Objektet och Museet: Girls on Film

Last night we caught up on a culture show produced here in Sweden, Kobra. The theme last week was Copies, and although they mentioned fashion in passing, it focused more on German villages reproduced in China, Tupac’s second life at Coachella, and the aggressive ubiquity of covers/remixes/sampling/etc in our current music culture.

The section on music in the episode brought to mind many parallels to the fashion world. The clothing industry at large could easily adopt the musical vocabulary: covers, remixes, tribute b(r)ands, etc, and the Swedish brand H&M is notorious for their alleged “covers” of designs seen on runways. One of the first entries that comes up from a quick search of “H&M” on YouTube is this advertisement the company ran for their Winter 2012 collection:

The clothing produced by H&M, which is often hyped here as the democratic option or “fashion for all”, is also perceived as consisting largely of inexpensive copies of expensive designer clothing. Interestingly, for this advertising campaign, the company used a few different covers of the song, “Girls on Film,” originally attributed to Duran Duran.

In their video for this song, the band created a pseudo-surreal runway-like atmosphere, complete with flashbulbs, makeup stations, and dominant females. The lyrics are a little darker, suggesting the difficulty of life in the spotlight. These insinuations are cut out of the H&M advertisement, leaving the catchy hook and a techno-y overtone, glamorizing the lifestyle that Duran Duran was attempting to expose, and ignoring the original intention of the song.

These 30 seconds of video provide a surprisingly thorough example of the prevalence of copies in our lives as receivers and consumers. This advertisement was reproduced thousands of times on millions of televisions, and continues to live on in YouTube format, where the cover of the original song has been remixed many times over, sometimes attached to H&M video or images. It uses a cover of a song first sung by a band whose aesthetic was mimicked by untold numbers of contemporary fans and helped form the base for a generic/iconic 1980s style that has already been reprised in twenty-first century fashion and everyday dress. Finally, the song is used as background for selling clothing items that not only evoke fashionable garments and lifestyles, but often take very directly from current fashion, providing opportunities for emulation among the general public.

In the Kobra episode, author Simon Reynolds suggests that the reproductive fecundity in the current music industry is due to a sort of laziness or lack of inspiration, which criticism the fashion industry has also received. Do you think this copy culture is uninspired, or is it a tribute to beloved designers or eras?

Brenna wrote about the issue of copyright in Fashion Bytes a few days ago, outlining Louis Vuitton’s recent landmark case against counterfeiters. Although H&M is certainly not selling counterfeits, where do we draw the line in fashion?

Is the free and open use of intellectual property an inevitability, since it is already exploding through our culture, or do you think society will always resist that type of change? Do you think this is really an issue, or are we talking around a bigger phenomenon?  Let us know what you think below!


Note: You can find the Kobra video on Swedish Television here. It is a Swedish program, but the section on music (at 08:25) and a bit about “The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye” (at  are both largely in English and definitely worth a look.

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