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How are females represented in the art and design industry?

This essay will demonstrate and identify how females are represented in the art and design industry. Firstly, concentrating on feminists in the fashion industry and discussing other themes we see within industry. I will base my essay from the 1920’s up to and including contemporary designers of early 21st Century. It will include the four core contextual themes, which follow Practice, Product, Discourse and reflection. The first theme being practice, would involve “The actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed theories relating to it”. (Oxford Dictionaries, 2019)

The second theme ‘product’ is explained as “A good, idea, method, information, object or service created as a result of a process and serves a need or satisfies a want”. (Business Dictionary) The next theme Discourse, is defined as “Written or spoken communication or debate, an opinion that is communicated through a person speaking”. (Oxford Dictionaries 2019) The final theme, Reflection is described as “Something that shows, expresses or is a sign of something”. (Cambridge Dictionary, 2019)

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This essay will now be looking into how women are perceived in the art and design industry. From a historical perspective, Charles Frederick Worth (The Fashion Historian, 2019) was one of the earliest designers to bring the fashion industry to people’s fingertips. Known for his impressive materials and fabrics, which ultimately made his garments, he was the first person to set the reputation of fashion, as being a great designer. From early 19th century to early 20th century, the beginning of the 20th century was when Coco Chanel introduced womenswear, with a signature skirt suit. From then till now, how we have seen fashion ultimately change.

Introducing the idea of now having fashion figures in our lives, significant developments of how women are perceived in the art and design industry are set. Coco Chanel would be a prime example of a historic designer who sold the idea of clothing standards from an early point in time. As to where we are now in terms of having leading women figures such as Victoria Beckham, who now sets her own standards in this industry. Which consumers can relate to. (Figure one, Coco Chanel signature skirt)

From the first signature skirt, to now having feminist movement acts who wear empowerment clothing, fashion has made influential changes in how we think, feel and perceive women in the art and design industry. An example of fashion, attitudes and empowerment, arose in the 1990’s where we saw the rise of the Spice Girls, who brought about their ideas of having fun, being independent and confident. “The value of female friendship and putting ourselves before men. Permission to be loud, wild, angry and honest”. (The Independent, how the Spice Girls changed feminism, 2019) Society saw a girl group who brought about the importance of empowerment and independence, through clothing and music. Being the earliest group of girls to have this Significant effect of how women should be who they wish to be. (Figure one, The Spice Girls, 1997)

1980’s to early 1990’s fashion model, who set the scene being the first black fashion model, Naomi Campbell is a perfect example of empowerment to all women of race, ethnicity and colour. Naomi would be an example of someone who set the standards back in the day also and is someone who consumers can ultimately aspire to relate too. Interestingly she could be a major influence on the industry of fashion because she was so different for that time period. (Figure one, Naomi Campbell, 1994)

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As time has moved on from the 90’s, now consumers see contemporary designers, such as Victoria Beckham, being a prime example of a contemporary fashion designer. Today she leads the way with her own fashion line, Victoria described as “beautiful”, “desirable” and “classy”, (CNBC how Victoria Beckham built her empire, 2018) This was when she was becoming a fashion icon herself, 20 years after starting her showbiz career. Another prime example of a contemporary designer would be Donatella Versace, the Italian fashion designer. She was reported saying “Empowerment doesn’t stop sexism” this current designer believes in showing femininity in its best light, “To be empowered is to look your best, to show femininity”. (MSN Donatella Versace empowerment doesn’t stop sexism, 2018)

We now have significant and influential women in the media who represent what they believe in. The likes of Rihanna, Emma Watson and Jennifer Lawrence, who all share the same values for this major issue which we see occur in everyday lives. Society in general has seen a change in how women are being able to express their voices currently, but still get criticized for what they believe in. We would be hoping to agree we see the greatness of these messages as something which will make an overall positive change, for people who want to embrace what they have to show, now and in the future. (Figure one, image of Rihanna wearing feminist shirt)

Moving into the subject of ‘girl power’, it could be argued to be one of the most controversial topics of this century. Outlets are filled with empowerment clothing which consumers are subjected to, with the use of the most powerful platform known as social media, consumers who buy into this idea, see social media influencers project their opinions to consumers. The use of magazines and visual TV programmes also lead the way with fashion empowerment. Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, who have built themselves into role models, are highlighted and showcased in the media as inspirational influencers, agreed or not this is the society which we now live in.

