‘The Vulgar’ and appreciating difference

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Image source: the Barbican – Walter van Beirendonck, Fall/Winter 2010/2011. Hat: Stephen Jones © Ronald Stoops


We listened to @BBCWomansHour yesterday with the talented Judith Clark of London College of Fashion who curated the current exhibition ‘The Vulgar’ at the Barbican, alongside partner and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips. The Barbican has described it as ‘the first exhibition to explore the inherently challenging but utterly compelling territory of taste in fashion, from the renaissance through to contemporary design’.

“Vulgarity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder,” Clark writes in the catalogue. “It is an emblem of artificiality.” It is also a knee-jerk reaction to the unknown: “People,” said Mary Quant in 1967, “call things vulgar when they are new to them.”

Vogue
We’re a curious bunch here at Maier, so it’s as no surprise that this exploration of ‘vulgar’ got us talking about the potential parallels between ‘vulgarity’ and appreciating difference in others. A large amount of our work focusses on understanding and appreciating one another’s ‘styles’ and ways of operating. In other words, what might seem perfectly acceptable to one person may feel completely alien to another.

Phillips offers an interesting perspective on this when asked in a recent article why we’re in a habit of narrowing ourselves down and seeing ourselves as fixed…

“It seems to me that taste is problematic when it is a militant and aggressive narrowing of the mind, when it says “I know what I like – and don’t like – and you’ve got to agree with me”. A more experimental view of trying new things out is healthier – and there is less of an inclination to mock or be angered by what you don’t understand”.

Perhaps if we applied a more ‘experimental view’ to the way we operate on a daily basis, we could open our mind and thinking in ways we might never have imagined…one to ponder.