A year back, while evading my Science textbook (these were the horror days before the Boards), I came across an article (I’m not naming any names) by the columnist of a reputed British publication. It was headed “Why I Hate Fashion”. Following was an article outlining why the writer has long since been plagued by the ridiculously high standards and expectations of the fashion industry and it’s ever changing trends. It ostracizes the industry wholly and waxes eloquent about the useless-ness of fashion media and the lack of talent of the designers.
Everything about the article pin points to the direction of what I detest about people who make judgments without understanding the intricacies. They have deluded themselves into believing that what Hayden Penetierre donned to the Oscar red carpet or what J-Lo stocks her closet with is the crux of the idea of style. Fashion, as a way to express your individuality may not be what translates into the consumerism of Topshop and Selfridges but for many of us, it’s an art form that we swear by.
Admittedly, there is a shallow, superficial side to it but as Robin Givhan, the Pulitzer prize winning fashion writer once said and I quote “fashion is not innately superficial, the way is portrayed is”.
And why is all the criticism aimed at fashion? Doesn’t Vodafone lure you into snagging the latest prepaid scheme, LG urges you to splurge for a new flat screen, Hyundai wants to buy a new car, Penguin wants you to read the work of the new bestseller (and you’re sort of obligated to do so, just to sound relevant and informed), John Mayer wants you to buy his new album, food critics want you to bring home this kind of lettuce and another kind of grapes and the list is endless! At the end of the day, the overriding fact remains that fashion is what you make of it.
If you choose to be influenced so deeply by advertisements of supermodel Coco Rocha sequined hot pants and then sit in a corner and brood and sulk about how you don’t have those endless legs or that captivating a face then that eventually pin points towards your hidden insecurities and not the “evil” of the fashion industry.
Fashion, much like everything else, is really up to you. Indulge in it, or don’t. But don’t generalize and proclaim that anybody that believes in it as a cause is heading towards their own execution and is thoroughly unhappy “on the inside”. 70% of the professionals working in the industry are not a size o and not 6 feet tall and, are by no means the size or, even to an extent the height that a multitude of digitally modified fashion magazines depict. So, just because I like to decipher the meaning of novel designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s inspiration of Japanese horror movies to make their exquisite dresses and sweaters, you can’t influence me and you can’t make me feel any less capable of having a smart conversation.
Do me a favor. Step outside and go to Paris, Madrid, New York, Tokyo or even Delhi and take a look around at the men and women who take out time from their evidently busy schedules to put together a creative outfit! Whose accessorizing is no individualistic, you know something about them just by observing what they’re wearing. They’re real people; people with jobs, families, pets and interests.
It’s sort of comical and quite sad that the writer is completely misguiding the hundrers who read her column and is trying hart to revive and reiterate the tired old myth that fashion is for the frivolous, stupid and intellectually devoid. I have friends who are Physics majors and still love Haider Ackermann. People with hopes, dreams and wishes, something that women like the writer cannot take away from them.
“Fashion is, perhaps by necessity, in a world of its own – one that only rarely overlaps with anything resembling real life. This fantasy and exoticism is part of its appeal, of course.”- Vince Aletti
To people such as her, I say, go read some Robin Givhan or some Suzy Menkes, some Cathy Horyn and more recently, even some Tavi Gevinson. Watch a live Gareth Pugh or Alexander McQueen (R.I.P) show. Read Pigeons and Peacocks and i-D and Numero and Lula. See the work that Richard Avedon did, not solely for the fashion industry but for photography as an art on the whole. How he introduced movement into still life and created magic with couture and a camera. Read about the Mulleavy sisters’ completely unglamorous background. I could go on. If, after doing all this you still believe that fashion is for the brainless then you’re proving that you, yourself are veering towards that territory.
“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn.”- Gore Vidal
I think every industry does exactly the same. I think people are more vicious about mobile phones than how people dress. Every ad will show some arch Indie type with an ironic afro walking along an idealized landscape with a retro guitar ballad behind it. I do not believe getting a Sony Ericsson phone will make me whimsical, cooler nor my friends good looking. And every ad for a car shows a suave, chiseled jaw chap in a European designer suit with no tie casually slinging his jacket over his shoulder as he remote-locks his car, having sped around some gorgeous city on one wheel with suspension like bungee ropes. I do not believe owning a car will make me that (well, obviously not male, but you know what I mean).
“Fashion is teated too much as news, rather than what it is, what it does and how it performs.”- Geoffrey Beene
I find it pretty silly that the very same people who talk about fashion being a consumerist evil, designed to bring people to their knees, broke and insecure are the ones who refuse to understand fashion in it’s more alternative forms. To invalidate the work of Proenza Schouler, Thakoon, Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Y, and suchlike is to insult their undeniable artistic talent.
Nobody who spent a truckload on a Botticelli or a Monet would be deemed stupid, but someone who does so on a Prada or YSL piece is undeniably so?
Let’s take a more common, everyday example. Lots spend thousands on “season tickets” for sports. But if I spend the same amount on shoes, then I am frivolous and materialistic.
This ideology that everyone interested in fashion is doing the designers’ bidding of the season is exactly the kind of inverse snobbery that pisses the hell out of me. Everyone has some form of fashion incorporated in their lives. Heck, Meryl Streep as the icy editor in chief of Devil Wears Prada (entertaining movie but totally misguiding, again) summed it just about right:
“This… stuff? Oh, so you think this has nothing to do with you? You… you, go to your closet and pick out, let’s say that lumpy blue sweater because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know that that blue is not just blue, it’s not turquoise or lapis, it is in fact cerulean. You are also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent, wasn’t it, who did cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it’s sort of comical how you think you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry, when, in fact you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you from the people in this very room. From a pile of… stuff.”
People who wear combats when clogs are the “it” shoes and carry pale pink bags when studs are all the rage represent the radical chic, truly interesting side of fashion that these people are sadly, unaware of.
And the masses of chick lit books produced everyday may come across as hideous to many, but you don’t see people running around screaming “OMG literature is the root of all that is wrong with the world!”
It’s insane that people continue to say that consumerist fashion is worse than other commercial capitalist industry.
It’s hugely unfeminist to condemn something that has helped women across the world take massive strides in society, as well.