A research exploration of fashion and resilience by MA Fashion Studies graduate Kim Jenkins
‘Make your own opportunities, don’t rely on others, take charge of your own life’: the new Vanessa Paradis is in great shape, in full control and utterly inspiring.
-on Vanessa Paradis, The Edit, April 2014
As I’ve spent the past two years pitching my thesis hypothesis to anyone who will listen, I have continued to stumble upon evidence in the media (specifically the fashion and lifestyle magazine ) consistently assuming its role as a guide for cultivating the modern woman. Particularly, as it pertains to my focus of research, how these magazines, along with film and music provide what I consider “recipes for resilience” that guide women to overcoming personal obstacles through physical transformation. The latest example of this would be the April 2014 issue of The Edit featuring a newly single Vanessa Paradis (following her public breakup with actor Johnny Depp) to support the overarching theme of “How to empower yourself with your wardrobe”.
Those of us familiar with Ms. Paradis know that the French model and actress was most recognized for her long, flowing hair. Post-breakup we rediscover Paradis with a bold, cropped hairstyle on the cover of The Edit, staring defiantly into the camera wearing a masculine, tailored jacket opened just enough to reveal her black lacy lingerie. The heading on the cover reads, “Bolder, sexier, stronger” and the photo spread within (shot by Rafael Stahelin) is titled “Phoenix Rising”. The shoot gives us the impression that the 41 year old Paradis is resilient and strong, and fully embraces a sensuality that has not been disrupted, employing garments and poses that accentuate her newly sculpted shoulders and toned arms. Perhaps most importantly, the article covering Paradis’ recipe for resilience involves reevaluating her passions (music and acting) and building a body that is sturdy enough to carry her through to the next major stage of her life. From an academic standpoint, Paradis exemplifies a Foucauldian “technology of the self”, a self-governed effort to create a life that is empowered.