The Fashion Police: an inquiry into the power of fashion
Power is the ability to make humans act in unison, to persuade or coerce a group of people to act in concert. Power is not “owned” by someone, it is given by followers in the form of obedience or imitation.
In order to be given wilfully by the subjects, a common tactic amongst those who amass power is to mobilize followers against an outside enemy, to make a distinction between us and them, or in and out. In the realm of fashion, this significant distinction between in and out is upheld by the rule of symbolic fashion codes and seasonal fashion laws. We, sometimes joking, call the public servants who justify and enact the rule of fashion “the Fashion Police”.
Like in classical Athens, the police force consists of slaves: the agents of the Fashion Police are slaves to fashion. They are the vital link between the symbolic fashion system and the execution of its power onto our shared human relations. When we follow fashion, we give it power, and we also submit to its rule. We become its slaves, and expect our peers to obey fashion's dictates too.
We may break some small rules now and then, but we have learned never to challenge the brutal force of the Fashion Police. Because the Fashion Police has the authority to use violence in order to uphold the order of fashion: through force, bullying or harassment. This violence often takes the form of ambiguous micro-aggressions, tiny disciplinary signals, such as sarcasms, gossip, ridicule, rejection or mobbing, using clothes as the shallow interface which provides access to the wearer's soul. The carrot is success and adoration, the whip is violence and exclusion.
The inquiry into power of the Fashion Police tries to identify the realist power of fashion, how we come to follow fashion through peer-pressure and subtle signals from those we often jokingly call the Fashion Police. How do we give up our freedom so happily, obey so wilfully, and so are drawn to become such cowardly bystanders to the violence of exclusion?
In order to better conceptualise the rule of fashion, the project aims to manifest the mandate and public ordinance of fashion as a real police force or official militia. The inquiry aims to address a series of questions: How is power organized amongst peers in the realm of dress? Who upholds the rules and codes of fashion, and how is it done? How can we better come to understand concepts such as “law”, “force”, “power”, “authority”, and “violence” in the realm of fashion?
The project collects witness statements, suspect drawings, uniforms, insignia and manuals of the police force.
Uniform for fashion militia - Model M2015 with FashPol Flag, 2015. Cotton jersey uniform with institutional signum and officer nametag, FashPol Flag acrylic print on cotton canvas (left), and Uniform for commissioned officer - Model A2015, 2015. Cotton twill uniform with institutional insignia, officer nametag and police whistle (right)
Leaked Police Manual FM 1-15 (2015), 2015. Monochrome Digital Print on 80g Multiuse Institutional Paper (8.27 × 11.69 in.)