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BIMBO BOOK CLUB

ON THE LANDSCAPE OF FASHION


For this edition of recommended readings, ENVY tackles a conversation at the forefront of social, artistic  and environmental discourse: the scorched earth and heavily mined terrain of the fashion landscape. No longer is fashion the symptom of vanity or the hobby of The Material Girl. Exploited labor, ecological terrorism, commercialized bodies, and appropriated identities lurk beneath contemporary fashion’s aesthetic appeal. As we become entangled in consumer obligation to ethically source our wardrobes and increasingly inclined to commodify identities into aesthetic groupings, fashion theory swells to the surface of the mainstream mind pool.


How can we make meaning out of our clothing? What does it mean to curate identity through objects? Who dictates what is ‘in’ and ‘out’ of fashion? Where is the line between intention and impulse at the thrift? Who is truly paying for that $4 Shein mini skirt? What level of hell is reserved for users of

TikTok Shop? How is mass manufacturing eroding and sterilizing our sense of selves?


Fashion intellectualism is the latest trend, and it’s here with bite. 


Join Bimbo Book Club as we expand into multidisciplinary media forms: scholarly articles, industry reports, blog-style prose, podcasts, long-form books, film & documentaries.



ENVIRONMENT & INDUSTRY




thredUP Resale Report & Remake Fashion Accountability Report




Cold, hard statistics on the state of the fashion business model and supply chain! Can’t argue with the facts: thredUP’s annual report demonstrates the exponential growth of the resale market and quantifies the environmental footprint of shopping used versus new. Equally significant are the findings of Remake’s Accountability Report, which identify Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty line to rank lower than Shein on their ethical scoreboard. Give these links a quick skim to learn the measurable consequences of your consumption and find out which companies are the biggest offenders.


How Second-Hand Shopping Became Elite, And The Conscious Consumption of the Archive

By Alexandra Hildreth




I dare you to define archival fashion. Now I dare you to read this think-piece article. Contemplating the increasing popularity of vintage designer clothing, Hildreth questions whether the true allure of the archive lies in the ritual of collecting pieces from history or the – for lack of a better word – ‘clout’ acquired by flexing fashion knowledge. Who cares if you’re wearing Prada ‘97 if you never bothered to look into the collection and are merely regurgitating the information given to you by the item’s Depop listing? What is the point of reviving an archival piece if you have no regard to research the piece’s value?


Fashionopolis

By Dana Thomas




From this book I learned that it takes 730 gallons of water to manufacture one cotton T-shirt. Fashion journalist Dana Thomas traces the history of the industry’s post-war acceleration and thoroughly explains the environmental fallout from each stage of the fashion production process: from seed to thread to textile to packaging. A highly informative & low-commitment read!


The True Cost

(2015)



Anyone who has ever taken a fashion class has been asked to watch this documentary. But it is for good reason: the film transparently maps out the social and environmental impacts of the  industry without an ounce of mercy. A crucial piece to understanding fast fashion as a perpetrator for ecological genocide and modern day slave labor.


Pyer Moss Is Hosting.. A Loot-Out Sale?

By Morgan Smith




This article covers a retail phenomenon never-before-seen: the Pyer Moss Loot-Out. The NYC designer hosted an event offering customers an allotted chunk of time to ravage the store for all they could carry. Charging one minute of looting for $100 or five minutes for $300, the brand is the first to profit off of permitted kleptomania. Converting anti-establishment attitudes into a marketing strategy, this move by Pyer Moss sparks debate on the lengths that companies are willing to go – or the anarchy that they are willing to facilitate – in order to lure in their customers. Talk about the commercialization of punk!





MATERIALITY & IDENTITY




Fashion, Culture, Identity

By Fred Davis




Starter pack read for any readers interested in foundational fashion theory! This book lays down the groundwork of the ‘clothing code,’ in which style serves as a metaphorical language to symbolize and articulate identity. Informative and easy to digest, Davis’ work maps out the stages of the trend cycle as well as the contradictions that inform our sense of embodied identity, including masculine/feminine, erotic/chaste, conformity/rebellion.


