The term Avante-Garde is often used quite loosely, used to describe new and experimental artistic endeavors, at times without regard for good form or taste. Of course, bad taste can be used to greatly support a particular theme, but there are times where it can be insensitive or to poor taste.
In the fashion world, new trends and styles are being constantly explored, revisited and re-envisioned. However, not all fashion ventures are necessarily haute couture.
Enter Homeless Chic, a fashion trend inspired by the very lowest class of human being intended for some of the highest. In essence, the fashion is simply wearing a mismatch of tattered, worn and deconstructed clothing to mimic a homeless individual’s attire with the aim to aestheticise and glamorise homelessness.
This theme has attracted controversy and debate due to the sensitive matter that comes with homelessness; it is a serious matter that negatively affects thousands of lives.
Currently, there are 105,237 homeless in Australia; roughly 0.5% of the overall population. These people are without residencies, security or guarantee of a next meal. Such a class of people is not to be envied and the issue at hand pertains to whether high society should idealise derogatory lifestyles. The problem of stylising destructive lifestyles has been debated ever since the heroin chic fashion period of the nineties.
Though controversial, this trend has been regarded as avante-garde and has been explored and experimented with by several high-profile designers such as John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood and Patrick Mohr.
John Galliano was the pioneer for homeless chic with his fashion range Derelicte for Christian Doir, which was later parodied in the movie Zoolander. Galliano’s models wore a mix of shabby and high-end clothing, pushing shopping trolleys down the catwalk and wearing newspaper-print silk dresses. Westwood expanded on this theme by featuring her models in frostbitten make-up and bedrolls, mimicking the extreme conditions that many homeless face.
Mohr, however, upstaged the two by featuring actual homeless individuals on the catwalk rather than the standard beautified models, giving the show sense of legiti
Following Mohr, homeless chic seems to highlight homelessness through fashion with artistic intent, particularly when incorporating real homeless individuals. However, this seeks to undermines the homeless rather than achieve awareness. To expose homelessness to the public eye will indeed be a socially reflective message but placing them upon a catwalk attaches the association of glamour with a focus on the visual display. This disconnects the subject from their societal issue, focusing on their involvement in the fashion show without context of the hardships associated with this certain lifestyle.
Upon my recent travels to Sydney Central, I encountered multiple cases of homelessness, where people were reduced to living in no more than small shabby tents around the brims of park areas.
I saw a minority of people devolved to a primal state of living. If they couldn’t make claim to a patch of grass or bench, they’d perch themselves along a street under submission to their own circumstance. This is the reality of destitute living. There is nothing glamorous about the desperate fight to control what little they have. To look upon this class of people and admire the visual appeal of their clothing would take a disconnection from reality; either via ignorance or naivety.
Homelessness Australia 2015, viewed 29th August 2015, <http://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/index.php/about-homelessness/homeless-statistics>
Saurers, J 2010 The Evolution of Homeless Chic, weblog, 19th January, viewed 29th August 2015, <http://jezebel.com/5452006/the-evolution-of-homeless-chic/>
Vivienne Westwood presents Derelicte!, image, n.d., viewed 29/08/2015, <http://shoeblogs.com/2011/01/>
Homeless Chic, image, n.d., viewed 29/08/2015, <http://jezebel.com/5452006/the-evolution-of-homeless-chic/>
Zoolander Derelicte, image, n.d., viewed 30/08/2015, <http://s5.photobucket.com/user/Ellydeiadrete/media/ooohderelicte.gif.html>
Hickman, A 2002, Heroin chic: the visual culture of narcotic addiction, Issue. 59, no. 3, pp. 119-136, viewed 30th August 2015
TLo, 2010 Vivienne Westwood Menswear Fall 2010, weblog, 18th January, viewed 30th August 2015, <http://projectrungay.blogspot.com.au/2010/01/vivienne-westwood-menswear-fall-2010.html>