Jun 21, 2012

A Fetish Cut

The online fashion website ShowStudio is running an online series called Fashion Fetish as a component to their exhibition Selling Sex. Fashion Fetish includes performances, fashion films, and essays made solely by women working in fashion.  The video "Is My Mind For Me" by Sarah Piantadosi and Ellie Grace Cumming (assistant stylist to Katy England) depicts Sardé Hardie using large shears, to slowly cut off her long black hair.

The film is described as addressing trichophilia, being sexually aroused by hair (or specifically its subset of being aroused by hair cutting). It depicts a girl taking scissors to her long hair in a Junya Watanabe sweater with "Hymn Eola" by Tonstartssbandht providing the soundtrack. The sexual significance of hair as fetish is obvious, but somehow I just don't think there is much eroticism in the 2 1/2 minute video, unless you happen to be a trichophiliac.

There is a strong relationship between women and their hair. Hair is often a symbol and tool of feminine sexuality and power. Cutting off one's long locks has paradoxical meanings: it is an act of renunciation of power, submission almost, as well as an act of fearlessness. And hair cutting is an apt action since fetish is about power/powerlessness and presence/absence.

But fetish is also about arousal, that of either the subject or audience. While the camera's eye is operating voyeuristically, it doesn't seduce the viewer. There is no scopic pleasure. And the actress (who evokes a bit of Kate Moss) shows little emotion. Not fear, joy, or ecstasy. Things improve a bit when, as she takes the shaver to her head, her fingers gently touch the crewed cut, and she caresses her scalp. But when the camera shifts to her toes and the hair gathering on the floor, I think the filmmakers missed the opportunity to have her curl her toes. This one small gesture would have said it all.


The ShowStudio website provides this essay to contextual the works:
If, historically speaking, a fetish is a manufactured object which has magical powers, or one that people are irrationally devoted to, fashion is a veritable fetish-factory of 'It' shoes, 'Now' bags, and garments that magically propose to make your life indefinably better. On a less abstract level, fashion has been obsessed with sexual fetishism for centuries. The subtle constraint of the corset, the snugly-gloved hand, a shiny boot of leather - all staples of the well-dressed man or woman, and equally the well-equipped Sado-Masochist. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Pandora's Box of fashion fetish was blown apart - from Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren's proposal of 'rubberwear for the office' in their seminal London boutique SEX, to Gianni Versace's sanitised 'Bondage Chic' of 1992, to the power of John Galliano's 'Sado-Maso' haute couture collection for Christian Dior in 2000, designers articulated the sexual peccadilloes of a select few across the international catwalks. It's fetish as fashion.

Fashion Fetish hands the power entirely to female fashion professionals, asking them to address the notion of Fashion Fetish and examining their individual visions of women. In contrast with Selling Sex, which reimagines the female relationship with sex, Fashion Fetish focuses on a woman's relationship with clothing. Although as fashion historian Anne Hollander has asserted, the nude in art always wears 'The fashion of her time' - fashion's influence can be felt across the naked flesh, her body as 'fashioned' as a corseted ball-gown. Dressed or undressed, this project offers a clear field, a blank canvas and an open mind to a selection of some of the most important women working in fashion today - designers, stylists, models and image-makers - inviting them to present their own interpretation of Fashion Fetish. Their visual interpretations of the Fashion Fetish theme are then used as the inspiration for a host of female authors, journalists and cultural commentators to 'unpick' fetish in a series of accompanying essays, each written to correspond with a particular piece.

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