The Lisbon-based Zoot magazine is testament to a young and vibrant Portuguese fashion scene. Between its pages we can usually expect to find a good fair number of notable fashion stories. But, in the current issue, the fashion story ‘Ring Craft’ stands out. Fashion editor Veronique Droulez oversees the direction of things captured in Jean-François Aloïsi’s bright, direct studio photos.
Working with a single model – the stunning Alima- we are presented with a heady hybrid; an exotic and eccentric take that mixes luxury brands with the odd item of streetwear. The poised and overtly theatrical stance nonetheless places contemporary fashion into a subtle kind of post-colonial discourse that has become frequently visible, particularly from within cultures that were former colonisers.
The camp tongue-in-cheek black Marie Antoinette or dandy about town that we might read in this stunning photos are not entirely new. Both in the way that that styling has chosen to handle the textiles and silhouettes, one might see an influence drawn down from the ether where others have gone before: the artist Yinka Shonibare’s immediately memorable works; or Jean Paul Goude’s impish creatures naughtily raising questions about cultural identity around the periphery of Grace Jones; perhaps even Vivenne Westwood’s revision of 18th century dress for a modern multicultural society in the 1980’s.
The beauty of this particular fashion story is its competence on a number of levels. As more straightforward fashion it provides attractive images of top fashion in which we can easily make out the clothes. But on a second level, only the deeply unthinking would not be prompted into noting the games it plays and questions it raises about colonialism and Diasporan identity even if at a very subtle level. To suggest that this is intentionally a political fashion story is to push things too far, but it certainly engages with bigger questions about identity in the current mindset beyond pretty frocks and immaculate accessories.