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Torn designer jeans against fast fashion

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In this article, I argue that the qualities distinguishing luxury fashion from its ‘fast fashion’ imitators are conceptually akin to the subversive street-statements which inspire both catwalk designers and mass retailers. To demonstrate how designers’ catwalk creations and counterculture street-style share inherent conceptual qualities that are contrary to fast fashion, I illustrate my argument with the example of ripped denim and tears or holes in other fabrics. While scholars offer insight into the sociological, aesthetic and ideological importance of ripped denim, lesser attention has gone towards examining high-end designers’ artful tearing of opulent fabrics in their catwalk collections. This article discusses the origins of this style and examines the meaning of tears in five influential designers’ representative catwalk collections: Rei Kawakubo (for A/W Comme des Garçons, 1982), Marc Jacobs (for Perry Ellis, SS ‘92), Ann-Sofie Back (A/W ‘08), Rodarte (A/W ‘08) and Ashish (S/S ’14). By examining these collections, I analyse the ascent of the tear as a story of fashion functioning as art and social commentary. Although street-style and catwalk garments function as fodder for fast fashion trends, this article argues that individuals who wear their jeans to threads and designers who painstakingly craft handmade holes are aligned in making conceptual counterpoints to fast fashion. Contrary to fast fashion that relies on commercial considerations, it is only designer fashion that can participate in the critical discourse about fashion. It does so by reflecting subcultural anti-materialist viewpoints, or making anti-consumerist statements.
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Keywords: catwalk; denim; designer tears; fast fashion; jeans

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: A.F.H. – Culture Writers Agency

Publication date: December 1, 2015

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  • Critical Studies in Fashion and Beauty is the first journal dedicated to the critical examination of the fashion and the beauty systems as symbolic spaces of production and reproduction, representation and communication of artifacts, meanings, social practices, and visual or textual renditions of cloth, clothing and appearance.

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