Bricolage Fashion and Its Link to Retro and Postmodernism

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This essay is going to look at the term Bricolage and how it links to postmodernism and the term Retro. ‘Non-moderns use bricolage to fashion new tools from available objects… Consumers fashion new identities from the resources available to them’ (Ratneshwar, 2000:132). Fashion designers find their inspiration from the past and combine styles to create new designs that are seen as different and inventive. However, many people argue that so many designers use materials, looks and styles from the past that they are re using fashion in a continuous cycle and are no longer being original and creative.

I will be looking at fashion designer Gareth Pugh to explain more about the term bricolage and the use of the past in contemporary fashion designs. Postmodernism affects fashion, film, pop music and any form of contemporary art. It is a huge topic however I will be looking at its impact on style: ‘Postmodernists suggest that history is going nowhere and thus that we have lost all secure moral and intellectual values. Postmodernism borrows from an eclectic grab-bag of names, traditions and cultural styles in arriving at a version of appropriate contemporary comportment’ (Agger, 1990:166).

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Postmodernism has a vast impact on style and trends as fashion consumers today buy from the resources available to them, making people dress or style themselves into something seen as contemporary, yet really something that is being reused from history. ‘Retro, like bricolage, employ references to the past; they involve looking to the materials and styles used in the past’ (Barnard, 1996:180). The terms bricolage and retro are linked. Bricolage is purposely using pieces of fashion, art and everyday life mixed together giving something a different meaning, whereas retro is fashion re occurring from the overall past.

Gareth Pugh and Bricolage Gareth Pugh is a British fashion designer who first established his solo career in 2006 at London fashion week. His creations are eccentric and rebellious. However I will be using examples of his work to explain further about bricolage and how some of Pugh’s work is clearly re used from other fashion designers. Figure 1 – Leigh Bowery Figure 2 – Gareth Pugh http://kitschnoir. blogspot. com/ http://www. freestylemagazine. co. uk/

Figure 3 – Leigh Bowery Figure 4 – Gareth Pugh http://www. akimbo. ca/akimblog http://andreasangelidakis. blogspot. com Leigh Bowery is a fashion designer and performance artist. Bowery’s work, figure 1 and 3 has influenced many fashion designers such as Gareth Pugh, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano. Figure 2 and 4 are fashion designer Gareth Pugh’s spring 2007 ready to wear collection.

Both designs are clearly inspired by the legend Leigh Bowery by the use of form, texture and colours. Strong shapes and exaggerated shoulder pads show Pugh’s designs have a lot of 1980’s reference to them. What’s more his clothing designs have a dark feel to them which relates to the early 80’s when the gothic fashion trend began. Pugh also has a lot of fetish wear, S&M and punk influence in his designs which go back to Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren in the 1980s creating punk fashion and popularising the sex pistols.

Checkered shoes and clothing was also a trend of the 80’s era popularised by actor Sean Penn’s character in the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High in 1981. Pugh’s ‘creations’ have many different elements from the past, not to mention the obvious connection with Darth Vader! ‘In the spirit of post-modern art, mid- and later 1990’s fashion concerned itself with “bricolage”…retro styling is the ultimate bricolage tool and top designers all re- invented and re- combined a variety of earlier eras’ (Tolkien, 2000:142) Gareth Pugh’s inspiration from both Leigh Bowery, 1980’s and S&M is what we call bricolage.

Whilst sourcing more pictures, Gareth Pugh has also had many other obvious influences from the past. One collection had apparent Elizabethan inspired clothing with the use of ruffles, neckwear and padded hips. What’s more, a monochrome gothic feel to all of Pugh’s designs with the front of the dress white, the back in black, which is also a play on the ‘crying and laughing’ faces usually associated in theatres and stage plays. This tells us Pugh has fun with his designs, they are theatrical and have an element of fantasy ‘Alice and wonderland’ feel to them.

Gareth Pugh Gareth Pugh ‘This confirms that fashion – contrary to its reputation – has become an art of memory…It is up to date to be resolutely no longer up to date’ (Vinken, 2005: 69) Gareth Pugh has been compared to some of the top fashion designers who have been around the fashion industry for a very long time, such as Vivienne Westwood who is renowned for her early career in punk and fetish wear. Pugh’s imagination and extreme designs is what draws people to his shows.

However, his creations are clearly recycled from the past and then re invented to create something contemporary. Therefore, can we call Gareth Pugh’s or any current fashion designer’s work original? ‘Postmodernism has encouraged dialogue with the past…such reappropriation and recontextualization of older forms and styles, often referred to as retro, has become a hallmark of the postmodern aesthetic and features prominently in areas such as art, music and fashion’ (Sim, 2001:350) We live in a world today where people argue nothing is original.

Fashion designers, artists, film makers, musicians will continue to mix their inspirations together to make one inventive piece of work. ‘Postmodernist suggest history is going nowhere and thus that we have lost all secure moral and intellectual values’ (Agger, 1990:166). Gareth Pugh’s fashion designs have been influenced by many great designers such as Leigh Bowery and Vivienne Westwood. What’s more, his creations have been inspired by film, theatre, the Elizabethan period and many references from the 1980’s.

Even if Pugh’s designs are merely influenced out of enjoyment from a certain time period or place, they are still being re used from the past as modern inspiration. Fashion designers could be seen as somewhat lazy with their imaginations because they are re using the past allowing fashion to become a continuous cycle and therefore ultimately always repeating fashion trends. Bibliography Agger, B. (1990) The decline of discourse: Reading, writing and resistance in postmodern capitalism. United Kingdom: Redwood Press Limited.

Arnold, R. (2001) Fashion, desire and anxiety: Image and morality in the 20th century. London: IB. Tauris & Co LTD Barker, C. (2000) Cultural Studies: Reading and practice. London: SAGE publications Barnard, M. (1996) Fashion as communication: Fashion, Clothing and Post modernity. London: Routledge. Featherstone, M. (2007) Consumer Culture and postmodernism. London: SAGE publications. Ratneshwar, S. (2000) The why of Consumption: Contemporary perspectives on consumer motives, goals and desires. Abingdon: Routledge. Sim, S. 1998) The Routledge companion to postmodernism. United Kingdom: Icon Books. Tolkien, T. (2002) Vintage: the art of dressing up. London: Pavilion. Vinken, B. (2005) High & Low: The End of a Century of Fashion: Trends and cycles in the Fashion system. London: Berg. http://www. garethpugh. net/ http://www. alissongothz. com. br/leighbowery/ http://andreasangelidakis. blogspot. com http://kitschnoir. blogspot. com/ http://www. freestylemagazine. co. uk/ http://www. akimbo. ca/akimblog/ http://www. answers. com/topic/sadomasochism

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