Fashioning Identity: Status Ambivalence in Contemporary Fashion

By Maria Mackinney Valentin




The most annotated book on my shelf. In direct conversation with Davis’ theory, fashion scholar Maria Mackinney Valentín delves deeper into the notion that fashion is born from identity’s tensions and ambiguities. Deconstructing class contradictions and countercultural commodifications –  including the phenomenon of the rich dressing like the poor or the H&M reproductions of punk band tees –  Valentín analyzes the aesthetics of ugly chic, quiet luxury, normcore, and low-calorie realism. Brilliant.


The Clothes You Could Have Worn, The Lives You Could Have Lived

By Ben Highmore




Stunning introductory article for those looking to probe the significance of fashion in regards to  sentiment and personhood. Bridging personal anecdotes with speculative opinion, Highmore suggests wardrobe as ritual, clothing as heritage, fashion as the material evidence of our own existence. A poignant perspective on our clothing as an archive of our day-to-day and the physical proof of our present and past selves: wrapped in thought-provoking, narrative prose. 


Fashion Intellectualism

Nymphet Alumni




Introducing your new favorite podcast. Trend forecasters, fashion commentators, and inventors of the term ‘blokette’ to describe the ribbons-and-Adidas aesthetic, the girls of Nymphet Alumni feel like the friends with whom you’d terrorize a small café. In this episode of the show, they chat with iconic fashion podcaster Avery Trufelman about the surge of fashion discourse taking over the Internet: identifying the voices that are steering the wave of fashion intellectualism and speculating a bit of their own on the state of the industry’s present and future. 


Are ‘Core Trends Destroying Our Sense of Personal Style?

By India Roby



Conversational and compelling, this article from NYLON magazine contemplates the effect of TikTok fashion on the speed of the trend cycle. Ultimately arguing that the explosion of hyper-niche aesthetics and micro-trends is generating an oversaturated market and an under-developed sense of personal style, Roby establishes that dressing to the rhythm of your own drum is essential in order to curate a wardrobe that will endure the algorithm.



Girlhood Core Evolves into New Romantics

By Ellen Atlanta




Could a year of hyperfemininity adorned with bows, ribbons, Barbie pink and girl dinner evolve into the theatrical post-punk style of the New Romantics? This speculative piece by Dazed magazine critiques the surge of girlhood in fashion and questions where the aesthetic will go next, as we are already seeing the trend cycle shift into something new. Perhaps entering an era of New Romantics 2.0, leaning more back into maximalism in fashion, and branching out to more exclusive and daring expressions of femininity…






NARRATIVE & COMMENTARY 




Couture Now

By Dal Choda




What is haute couture fashion, in actuality? Who is it for? Why is it created when so few can afford it? This quick and fruitful commentary piece from fashion writer Dal Choda covers the contents of the Fall/Winter 2022 Couture collections and contextualizes the purpose of haute couture within our current socio-economic framework. Bonus points for Choda’s web design!    


Dialogue Between Fashion & Death

By Giacomo Leopardi




Framed by contextual prose and accompanied by a photo series from Richard Avedon, the poem featured in this article cunningly compares the cyclical nature of fashion to that of death. A witty read originally composed in 1824, Leopardi’s work suggests clothing to have an expiration date. Mortality is applied here to both the body and its second skin, in quippy soundbites:

“Do you not remember we are both born of Decay?”


Clothes are Souvenirs

By Femke de Vries




If you are to read anything on this list, make it Femke de Vries’ exploratory essay on the role of clothing. Fleshing out the function of fashion for the postmodern consumer, de Vries argues that we purchase clothes not for what they physically offer but for their ‘symbolic value ornament’- for the experience that they capture or the mood that they convey. Comparing fashion to a prop, a sauce, a souvenir, this piece will urge you to consider the contents of your wardrobe as more than material but instead as memorabilia.


