Damn the Fashionistas!

How do we lessen advertising's grip on culture?

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It would be all too easy to fly into an indignant, leftist rage at the sight of a wan model dressed in luxury shopping bags and splayed out next to garbage cans. But that’s probably the exact reaction W magazine was banking on with its “homeless chic” pictorial. Fashion advertising is increasingly driven by the dialectic between salacious imagery and moral outrage. Something so absurd as the W spread, in which destitution has never looked so glamorous, seems more like a culture jam – an effort to subvert the advertising – than advertising itself. But advertising, like a virus, is always evolving. It has appropriated absurdity in an attempt to render itself immune to subversion. And now people who see the magazine will break into two camps – those who think its reprehensible and those who think its fabulous. Those two sides will argue, keeping W exactly where it wants to be - in the spotlight. So anyone truly concerned with lessening advertising’s grip on culture will have to figure out not how to subvert this kind of ad, but how to jam the dialectic it feeds on. How do we do that? How can we jam the ad industry and the fashionistas?

Sarah Nardi