· Kay Catalogue, Modernism and Fashion Persuasion ·

This lecture aimed to give an overall vision of Modernism and its key points regarding fashion, people’s taste and society.

First of all, we were presented the figure of the ‘flaneur’ which is a French term to describe those who just like to wander and stroll aimlessly around the cities in a very slow and calm pace discovering the cities and the society that inhabit them. This particular personality was fundamental for the French senator and member of the Parliment, Georges-Eugène Haussmann (1809-1891) who aimed to enhance the city for the wellness of the people by creating more open spaces like parks that would encourage people to walk through new streets that have never before dared to step on. He used a grid system to make the city geometric so that people would be able to navigate more easily and stimulate the social activity of Paris. This idea was named ‘phsycogeography’.

Flaneur wandering around the city.

So by this, we can understand that this concept of city that we have nowadays have not always been like this, and that cities were not thought as the urban scenario that are today where we expect to find many different activities to do by wandering all around.

The grid system of Paris by Haussmann

By applying these ideas into the city, the evidences between different social classes became more obvious and clear. This lead to a class system where people’s taste was linked to their status. However we realise throughout the lecture that taste has nothing to do with the status or the purchasing power, but with what we saw, learned and received since we were born. So actually tastes were passed on from generation to generation.

Nowadays, according to the theory of the French contemporaneous sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002), our tastes are as well set for us beforehand, as the media and publicity send those images and messages of what we should like. A great example is the catalogue of the Sweden company ‘IKEA’, where all those ideas decorations and furniture are so ideal and attainable regardless our social status.

 IKEA Catalogues of ideal houses

What’s more, our tastes is now considered a way to self-improvement as the English educator Mike Featherstone claimed: “consumer culture publicity suggests that we all have room for self-improvement and expression whatever our age or class origins”.  The Kardashian’s show was used in the lecture to exemplify how someone can become a brand that actually sells you the idea of self-improving by your own taste elections.

The Kardashians’ Show (example of self-improvement)

It’s kind of scary to realise how advertisement define for us our tastes and choose for us what we need. We make in class the exercise of thinking about how many adverts of products we might like pop up every time we surf on the Internet. This is an absolute privation of our intimacy, which can be related to the second part of the lecture about the pleasure of gazing. Recently, the popularity of realities that sneak into other’s houses increased considerably and TV productions take advantage of the inherent predisposition of human-beings for gazing and the pleasure we get from it.

All in all, our tastes, doesn’t matter who originate them, are gonna catch some eyes due to the strong inclination of people to stare at others. And probably, everything is just a vicious circle where  people feed back from what they see to make a selection of their own tastes.

Reference List

October, D. & Hauer, G. (2016) Kay Catalogue, Modernism and Fashion Persuasion [Lecture to GMD Year 1] T303: Contextual and Theoretical Studies. UAL


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