Thursday, 25 February 2010

For the Love of Fashion

I am not unconditionally in love with fashion. I am not emotionally invested in fashion. And I do not dream of one day being the editor of a big magazine, nor do I get off on the thought of being featured on Jak & Jil. What I do love about fashion is design, quality, innovation, originality and craftsmanship. I enjoy the madness of the fashion world, the unintentional hilarity of it all, and the eccentric characters. I obviously love fashion enough to blog about it, and I do this because it is popular and accessible (more so than, say, modern art, or product design), it’s the only medium which really combines creativity, craftsmanship etc. with absolute madness and absurdity (and I enjoy that mix), and it’s a form of escapism for when everything gets a bit heavy-going. The element of fantasy is a definite appeal for me too, at times.

That is where I stand with regards to fashion, and I actually hope it’s because of the fact that I am not in absolute love and awe of fashion that people do read my blog, because I am able to take a step back sometimes and distance myself from it all (and, of course, I’m an industry outsider anyway); the blogs I find depressing are the ones where everything is ‘OMG WOW FIERCE,’ or where the blogger is most interested in the exclusivity that surrounds fashion, and uses it as a way to be snobbish and to elevate themselves.

I’m curious: do you love fashion? (I'm assuming yes, or you probably wouldn't be reading this) And if so, to what extent, and why?

I'd be interested to know… *everyone* seems to love fashion in these internet-crazy days, but I wonder what the most common responses would be if you asked people why? Loving fashion is almost a default setting for lots of people. It's like the 'done thing': not something you would ever consider questioning. I think I am very lucky with my readers (at least with those who comment – don’t know much about the rest of you!) so I’d love to know what you think is so good about fashion, because I’m sure you'll give a more enlightening response than, say, commenters from certain other blogs who never stretch much beyond ‘fierce, love it.’

There are some things I hate about fashion too, a few of which I'll list because I'm in that sort of mood:

When fashion’s obsession with celebrity goes wrong: Peaches and Pixie Geldof front row at every show… WHY? Lily Allen as the face of Chanel? Give me a break. Yes, she scrubs up well, but Chanel really deserves better than this. Kanye… enough said.

The crassness fashion seems to attract (or promote in some people). Here’s an example:

This is a comment on a rather good Sartorialist photo, which is of an interesting and unique look. Aside from the odd comment, it’s quite obnoxious how some people have started putting their comments in bold, as if what they have to say is more important than everyone else. A great big, fat ‘look at me’ for all the wrong reasons. Making matters worse, this is the first comment too. I’ve noticed that this guy always comments in bold on various popular blogs, and every time I see it, it makes me about a million times less inclined to visit his blog.

It gets me down when people think that fashion has to involve being egotistical and self-absorbed and looking down on others (this is of course just as rife in the 'real' world as online). I don't mean to single out that commenter in particular: loads of people are even worse.

The constant deluge of emails from PRs. Look, I know you’ve got a job to do, I know you’re being paid a respectable salary to promote brand x, but the emails get me down, they really do. I'm a blogger, I don't play the PR game. The fact that some nondescript mid-market brand is having a 30% off mid-season sale online only next week could hardly be of any less interest to me. Fun Fact: Google Mail search tells me that there are currently 140 emails in my inbox from PRs which start with ‘I/we love your blog…’ I love it when they say that, when the brand/product which they’re promoting is something which I’ve previously said bad things about (really bad things in some cases)… obviously they’ve just got an intern to Google ‘fashion blogs’ or something and have never actually read a word of my blog, but, you know, nothing like a bit of misplaced false flattery to generate some coverage (or not).

Bad quality and bad service. As I posted recently, one of the reasons why I love Prada is because of the amazing quality and the great repair service they offer if something does go wrong. We have come widely to accept terrible quality and service in the ‘fast fashion’ sector of the market (with some exceptions, like Uniqlo), but when this starts to creep into the higher end of the market it is just depressing.

I was in the Topman flagship recently, looking for slim fitting black trousers which wouldn’t break the bank. I took various pairs to the fitting room, waited while the fitting room assistant made a big thing of counting the number of items I had (that’s right, don’t take my word for it, imply that everyone is a shoplifter instead), felt annoyed that there was no seat in fitting room, or anywhere to put my bag other than on the dirty floor (which is also where their trousers ended up, because the rail was ingeniously designed not to accommodate coat hangers), and then I glanced at the price tag of one of the pairs, saw £290, and nearly had a fit. I could never bring myself to spend anything like that amount in Topman, good as they are for certain things: if I was going to spend £290 on trousers I’d be down to Prada in a flash, and frankly anyone who’d give that sort of money to Topman, given the service and experience they offer, would be a fool. It gets better though: obviously at that price they weren’t own brand but rather were ‘designer at Topman,’ by a designer called James Long. Even if you didn’t balk at spending that sort of money in a mass-market shop with inattentive service, you could surely at least bank on quality at that price? Wrong. A closer look at the tag revealed they had been marked down to £150 because the suede knees on both legs were ripping right off (quite unintentionally), on one side flapping down and leaving bare knee exposed. Topman trying to sell trousers for £290? The fact that the £290 James Long trousers were falling apart before they’d even left the store? And still £150 reduced? It just beggars belief sometimes.

