colors are hues that are adjacent to (next to) each other on the color wheel.
  • Complementary: colors are colors exactly opposite each other on the color wheel.
  • Triadic: colors are three colors spaced equally apart on the color wheel.
  • Tonal: colors are different shades of the same hue, the same color.
  • Monochromatic: color scheme is similar to tonal but even more selective in color.

I won’t go in depth on this topic as there is a site that perfectly explains this better than I could have. I will have it in the references. Likewise, as I was saying, once you have these color basics down, not only will you be able to boost your style but you’ll also increase your fashion knowledge and understanding by degrees.

Now, with these tips and insight down, get back to the drawing board! Experiment. Create. Discover.

References:

Anti-Fashion: A Protest Of Fashion

Anti-fashion is a term that has become more prominent these days with the sudden collective disdain of society for current fashion norms and meaning. There are two terms which I believe accurately describe the two sides of Anti-fashion amalgamating it into one definition. Firstly, anti-fashion is any fashion that is intentionally contrary to the mainstream. Anti-fashion is the protest of fashions impact on society and the environment. Plainly it is radical creativity in apparel.

Anti-fashion originated in the 1950s with the dawn of rock and roll, specifically with young women. These women would dress in militaristic apparel and designs rebelling against feminine gender roles and societal norms held at the time. They would later be the inspiration for punk and grunge, additionally, propelling anti-fashion forward. However, it was in the 1990’s that anti-fashion gained its renown.

Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo and Martin Margiela can be seen as the progenitors of modern anti-fashion. With their attitudes, designs and ethos opposing fashion, they formed the weapon that would note the end of fashion norms. Both Rei and Yohji originated from Japan where they used their individual experiences to define their craft which was displayed in Paris, thus starting the movement. Meanwhile, Martin is a Belgian fashion designer who in the same fashion employed his roots in his craft. Although they each possessed a different ethos, they all impacted anti-fashion collectively.

Anti-Fashion Timeline

Now, why was there a need for anti-fashion? You see fashion died in the 1950s, reduced from an art form to mass production and consumption. This was due to the need for designers to sell their pieces. As a result, they all pandered to trends and abandoned their identities. Anti-fashion was a phoenix born from the ashes of fashion, a signal for change. Anti-fashion tackled both the pollution fashion was causing, as well as the trends. Sustainability became the creed for everyone, and at the same time experimentation and going against the grain of trends was the goal. Consequently, the need for anti-fashion was made apparent.

Unfortunately, anti-fashion today is still not as big as it could be, although there have been great designers inspired by this movement who have all made significant contributions to the industry. Some examples of said fashion designers are: Miuccia Prada, Christopher Kane, Rick Owens and many more.

Though anti-fashion can be viewed as negative, in reality it is the contrary. Fashion has never needed a movement as much as it needs anti-fashion. Thus, the revolt of an industry becomes the advancement of it.

References and To Learn More:

Black Merle: Renegades of Fashion

Launched in 2016 by founder and designer Terry Shin, Black Merle is a brand that tackles anti-fashion like none other. Black Merle is a noun defined as a dark-coated dog with irregular streaks and specks. Through their apocalyptic, neo-maximalist theme of “more is more” as stated by Shin himself they succeeded in releasing fashion from the shackles of its definition.

With an emphasis on usability, recreation and deconstruction they are a new take on anti-fashion with a military-like theme never seen before. What I mean is, although the titans of anti-fashion Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo defined what anti-fashion is today, Terry Shin took said definition and dare I say…elevated it with Black Merle.

A Vancouver and Seoul based brand that prides itself on its ability to customize and its emphasis on blackness, though these two attributes may narrow their variety in the eyes of some, they have been able to break the preconceived notion everyone had of them with their newer collections. Previously, with their FW 17 collection, “Incarnate”, I could liken them more to Takahiro Miyashita The Soloist, Undercover and Raf Simons with a focus on military and tactical wear. This is not to say that they did not properly execute this collection, their clothes were literal pieces of art. I am only stating the relation to the ethos of this collection with other brands. I particularly loved his first collection more as he incorporated the most black pieces into it.

However, with their newer garments of F/W 19 and F/W 20 they were able to embody the values they stood by. Displaying out of the world clothing that cannot be likened to any designer past or present. Seeing the relative fame they have garnered in the past two years, Black Merle has just begun and there is no sign of them stopping. Terry Shin has his hand on the pulse of the industry and is unwilling to let go.