Between the 29th and 31st July, I, and two of my coursemates, spoke at the European Popular Culture Association’s (EuPop) annual conference. Held at London College of Fashion’s High Holborn campus, EuPop 2014 explored popular culture in all of its various forms; from film, to television, music, the body, new media, and curation.
On Tuesday 29th July, Professor of Cultural Studies, Communication and Media at Middlesex University, Feona Attwood, kicked off day one proceedings with her absorbing keynote presentation, titled “Pornography and Popular Culture”. Attwood presented a contemporary examination of how sex and sexuality are studied across a range of media texts, not just pornography, and how this has become the focus of public and political discussion (for example, the sexualisation of young people exemplified through celebrities such as Miley Cyrus). Across the three-day conference topics varied as widely as Gemma Cobb’s “This Is Not Pro-Ana: Denial and Disguise in Pro-Ana Online Spaces”; Nazil Alimen’s “The Little Prince Is Becoming A ‘Man’: The Circumcision Ritual and Market Place”; Carey Fleiner’s “The Kinks, Punk and Preservation: Chaos and Identity in 1970s Britain”; and our lecturer, Shaun Cole’s, brilliant talk “Twenty-First Century Gay: Comparing Gay Men’s Fashion and Style in London and New York, 2000-2013”.
On the second day, three current students from the MA History and Culture of Fashion course, Paula, Tara and I, presented our papers. In the morning, I was the final person to present on a panel dedicated to class depictions. I spoke after Tony Sullivan’s “Class and Politics in The Hunger Games”, and Lisa Betts’ “Del Boy, Beckham and Sartorial Utopia”, which were not easy acts to follow. With nerves bubbling inside, I removed my glasses (so I couldn’t see the faces in the audience) and presented, “Style, Shame and Stereotypes: Working-Class Women on British TV”. Focussing on what had inspired my dissertation, as opposed to the work-in-progress dissertation itself, I spoke about the representation of working-class women in UK made-for-TV documentaries, such as Benefit Street and Beauty Queen or Bust. I wanted to highlight how working-class stereotypes were formed and reinforced through appearance, and, ultimately, how “working-class” has become a term of devaluation. I was so grateful to receive such a lovely, warm response from the audience. I was also incredibly relieved to know that my turn was over and that I could enjoy the rest of the day.
After lunch, my coursemate, and fellow co-editor, Paula Alaszkiewicz presented her fascinating paper, “Historicising Myth, Mythologizing History: Coco, Karl and the Construction of Chanel”. The talk was inspired by curator Amy De La Haye’s work on the exhibition “Coco Chanel: A New Portrait by Marion Pike, Paris 1967-71”, and is a revised excerpt of the first essay submitted for our course. In her own words, Paula’s extract proclaimed:
“Coco, No. 5, Rue Cambon, tweed, Mademoiselle, the double C, and the lion head button; to an extent unlike that of any other fashion house, Chanel is called to mind through a rich and varied stock of signifiers. These signifiers contribute to the myth of Chanel, which not only valorises and mystifies its history but also assures its presence in the brand’s contemporary function. This paper takes the Chanel myth, along with its constituting elements, as its subject. By applying Roland Barthes’ notion of the semiotic myth, the development and continued flourishing of the Chanel myth will be critically explored. Using Pierre Bourdieu’s notions of succession in fashion, focus will transition from past to present: from Coco to Karl. Through an analysis of contemporary Chanel ‘texts,’ specifically those that involve an intervention by Lagerfeld, it will be argued that such efforts mark an attempt to stabilise the myth and naturalise the succession process, ultimately serving to embed Lagerfeld within the legendary Chanel myth”.
MA History and Culture of Fashion graduate, Lydia Kaye, also presented in this panel, and relayed the thought-provoking findings of her insightful dissertation, “The Transgender Model Movement: An Analysis of the Representation of Transgender Models in Fashion Imagery”, which was inspired by androgynous model, Andrej (now Andreja) Pejic.
Finally, my brilliant coursemate Tara Tierney spoke on the music panel about the on-going research for her dissertation, “The Impact of the British House Music Culture on Female Identity, Between 1988 and 1991”. She insightfully stated:
“At the end of 1987, a small number of nightclubs in the UK started to embrace a new type of electronic dance music, called House music. They were trying to recreate the sound and atmosphere of the Chicago Warehouse and Amnesia nightclub in Ibiza. This was the birth of UK House music and the creation of a truly unique British rave and club culture. Research into rave and club cultures started to emerge from the mid to late 1990s, however the role and importance of the female has largely been ignored”.
Tara’s talk examined the impact of British House Music culture on the identity of female ravers and clubbers between 1988 and 1991. She noted, for example, Rifat Ozbek’s “White” collection from Spring/Summer 1990, which featured as-yet-unseen clubwear. Also, her research considered the salient factors of identity; the body, the self, gender and race, and examined if these factors were crucial to the construction of female identity throughout rave and club cultures.
Covering many aspects of European popular culture, EuPop 2014 was a really fascinating couple of days. I’m so thankful to have had my first opportunity to speak at a conference alongside so many fascinating and accomplished academics. For more information on the conference, its speakers, and the themes it covered, explore EuPop on Twitter (@EUPOP2014 / #EUPOP2014) and Facebook.