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Date 23.09.2015
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Tamara Poblete Perines

DRESSING “THE LATINO”: CAPITALISM AND COLONIZATION OF THE IMAGINARY

Tamara Poblete Perines, Designer and Independent Researcher – Chile

While contemporary fashion studies are contributing to the critical understanding of fashion phenomena from a wide variety of theoretical perspectives, the concept itself in its different meanings remains rooted to notions of progress in Europe. This calls into question the monolithic features the Eurocentric academic discourse tends to adopt referring to what fashion is in colonized territories or those which are subject to cultural appropriation within contemporary processes of globalization. In this context, the presentation proposes, on the one hand, to analyse the construction of a European imaginary about Latin American fashion, full of racial and cultural stereotypes as an allusion to an exotic territory, and on the other, to argue that such images constitute a device of exploitation and domination interpreted as new forms of colonial practices in today’s capitalism.

The analysis is based on the examination of influential high fashion magazines such as Elle, Vogue and Marie Claire, where it is possible to identify Andean textiles, Copacabana beach style flip flops and clothes adorned with colourful motifs, among others frequently used to represent Latin America. The images often also include local indigenous people wearing traditional dresses, which appear integrated into the decoration in a sort of exacerbated primitivism, in contrast to the rational and civilized personification of European models. In this study, these representations are subjected to critical perspective in the context of debates about otherness both in theoretical and political terms.

From the images examined in the high fashion magazines, it is possible to conclude that nothing published there is, in fact, Brazilian, Guatemalan or Bolivian, but, rather, a confusing puzzle of symbols intended to be representative of Latin America itself. This representation is exhibited as a visual synthesis of a territory that has been crystallized into a stereotype associated with the exotic. It is perhaps the Eurocentric desire for this imaginary what fashion has really capitalized on through proposals that are channelled from high fashion to mass markets and whose value stems precisely from its exotic “nature”. This mechanism, of turning Latin America into a consumer object of desire, reinforces and fixates totalizing ideas of what latino is and may be. While, at the same time, separates and distinguishes it from the Eurocentric concept of fashion.

It denies its own value as fashion, as it is subject to valuation criteria controlled by the discourses of an authority recognized as Eurocentric fashion. The construction and control over this imaginary about what latino is within the contemporary processes of globalization denotes the obsolescence of traditional imperialism and proposes new forms of colonial practices.

 

Tamara PobleteTamara Poblete Perines combines both independent research and creative practice in critical fashion.

She is interested in exploring the influences that have shaped the ideas and work of Latin American fashion, with particular attention to the Chilean scene.

She completed a Bachelor in Fine Arts at University of Chile, and holds a Master’s degree in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship with a minor in Design from Goldsmiths University, London, where she formed her critical thinking about fashion as social and cultural phenomenon.

She has won two scholarships by the Chilean Arts Council and an academic scholarship courtesy of Goldsmiths Banco Santander.

She also works at the British Council Chile, contributing mainly to the development of content for the areas of fashion, design and creative economy.