write here write now / writing

THE VIRGIN AND THE WHORE

Yesterday, at a workshop with the Bachelor of Fashion Design and Technology and AB Multimedia Arts students of the ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and business school iAcademy, I discussed the classic dichotomies by which the fashion industry defines the woman.

While there is a universe of complexities in every woman, the industry, whether consciously or subconsciously, finds it easier to define her on the basis of extremities: Is she the princess or the evil stepmother? Is she a woman of leisure or a working woman? Is she a damsel in distress or a dominatrix? Is she pretty in pink or va-va-voom? Is she a virgin or a whore?

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[The author explaining the world of difference between Valentino‘s children’s books-inspired spring 2013 collection for the diffusion line Red Valentino and Tom Ford‘s dominatrix-in-leather collection for the same season]

Stereotypes are often an object of derision, especially in an industry, where popularity has become the currency, but I believe these dichotomies do exist in every woman. It is the job of the designer, however — or the fashion editor, the fashion scribe, the fashion photographer, or the graphic artist — to recognize that there exists this duality in every woman, despite the nuances that are unique to her.

There is only one Madonna. There is only one Mother Teresa. All other women are in between, with the broad spectrum of virtue and vice, good and evil, light and dark, sun and moon, fancy and practicality in their thoughts, their deeds, their looks, their hopes and dreams, and their reality.

As I wrote in my book Write Here Write Now: Standing at Attention Before My Imaginary Style Dictator: “When writing, it pays to keep in mind what you stand for and to stand by it, but… it is just as valuable to sit on the fence to have a good view of both sides, to be a chameleon, a Dr. Jekyll who is just as true to form as Mr. Hyde, the way Robert Louis Stevenson presented to us the awe-inspiring duality of such a personality — or maybe every personality, including yours and mine.”

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