showOFF: CREATIVE LABOUR IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY

"ShowOFF" is a research exhibition curated by the MA Fashion Studies students at The New School Parsons Paris. The fashion industry is a complex and ramified system that produces desirable images, imaginaries and commodities. Despite the high visibility of fashion products, the creative labour that goes into the making of this desirability remains hidden. The research exhibition ShowOFF explores the different forms of labour, professions, and values involved in fashion image-making. It aims to illuminate the issues of creative capital, hierarchy, value, and network, in order to demythologise notions of labour often romanticised within the fashion system.

ShowOff is about deconstructing the glaring patina that surrounds fashion imaginaries. By focusing on process of creation of fashion images, the exhibition spotlights the different figures and elements of labour that animate this segment of the fashion system. Ultimately, despite the glamorous aura that surrounds the industry, ShowOFF reveals its unequal distributions of prestige and wealth and the dissemination of precarity.

My research focus is exhibited in the section, "The Production of the Fashion Worker." The fashion image's operation can be, in some cases, twofold. It may present stereotypes to an audience and, at the same time, manifests itself on the individuals who create the same image. "The Production of the Fashion Worker" explores how fashion professionals construct, negotiate and perform their identities, often fulfilling the stereotypes expected of their roles. The interviews, conducted on the making of a fashion editorial, revealed a practice of construction and performativity, recalling in many ways Erving Goffman's The Performance of the Self in Everyday Life. Goffman identifies how in daily life, there is a front stage and backstage that occurs as an individual negotiates and performs their identity, thereby managing the impression made on others. This mechanism is interestingly put in action by the fashion worker, as the performance of the self. The activation of different parts of one's personality are internalised as part of the job and consequently performed in both the working environment and everyday life. 

"ShowOFF: Creative Labour in the Fashion Industry," 

The New School, Parsons Paris exhibition.

Photos by Ariel Stark.

Parsons Paris coverage here.