Saturday, September 3, 2011

The 'F' Word

It's been an interesting week. Less so the actual fact that it's fashion week than what it being fashion week has led me to discover, and the discussions I've had with a friend and with myself.

I see fashion as two things; style and trends. Trends don't interest me; I'll go into it in more detail later on, but as far as I'm concerned, they inhibit rather than encourage personal expression. Style, on the other hand, works on its own; it can involve incorporating trends, but not because they are trends but because being trends their components are more easily found. People with style might wear current trends but their clothes are never dictated by them. Style is about self-expression and art.

Fashion trends are about the most obvious example of capitalist simulated-want (Baudrillard) I can think of. Every season, designers put out new collections. From strong themes and overlaps within these collections come trends; for example, Balmain's strong shoulders whenever that was. People rushed out to buy one of these. Granted, they were interesting, but that wasn't why they were so popular. They were of the season; anything else was clearly older, and in the world of fashion, old simply won't do (it undermines the point of everything). In the fashion world, if you want to look as if you know anything about clothes, you dress according to trend; hence the number of "thank goodness!" stories in fashion magazines when flat shoes are in fashion. It doesn't matter how many good jackets or shoes you might have, once their season in the sun is over, they no longer say you're part of that crowd, so you go out and buy whatever is in fashion now - it's never-ending, like being in limbo.

I talked about this with a friend of mine, with more interest in and knowledge of fashion than me. She asked me if I thought stores like Topshop and Glassons have helped to remove the elitist aspect of fashion by making it more accessible. My first answer was yes, and then I thought about it a bit more. People who can afford high fashion; who support the designers who dictate trends, have money. They're capitalists; fashion is a hobby for them, somewhere between collecting art and playing bridge, I think, and as capitalists, it's in their interests to perpetuate things like fashion that create a constant state of want - it keeps them rich. Fashion trends are for the wealthy. So when we, the workers, engage in these trends through stores like Topshop, where we can afford to shop, we are attempting to emulate a lifestyle; the lifestyle of those who keep us in our position. The more I thought about it, the more pathetic it seemed; like depression glass. I understand people living through the depression needing beauty around them, deserving some frivolity, and associating unnecessarily decorative things with a life of comparative ease. Depression glass made sense to them. But I can't help imagining what it might have been like if we weren't the way we are, and a plain glass jar was beautiful enough in its utility; like an affirmation of life however it comes. For me, as part of the proletariat, following fashion trends not only supports, both symbolically and monetarily, a system I despise, but makes a joke of me and what I stand for.

I'm not saying I think I need to start wearing a Chinese Communist party uniform and stop wearing make-up. I enjoy beautiful things, and I like clothes and using them to express things, and if a trend means it's all of a sudden easier and cheaper for me to buy something I like, then bully for me. But, especially during a time like fashion week, I think it's really important to think about who I am and what I stand for before engaging. After seeing some photos of girls at some of the shows, I felt like I am a fashion amateur, and that didn't feel good. But now that I've consciously remembered who I am and what fashion is to me, that's pretty much all I ever want to be.

PS I know this might look funny after my last post and the pants. I'm not saying I'm outside capitalism or that I don't want things I don't need. I think this is becoming my motto: Self-improvement is a lifelong commitment!

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