Friday, July 07, 2006


So a few months back I wrote a post about being real fashionable in my bizarre little houndstooth scarf. All I knew was, all the funky London kids who frantically plunder the Portobello market stalls every weekend had em. I saw a lady who worked for the Guardian wearing one at one point. I had to have one.

And then a friend pointed it out--I was wearing a keffiyeh, a tradtional head scarf worn by Palestinians. Trendy westerners started wearing them five years ago in the Bay Area, according to her, but out here in London they're just a quirky, table cloth-lookin houndstooth scarf and super-trendy. Palestine smalistine. I mean, I don't mind people thinking that I support Palestine, I'd just rather not wear my politics and religion on my sleeve, especially without knowing it.

A few weeks back I even noticed a cute little keffiyeh-style sun dress in a trashy fashion magazine. They called it the "Arabic print Religion dress", and claim 'it's such a cool holiday buy..wear it over your bikini!'
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This isn't the first time I've noticed mideast-infulenced fashion. This past spring, I wrote this article for an online magazine project for the theme of "political prisoners":

Political Prisoner Chic

This season’s Paris Fashion Week commenced in what seemed like standard catwalk fare: John Paul Gaultier’s gaunt beauties dressed in frayed, gothic messes to match the live dogs they walked in with, Comme Des Garcons paired gender-bending dress and suit combos with Venice carnival masks, and some designers even presented models with complete head masks. Yes, complete head masks. If political prisoner chic were ever in fashion, this is what it would look like.

Top designers such as Viktor & Rolf, Undercover, and British fashion legend Vivienne Westwood saw models donning head masks — some of which eerily resembled those worn by torture victims in Abu Ghraib Prison.

At Viktor and Rolf, 50s-era secretary styles teamed with fencing face masks to compliment fishnet stockings, creating a sinister take on the classic feminine suit dress. The suitably named Undercover presented models that had apparently lost an epic battle of fabric vs. man. Not one inch of flesh was shown, as tall boots, gloves, and of course head masks all meshed together in one monotonous blend of neutral tones. The head coverings were especially troubling, however, as they appeared as nothing more than thin sacks tied up to created a point at the top. Models were reportedly stumbling and bumping into each other throughout the show, as they were blinded considerably.

At Vivienne Westwood, a few of the ensembles included knitted head wear which could only be described as a tilted sack stitched together by a colorblind African tribeswoman. While the shape of the head gear was straight out of Abu Ghraib, the colors and patterns made the whole concept of a head mask seem almost cheery.
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And while these ostensibly innocuous accessories were not directly linked to torture victims in Abu Ghraib, Westwood’s collection was dedicated to high profile American prisoner Leonard Peltier. Native American Leonard Peltier was given two consecutive life sentences after being charged with the killings of two FBI agents in a standoff at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975.

Peltier’s guilty status is highly contested throughout the world. Now approaching his 30th year of imprisonment, Peltier is considered a political prisoner by Amnesty International, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, and the European Parliament.

Just last month, a District Judge in New York overturned an appeal to release FBI documents regarding the incident at Pine Ridge as it was in the interest of “national security” to keep the records private.

Westwood, who has campaigned adamantly for Peltier’s release over the years, told Reuters, “Leonard Peltier is innocent,” while pointing to an illustration of a blue, winged penis with the words “Innocent” on it. The penis, according to Westwood, is a Greek symbol of good luck.

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