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With Paris Fashion Week in full swing, the industry, and by extension consumer culture, is being saturated with the next big trend and the next popular silhouette. It seems, with the increasing presence of in-the-moment Instagram photos and live streaming of fashion shows online, that the cultural capital achieved in maintaining current knowledge about fashion is becoming more of a even, horizontal field than a vertical one. Any average person today can see all of the shows minutes after the clothes descend the runway and have hundreds of media outlets online providing opinions on the collections. How, then, do we evaluate cultural capital in an increasingly equalized social society? Does such knowledge remain “socially rare and distinctive,” as Bourdieu would imply, if everyone else has access to too? 

In examining these principles, one might consider the dichotomy in cultural capital created between two such individuals as Anna Wintour and The Man Repeller (Leandra Medine). Wintour is the epitome of high fashion media; as the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue magazine, she dictates taste to everyone from New York socialites to housewives in the mid-west. While Wintour herself exhibits all aspects of high cultural capital (credentialed, objectified and embodied), her followers do not necessarily display such an intricate understanding of the art of fashion. The outreach of Vogue may extend itself to those interested in fashion and not necessarily those who comprehend it.

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The Man Repeller is a well known fashion blogger who wears clothes that would typically be considered horrific to men or that are just plain outrageous and strange, albeit almost exclusively luxury designer pieces. The Man Repeller’s followers tend to be strictly the fashion-conscious and those interested in extending their knowledge of the industry as they have a vested interest within it. Leandra sits front row at major fashion shows and collaborates with famous brands; that said, it is still considered interesting and different to read her blog. Thus, if our understanding of high cultural capital is achieved through creative and intellectual consumption, it would appear that Leandra Medine holds higher cultural capital than Anna Wintour herself.

A noteworthy occurrence during PFW this year was the Rick Owens fashion show; the famously extreme designer employed U.S. step team members, almost all of racial minority and athletic body type, to perform a routine in lieu of the typical model march down the catwalk. Infusing decidedly American hip-hop culture into the posh world of Paris fashion week was a bold move and caused a stir heard throughout all channels of media, social and otherwise.

 In considering the move towards onmivorousness in consumer culture, it is interesting to note the specific changes that are evidenced in Rich Owens’ show. The concept considered “status-group politics” is most apparent; the appropriation of “low-brow” culture, in this case signified by step dancing and a more average body type, into “high-brow” culture has, here, created an amalgamation of groups along the social hierarchy. It may even allow embodied cultural capital to exist among those who would not normally hold such capital in the high culture sphere. “Style at fashion week has transcended the boundaries of a runway en masse and flooded the sidewalks,” states the Man Repeller blog. So, whether step dancing on the runway or couture in the streets, lines between high and low culture are blurred and are only becoming less clear. 

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