Monday, 3 May 2010

Singapore Fashion Festival: Musings on Class

Every time I return to Singapore – on average, twice a year – I am impressed with yet more new buildings, more new top international names in the already exceedingly sophisticated and swanky shopping malls and even more sophisticated places to eat some of the very best and most refined food in the world. This is a totally modern and virtually new-build city that lives on air conditioning and the privileges associated with extreme wealth. So I was amused to notice yesterday a car with a slogan in its window that read 'This car runs on … money!' It seemed a nicely ironic corrective to all the high spending and a gentle reminder that, as in other wealthy international cities, the privileges are for … well, the privileged.

I was reminded of an exhibition I saw last year in Sunderland, in the north of England. It was called Rank and demonstrated how English society had developed as a cohesive policy based on the assumption that everybody had a place in society and should largely remain there. A complex system of checks and balances was evolved to keep them there. But the exhibition showed most clearly that there are no pre-ordained slots if people believe in their worth and are prepared to fight for their place. The exhibition was an engrossing survey of values and beliefs fought for but, just in case it was a little too serious and heavy breathing about individual freedoms and the fight to preserve them, it had a nicely ironic sting in the tail, with car stickers available at the exit reading 'I love Inequality'.

Only for the brave and I didn't stick one in my window, I'm afraid.

All of which makes me think of fashion's split personality as it tries on one hand to keep its distance and create an aura of exclusivity while at the same time breaking its neck trying to find new ways of pulling more dedicated followers into its world. Can a universal force retain any exclusivity apart from that imposed by cost or should fashion, like sport, just accept that making money and being exclusive simply do not tally in these high turn-over times where demand for the ephemeral has never been easier to activate? A couple of top models, a few celeb friends (preferably from the music business) and you are in business as a designer. Or is it rather more complicated than that makes it seem?


  1. Rank, Class, both dead in the water ... I wish!
    The Rank exhibition, and very readable catalogue, provoked musings, but not equal to Colin's.
    Sorry that I did not get a car sticker, but since fundamentally I am a dyed in the wool elitist it would have been very hypocritical to stick one on my [no longer existent] car.
    Haute couture has to be elitist, so therefore to a certain extent about rank ... but maybe only the financial rank of the taxi.

  2. Off topic again, Terry Richardson's photos are extremely disturbing, especially the one posted on BryanBoy's site! I personally feel that he should be sharing the cell with the other designer Anand something who his cooling his heels in jail for sexually exploiting models!