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Author Topic: Numi Prasarn's "Steampunk Stahp! Or the Appropriation of Prada"  (Read 6230 times)
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« on: May 25, 2013, 11:30:54 am »

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

The good Mr. Von Slatt has published an article written by Numi Prasarn, a well known figure in the fashion industry, on what she claims is the false appropriation of Prada's Fall 2012 collection  (Il Palazzo. A Palace of Role Play) by the Steampunk movement.

I shall not pass any more judgement and let her own words present the complaint on this floor.  I have an opinion, particularly regarding her understanding, or lack thereof, about the Steampunk movement, and about her assertions, but I will comment later on the subject matter; feel free to chime in right after reading:

Article in Jake Von Slatt's "Steampunk Workshop"
"Steampunk Stahp! Or the Appropriation of Prada" by Numi Prasarn
http://steampunkworkshop.com/steampunk-stahp-or-prada-not-steampunk
« Last Edit: May 25, 2013, 12:02:04 pm by J. Wilhelm » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2013, 01:27:28 pm »

Hmm. On the one hand, I am puzzled by the assertion that "Steampunk" has attempted to appropriate, or in some metaphysical fashion annex, an autumn collection from Prada. It's not like there's any sort of central authority. I've seen various "Is this collection borrowing from Steampunk" articles, but that's about as far as I have seen it go.
Also, I am fascinated by the author's apparent implicit position, amidst the recondite and hermetic high-fashion analysis, that appropriation is only allowable in one direction. Some concept or idea can be elevated to high fashion, thus ennobling it, but to go the other direction is debasement. The unspoken class bias in this is startling.
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« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2013, 01:28:47 pm »

Who cares what Prada thinks. I wouldn't wear it.
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« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2013, 02:46:09 pm »

What a wall of text, first of all... What I got from that was the author is only interested in what she considers Fashion, and anything else is just for the masses, and she wants nothing to do with such common folk. In other words, she seems a bit snooty to me...
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« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2013, 04:33:43 pm »

Meh.  Another 'stop doing that thing I don't like' style article.  Unless she is speaking on behalf of Prada in an official role, I don't see how anything she has written is of the slightest import or consequence.  And I'm sure, at £500 a pop, Prada isn't complaining if any of us *do* have the money to throw at them for their frockcoats. 
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« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2013, 04:52:11 pm »

No, I do agree with her - 'Prada isn't Steampunk' - there is no spark, no individualism, no flair in that collection.
It is just another uninspired and uninspiring version of 'get a Vicwardian-cut jacket and glue a cog/medal on it', which makes Prada more closely aligned to being just a high-priced version of Regretsy than SP.    Tongue 
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« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2013, 06:05:55 pm »

"As it stands, Steampunk wishes it was enlightened parody and commentary, but as a movement it is currently incapable of being so."


What is she talking about?



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« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2013, 06:27:31 pm »

"As it stands, Steampunk wishes it was enlightened parody and commentary, but as a movement it is currently incapable of being so."


What is she talking about?


Something she knows nothing about. I'm not sure all of us think we're in a single movement anyway. I certainly don't.
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« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2013, 06:28:20 pm »

Numi Stahp!  Or Do Some Research Before You Write
by John W. Dunn

Well there are several things to note about Numi Prasarn's treatise, Steampunk Stahp! Or the Appropriation of Prada.  In my mind Ms. Prasarn is displaying a complete lack of knowledge about what Steampunk is and is also showing a sense of "ownership" of Prada that simply does not correspond to her, unless her last name is Prada.

Take some relevant sentences in her treatise, quoted below for convenience:

Quote
My main complaint is that the collection's initial message is being devalued and overlooked because of an easily thrown buzzword.

Quote
My second complaint is that Steampunk doesn’t seem to be aware of where it stands in the grand scheme of things. First things first: PRADA IS NOT STEAMPUNK (at least not in the way you say it is)

Quote
Pulling inspiration from the Victorian and Edwardian eras as well as 1960s Italian tailoring, the collection is a parade of formal wear bursting with signifiers of power and wealth that are then turned on their head.

Quote
However, I think it is incorrect to say that this collection is inspired by or capitalizing on the Steampunk movement because it's a weak link at best. It is unfair to suddenly say that anything that refers to Victorian clothing is clearly a sign of Steampunk's influence because fashion has been pulling cues from Victoriana since... the Victorian era.

