Vulgarity is a word usually associated with negative connotations. Hence I was very curious to see what “The Vulgar” fashion exhibition at Barbican Art Gallery is all about. It was much more than the common meaning of this word – the curator was pushing boundaries and exploring the wider concept and background of what has been considered vulgar in fashion through times and how that changes along with the general view and progress.
In a nutshell, almost anything can be vulgar. And who is to define what is vulgar and what not, as it depends on the point of view – while punk can be considered vulgar for someone, for Johnny Rotten high fashion or the smart suit would have been considered as vulgar.
Good taste changes with time, but vulgar is not exactly the same as bad taste. It is bold and shameless. Vulgarity always exaggerates, it never retreats. It is committed to enjoyment. It is the theater of ambition and kitsch is its celebration. Here the pleasure is viewed as vulgar and restraint as a virtue.
The exhibition presents over 120 exhibits of well known fashion designers, including Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, Iris van Herpen, Pam Hogg, Stephen Jones, Manolo Blahnik, Hussein Chalayan, and many more.
To be frank – fashion without vulgarity would be boring! Vulgarity is intriguing, experimental and boundary-pushing.
Stephen Jones has said: “Vulgarity is the salt and pepper of fashion”.
“We must never forget that vulgarity is tremendous fun!”
Even high fashion is in constant play with vulgarity. For example Chanel´s show staged at the supermarket. By the way, note all the products in the Chanel “supermarket” are especially crafted for this purpose, bearing Chanel labels – some of them were presented at the exhibition and the rest probably sold out as collector items.
In this show you can spot ripped and holed tweed sweatpants and tops, crafted purposefully by the couturiers.
Another definition for vulgarity is someone or something pretending to be what it is not. For example commoners trying to belong to so called “elite”, but failing at some crucial details or a dress trying to be labor-intensive couture, while instead being a print-on of that, or a print-on of a naked body instead.
Moschino is known for its pretend-playfulness and games with kitsch. This can also be seen in their latest collection show.
Vulgarity as the unrestricted joie de vivre. Better vulgar than boring!
The Vulgar – Fashion Redefined at Barbican Art Gallery in London is open till 5th February 2017.