Editorial — Editorial of the Month – August – Before The Fall – VMAN – summer 2011

Here and there fashion’s imagery has picked up on a sense of unrest that seems to be in the ether. From a generation so long rebelling without any cause in which to believe, the groundswell of energy for new hopes that have come out of real world phenomenon such as ‘the Arab Spring’ seems to have found its way into the mood of the times. Even if it’s not entirely clear what the current generation might stand for, then at least it seems attracted to the iconography of political dissent and a romanticised notion of rebellion that has found its way into trendy magazines and catwalk collections alike.

VMAN summer 2011 – ‘Before The Fall’ Photo: Sharif Hazma Styling: Jay Masscaret

VMAN summer 2011 – ‘Before The Fall’ Photo: Sharif Hazma Styling: Jay Masscaret

The summer issue of VMAN carries a fashion story that epitomizes the current desire if not to be a rebel, then at least to look like one. Shot by Sharif Hamza and styled by Jay Masscaret, ‘Before The Fall’ profiles clothes by luxury brands with the occasional item by a hip casual wear brand or vintage find to create a vibrant mix of revolutionary imagery drawing on what the fashionable will be wearing in the autumn.

What is particularly effective about this shoot is the way that the art direction combines static studio shots with outdoor location shoots of groups that capture the movement of political energy in motion. The former are shot in a style that is highly evocative of the self-styled heroic portraits of revolutionaries that are at once inspirational but, thinking of exactly that archive, also a reminder of the failure of all idealistic movements with time.

Of course, this is entirely fitting. This is a fashion story that has all of the awareness of a kind of postmodernist willfulness. This, as the article’s lead text says, is a revolution that will be sartorialized. And, if there is something in the air that does smell of a youth genuinely wanting to find a noble cause to take to heart, then it is also a generation that was raised to expect that it should have fashionable clothes and other luxury items. How exactly does one become a revolutionary when one was raised to believe that all of the ideologies that as so strongly connected with the iconography on which this particular story draws have already failed?

Well, it’s doubtful that either this shoot or this article about it has any intention of addressing that particular question. What is particularly successful about this story is not its ideological position but rather how it perfectly captures an idea connected with the times in which it is made and its perfect demonstration that, above all else, fashion is an idea. Right, wrong, realistic, noble or naïve, may be judgments that are relevant to the implications of imagery. But the ability of a fashion shoot to develop a credible narrative that becomes fused with the very clothes it showcases is something that is entirely separate; an achievement that is not necessarily guaranteed when a photographer works with a fashion editor. What is clear is that Sharif Hamza and Jay Masscaret have achieved exactly that here.

In part, this is probably due to the highly cinematic nature of the story both in terms of structure and the framing of images. There is something in its overt film-like life that affords it a certain protection from knee-jerk reactions to its relative morality. It is hardly the photographer or stylist’s fault that we can pick apart inconsistencies with the current fashionable taste for styling oneself as a revolutionary whilst retaining all the luxury accoutrements of the establishment’s privilege. And yet, by placing it within the realm of the non-real, the imaginary world of cinema, the story both immediately indicates to us that it is neither naïve nor without a certain bemused view of this particular revolution from the sidelines, as if to say that even if any serious politicos could tear apart these models’ ideological position in five minutes then, hey, at least they couldn’t fault their style.

VMAN summer 2011 – ‘Before The Fall’ (detail) Photo: Sharif Hazma Styling: Jay Masscaret

VMAN summer 2011 – ‘Before The Fall’ (detail) Photo: Sharif Hazma Styling: Jay Masscaret