GRL PWR, known for” Girl power” has become one of the most encouraged and celebrated attitudes currently. The likes of celebrities such as Emma Watson, who is significant in the media for her contributions towards equality, said “Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not about a stick with which to beat other women with”. (The Guardian ‘Feminism is about giving women choice’, 2019)

As fashion is seen as one of the most empowering ways for young woman to reflect their style and sense of freedom, it could be something useful and overall a positive act. 2016 saw Dior release a T-shirt with the slogan saying, “WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS”. Creating a certain reaction from public members, designer Maria Grazia Chiuri defended the t-shirt saying. “Honestly, this was not about making money”,” she said. “Getting Sidney Toledano (Dior’s CEO) to agree to doing a T-shirt wasn’t easy. ‘Dior is not a T-shirt brand”,’ I was told. All the profits have gone to charity.” (Women in the world, 2019)

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Another use of how females are represented in the current art and design industry, is the growing industry of fashion catwalk models. Specifically, what was a major highlight in the media was designer Jeremy Scott’s Barbie edition back in 2015. They demonstrated the Barbie persona through their clothing and physical appearance. It may be argued the standards of how models in the 21st should be presented like these models? Brought to our screens using the media, right or wrong as consumers of this type of advertising “fashion” we can be subjected to what beauty is meant to look like through specific model promotion.

Therefore, as a society some people may find this belittling and not a good type of promotion. The use of diversity is something of which is an issue currently, as consumers may agree the use of one type of body shapes and standard physical appearance, is what we see within catwalk models.

As a society are, we then contradicting ourselves to what beauty is meant to be, by only showing one type of body psyche? We are starting to see the collaboration of different body shapes, being celebrated and voiced through media and the use of fashion models. This is just another demonstration of society today, how it has so many different areas of topics within the female industry. (Moschino’s Jeremy Scott, 2015)

The idea of how females have been represented through time within in the art and design world, till now has ultimately changed the way people think. From historical time showing what was acceptable then till now, how females are made to think and feel a certain way about the idea of what is perceived to be “right” within industry. This has all been done through the position of the media, and therefore consumers have been brainwashed through this use of a product. Most importantly it is detrimental as magazines, advertisement and current trends also highlight it.

The era of Coco Chanel back in the 1920’s where the body image was named “The Flapper”, the ideal image then was a small bust and hips. The focus being petite, streamlined and straight. Moving along to the 21st century, projected onto consumers has been unrealistic body expectations and pressure for woman to set a standard in this manipulated society. However, we see the people who speak and act out for what is right and what is wrong, these could be called feminists who reinforce their messages on how we can choose, what to wear, look and be who we wish to be, reinforcing the clothing we see in outlets, to ultimately make a mark.

The next theory which could be mentioned is the idea of the “Male Gaze” this would mean the theory regarding “Sexual objectification on women in the media” (Film inquiry, the male gaze theory, 2019) Women in the media are viewed from the eyes of the man, this means they are represented as an object for the male desire. This would be a huge link back to feminists, as this theory can be viewed in three different ways. Firstly, how women view themselves, how men look at women, and how women look at other women. This theory makes a huge impact on todays society as women may not only have the pressure of being a certain way but also having to look a certain way to be accepted.

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The theory came about from Laura Mulvey, who in 1975 wrote the essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. 1970 was the year to witness action which saw “The Miss World Competition’ as the prime example feminist theory. A group of feminists secreted themselves among the audience, after they hurled “hiding leaflets, water-pistols, stink bombs, and bags of flour in their clothes”. (Feminist Film Theorists book)

The competition “is a public celebration of the traditional female road to success”, where women are defined solely by their physical attributes’. (Feminist Film Theorists book) This saw the political campaign which involved “women’s struggle to gain control over their own bodies and how they are represented; the notion of woman as passive spectacle; and the passivity of spectators” (Feminist Film Theorists book) Reinforcing this in todays industry of the media, the “Male Gaze” plays part in how woman feel about themselves, good or bad this can lead to many discussions on what we count as appropriate or what may be seen as men objectifying women in a sexual way.

The impact on the male gaze, means this is correlates in our everyday life. The use of objectification can be seen in advertising which portrays a woman or the female body in a sexualised way. Interesting that situations of this gender are found to be demonstrated in this way, where it has no links to the advertisement or product. This can also be said for the use of makeup or perfume advertisements, where a product is made to come across to a viewer perhaps “sexy” as this is its purpose, but could it be too revealing.

Tom Ford being a prime example of an advertiser who has a certain image within his work. The idea of sexual objectification is clear with what we see and therefore be an issue which still and may never tackled, is the way how women are sexualised. Women are the target for advertisements such as Tom Fords being a high profited business, women are put on a pedestal without choice or voice for this instance.

(MediaWrites, Tom Ford) Maybe smart advertisement but still questionable, as his advertisement can be offensive to a woman and seen as not liberating a woman at all, but instead making her a ‘object’. This is all about sex appeal and this places a woman with many name tags to say. (Figure one image, Tom Ford)

Today we have women leading the way with their beliefs and decisions. The future has never been more female, consumers are taught and learn that they can be, and do anything that they wish to do. Feminism being another word for “equality”, “equality for women” “equality for both genders” “equality in the workplace”, it has a true meaning for this diverse topic, females have a diverse role in the art and design industry from research and for how they stand specifically.

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