Monday, 19 September 2011
Celebration or Denigration?
I just spent the most wonderful weekend at London Fashion Week, where I saw fascinating shows, scribbled notes to my heart's content and met with good friends as well as interesting new people, all alongside getting rather blinded by camera flashes. I'll be covering much of this in a subsequent post. However, time is short and my teachers at college have decided that I should have no free hours this week, as I have been set several essays. Therefore, I thought it would be an appropriate time to post one of the articles that I submitted for the Vogue Talent Contest - particularly in light of some of the coverage that London Fashion Week and fashion in general recieves in the media. This was the polemic/ opinion piece:
Celebration or denigration?
As a reader of Vogue, have you ever had to justify your interest in fashion? Been accused of frivolity? Maybe someone has commented on the shallow ideals fashion promotes. Or you might have witnessed a shriek of – “It gives nothing to the world!”
Fashion, above other creative fields, is a magnet – repelling and attracting equally -- and disparagement is something it attracts with ease. Open up a newspaper and there’s another article screaming, “Why I Hate Fashion.” (Ergo, why my opinion counts more than yours because I am a serious individual, and to show how serious I am, I shall wear a shapeless cardigan). Or another claims smugly that catwalks are filled with, “emaciated teenage coat-hangers with spaghetti limbs on rickety stilts”. Furthermore, look at any fashion-related piece on a broadsheet website and scroll to the comments below. It is guaranteed that somewhere among the reactions will be an individual who is irate that the writer of the article chose to talk about anything other than world news or politics.
Fashion may not solve global crisis and nor does it claim to (though it can be valuable to help rebuild psychological confidence - as explored by Linda Grant in 'The Thoughtful Dresser'). In fact, it is one of the many means we use to distract ourselves from harsher realities – in the same vein as reading a book or enjoying good food. Why then the criticism reserved for fashion alone?
Firstly, the differentiation between ‘fashion’ and ‘style’ is not often recognised. Using the umbrella statement, “I hate fashion” is a little like basing all your assumptions regarding cinema on one trashy ‘romcom’. Fashion itself is the changing of trends every six months or so, with new collections being produced by designers twice-yearly. Style is using your clothing choices to express your personality. Sometimes the two coincide.
However, for many, the presumption is that anyone who actively enjoys and plans how to dress must be a bubblehead. For those sitting in judgment, it is apparently impossible to be both intelligent and stylishly attired: wear a leopard print turban simply because you want to, and you deserve ridicule.
Why is it alright to aim a pool of vitriol at conscious dressers? Where is the censure of such critics? Why does being a part of the fashion industry invite vilification?
It may not be a perfect industry - but then neither are the worlds of sport, fine art, music or literature. All similarly offer entertainment and enrichment. But fashion rises above these others in flack-attraction.
Perhaps attacking fashion is simply another form of bullying that goes unchallenged, an inverted status game of ‘my tribe is better than yours’. After all, clothing or painting the human body is deeply ingrained in our ancestral psyche. It’s an identifier, an instant signifier of belonging to a group. In colder climates, wearing clothes is a functional necessity. But more than that, with the luxury of choice, it’s a joy. Joy - now isn’t that something to celebrate, not denigrate?
In these photos I am wearing an incredibly sumptuous gold silk Chloe dress. Yes, that's right. Chloe. No, I couldn't believe it either. This was a birthday present from one of the most magnificent, most beautiful and warm-hearted people I know - aka my fairy godmother. I adopted her as my 'Fairy Godmother' - because after all, how else can you refer to someone who is not only able to whisk up a dress as fabulous as this, in a froth of tissue paper, but also conjured her way to London to spend time by my hospital bed day after day in the aftermath of spinal surgery.
Here, it is worn with Office velvet heels and a long sleeved top from a charity shop. The straw bales accessorizing my look were appropiated from a local farmer, daahling. Or maybe that should read as my mum and I sneaking into the field to take some snaps just before the farmer arrived with tractor and trailer to cart them away into winter storage.