Mark Leckey is a British artist and professor of film studies in Frankfurt. He’s best known for manipulating pop images and music into dreamy, druggy, disjointed variants on music videos. The 1999 club-life video Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore in the ubu.com archives is a long meditation on the 90s club scenes and hip fashion.
Today’s hipster scenes had their roots established by “cadres of cool kids” and “cool hunters” employed by fashion designer Fiorucci from New York City during the 1970s. Notice the supposedly subversive graffiti writer girl and the spread-eagle jeans in the picture to the left. Nobody seems to wear Fiorucci’s clothes today, or realize that today’s fashion industrial complex owes much of its trendy backbone to this one designer. Fiorucci had become a historical curio. (A history of Fiorucci’s scene was documented in a New York Times article not too long ago, Once So Hot and Now, Can It Be Again?)
Today designers frequently embed themselves at trendy urban shows and clubs to look for and spot the latest fashions and ideas, in order to sell these ideas back to the leisure class at a premium. Because the artists are capitalists too, they feed off the subcultures which are constantly highlighting new commodities and putting new fads in the limelight. Fiorucci is the designer and the business which started — invented, really — the now pervasive marketing-embedding tactic. From the New York Times,
“[Fiorucci] had a stable of up to 30 stylists and trend- spotters, some as young as 16, whose job was to fly around the globe and report back on the latest trends,” [recalled fashion designer Joan Kaner from Neiman Marcus]. “They would buy samples of things they saw on the street. They’d go to clubs and see what people were doing and wearing. From that, Fiorucci really became what it was. That’s where they got the energy.”
Fiorucci has often been associated with “hardcore,” the black tight pants, and the sassy attitude. Hence Fiorucci Made Them Hardcore. But Fiorucci had a foot in almost every fashionable market, as every good business does. The now-famous hipster article in Adbusters, Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization, (the flaws of the article withstanding) said it best when it framed the situation of the Generation Y hipster scene:
…The half-built condos tower above us like foreboding monoliths of our yuppie futures. I take a look at one of the girls wearing a bright pink keffiyah and carrying a Polaroid camera and think, “If only we carried rocks instead of cameras, we’d look like revolutionaries.” But instead we ignore the weapons that lie at our feet – oblivious to our own impending demise…
… An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal.
The take home lesson, that your jeans and your appearance don’t make you hardcore. Your Army career doesn’t make you hardcore. Your punk band doesn’t make you hardcore. Nothing you can add to your life to give meaning within the system of capital and commodity relations will make you hardcore, if being “hardcore” was ever your goal in life. Only when you have realized that the society of spectacle has more power over your social life than you do, that the appearance of “unity” between radical and bourgeois elements of society is actually the cover-up of a profound division (the unconscious history of productive forces in capitalism), and that this commercial radical sell-back represents a science of domination, only then is it possible to reject suicide within the system of fetishized objects and embrace revolt — the essential aspect of the “hardcore” — as a weapon against control, inversion, bondage, falsity, lies, and alienation.