A vigil for Jean Charles de Menezes
Fashion can be controversial. Expensive, at times inexplicable, and at other times riddled with social context. All of which makes this story, which appeared in today’s Guardian, all the stranger: young designer and Royal College of Art alumnus Aitour Throup has designed a clothing range inspired by the outfit worn by Jean Charles de Menezes. To recap, Jean Charles was a Brazilian man living in London who was shot dead on 22 July 2005 by police at Stockwell tube station after being misidentified as one of the would-be-bombers in the previous day’s failed bombings.
In 2005 London, of course, was rife with paranoia. The shooting occurred just two weeks after 7/7. I remember being on a bus that was evacuated because someone had placed a suitcase in the hold. But it still stands as the moment that our paranoia crossed a line.
So what to make of a collection of clothing which celebrates (celebrates? Marks? Mourns?) the death of Jean Charles? We assume the latter because it is modelled on the outfit he was wearing when he was shot. Consisting of the 'Stockwell denim jacket', 'Stockwell jeans', and a black rucksack in the shape of an upside-down skull (similar to the one he was carrying) among other pieces, that the collection strays into four figure territory is by the by. It’s art, isn’t it?
What troubles me more is whether this has been done in good taste? How much time should pass before you take something tragic and turn it into a commodity? And what gives you the right? The designer told the Guardian that the collection is ‘hugely respectful’ and’ raises awareness of the dangers of ethnic stereotyping’, adding that being Argentinian by birth, he himself has experienced the sort of social, silent racism which became prevlanet post 7/7. You know, when dark-skinned commuters would board a tube with a bag and the entire carriage would get off. Which is a fair argument. But to profit from tragedy? I’m not sure about that.