'Fashion is a barometer of social progress'

'Fashion is a barometer of social progress'

Student Aych McArdle has a unique and colourful take on fashion.

Aych McArdle is ardently passionate about fashion, with a unique approach that is both cerebral and fun; delighting in the joy of dressing up as well as the symbolism of clothes.

“I’ve always had a deep fascination with the way we use clothing to talk about ourselves and the way we use clothing to read people,” explains the student and fashion blogger, who recently started postgraduate study with honours at AUT University, with a project titled Performing the self: Opening up discussions on diverse gender identity.

“I’m looking at ways of using pop cultural mediums, like fashion, performance art, zines and moving images, to communicate that gender can be a fluid state.” McArdle, who was recently appointed to the board of Rainbow Youth, is also interested in the influence of social media on fashion and how we communicate. The 24-year-old tells us more about her intellectual take on style.

Can a feminist be interested in fashion?
Of course. Feminism advocates for equality and no more so do we understand the impact of what is happening socially in our communities than through clothes.

Fashion is a barometer of social progress.

How do you perceive the relationship between gender and the fashion industry?
The way we consume contemporary fashion is often neatly divided into menswear and womenswear. We read garments as being made for one of two genders. Or, if they are labelled unisex, this is read as for both men and women. What about the space in between those genders? What if your body doesn’t match a neat tidy gender box? What if you want to express your identity in a way that isn’t bound by those constrictions?

Fashion recently went through a phase that was described as “hyper-femininity”, with the candy colours at Prada, Louis Vuitton and so on – what was your reaction to that?
I’m cautious of words like feminine and masculine when they are used in relation to fashion because often they are used in a really gender policing way. Using the phrase “hyper-femininity” to describe garments that have been formed across a pastel palette is grounded in our contemporary feelings of what it is to express femininity. It wasn’t too long ago in our history that pastel colours were lovingly embraced by all genders.

I love social media because it has radically transformed the way we share and consume information. Just to remember that Youtube is 6 years old blows my mind.

I love fashion because it is both a tool for self-expression and great social change.

I love New Zealand fashion because we have so much to say. I get really excited each year when I visit graduate shows and look at how emerging designers are redefining our place in the international marketplace.

How does your study influence the way you dress?
Over the course of this project I’ve become more aware of my own gender presentation and the way it is policed by loved ones, classmates and strangers at bus stops. It turns out being both colourful and gender non-conforming raises a few eyebrows.

My style is urban chaos with a dash of glitter.

My earliest fashion memory is my mother explaining to four-year-old me that my pink skirt and red and white striped stockings clashed. I was so baffled by this concept of colours clashing. I remember thinking that one day, when I’m a grown up, I’ll wear whatever colours and patterns I like. It seems the determination of 4-year-old me to live in a very loud wardrobe has crafted what I currently wear.

The most treasured item in my wardrobe is my Deadly Ponies Mr Mini Fill N Zip bag in magenta. It makes me feel all kinds of happiness.

My approach to beauty is definitely expressive. I love using what I wear, how I colour my hair and the way I use makeup to act as kind of an armour as I go out to face the day. In my makeup bag it is all M.A.C cosmetics. I’m a total fan kid.

By Zoe Walker
| Email Zoe

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