Wednesday, April 7, 2010


by Nora Daly

Unlike subcultures who use the fashion system to express difference, fashion resistance is people or groups who resist taking part in the fashion system for various reasons

Barnard: 7. Fred Davis, “Anti Fashion: The Vicissitudes of Negation”
Fred Davis was emeritus professor of sociology at the University of San Diego. This article is an excerpt from his book Fashion, Culture and Identity, published in 1992.1 The article comes from a contemporary, academic context; nevertheless it is structured in a fashion that makes it easy to digest. In the introductory paragraph, Davis identifies six anti fashion movements, which he proceeds to discuss individually in the remainder of the body of the essay.

The first anti fashion movement Davis calls “utilitarian outrage.” This perspective criticizes fashion on a moral basis for its “wastefulness, frivolity, impracticality, and vanity.” Davis contends that the viewpoint can be traced far back in history, citing the bible as an early source of the anti fashion sentiment. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries economic and social theorists are continued proponents of “utilitarian outrage.” However, Davis mentions that people outside of the intellectual elite also experience “utilitarian outrage,” and criticize fashion for its instability and excess. Davis also points out that established designers sometimes champion “utilitarian outrage.” He cites as examples the early work of Chanel, and Liz Claiborne.

Exponents of “utilitarian outrage” advocate a simple mode of dress based on function rather than aesthetic. In extreme cases they may subscribe to “modular dressing,” an aesthetic of “loose-fitting, single colored garments,” usually unisex.

Davis refers to the second anti fashion movement as “health and fitness naturalism.” He emphasizes this movement’s roots in the nineteenth century dress reform movement, which was a reaction against restrictive Victorian styles, in particular the corset. Davis cites as the modern day equivalent the health and fitness craze that began in the late seventies and continues to this day. There are two options of dress in for “health and fitness naturalists,” the first “loose, baggy, and under-designed” (sweatpants for example), the second skintight, Lycra stylings such as bike shorts or leotards. He points out the quick acceptance of these rebellious forms into the fashion mainstream, in particular the absorption of Spandex by fashion in the eighties.

Leisure, leisure everywhere. While it began apart from fashion it has become common to see people wear athletic clothing in public, negating all the fashion codes for appropriateness.

The next movement is “feminist protest.” The objections of this group to the fashion system are fairly well known- they feel that the majority of styles (created by men) are restrictive to women and attempt to maintain the status quo by relegating them to traditional, subservient roles (such as “domestic/housewife” and “sex object”). Davis notes that within the fairly large category of “feminist protest” there are several sub-divides. There are those who believe women should dress in a masculine fashion, thus closing the gender gap. There are others who feel that society must produce a new form of dress, free from gender bias, in order to move forward.

The fourth movement Davis called “conservative skepticism.” This category was particularly interesting in that it did not stem from any particular intellectual or social movement, but instead from “millions upon millions of women” who object to new fashions on the ground that they are unflattering, or do not reflect the individual consumer’s personality. Interestingly this group seems to wield the most power, “killing off the new fashion altogether or causing it to be so modified as to greatly neutralize its symbolic intent and visual impact.” Also interesting is the fact that the members of this anti fashion group are not inherently anti fashion, the normally do follow fashion, which is why undesirable new styles are a threat to them.

Conservative skeptics are also those in general who doubt or do not take part in fashion. While women with occasional skepticism about an aspect of fashion can influence the market, conservative skeptics such as critics negate fashion in society and themselves dress in consistent plain clothing.

The last two anti fashion movements Davis discusses are closely linked. “Minority group disidentification” and “counterculture insult.” The former phenomena stems from cultural subgroups attempting to distinguish themselves through fashion. As examples Davis cites religious sects (i.e. Hassidic Jews or the Amish) and racial minorities (i.e. African Americans). The primary difference between the two forms of “minority group disidentification” is that when employed by religious sects different dress serves to keep mainstream society out, while the styles of racial minorities often “float upwards” helping to bridge the gap between societies.

Clothing is not only away to indicate group association but it is also an extension of values which is why faith based clothing stands apart from the fashion system

In 1943 in a series of riots between sailors and Latinos, the Latino dress of the Zoot Suit made them an easy target and more notable to media

The last movement, “counterculture insult,” Davis argues is the most easily integrated with mainstream fashion despite being the most directly anti fashion of all the movements discussed. Integration occurs for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the proponents of “counterculture insult” are usually middle-class teenagers, thus they are members of the very group they rebel against (Davis cites the hippies and the punks). Younger designers seeking to find their niche in fashion often latch on to these counter culture fashions as a way to set themselves apart and give themselves an edge. Also, fashion has a historical link to counterculture, since the earliest designers collaborated with avant-garde artists at the dawn of the twentieth century.

Davis article applies in particular to our course because it discusses a classic power struggle, that between fashion and anti fashion. In a close reading of Davis’ text it is interesting to note that each of the anti fashion movements he discusses attempt to seize power away from fashion, except for the “conservative skeptics.” These women adhere willingly to the power of the fashion system, and yet they are the only group truly successful in wresting power from it. While the other groups become integrated into the fashion mainstream in one way or another, this group alone is able to defy and change edicts of fashion by subverting trends.

