»Not Beautiful ... Fashion at the edge« subject title of long-term project at KISD, Köln International School of Design in summer 2019.
Within this studio based project we investigated on aesthetics and on anti-aesthetics in specific, the not-beautiful. Although it sounds like a paradox that especially designer want to find out about the unbeautiful, in contemporary debates on aesthetics the interest in the not-beautiful seems to be stronger. Especially when its about our immediate designed surrounding that relates to our identity, such as architecture, objects and textile covers around us, then we find the non-beauty more attractive, more concise and more unique.
»The beautiful has only one face; the ugly a thousand«, Victor Hugo stated in 1827. An examination of the theory of aesthetics, throughout history showed us that the unbeautiful, or even the ugly, has always been of interest and fascination.Â Beauty is considered as too simple, too easily digestible and then quickly uninteresting. The perception of beauty has changed from the absolute form to the indifferent and subjective emotional experience, and shifted thus closer to the perception of ugliness. We found out that there are many analogies, overlaps and moments of exchange in the experience of beauty and non-beauty. In fashion, which gives a direct expression of our contemporary culture, and which is very close to the body and the psyche, the anti-aesthetic plays an important role and is an attractive field. Obtrusive, shrill or ugly fashion is considered desirable, exclusive and is not only recognized by insiders as »cool«. It stands out from the mainstream and at the same time creates affiliations to a like-minded community. This anti-fashion can provoke a break with conservative aesthetics and thus with social conventions in general.
We reflected on this break with the ultimate, with the objectively beautiful, and took it as a critical statement against the conventional and the familiar. We examined if it is the not-beautiful, that touches us emotionally stronger and offers us an emotional experience that challenges us from our familiar experiences and our comfort zone. We investigated on the thesis: Is the not-beautiful a way to stand out, and to distinguish against conformity in a time of constant self- display through social media? As narcissism grows in our society and we are obsessed with the acknowledgment of our appearance. Is this twisted aesthetic of the own appearance an attempt to free oneself from a set of rules and the suppression of beauty ideals and to give room to a diverse society? The beauty myth, as Naomi Wolf describes it, is a concept of power, used to suppress, to exclude and to discriminate. Beauty ideals are used as a tool to objectify people and Wolf calls for liberation from this social pressure in order of a feminist movement.