Today, the street fashion blog is one of the most popular types of sites on the Internet. Style bloggers such as Garance Doré, The Sartorlalist, and Tommy Ton document living, breathing fashion as it happens on the urban catwalks of cities around the world. But what is the relationship between fashion, performance, and the so-called urban catwalk? This theme week, "The Urban Catwalk: Fashion and Street Culture," investigates the role of street fashion not only in its contemporary parlance, but in its historical and theoretical frameworks. But it is also a teaser for a major international conference on street fashion, taking place at Yale University on April 22 and 23 2011.
I open our conversation on street fashion and urban culture with a nod to Studio 54. In the video snippet here, we get a sartorial and sonic look back at Studio 54, one of the hottest clubs, if commercialized, to exist in the twentieth century. What was so great about it? 54 was a deeply stylized constellation of music, fashion, and excess, where people from all backgrounds, genders, sexualities, and races could come together for a night of debauched glamour. The most interesting aspect of 54, and other parties like it, is the extent to which they allowed for people from a range of backgrounds to forget their differences and come together through music and fashion.
54's influence can be seen in the ways in which its influence has reverberated throughout a range of more contemporary parties, such as the Pink Is Punk party in Milan or A Club Called Rhonda in Los Angeles. In nodding towards the fashion-forward aspect of Studio 54, I'm also thinking about other "downtown" events, such as art opening receptions, where experimental fashion and sartorial exhuberance plays a crucial role in the overall experience.
The question I'd like to pose to kick The Urban Catwalk theme-week off is what is it about the "eventness" of fashion that creates such excitement? How do we know to dress a certain way when we go out, and how does what's expected fashion-wise change based on the sartorial map of the particular urban environment in question? Why does fashion become an event or spectacle, something to be photographed, documented, and archived, and what kind of spectacle is it?
For more information on The Urban Catwalk: A Fashion + Street Culture Symposium at Yale, please visit: www.theurbancatwalk.com