Quote
The connection also puts it in the terrible position that Steampunk commentary often finds itself, as being superficial and easily passed over. Every article I have seen that ties the two never goes deeper than the surface costume connection, when there is a wealth of commentary to be made.

Quote
Steampunk wishes it was enlightened parody and commentary, but as a movement it is currently incapable of being so.

Quote
Steampunk is in this awkward position of being divided by intention and practice. The ideology of the culture has been fighting this uphill battle with its own popularity but instead of evaluating this it attempts to attach itself to other movements. Take for instance the Maker Movement, a tech-based culture that is based on DIY and empowerment. I often see people connecting Steampunk to Maker Culture and I have to argue that there is a distinct divide, and it is because of aesthetics.

Quote
In fact, I think Steampunk is the perfect example of the effect of this phenomenon. It spread so quickly and so widely that it seemed instantaneous. From inception to explosion in just a few months, and yet the way it spread and the vocabulary that was shared and taught was largely through design and imagery, not the core of anti-mass production/DIY element, it was the aesthetics that differentiated it.

~ ~ ~

a) Ms. Prasarn claims that the movement rose to prominence very fast - in a "few months," and therefore as a fashion tacked to the maker movement, it doesn't even know where it stands yet.  How offensive and ignorant that statement is.  But let me state first things first:

Let it be forever known that Steampunk originally started life as a literary genre and not a fashion movement.

Steampunk is also well born into the 20th. Century.  How early into the 20th, C. it is not known, because the 19th. / 20th. C. original inspiration (Jules Verne, HG Wells et al.) could not be considered Steampunk as there was no anachronism in their novels, instead, that was the "future" for these sci-fi authors.

But before sci-fi author KW Jeter coined the term in April 1987, we already had "proto-Steampunk" examples, such as Disney's Jules Verne-inspired movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the 1960s TV series Wild-Wild West, among many other examples.  All KW Jeter did was give a name to a literary style that already existed long before.

In April 1987, I was in my senior year in Highschool in Mexico City.  What was Ms. Prasarn doing back in 1987, dare I ask?  Where was the Maker movement back then?

b) I should take it as an insult that attaching the name Steampunk to Prada somehow perverts or cheapens the Prada collection.  She is assuming that we are passing judgement as a monolithic group - or that even the majority of Steampunks believe that it is Steampunk.  If any people do feel it to be Steampunk it is probably the ignorant public in general - the people who see Steampunk as a fad are the ones regarding it as Steampunk.  Someone who feels, for example, that Steampunk rose in the span of a few months and is mostly a fashion movement.... *ahem*

c) It may be labelling on my part, but I think there is a big difference between Neo-Victorianism and Steampunk.  Simply put in laymen terms for her benefit, Steampunk requires a sci-fi component that the Fall 2012 Prada collection simply doesn't have at all.  Parody of male dominance or not, the fashion is by their/her own admission, patterned after 19th. C. clothing; even if the fabric is "cheap" and when looking at printed patterns up close 20th. C symbols are used - e.g. American football.  In my mind the fashion is Neo-Victorian, and definitely not Steampunk.

d) Ms. Prasarn is correct in only one thing: Il Palazzo. A Palace of Role Play is not Steampunk.  But no one is claiming it is!

Steampunks will not see the collection as Steampunk, because it simply isn't.  Tack some armoured and geared mechanical arm to one of those suits, have some model be dressed as an explorer with aetheric blunderbuss in hand, or mad scientist holding a jar with a human brain, or better yet, have a monkey butler on the catwalk, with all the models wearing goggles and I may re-consider such a statement.

Numi Stahp! Stahp dah'ling!
« Last Edit: May 26, 2013, 03:15:46 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged
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« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2013, 06:55:21 pm »

"As it stands, Steampunk wishes it was enlightened parody and commentary, but as a movement it is currently incapable of being so."


What is she talking about?


Something she knows nothing about. I'm not sure all of us think we're in a single movement anyway. I certainly don't.

I was wondering if she has had some experience of Steampunk which is totally different to the one I've had.

Is there some enclave somewhere that takes it all very seriously and does not have room for a bit of fun and subversive elements?

Perhaps she should drop by one of the sorts of events that I've been to.

Also, I like her reading of the basis for the collection being a subversion of 'male power stereotypes'.
Make the garments out of cheaper materials more associated with a lower social order and then stick a Prada label and price tag on them.

