Wednesday, February 24, 2010


by Elizabeth Barthelmes

Jacques Derrida 1930-2004

The concept of deconstruction, as a philosophy, emerged primarily with the publication of Jacques Derrida’s Of Grammatology in 1967. In this work he poses the question, “must not structure have a genesis, and must not the origin, the point of genesis, be already structured, in order to be the genesis of something?”. Thus, Derrida was active in “deconstructing” the world around him, through studying systems structures and finding their origins. Focusing upon language, the structure of philosophy, he believes that words and underlying connotations are constraining to describing things as they really are. These constraints are developed through historical developments of regions and cannot easily be disassociated with the things we wish to describe.

Derrida is often misunderstood for destroying meaning but deconstruction instead exposes the instability of meaning and the play of form which is why it was important for fashion and the visual arts. Therefore deconstruction does not leave you with nothing but rather you expose the basis of value and continue with the process.

A philosopher named Gadamer compared language to the game of tennis but in deconstruction meaning is released from structures and hegemonies. In this sense deconstruction seeks language to be more like playing with a beach ball, free without guidelines.

McQuillan explains, that “deconstruction, if it teaches anything, reminds us that we should not assume that the way we perceive the world is the same as the way the world actually is” (McQuillan, pg.11). Derrida considers the foundations of philosophy, mainly the works of Plato and Aristotle, to be “logocentric” where our thoughts are bound by the words that society choses to use. These words were then outlined to possess different weight within our minds, developing an inequality amongst words and thus within our comprehension of things.

Derrida believes a system of “binary opposites” arises from this, such as “rational and irrational”, and only through deconstruction can these opposites be realized and then exposed as their true nature. He emphasizes that different binary opposites arise in different regions of the world and thus they are not accurately describing things. The conflict to deconstruction is that by dissecting terms, other binary opposites are bound to arise.

HSBC 2009

There are some basic expressions which appear to be part of the human experience such as "yes" and "no" and "mother" and "father" which even un-literate infants communicate in all cultures. Language however becomes increasingly structured and layered and what we take for opposites are normally constructed such as the idea of "formal" versus "casual" clothing. But many of the conventions and rules of fashion are in the process of being transformed and driven by postmodern subjectivity.

Some examples of fashion & deconstruction can be seen here:

Alexander McQueen's Deconstruction of a suit by Yohji Yamamoto, shirt by Jean Paul Gaultier, and tie by Hugo Boss.

Boston College's "Project Greenway"

Martin Margiela Upcycling

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