Plagiarism or the death of the author in fashion?

When the French theorist Roland Barthes proclaimed the death of the Author, he was specifically proclaiming the death of the Authoritarian Author: the one who polices and privatises meaning. Here the word ‘Author’ is not innocently written with a capital letter, since it emerges from the idea of authority and, in standard usage, all names that embody authority are traditionally capitalized: God, Nation, Law/ Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Ann Demeulemeester. For Michel Foucault, a first step towards understanding what is implied when we speak about the Author is to examine its function within discourse. He proposes the idea that 'its presence is functional in that it serves as a means of classification' (Foucault 1987:123). The Author guides the process of decoding images, and serves to facilitate understanding. Each big name in fashion, once we see it, activates a particular set of associations in our own minds. Chanel equates to a Bourgeoisie idea of ‘elegance’; Alexander McQueen reads as a conflation of fashion and art; Louis Vuitton and logomania drives associations with consumerism today -- regardless of the house’s interaction with art, working with artists like Yayoi Kumsama and Stephen Sprouse. The latter two, with their connections to art bring up a recurring question: does the fashion object, that being a bag graffed with a Sprouse-style ‘Vuitton’, have value in itself as an expensive good with elaborate construction? Or does the ‘Author’, in this case collaborators Sprouse and Marc Jacobs, imbue a sense of value by elevating the status of the bag from accessory to valuable objet d’art?

Op-Ed: Why Fashion Needs Chaos

1 Granary inaugurates the project of approaching fashion in an interdisciplinary way. We invite writers from different fields of knowledge to share their most challenging ideas,...

Rei Kawakubo: Writing the Fashion of Madness

Fashion is much more than this season’s shows and what lies in your wardrobe: it is a remarkable cultural object that mirrors, at high pace, the fluctuating state of society. Since Roland Barthes’ semiological break-down of the fashion industry in The Fashion System (1967), a path was carved for a new way of looking at fashion, proving its potential to act as a prism through which to read politics, psychology, history, gender, literature, and much, much more. We are curious to open discussions on and about fashion to a wider circle of young critical thinkers, to learn more about how fashion is read, worn, understood and remembered. Opening our new series of critical essays by young, aspiring writers is Mahoro Seward’s deconstruction of Rei Kawakubo, revealing how terms borrowed from literary analysis might prove useful in shedding light on Rei's shadowy oeuvre.