In my last post I mentioned the Prada dressing room in Soho. Here is a clip from the paper I wrote on it.
In December 2001, Prada opened the doors to a new store in Manhattan. The space was fully equipped with new technology to reinvent the way we shop. The store offers amenities including everything from cataloguing shopper’s personal preferences to providing staff with identification clips so that they can better serve the clientele. The most striking achievement can be found in their dressing room: The fitting rooms allow Prada patrons the opportunity to experience themselves in the clothing through a full range of situations and environments using various simulated effects. While these technological advances are yet another step forward in the increasingly progressive fashion arena, the fitting room technology forces a quotidian action to be mediated through simulated experiences. This change fundamentally alters perceptions of ourselves in reality...
...Fashion is about the process of creating an image. Our clothing choices are but one way we create and present an image of ourselves to the world. Jean Baudrillard wrote that we have ceased to be spectators, and have become actors in a performance where we “face up to the unreality of the world as spectacle, we are defenseless before the extreme reality of the world, before this virtual perfection.” Fashion allows us to become performers so that we make attempts at perfection: because a person has the ability to alter the image of themself they project to society through fashion. The innovations in the Prada dressing room mimic the transformative ability of fashion, but take it a step further. Now there are computers that can help us to mimic the perfection we strive to achieve: by placing a camera in the fitting room and using computers to help recreate the looks shown on the runway, the identity of the model is imposed on the customer. The model is an image of constructed perfection; by combining the controlled image of the ideal (the model) with reality (the customer in the fitting room) a new perfection can be achieved.
John Berger wrote in his essay collection, Ways of Seeing, “We are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves” (9). While Berger speaks of the relationship of the person to the mirror, and furthermore the ways in which people are perceived by others, his ideas are applicable to the case of the Prada fitting rooms. They give customers an alternate way of viewing themselves: instead of simply looking at their reflection, the shopper’s self-perception is replaced by others’ perception. Through the process of photographing the client in the Prada clothes, and then comparing these to runway models, the dressing room allows clients to see themselves as images- divorced from the present, made anonymous like models. The lighting options make it possible to remove oneself from the moment in the fitting room. In a sense, this mirror provides a sense of escapism. Though the system is intended to be more real, it uses images meant to show how one is perceived in “outside” realities. Simulating alternate experiences distorts any sense of reality. As Jean Baudrillard writes, “…pretending, or dissimulating, leaves the principle of reality intact: the difference is always clear, it is simply masked, whereas simulation threatens the difference between the “true” and the “false,” the “real” and the “imaginary” (Simulacrum 3). By promoting both the actual reality as well as potential realities, the shopper is able to inhabit multiple scenarios simultaneously, blurring the distinction between the constructed reality of the simulated lighting and the actual moment occurring in the dressing room.
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