Professors explain politics of fashion

College of the Canyons professors Ruth Rassool and Deems Morrione explored the intersection of fashion and politics at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center in Valencia, Thursday. Austin Dave/The Signal

In a continuation of College of the Canyons’ scholarly presentation series, professors Ruth Rassool and Deems Morrione took the stage Thursday to discuss, “Bitchery and the Politics of Fashion.”

With the use of photos and video clips, the pair revealed the unique intersection of fashion and politics and discussed the “three legs of theory.”

The pair also discussed sloganeering and the politics of the designers who were sending the messages down the runway, before speaking about their unique project.

“Over the past two to three years of really studying the runways, we noticed overt and covert messages in politics and fashion — and decided this needed closer study,” Morrione said during the presentation.

“So, we created The Bitch Project,” Rassool added, as she explained the etymology of the often-used curse word.

Rassool would then ask attendees, “How important is fashion in your life?” before showing a clip from “The Devil Wears Prada” that explained even simple pieces of clothing like sweaters, T-shirts and clearance wear were chosen by designers who have their own motivations.

Later in the scholarly presentation, the pair of professors broke down some of these messages and how they can affect public perception.

Honing in on Melania Trump’s fashion choices, Morrione discussed the first lady’s outfit choice during visits to London, Vatican City and Kenya, where she “inexplicably wore a pith helmet — the headgear of a colonizer.”

“This was clueless colonialism, and the poor optics were opened to mockery and condemnation,” Morrione stated, mentioning the memes, jokes and poor publicity that ensued.

The professor would focus on Trump’s jacket that read, “I don’t care. Do you?” when she visited children at the border, before sharing how designers use their runways to send a message.

“A direct response to the jacket was (a) design from Viktor & Rolf,” which featured the words “Give A Damn,” Morrione said, speaking on the collection that was outwardly political.

Rassool would then touch on the more subtle political messages found in fashion, specifically focusing on Claire Waight Keller, who heads the Givenchy fashion house.

Using furs, Waight Keller is making a correlation between the eras of the World Wars and today, Rassool said, describing how the designer uses clothing to discuss class-based arrogance and warn the public of authoritarian government.

“Fashion not only captures life. It shapes how we live it,” Morrione said, before his partner discussed “The Bitch Project” and took questions from the audience.

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