It's some joke.
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« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2013, 12:43:24 am »

Well, the first thing I noticed about her writing was the poor grammar.  The content is just drivel. I too was struck by her assertion that Steampunk  spread from "inception to explosion in just a few months". What a load of hooey! Ah well, I am glad I don't follow fashion.
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« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2013, 02:17:09 am »

Perfect parallel to this idiot's maunderings:

There was a student in an English literature class in a university in Britain some fifteen or so years ago, that, in an analysis of the Joseph Conrad novel, took Mr. Conrad to task for plagiarizing the movie "Alien".  Pre hoc ergo propter hoc seems to be the sum total of her "logic".

Prada, by comparison with the Steampunk Movement, is tawdry and pedestrian, derivative and without creative value.



Cheers

Chas.

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« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2013, 12:58:41 pm »

If I were less of a modern man I would suggest that maybe the lady is suffering from a nasty bout of hysteria.

We all know the way this is going to go. Decry it now, as the wheel of fashion endlessly turns; claim victory when it inevitably falls off the end......

Depressingly predictable.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2013, 02:23:30 pm by Clym Angus » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: May 30, 2013, 01:04:04 pm »

Meh, a load of overpriced neo-vicwardian style clothes some whiny fashionista's criticising for following a trend. I'm sure some of them could be incorporated into a Steampunk outfit quite easily, but since Steampunk by its' very nature is intangible according to most of the community (I've encountered people online who have tried to do what this whinger is doing and claiming that; 'X isn't steampunk because: a, b, c etc.' and all of them have been quickly drummed off by people who know better) it's impossible to claim that an outfit is Steampunk in and of itself.

Then again I am possibly a tad biased as I tend to agree wholeheartedly with Oscar Wilde:

"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable, we have to change its' definition every 6 months"
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« Reply #14 on: May 30, 2013, 01:41:10 pm »

Jealousy.

Because fashion has no heart, no function. We make do. We make do with what we can find, what we can make, appropriate, buy, swap, lend and borrow, glom, bodge... and it's all functional.

We make do with our community, our friends, our literature, our sense of belonging, what does fashion have? What it's told. To follow fashion is to follow rules, to look like what you're told to look like. A few extra pounds? Inconceivable. YOU'RE TOO FAT. In steampunk? No-one looks at you twice.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that any fashionista who decides to prey on us is wasting their time, since none of us actually care what fashion has to say about what we do, we're too busy having a good time. Isn't THAT what steampunk's about?
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« Reply #15 on: May 30, 2013, 02:40:01 pm »

I tend to try and listen to only those that radiate knowledge. I'm sure she is a wonderful and generous person, that said lacking the capacity to research can make a fool of us all.

Although it will annoy me I do have to read this piece of cultural journalism properly. She is of course entitled to her opinion, it is unwise however to use said entitlement to show flawed understanding. Knowledge is more forgiving of personality, than personality alone is forgiving of a lack of knowledge, and to know the difference, is governed solely by wisdom.

I console myself of thoughts of the BARGAIN bin at the end of season. Truly it will be a cheap modding paradise and therefore: Splendid!
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« Reply #16 on: May 30, 2013, 03:26:07 pm »

An interesting article. Might 2 branches drawn from the same root run parallel? Might those 2 branches draw on different sustenance from that root and in so doing be radically different in growth and structure but still to the casual observer look the same?

If so then there is no argument here.

Yet still I find her arguments interesting. If she finds this thread then I suggest she comes over draws up a chair with a nice cup of earl gray and has a chat. It would be a most stimulating debate. Not so much a challenge, more a polite offer.

The table is set, the doilies are placed, the pot is piping hot, the dress code is splendid. Don't be shy or stand on ceremony.

Does SteamPunk "cheapen" the "genius" of prada. I say no it doesn't, it is like comparing chalk and cheese. They are separate entities working towards different ends and as such as easy to compare as "1" and "F".

It's like saying the Eiffel Tower is crap because it can't do 0-60 in 3.5 seconds.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2013, 04:49:01 pm by Clym Angus » Logged
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« Reply #17 on: May 30, 2013, 08:55:51 pm »

"none of us actually care what fashion has to say about what we do"

hear hear

(but if someone is going to pay her for writing an article, feel free to write it, I say.)
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« Reply #18 on: May 30, 2013, 09:00:08 pm »

if someone is going to pay her for writing an article, feel free to write it, I say.