The Philosophy of Dress

By Oscar Wilde




Deadpan style advice from the man infamously arrested for his flamboyant sexuality. Unlike much of the media included in this list, Wilde’s essay is gorgeously and refreshingly unserious. Though written in 1885, this piece offers a series of fashion rules that remain entertaining and applicable to twenty-first century style: from horizontal lines and low-rise to magenta and arsenic green.


Gods & Kings: The Rise & Fall of Alexander McQueen & John Galliano  

By Dana Thomas




An in-depth account documenting the careers of two of contemporary fashion’s most influential designers, this book is a must-read for all those interested in a career in the industry. Thomas narrates the high fashion world’s fatal exploitation of McQueen and Galliano: brilliant artists whose avant-garde visions were persistently suffocated by the pressure to produce commercially desirable products. A centerpiece in fashion history and a striking demonstration of the tension between clothing’s role as creativity and commodity.


Fashion Nietzsche

By Jeffrey DeShell




If you’re smart you read Nietzsche. If you’re smarter, you read Nietzsche-adjacent media and save yourself the migraine. This fictionalized dialogue between an optimist and a nihilist debates the morality of appreciating, prioritizing, and engaging with fashion when The Times We Live In have arguably more important shit goin’ down. Essentially a pros & cons list for those whose attention and energies are spent on fashion, this article will perhaps relieve you of your internalized guilt for choosing to decorate lives rather than save them.


What I Saw at the Longhouse Fashion Show

By Justin Lee




A runway review of Elena Velez’s SS24 show, this article offers a prime example of fashion’s role as a barometer that not only measures but dictates our conceptions of femininity, authority, beauty, and body. Lee’s analysis of Velez’s latest collection is a case study in how to interpret a fashion show of its holistic elements – set design, performance, garment, styling – and translate these symbols into social commentary. Watch this space: Elena Velez is living proof that CONCEPTUAL FASHION CAN BE WEARABLE! Roll around in the muck of her blasted earth and watch her surface as contemporary fashion’s favorite anti-heroine.  





PHILOSOPHY




Simulacra & Simulation

By Jean Baudrillard




Although not codified ‘fashion theory,’ this book lends itself to a critical analysis of consumer behavior in regards to mass manufacturing and overproduction. The seminal text that inspired The Matrix, this is French philosophy at the pinnacle of postmodernity! Baudrillard critiques the oversaturated social soup that is late-stage capitalism in a searing polemic on hyperreality, hypercommodity and hypermarket… Fancy terms for a meaningless copy-and-paste world so littered with knock-offs that even the original becomes fake.


On The Age of Art In The Age of Its Technological Reproducibility

By Walter Benjamin




An academic essay for those looking to engage in an intellectual reading of clothing as both object and artwork. Sophisticated German philosopher discusses the ‘aura’ of an art piece and the erosion of this aura in the wake of its replication. Though mainly referring to photography, Benjamin’s theory captures the essence of exhaustion-upon-excess that directs the fashion industry’s trend cycle: that the appeal and impact of a fashion statement deteriorates once too many people are wearing it.


“ODE TO CLOTHES”

Pablo Neruda




Every morning you wait, clothes, over a chair, for my vanity, my love, my hope, my body, to fill you. I have scarcely left sleep, I say goodbye to water and enter your sleeves, my legs look for the hollow of your legs, and thus embraced by your unwearying fidelity I go out to tread the fodder, I move into poetry, I look through windows, at things, men, women, actions and struggles keep making me what I am, opposing me, employing my hands, opening my eyes, putting taste in my mouth, and thus, clothes, I make you what you are, pushing out your elbows, bursting the seams, and so your life swells the image of my life. You billow and resound in the wind as though you were my soul, at bad moments you cling to my bones empty, at night the dark, sleep, people with their phantoms your wings and mine. I ask whether one day a bullet from the enemy will stain you with my blood and then you will die with me or perhaps it may not be so dramatic but simple, and you will sicken gradually, clothes, with me, with my body and together we will enter the earth. At the thought of this everyday I greet you with reverence, and then you embrace me and I forget because we are one and will go on facing the wind together, at night, the streets or the struggle, one body, maybe, one day motionless.







@ENVY.MAG
ENVY Magazine