Object Analysis: 1 Granary, by Brittany Dickinson
The cover image of 1 Granary, the student-published magazine of Central Saint Martins in London, features a model in a compromising pose, barefoot, legs akimbo. A naked baby is perched on her lap, held in a careless one-handed grip.
The photograph appears to be set in a warehouse, and the gritty Polaroid quality of the image evokes the raw eye of Juergen Teller. The off-kilter composition emphasizes the imbalance of the image’s content, and possibly hints that fashion students running the publication are too busy to be bothered by precision.
An amorphous garment of tulle and feathers overtakes the model’s upper body. The frothy concoction is pale in color, an ivory that closely blends with the white background and the skin of the smiling baby. Seemingly every shade of ivory is represented in the image. The baby: pale blush; the garment: milky beige; the wall as well as the stool on which the model sits: optic white; the shades of the windows, drawn haphazardly at different levels: dirty beige; and the window panes themselves: hazy, greyed-out white.
Shots of dark color overtake the emotional composition of the piece. The model’s raven hair is a divergent shock to the alabaster arrangement, and other dark elements reveal themselves in small visual bites. The shadows are bitter. Harsher still are the dark grains in the worn wood of the floor and the crimson line of blood trickling down the model’s left forearm, held in front of her as an offering to the viewer. Her head is thrown away from the limb, eyes rolled back in lifeless expression. Closer inspection reveals blood coming out of her nose, pointing to an overdose from self injection. The cloud-like costume on the model may best be attributed to a mottled death shroud rather than high fashion.
The title of the issue is “The Birth Place.” Aside from the explicit reference to the naked baby in the photograph and the child-bearing stance of the model’s legs, the title nods to both the magazine’s birthplace in the school’s granary building and the occasion of this being the inaugural issue. It also suggests a larger concept of “birth,” that is, the birth of designers, the transition of students in the womb to designers of the world. The implication here is that Central Saint Martins is the birthplace of fashion design, and that the world’s most influential fashion designers come out of this program in London.
Despite the overt references to birth, death infuses the cover image. Life and death are inauspiciously contained in the realm of fashion.
The baby has a pleasant look on its face even though it sits on a drug-induced model in a dirty warehouse. The child’s earnest smile and pure, pale skin directly contrast the model’s deep tan and troubled expression. The baby appears to be unaware of the situation, and the model seems to be in complete disregard of the baby. The baby poses as Life; the model, Death. Death grips Life and pulls it into its shroud.
The uncomfortable question that must be raised is how a photograph like this, from the best fashion design school in the world, might be considered a representation of the fashion industry. Because of the institution’s vast influence, Central Saint Martins is effectively adding to an already oversaturated representation of fashion that supersedes health, family, and responsibility. This cover image underscores a common aphorism in fashion: “I may be a hot mess, but at least my clothing is fabulous.”
Essay written in Fall 2014, for MA Design Research class “Cultural Theory and Thesis Development,” instructed by Daniela Fabricius and Alice Twemlow.