Unfortunately that's how openly homophobic/racist/transphobic/{insert prejudice here} articles become widely spread, and more importantly, widely viewed. There's a lot of disgusting behaviour in the media, and I doubt this is going to be the deepest it runs in terms of steampunk. I fear we may have hard times ahead as we become more exposed to the media, and it's important that we remain a community, even in our differences in opinion and lifestyle. That's the part I don't fear, however, since steampunk is a very forgiving and welcoming community.
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« Reply #19 on: May 30, 2013, 09:02:36 pm »

"As it stands, Steampunk wishes it was enlightened parody and commentary, but as a movement it is currently incapable of being so."


What is she talking about?


Quite.

Dr Q, don't you feel a new song coming out of this drivel?
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« Reply #20 on: May 31, 2013, 01:53:56 am »

I suppose for me it really boils down to one question:
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« Reply #21 on: May 31, 2013, 03:36:48 am »

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Please.  The purpose of my post was really not to bring vicious insults and vituperation upon Ms. Prasarn. But I will confess that my response is rather emotional in that I took it as an insult when a self-professed member in the clique of the fashion industry came into Von Slatt's site as an article writer and proceeded to deride Steampunk while making the most illogical assertions.

It's like having someone knock at your door and say, "I want to join the party."  After you let this person in and sit her in your living room, thereby giving her a voice to address the party, she then proceeds to insult all the guests at the party.  Presumably she will come back to write at the Steampunk Workshop, but somehow I doubt it, and it may have nothing to do with our responses.

That is one hell of an introduction from the Fashion Industry crowd...  What I would like to see is someone of stature in the Fashion industry who might explain whether or not these high fashion collections are "friendly" toward this movement.  Personally I think that a good diplomat would come in gracefully and at least exchange ideas as to how these two arts can mingle...

After a couple of lines exchanged over Twitter with Mr. KW Jeter, I wrote this second response to her article and those who came at her defence (including Mr. Von Slatt)





Quote
Esteemed colleagues:

If I may, I think that some of us simply took issue with the assertion that the Steampunk movement appropriated ideas and tacked itself to other movements.

Quite the contratrary!  Steampunk embraced the Goth "migration" in the late 90s and the Maker movement was welcome to "crash" the party in the early 2000s.  We invited them in for tea and biscuits, as opposed to pointing fingers.

Its is perhaps out fractious nature what actually imbues us with the tolerance needed to embrace so many people, with so varied interests.  When we forgot to be tolerant, in the past we were burned by some of our own ranks who stated things like "the Maker movement stole and changed the original purpose of Steampunk." At Brassgoggles, people like those are now regarded as being trolls in the community.  I give you the horrible example of the Steampunk Magazine's 2010 Great Steampunk Debate as the most shameful display of infighting and incivility ever seen within our movement as triggered by a small vocal minority.  We have learned our lesson well - Steampunk belongs to no one, and anyone is free to join the party as they see fit.  We will remain ineffable and ethereal, and as a-political as possible, because that gives us greater tolerance and stability.

So naturally we feel quite insulted when we are accused of stealing ideas or piggybacking at someone else's expense.  To be honest, we are creatively wealthy enough not to have to do that.

Which is nothing to say about what other figures in Steampunk, most notably Geri Jeter, KW Jeter's wife has written on the subject of Steampunk and Fashion... Link:  Oh, Those Crazy Modern Victorians: Or What the Heck Is Steampunk?

An excerpt from her article:


Quote
Though there exist Victorian fantasy novels written by the greats — H. G. Wells and Jules Verne — the actual term Steampunk is relatively recent. Coined by writer K. W. Jeter in a light-hearted 1987 comment to Locus magazine, the letter read:

"Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for [Timothy] Powers, [James P.] Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like ‘steam-punks’, perhaps."

It took a while, but it seems that this prediction may actually come to pass.

[Full disclosure time: As you might have guessed by the similarity in our names, I am related in some way to K. W. Jeter. He is, in fact, my husband. And, of course, I am inordinately proud of him. However, although I never review his books because of the obvious conflict, it would be remiss of me to exclude him from this article.]

