Street-style: Fashion Photography, Weblogs and the Urban Image
From Norman Parkinson's photographs of formal high fashion on the footpaths of London to David Bailley's snap-shots of casual chic contrasted with the chaotic Manhattan sidewalk, the street has provided the predominant backdrop for fashion photography in magazines and advertising since the 1950s. Through this association fashion has become closely aligned with concepts of modernity and the everyday and as such fashion photography of the street can be said to offer immediacy and realism that is contrasted with the fantasies and dreams of studio based images. This realism might be understood to express the democracy of fashion, where everyday people in the urban environment absorb the rarefied vision of the designer or stylist in daily interpretations of fashion. Photographs of street-style are increasingly prevalent in contemporary culture, where web logs such as the Sartorialist and Facehunter offer fashion enthusiasts a chance to comment on what people are wearing from Sao-Paolo to Shang-hai, San Francisco to Stockholm. Street style blog spots not only act as a form of social documentary, they encourage a dialogue that reinforces fashion of the street as a democratic arena, where the general public, rather than models, celebrities or designers, can be at the forefront of fashion- making. This paper will argue that street-style blogs have absorbed the visual language of straight-up photography, characterised by a full-length immediate portrait in street situ. This format is borrowed from the pages of magazines such as i-D and in effect provides an homogenous urban background to contemporary fashion. The city that is represented, whether it be Milan, Istanbul or Singapore is largely conflateable, where the images of one blog appear to differ little from another in terms of how the location is treated. While the individual style that is represented in these blogs might suggest a rebellion against global conformity, the similarities across cultures are also worth noting. As such, this paper will argue that the notion of a singular or elite centre for fashion, in Paris, London, New York or Milan is tempered by the homogenous all-encompassing city of the Internet. The street becomes a site of uniformity constructed by the particular mode of photography that has emerged in these blogs and to some degree this may represent a further democratisation of fashion within contemporary culture.
Fashion: Exploring Critical Issues