Women’s History Month. Photo: Ben Taylor

Spike #79: A Polite No

If Pharrell’s LVMH appointment pulled up the ladder into luxury, young upstarts need new precarity tactics.

While crisis aesthetics has long been a ubiquitous trope in politics, academia, and art, fashion has always been a stead-fast crisis-denier – for to admit crisis would undo its very raison d’être, that is, to consume. After 9/11, President George W. Bush famously told Americans to go shopping – the ultimate act of crisis-age patriotism – and thus blue-printed a perverse logic that has since become common-place: to turn all struggle into motifs of consumption, thereby severing it from material reality. Discourses on identity and climate change have become vivid captives of this logic in recent times, as structural oppression and other material catastrophes have been translated into shimmering commodities, as mere styles among so many others. Art, no stranger to thematizing despair, has been taking cues from this trend, emulating its tactics on the floor of galleries and museums worldwide. But, while the art world is stupefied by the ongoing genocide in Gaza (the first identitarian conflict in recent memory where not everyone at the proverbial table agreed before sitting down), fashion continues forward at a bullish pace.

This is no more evident than in the full, post-pandemic comeback of the world’s “fashion month,” the spectacular, twice-annual ritual spread between New York, Paris, Milan, and London (with Copenhagen and numerous other cities competing to be the “5th” member in this sought-after quartet). There, fashion’s glorified authors, sellers, and mediators congregate on front rows, in showrooms, and at parties, the rest of us following along insatiably from home.

Supercharged in the last decades by evermore instanta-neous, image-driven consumer technologies ...

– This text appears in full in Spike #79 – The Pessimist Issue. You can order your copy in our online shop