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(un)Fashion: A Worldly View of Vernacular Fashion

April 8, 2010

I love just about anything that Maira Kalman does, but (un)Fashion, a collaboration with her late husband  Tibor Kalman, is one of my all-time favorites.  The book was actually designed and compiled largely by Tibor, a social activist and influential graphic designer who is widely known for his use of graphics for social commentary as well as innovation in design.  Maira published (un)Fashion following Tibor’s death in 1999.

The book, which Kalman describes as ‘an unconventional view of vernacular fashion’ compiles a lifetime of travel shots into a personal and anthropological photo essay. The result is a witty and eye-popping view on the  expressive qualities of human adornment, grouped into several wacky and wonderfully themes: holy wear, masks, footwear, optics, uniforms…

While cross-cultural similarities are drawn, the books brilliance is lies in the looseness of its ties and the very fact that it does not seek to force meaning out of likeness.  It is, instead, whimsical, light-hearted and totally brilliant.

I have a hunch that someone at AFAR magazine was equally inspired by Kalman when they instituted their recurring “Mix” feature, which, each month, juxtaposes images from around the world of how different cultures fulfill specific universal need. This month they tackle school lunches, which means that the guy in the image above is all set… providing he can get his hands on a can-opener.

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