February 20, 2013 by labelnyc
Clothing And Art As Praxis
In 1989 Laura Whitcomb, influenced by Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell, recognized a double edged sword in the fact everyday iconography was processed by the collective psyche in mythic proportion.
The power of slogans, logos, icons and brands made upon the collective unconscious sustained their representation in a totemic system that mimicked the mechanism of religious worship. This semiotic system and the means its archetypal role came to represent states of status, lust, virility, health, power, seduction and love threatened its targets in an enslavement of consumerism.
Born into what Whitcomb considered the cultural Armageddon of the early Nineties, Label perceived itself as a force to dismantle a brand obsessed culture. Ironically Pop Art that had served as a foreboding warning of the power of icons had paradoxically positioned the brand as a vehicle of worship through the stalemate of Warhol. Whitcomb concerned herself with the assault of a future controlled by the narrative of consumerism and its sytem of mass hypnosis via an agenda of hijacking its iconographical representation.
Clothing would serve as the means to dismember the power iconography had over culture through branding. Whitcomb began a process experimenting with dismemberment and re-contextualising the familiar reducing the societal roles of class, race, gender, faith, and income as artificial denominators. Hijacking these brands and cultural icons would dismantle the archetypal power of the product it was intended to serve, allowing new meanings to arrive through a lens that discovered a new paradigm.
Whitcomb believed the most obvious source of iconographic discrimination arose in the conflict of gender. She looked to clothing’s role and sought inspiration from the most masculine sources of dress in the context of uniform. Stemming from the cultural milieu of her Los Angeles upbringing Whitcomb sought out the East Los Angeles style of traditional gang member’s dress and sought to re-contextualize its exclusion within the role of gender.
Whitcomb responded to the masculine driven uniform of wife-beater tanks, lumberjack shirts and Dickies and transformed their material and cut into dresses and long skirts. It re-appropriated the masculine into a new semantic of the feminine questioning its system of hierarchy.
Photographs from this collection will be uploaded soon.
Label not only created a homage to the alienated culture of cholos and cholas, but brought a lyricism to street culture that examined its culture of signs and denominators as a compelling tradition that rooted back to emmerging street style during World War ll. The collection touched upon cultural stigma and confronted the idea of exclusion through the merit of style and the power made through the identity made in dress. Re-contextualizing this paradigm through fashion’s elitist role; street culture was pushed to the forefront of being an undeniable factor in popular culture.
The name Label arose from the ‘anti brand’ of generic food packaging that became a mainstay in the recession. Generic packaging identified the simplicity of the object, trademarking it simply for what it was. It circumvented the process of marketing’s system of illusion to assert a product stripped down to no frills honesty. The iconography of the typed font with the simplicity of a generic baby blue and navy stripe became a mascot for those excluded from the nexus of the wealth obsessed 80’s and reliance of material clout becomming a mascot of post punk culture.
A quiet judgment against the hypocrisy and delusion of its time, the generic sensibility was Whitcomb’s personal fetish. Her kitchen fridge and cabinets for a time only shelved this anti-product which would soon extend to a label that took on the same principle. The generic font ‘label’ was inscribed above the familiar baby blue and navy stripe and trademarked in 1991 and webe sewn into the collars of the clothes to be made.
Label’s 5 Year Anniversary Photo Shoot featured the store’s some time security gaurd and daily performer Harold Hunter. Harold who shared Laura’s birthday always made us smile even on the hardest of days. You are greatly missed even though it seams lke you are still here.
Collage featuring Melanie Schmitz the first manager at Label