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CAN FASHION AND ART SUCCESSFULLY TACKLE SOCIAL CAUSES?

Written by Sophie Winfield – Contributing Editor

The convergence of fashion, art and societal change is, for most, a pipe dream. After all, how does one successfully advocate for societal change whilst trying to sell a product? Take Maria Grazia Churi’s recent collection for Dior as a perfect example; the runway was covered in brightly lit neon signs that read “PATRIARCHY = Co2” and “WOMEN’S LOVE IS UNPAID LABOUR”, yet it’s difficult to see these signs as anything other than a performance of feminism within an industry that rests on the shoulders of unpaid workers across varying positions.

The recent collaboration between The Edit Man London and One Less Gun, however, is not just for show. With the design work of artist Carl McCrow, this collaboration finds the perfect balance between art, fashion and societal change. The result, a limited-edition customised version of the iconic Nike Air Force 1 trainer (featuring a scannable barcode painted on the Nike tick along with once fired AK47 bullets fixed below), protests the commerciality of the arms trade and destroys illicit and surplus weaponry.

McCrow started turning AK47’s into art to tell the stories of poaching in Africa, but after a friend returned from Afghanistan having lost both legs and an arm in an explosion, this fascination with guns and weaponry turned into questions of purpose and morality. “If I was going to make art out of weaponry”, said McCrow, “it would have to change the world and save lives”.

Named after the call sign for the plane that carries the President of the United States, the Nike Air Force 1’s entire existence relates to the violence and power of the American presidency and the mass destruction that the President’s planes are capable of. The AK47, too, is representative of mass destruction and war; the mass production of the AK47 means that there are currently 75,000,000 on Earth, one for every 60 people. The barcode McCrow has painted in the Nike tick references this mass production and commodification of weaponry, as well as revealing what he refers to as “the presidential branding of the commercial giants”. Furthermore, the entire product is drowned in juxtaposition – the fact that in most parts of the world you can purchase an AK47 for less than a price of a pair of sneakers is not lost on McCrow, it simply fuels the necessity of the collaboration. “’It is the function of the artist to evoke the experience of surprised recognition: to show the viewer what he knows but does not know that he knows’ – it’s not my quote, but I live my life by these words” said McCrow.

The design of the product clearly has meaning in every aspect, but what is meaning if it does not reach an audience? This is where The Edit Man London comes in. The Edit Man London are at the top of their game right now – selling authentic new and used high-end street wear, the company has a large fanbase and caters to a wide market. By collaborating with the One Less Gun charity and McCrow’s design work, The Edit Man London hope to be able to shape better future decisions within their young fanbase. “It feels right to be the catalyst for change by bringing such an important issue to an audience that McCrow would typically not be in front of” said CEO of The Edit Man London, Moses Rashid.

Not only does this collaboration aim to evoke an understanding of the mass destruction of the availability of weaponry, it actively helps to take guns off the street. “When I use a bullet in my designs” said McCrow, “I destroy a gun. Fixed with once fired AK47 rounds, each pair [of trainers] destroys a gun”. Furthermore, all proceeds from the limited-edition collection will be donated to One Less Gun to help fund a weapons destruction project in Africa. It is this dedication to making change that allows fashion to successfully fight for societal change and actively participate in facilitating that change.

If you want to support One Less Gun, you can do so by texting “onelessgun” to 70007.  It cost £10 to destroy a gun.  After the donation you receive an inert AK47 bullet with the serial number of the gun that your donation destroyed.

(Calls cost £10, all proceeds go to ‘One Less Gun’ a UK Registered Charity, number 1154662)

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