Defender of Australian fashion: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Senior Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials have defended the use of fashion to achieve foreign policy objectives and a social media campaign using the hashtag #fashiondiplomacy.
DFAT sponsored five Australian designers to attend the Paris Fashion Week after signing a memorandum of understanding with the Australian Fashion Chamber on August 31.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australian diplomats had also hosted industry events in New York, London, Paris, Istanbul, Jakarta and New Delhi to advance global recognition.
Ms Bishop has routinely used the #fashiondiplomacy hashtag on social media to publicise department and industry initiatives, including the opening of fashion events in Sydney.
The initiative did not escape the gaze of NSW Senator Sam Dastayari who questioned the public diplomacy benefits of the campaign.
"I am not opposed to the Australian fashion industry," he told a senate estimates hearing. "I am opposed to an initiative that is only glorifying the foreign minister. That is what I have an issue with."
DFAT secretary Peter Varghese said the promotion of Australian industry, style and commerce were core functions of the department.
"Fashion diplomacy embraces innovation, style and creativity, all of which are key themes in terms of the way in which we wish to project this country abroad," he said.
"So the themes around fashion diplomacy not only are consistent with but actually reinforce the core messaging that we have for our public diplomacy."
Robert Tranter, a spokesman for the department's public diplomacy department who was described by Mr Dastayari "very well dressed", said the #fashiondiplomacy hashtag was also promoted within the department.
"In markets where we are promoting our fashion industry we look at the activities of the British Council for example," he said.
"They are quite aggressively promoting British design interests also using a similar handle of #fashiondiplomacy."
Mr Dastayari said he believed DFAT employees had been advised on the appropriate use of #fashiondiplomacy on social media although the matter was taken on notice by the department.
"I know that we certainly encourage our posts to use the #fashiondiplomacy when we are promoting Australian fashion," Mr Tranter said
At the opening of a fashion event in Sydney last month, Ms Bishop said she had embraced fashion diplomacy as a pillar of foreign policy under the umbrella of economic diplomacy.
"The Australian fashion industry is the exemplar of our creative economy," she said. "220,000 jobs in Australia, $12 billion contributed to our economy each and every year."
A Princeton PhD, was a US diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. For the Open World Leadership Center, he speaks with
its delegates from Europe/Eurasia on the topic, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United" (http://johnbrownnotesandessays.blogspot.com/2017/03/notes-and-references-for-discussion-e.html). Affiliated with Georgetown University for over ten years, he shares ideas with students about public diplomacy.
The papers of his deceased father -- poet and diplomat John L. Brown -- are stored at Georgetown University Special Collections at the Lauinger Library. They are manuscript materials valuable to scholars interested in post-WWII U.S.-European cultural relations.
This blog is dedicated to him, Dr. John L. Brown, a remarkable linguist/humanist who wrote in the Foreign Service Journal (1964) -- years before "soft power" was ever coined -- that "The CAO [Cultural Affairs Officer] soon comes to realize that his job is really a form of love-making and that making love is never really successful unless both partners are participating."