During a recent trip to San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral, I discovered a collection of jewelry called, From War to Peace. Each necklace, bracelet, and pair of earrings is made from disarmed nuclear weapons systems. The company works to transform weapons of mass destruction into peaceful symbols of beauty and function. I find this company’s tangible, transformative metaphor incredibly poignant; a powerful statement about the possibility of transformation, even forgiveness…forgiveness for genius that was used to destroy life instead of working to save it.
Fashion is a powerful tool, a keenly reflective social medium. It seems to swallow whole those memories and historical moments that we’d sometimes like to forget. It mirrors back to us silenced voices, stories of war, and glimpses of the future. It disseminates belief systems and ideologies, gender binaries and hypocrisy. Fashion-as-aesthetics is as much an extension of an individual as it is a disclosure of the collective dream of the human condition. It is an iteration, an evolutionary-like system of maps that traces historical consciousness. Designers design what they see and what they cannot.
In 2011, TIME Magazine named, “The Protestor” as the person of the year. We saw protestors representing Occupy Wall Street, Occupy the Hood, Los Indignados of Spain, protestors in Greece, revolutionaries in Tunisia and Egypt, and activists from Syria fleeing persecution. In 2012, the Russian punk band, Pussy Riot was jailed for speaking out against Vladimir Putin. TIME’s Protestor represented humanity’s voice, en masse. Through social media channels like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter etc., those people without voices started making beautiful noise. From War to Peace echoes a similar form of protest, albeit on a much smaller scale.
If you’re in the NYC area, make sure to check out The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition: PUNK: Chaos to Couture, starting May 3rd. “Since its origins, punk has had an incendiary influence on fashion,” says Andrew Bolton, Curator in The Costume Institute. “Although punk’s democracy stands in opposition to fashion’s autocracy, designers continue to appropriate punk’s aesthetic vocabulary to capture its youthful rebelliousness and aggressive forcefulness.” The same spirit of protest that fuels our desire to speak out and stand up for our beliefs inhabits the Punk aesthetic. Hardly a coincidence that Punk fashion is also having a moment!
Photo1: Occupy Oakland protester Andre Little, left. Greek protester Katerina Patrikarakou covers her face in a Maalox mixture to counter the effects of tear gas.
Photo 2: Young protestor alongside an image of Robert J. Oppenheimer
Photo 3: Egyptian protester Nehal Marei. Right, a tear-gas canister in Egypt.
Photos by Peter Hapak. All rights reserved.