Enter: The Age of Modernity!
Wow, I’m the world’s most delinquent blogger ever I think… but in China it’s a New Lunar Year, and I resolve/PROMISE (yet again) that I’ll be updating on a weekly basis.
Anyway, about Chinese New Year… IT’S 2010 OFFICIALLY on the East Side now, so let’s finally bring about the important topic of modernity and how it is related to fashion (a hefty subject to say the least).
“Modernity”, or modeng in Chinese, has historically been synonymous with Shanghai, while Beijing has played the traditional role in the dichotomy. It’s easy to see in many ways how Shanghai represents the modern and how Beijing represents the traditional, but with specific regard to fashion, it is important to define and analyze what the Chinese population is interpreting as modernity, and thus, fashion.
To be truly modern in fashion is not to exercise exactly fashion, but to interpret it into a personal aesthetic (a style). Another key factor to being modern is a knowledge/understanding of the past so that one can deviate from it (before one can be truly separate from the past, which is non-dynamic, you have to know and understand it). It’s more complicated than this, but I hope for now this makes sense.
Anyway, in the 1920s and 1930s in Shanghai, whatever was Western was automatically considered modeng… and I’d say that that simplistic yet foolish equation is used rather extensively today by a majority of the consumer population when trying to obtain so-called “modern fashion”.
I can best illustrate this sad and pathetic yet all-too-common phenomenon of equating modernity with what is simply Western with two sets of pictures juxtaposing/contrasting different generations. You see, the problem with young people today is that they only want to be modern, which means rejecting the past before they understand it (I’m guessing for most people that is inconspicuous/homogeneous Communist/Chinesey uniform-esque clothing) and embracing only the Western. Old people, it seems, are content with interpreting their sartorial “references” (another important topic), and have interpreted/adapted/referenced past clothing practices for current use.
Also to note, because Western clothing culture is so new, clothing culture in China is based on the most basic, boring, and OLDDDDDDD Western “styles”, and the consumption focus has become largely based on the “peripheral” (meaning accessories). So, in layman’s terms, Chinese people (younger generations particularly) wear boring Western clothes and pair it with some terribly gaudy or conspicuous accessory and then… VOILA! They think that they are Western thus modern thus stylish………….
So anyway, enough theory and on to the evidence… or pictures:
These clothes are a terrible fit, and they are the boringest or boring shapes/colors/cuts in Western culture… but the Louis Vuitton bag saves it!
This man, on the other hand, is definitely stylin’… He has a strong sense of self portrayed through his clothing, and has not a single logo that disrupts or dominates his interesting composition. The colors are balanced and even pop a bit, and his hat, glasses, and shoes all add quite a bit of character, while gently referencing some sort of romanticized archetype of an old, dapper Shanghai-er.. appropriately contextualized on the Bund by the way:
And oh my goodness… if this 年轻人 (nianqingren or young-ish person) approaching me in this photograph is a manifestation of sartorial “modernity” in China, then kill me now cause there is no reason to live in the future:
I mean, do I really have to say anything about this guy and why I prefer his personal aesthetic/style to the mindless fashion consumption of the younger generations?
So ironically, I would say that older generations that experienced Communist China under Mao actually have a better sense of personal style… or at least, it is better communicated in today’s society; furthermore, in an international sense, I would argue that these two older gentlemen demonstrate a sensibility for style that the young people don’t. I would say this because in an international context, fashion is understood through its history (again, it constantly references the past in order to deviate from it), and people that use their personal experiences to create an aesthetic are going to contribute much more to China’s fashion culture than the mindless drones that are being brainwashed to consume these terrible, TERRIBLE, TERRIBLEEEEEEEE monogram bags.