The afro once a minority expression has not only been accepted into the fashion landscape but has been recently elevated to a high position of beauty and style, above in Vogue Paris Nov 2009 by Mario Testino

Article: Brian Hilton, Chong Ju Choi, Stephen Chen, “The Ethics of Counterfeiting in the Fashion Industry.” Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 55, No. 4 (Dec. 2004), pp. 345-354

All three of the authors of this article are on staff at the Australian National University. Brian Hilton works for the National Graduate School of Business. Chong Ju Choi is the dean of the University’s National Graduate School of Management, and Stephen Chen is the senior lecturer at that same school. In the article, the authors discuss the ethics of counterfeiting in the context of high fashion and luxury goods. The first distinguish between three types of goods, then between four ethical perspectives, and finally between four types of counterfeit products. Afterwards they analyze the four types of counterfeits based on the four ethical perspectives raised earlier in the article.

To begin with, the three types of goods are: “credence goods,” “experience goods” and “search goods.” The value of a “search good” is apparent before purchase. That of the “experience good” becomes apparent after purchase and sometimes even after a period of use. It is extremely difficult ever to determine the value of “credence goods.” The authors specify that while counterfeits may fall under any one of these three categories, authentic high fashion holds the mystical value of a “credence good.”

Next, the four ethical perspective by which the authors analyze counterfeit products: The first is “utilitarianism,” which dictates that if intellectual property goes unprotected there will be no grounds for innovation on behalf of the producer and society as a whole will suffer. The second, “distributive justice,” argues that the benefits you reap from a product should be equal to the amount of effort you put into it. By this argument, designers deserve the full profits of their designs on the grounds that they are responsible for the creation of the intellectual property on which counterfeits are based. Third is the “moral rights of man perspective,” which states that “there are certain basic human rights that need to be respected at all costs.” If you view intellectual property as one of these rights, this perspective also becomes an argument against counterfeiting. Finally, “ethical relativism,” which “bases decisions on what others are doing under similar circumstances.” This perspective offers the least grounds for defending counterfeiting, for (as is discussed in the article’s introduction) while most countries have copyright and intellectual property right laws, they are for the most part rarely and loosely enforced.

The authors then introduce the four types of counterfeits: “vanity fakes,” “overruns,” “condoned copies,” and those fakes produced by the same house whose high fashion product they imitate. The authors proceed to examine the four types of fakes based on the four ethical perspectives, and largely find within each perspective grounds for the defense of the counterfeiter.

“Vanity fakes,” have both a low use value and a low mystic value. However, as this low value is apparent to the consumer before they purchase the product. On the grounds of “moral rights” producers of these “vanity fakes,” usually working out of low-income countries, have the right to make their living. Also, the consumer targeted by the product, most likely in a similar low-income situation, has a right to purchase the product that brings them some joy. On “utilitarian” grounds, the cheap copies can encourage designer innovation, as the designer must produce new designs more rapidly to distinguish their name and brand from the cheap, counterfeit styles as they become readily available. Also, the authors make the argument that the prospective consumer of the “vanity fake” would never have the buying power to purchase the genuine luxury product; therefore no one is harmed in this equation.

“Overruns” are counterfeits created by the owners of factories that produce genuine designer products. The counterfeits are forged from the left over material, they are of good quality, and often are identical to the designer’s product save a name or logo. The authors defend this kind of counterfeiting on the grounds that many designers produce their luxury products in sweatshops, through producing “overrun” counterfeits, workers are able to supplement meager wages, which would otherwise constitute only one percent of the cost of the designer’s product. Clearly, this defense works from the perspective of “moral rights.” It also applies to a “utilitarian perspective,” without the additional income of counterfeiting workers would not receive a benefit from the product that equaled their share of the labor. Finally, from the “relativistic” perspective, the majority of societies condemn sweatshops as unethical, so this small revenge could be seen as fair.

UNESCO's campaign to expose counterfeiting in connection to the other crimes and abuse of the black market

Third, “condoned copies,” in which legitimized fashion houses produce less expensive copies of haute couture designs (the authors cite as examples Victor Costa and Jack Mulqueen) is defended on “relativistic” grounds. Designers themselves often agree to the use of their designs, and one could argue the entire industry of fashion is based on copying, therefore this form of counterfeiting could be deemed acceptable.

“Self-Copies,” are designers’ reproductions of their own work. It is difficult to turn a profit in the luxury good industry; therefore many designers rely on supplementary ready-to-wear lines to keep their businesses afloat. However, if not handled carefully, increased production can flood the market with your product, thus diminishing its mystic value (the authors use as an example Gucci in the 1980s).

The main ethical dilemma around “self-copies” and other counterfeits of a high quality, equal to that of the luxury good they imitate is that it confuses the value attributed to the original product. Designers must rely solely on mystic value, brands and logos, to justify the higher cost of their product when counterfeiters begin producing products of equally quality at a lower cost.

At the conclusion of the article counterfeiting remains an ethical “gray area,” where equal arguments can be made for and against the practice.

1 comment:

  1. I am happy to find this post very useful for me, as it contains lot of information.Thanks for sharing