Intellect Press has expanded its fashion division to include, among other fashion publications, the new Street Style Series. The first two volumes are on Shanghai, conceptualized by Toni Jonson-Woods and Vicki Karaminas, with photographs by Fung Chan, and on Honolulu, conceptualized by Malie Moran, Attila Pohlmann, and Andy Reilly, who while teaching a summer course in Berlin on the history of fashion kindly invited me to do a guest lecture on Berliner Chic in 2011. Other forthcoming volumes include Havana and Sydney Street Style, and future volumes will also include Moscow Street Style.
While the Shanghai volume has been put together by two Australian academics and a photographer based in Hong Kong, the Honolulu volume is a collaboration between a Honolulu-born fashion industry insider, a local academic, and a German-born photographer and PhD candidate in marketing. This mixed outsider and insider perspective gives the books a well-balanced vantage point and expertise.
Shanghai, the first volume in the series, is divided into three rubrics: “Shoes,” “Handbags,” and “Accessories,” and “reflects how particular ecologies of style are connected to the formations of metropolitan identities” (Shanghai Street Style, 49). It outlines the philosophy behind the Street Style as follows: “Street style is about being noticed in what you’re wearing, it is about ‘the look,’ whether it is a classic timeless style, mix-matched vintage with a touch of elegance or urban chic with Adidas or Reebok sneakers” (p.13).
According to the authors, in Shanghai, street style is about cool: “the aesthetics of cool is being in control, of being composed, collected unruffled and nonchalant. Cool is what everybody wants, which is the window to the street. Street fashion is fashion that is considered to have emerged not from major couture houses, but from the grassroots and is generally associated with youth culture. Shanghai street fashion sustains multiple simultaneous highly diverse fashion movements at any given time. Shanghai street style can best be described as casual chic that mashes unisex, rock and vintage styles to create stylish urban fashion, what Ted Polhemus (1994) calls a ‘supermarket of styles.’ These styles contain androgynous touches with a splash of the surreal; there is also a heavy Japanese influence” (p.14).
The photographs feature many close-ups of details and accessories, and most of them are luxury brands. After all, “Shanghai is also the city where most (luxury) brands have their headquarters” (p.44).
As the authors point out, “the cliché ‘East meets West’ is inscribed on the bodies of the people who stroll the Bund, a waterfront area in central Shanghai, or shop in Xintiandi (literally, New Heaven and Earth), the city’s shopping, eating and entertainment district. Fewer places are more aptly named – in these streets the Parisian boulevard meets the American shopping precinct” (p.23).
“Once known as the ‘Paris of the East’ under the colonial powers, [...] today Shanghai is arguably the cultural capital of China. The art community is energetic and exciting. Each week, art galleries open exhibitions by new and upcoming artists” (p.40). [...] “Supported by the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China, Shanghai Fashion Week is a business and culture event hosted by the Shanghai municipal government” (p.46).
Honolulu, by contrast, is not saturated with luxury brands, accessories, or even Aloha shirts, but rather is presented through the portraits of its diverse, multi-ethic inhabitants of all ages, integrating both its urban streets looks street art, as well as its beaches and nature.
Aloha Attire: “When one thinks of Hawaii’s apparel the first image that is mostly likely to spring to mind is the iconic Aloha shirt [that] has become synonymous with the islands. Dress historian Linda Arthur (2006) has documented the history of the Aloha short, recounted here. Commercialized in the 1930s as a souvenir item for tourists, its origins are found in the various ethnic cultures that immigrated to Hawaii. Early shirts were made from Japanese kimono fabric and are believed to be based on the silhouette of the blue-and-white-check palaka shirts worn by Japanese immigrants working on the plantations and the traditional Filipino shirt, the barong tagalog. In 1936 Elery Chun trademarked the term ‘Aloha Shirt.’” (Honolulu Street Style, p.59)
“It may be surprising to learn that for years Aloha shirts were banned from businesses as a form of acceptable professional attire an were relegated to the tourist area of Waikiki. [...] It was not until 1966, when manufacturers encouraged Hawaii congressmen to declare every Friday to be ‘Aloha Friday’ that the Aloha shirt made its breakthrough as appropriate attire for residents for Hawaii (Arthur 2000). Aloha Friday eventually propagated to the continental United States where it became ‘Casual Friday’” (p.59).
Yet the authors provide a collection of very diverse portraits of local inhabitants, organized thematically into three categories: “Head, Hair, Hats,” “Accessories,” and “Beachwear,” each inviting us to take a glimpse into Honolulu’s streets and beaches, and allowing us to become virtual flaneurs, while people- and style-watching from the comforts of our homes.
For more information on the Street Style Series, visit Intellect, Ltd.