During the Milan Fashion Week last September, Canadian designers DSquared caused controversy by sending models down the runway holding cigarettes. They weren’t lit of course, since the indoor smoking ban in Italy has been in place since 2005. A small number of commentators have expressed concern, however, that it does not set a good example to young people, while others claim that it was a perfectly appropriate accessory for their sixties-inspired clothes.
To what extent do fashion designers need to be moral leaders in society? Fashion for some is an art form like any other and the catwalk in particular has long had a reputation as a place where boundaries are pushed and social norms can be challenged. On the other hand, the fashion industry has a huge impact on the lives of many young people who are deeply influenced by what they see in magazines.
These criticisms come after the fashion industry has experienced much controversy over issues such as fur and anorexia. But how much really did this fashion show affect the average British fashion lover, shopping for the sixties-style shoes, dresses and handbags that designers are bringing to our stores?
Art Imitating Life
The sixties-inspired clothing was a distinct nod to the Mad Men trend, which embraces the clean, sharp suits and ultra-femininity of the workplace chic of that time. Referred to the as the ‘glory days’ by some smokers, it was perfectly normal for office workers to smoke at their desks and smoking in general was not frowned upon in the same way it is today.
Anyone who sees fashion as an art would argue that cigarettes were the perfect accompaniment to the look and helped reflect the setting and atmosphere of this era. When so much in society panders to social norms, public pressure and health-and-safety rulings, perhaps we shouldn’t try and repress the last bastions of self-expression in art.
Smoking is, however, a highly addictive and extremely unhealthy habit. It is responsible for many deaths every year in the UK, but luckily the numbers of teenagers taking up smoking is dropping year on year. Any adults who sell their wares to the younger members of society need to consider the huge influence they have over their lives. Many of the models were young themselves, so does this perpetuate the idea that smoking is cool, stylish and perhaps even keeps you slim? Critics have argued that this is the subliminal message that was being sent by having models holding cigarettes on the catwalk.
For many people outside of the fashion industry, this incident happened without making much of an impression, so perhaps the fuss it generated was unnecessary. Those who actually attend fashion shows are older, wiser and less likely to be influenced by such things.
This late-sixties look is a stylish and sexy trend which doesn’t need cigarettes as accessories, but looks great with the right bags and shoes. Accessories for the Mad Men motivated style of clothing can be found from online UK retailers and designers.
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