Recently, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, along with other national publications, have featured Steampunk topics relating to fashion and Victorian martial arts. Additionally, IBM has predicted that Steampunk will be one of the biggest trends in 2013 to 2015.

Possibly. There are signs. Apart from its literary influences, Steampunk has begun to impact current fashion. Sarah Burton’s new spring collection for Alexander McQueen, for example, references Victorian fashion with her emphasis on corsetry, full-skirted gowns, and specialty millinery. In Paris, John Galliano’s 2010 collection at Christian Dior featured lace, corsets, and top hats. Most significant is Pantone’s announcement that brown (a color much beloved by the Steampunk fashionistas) is one of the top colors for fall 2013.

-Geri Jeter


As Ms. Jeter so eloquently states, there have been other who have taken to the 19th C.for inspiration, most notably (due to it's intensity) John Galliano for Christian Dior in 2010 and if I remember more recently Kormakur and Skjoldur's Men's ready-to-wear for Fall Winter 2012 (came out in March 2012?)

We will welcome anyone who wants to join the party, but we utterly dislike finger pointing, as that serves no purpose.

Many of us are in fact hoping that new movements will join the party.  To be honest, I'm still waiting for Neo Classical musicians to join Steampunk, as we sorely need truly anachronistic music (a really esoteric example is the band Rose Noire from Japan).  No insult intended to such fine groups such as Vernian Process, but it has been noted time and time again, that we have many musicians who happen to be Steampunk who are playing music, but there really are no musicians playing Steampunk music, because the Steampunk genre is not properly formed yet, and mostly lacks any vestiges of 19th. C. music anachronistic influences (I direct you to the Brassgogles forum for such discussions).

You are welcome to Steampunk as long as you play nice...  Would you like biscuits with your tea?

 

Cheers,

J. "Wilhelm"


Indeed, I would welcome the opportunity to have a member from the fashion industry come in and have a chat.  As Mr. Angus has stated, the table is set and the tea hot and waiting...

« Last Edit: May 31, 2013, 11:00:44 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged
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« Reply #22 on: May 31, 2013, 10:27:56 am »

Honestly reading through her other works she does have a way with words, I especially enjoyed her short piece on the Landsknecht, killer clown posse. Very entertaining.

I'm interested also in her introduction; "Obsessed with fashion theory and with creating avenues for people to gain aesthetic control of their lives". Dangerous words, how should that control be exercised? How could it be executed? Are we talking purely external here? Are we talking form or merely coating?

How can you control that which is doomed to disintegrate? If the perceived order of the external aesthetic is constantly changing are we doomed to race it for life until, as creatures of the mortal coil we fall. Doomed to be buried in last seasons suit or dress?

I would like to discuss the parallels between fashion and cult. Do they utilize the same forms of control? I like the psychological and sociological aspects of that which we wear. So yes I am sincere when I say a chat would be lovely. That said as she started it, it is only polite that she comes here. If we go there it could be misconstrued as an angry mob reaction. Which would be unfortunate and inaccurate.
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« Reply #23 on: May 31, 2013, 11:09:30 am »

To be honest, this thread has turned out to be considerably more acid-tongued than the one in Mr. Von Slatt's website.  Truly unintended on my part, but I guess people do have emotions, and the Steampunk brethren reacted accordingly.  I do believe however, that this is a much better forum for ample discussion, and an in-depth discussion, as that is a blog in format...

I do mean it when I say I would like to have someone from the Fashion industry introduce him/herself and mingle in these forums.  If you read our reactions to these high couture collections (Galliano, McQueen, Prada, Kormakur and Skjoldur), most of us have nothing but praise for them.
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« Reply #24 on: May 31, 2013, 03:04:36 pm »

People and especially groups will seek to defend themselves if they feel they are being attacked, or slighted for that matter. This is a normal human reaction to perceived outside threat. And might I add a trait that has benefited many living organisms for millions of years. It is to be understood and worked with.

I would expect nothing less from my fellow man and woman. We have to remember this is a social group used to defending itself. Confrontation and struggle against those that refuse to live and let live are for many of us a mere street walk away. So yes, the reaction is in kind to the expected threat. Irrespective of the stature of the tiger placed before us; bone, flesh, stone or paper it still parades as a predator. It's words are acted on accordingly.

I find my fellow Steampunks reaction understandable and acceptable when put into this wider context. There are many ways of going with this, all valid, some possibly less helpful, but understandable none the less. 


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