Giant furry pom poms at David Koma, Yasmin Le Bon stalking the Issa catwalk – fashion’s most breathtaking moments are undoubtedly beautiful… but are they really revolutionary? A world where something can feel as current and fresh as today’s headlines one day and be considered irrelevant the next surely points to a vacuous one. But at the heart of the outwardly transient world of fashion is something with a much steelier core. A £20.9 billion industry which fuels the British economy; a platform on which to make profound statements (Vivienne Westwood’s political T-shirts are often more powerful than many of our elected leaders’ speeches) and a tool which is used repeatedly by everyone from world leaders to celebrities to royalty to tribesmen to convey agendas. In short, fashion is power.
So it’s fitting that this season’s biggest trend is designed to make a powerful statement. When bondage-taped bodices, sheer skirts and leather made an appearance at the a/w 2011 shows, fetish was crowned as the season’s breakthrough trend. Designers in every fashion capital looked to dominatrix style: Ralph Lauren in New York, Giles in London and Louis Vuitton in Paris all played with leather and the highly charged conceal-and-reveal trend.
And who better to showcase this trend and present the message of ‘fashion is power’ than Alek Wek, a woman renowned for her fierce modelling style. Since her arrival on the catwalk in 1995 aged 18, her personality and back story have made her one of the greatest characters in supermodel history and she’s been credited for single-handedly changing the traditional concept of what is beautiful in the west. Although Alek herself recalls not understanding the debate that raged around her. “Everyone around me was like, ‘Is she going to make it? She’s so different,’” she tells me later. “I was like, ‘Different, how? I think I’m very normal actually.’” Others will disagree. Photographers love her, with Steven Meisel musing, “I haven’t seen anybody that interesting, that black and that beautiful in a long time.”
Photography: Jonty Davies, Fashion Director: Alexandra Fullerton, Words: Debbie McQuoid