Fetishism in fashion

Trend forecaster Li Edelkoort’s new book "Fetishism in Fashion" explores the evolution of taste, revealing something about the future of style and culture.

A fetish is generally understood to be an unusual, often sexual, interest in an object or material, while fetishism is the activity that involves the particular material or interest.

In her latest book, Fetishism in Fashion, trend forecaster Li Edelkoort investigates the connection between fetishism and fashion, or rather how various fetishes are manifested in different fashion trends.

Published by Frame and edited by Philip Fimmano, Fetishism in Fashion explores how different fetishes, from the common shoe fetish to a “thing” for animals to the more risqué bondage fetish, reveal something about the intimate ties that bind us as human beings.

Edelkoort believes that our (contemporary) fetishes tell us something about an “instinctive future for style and culture”, the origins of which can be traced back to our earliest human and material encounters. “Much of our fantasies and aspirations are imbedded in early childhood and are often revisted, becoming a fascination for soup, velvet or shoes, for example,” Edelkoort explains in the book.

She further explains how fetishism is often part of a human need to connect, to feel a bond. As we’re all “born in bondage with a cord around our baby body… this is where the human quest for other forms of connections and bonds starts; unable to replace it, we will try to re-enact or at least remember the primal bond of life”.

The book goes on to look at the ways and forms in which we seek to replace these bonds. Together with photographs and images that range from beautiful to shocking to though-provoking and evocative, a range of fetishes are explored in the book.

With articles, essays and interviews by a various contributors, including Valerie Steele and Alice Rawsthorn, Fetishism in Fashion serves as a reference book of sorts in what is described as a “new era of experimentation”. Fetish elements in the work of, for example, Alexander McQueen, Iris van Herpen, Bart Hess and Formafantasma is examined, taking the reader/viewer on an aesthetic journey through some of the subliminal factors that influence fashion.

From nudism to absurdism and from a thread fetish to a fish fetish, Edelkoort’s Fetishism in Fashion considers the subtle ways that fetishism has come to shape our culture. And it makes for a thrilling read.


Watch the Talk with Valerie Steele