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The Misguided Extremes of Fast Fashion and the Branding of Nostalgia

Gill Linton explores the work of photographer Chase P Coughlin, who chemically manipulates found vintage photographs of strangers, creating a...

Gill Linton
Gill Linton on December 21, 2010.

Undertow, Chase P Coughlin

I will have lived in NYC for 11 years come the New Year.

Like most Brits, I started out in the West Village – although by way of North London’s somewhat lovingly grimy Stockwell, I should have come straight to the Lower East Side, where I moved 3 years later to escape the Conde-nastation of the Meat Packing district.

I now live in the same street as bankrupt condo buildings, a Gelato, Libation, a Comfort Inn, Steve Madden, not to mention dozens of clinically spanking ‘upper east side’ style art galleries.

For my last ramble of the year, I’ve decided not to bang on about fashion, specifically. Turns out, my visit to a Lower East Side gallery show last week, was a severe and contrasting reminder of how the over consumption of ‘fast-fashion’ has cultural consequences, far beyond the badly fitting, head to toe trends that regularly stagger the street between the Dark Room and Libation, and back to the Dark Room via the kebab stand, (I can’t say kebob, anymore than I will high five anyone.)

Suburban Legends, a show at Window Gallery on Orchard Street, features work by artist/photographer Chase Coughlin who chemically manipulates found vintage photographs of strangers, creating a sinisterly voyeuristic and agitating commentary on the misguided extremes of fast-fashion culture and the over-polished branding of nostalgia.

Carbon, Chase P Coughlin

Like many people who didn’t actually experience it, I have a romanticized view of the L.E.S and East Village of the late 70’s and early 80’s. What I liked about Coughlin’s work was that it made me feel, what I imagine, it was like to be here then. In a tiny and grungy shop front, a millions miles from the sheet-rocked galleries surrounding it, you could tell he was flipping the finger, as the press release described ‘Through his display of the narrow-mindedness and decay found in his native mountain town.’

Maybe not so different from where we were?

Pearl, C P Coughlin

This was the decade we spent too much money buying too much crap, and in the typical cycle of recessionary shifts, quality and heritage is now important to us, or at the very least it’s what’s being marketed to us. (Do we really know what comes first?)

Personally, I break out in hives at the polished marketing of nostalgia as much as I do fast fashion – it’s all faux at the end of the day.

There’s something purposefully uncomfortable about fucking with nostalgia and what Coughlin did was just that. He saved us from another trite trip down memory lane.

And that, my friends, is how vintage will be the future of fashion.

For more info: CJ Swanton: swanton.pr@gmail.com.

Gill is a freelance creative strategist in New York, and this is her planner’s perspective on the business of fashion. You can contact her at Gilllinton@me.com.

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