So here’s the question: do you love fashion, and if so how much and why? And what particular elements of fashion do you like and dislike the most?


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  2. I really liked this post, it was really insightful :).

    Anyway, to answer your question - my favorite part about fashion is the ability it gives its users to transform, and I guess how it can sometimes turn dreams to reality, if only temporarily.

    And I love the aesthetic and creative part of it, how designers can be so innovative despite the restrictions the human body puts forth.

    I do love fashion, but I can't say it's my life like others do. It's just something I enjoy.

    The things that bother me about the fashion world is that people get away with half-a**ed clothing and sell it to people. I get that a huge part of fashion is an financial thing, but I wish it weren't. It's an art and should therefore be executed like other arts - thoughtfully. Even if they were just designing for a low-key, cheap and run-of-the-mill brand for the masses, they should still try their best to make things as aesthetically appealing and creative as possible, especially since art is not restricted by material but by innovation of the creator...

  3. Before I answer your question, I have to have a little moan about Topshop too. I struggle to see how they think that even £90 is an acceptable amount of money for something half finished in a sweatshop. I remember the days when Topshop was rubbish and only good for t-shirts. Then suddenly, they get a makeover, the Fashion Mafia cash in on it and boom, £100 for a pair of shoes made out of cardboard and Early Learning Centre poster paint. In a way, it's worse than Primarni because it tries to think it's innovative when most of the time it is just disposable highstreet.

    I digress. Getting round to answering your question, fashion is a thing I can take or leave. Whilst I've dabbled in the odd pair of Louboutins and I'll pick up a Vogue or Elle every now and again, it isn't a major part of my life. I don't let fashion (or heaven forbid street style) dictate how I am going to dress/look/behave, nor do I wait for the latest whatnots of thingymabobs.

    Like you say, I like the escapism that fashion brings, the unachievable aesthetics, designers who treat their clothes like art and not must haves with high street rip-offs in mind. I enjoy reading your blog because it's a little bit like reading critical theory. It isn't just a series of mindless "outfit of the day" pictures or "check out X's latest collection". It's well thought out, well written and quite frankly it makes me wish I were a little more interested in fashion so I could keep up with more of the things you write about! I should probably tip you off about a friend of mine, Josefin Strid, she designs conceptual pieces that can stand as art in their own right.

  4. and sorry, that last comment sounded a little bit like a plug. I guess it was, but more a thought process. It is 2am in my defence.

  5. Honestly I hate the whole idea of fashion Oscar Wilde and his brief comment on fashion purely completes the whole idea of fashion.
    Don not get me wrong I love garment design I study it but I hate the who excess, the constant waste and pettiness that has now become "fashion"
    As a whole we should look towards individual expression clothes that really define us rather than things that look nice and are "trendy" and soon become the defining thing about you a soulless, pointless crapstick, of ugly materialism

  6. very interesting and i guess to be honest this subject doesn't get asked much. i guess i fell into fashion by accident, as my older sister studied textiles at uni and she taught me to sew when i was about 12. after school i felt totally lost as i knew i was pretty alright at art but was never really allowed to do what i wanted.

    so anyway, got terrible grades as i was not academic, what should of happened at school was say i got a C in art but an D/E/G in maths/english instead of them trying to get me to improve my maths/english they should have tried to push me at the only thing i was good at, art, to get it up to an A. if that makes sense.

    anyway, found textiles at college and fashion was a natural progression for me. theres lots i love and lots i hate but the thing i enjoy the most about fashion is to look back at influences and history of designs collections and their heritage ect. also the links to art/graphics/sculpture ect.

    on the topman front, please don't think to bad of the workers who check how many garments you have taken in. as a topman working i can tell you we HAVE to do this for secruity reasons and if we don't and someone see us, were in trouble. though i can't excuse the manner in the way they do it of course, i can tell you know, my customer service is not compromised for anything/one as i know how i want to be treated so i give 100% the same.

    those trousers need a wide birth too, gee wizz.

    i'm glad you did this post.

  7. Posts like these make you my favourite fashion blogger. It's so refreshing and wonderful to actually read something insightful for a change. I have to say, that Topman thing sounds absolutely unbelievable... I wouldn't pay over 100€ at a chain store ever, except maybe at COS.

    To answer your question, I guess I do love fashion. I live in Finland which is not very international nor stylish, and fashion gives me the perfect escape. Reading a foreign fashion magazine and keeping up with the latest shows and ad campaigns on the internet makes me forget my surroundings and gives me inspiration to actually do something with my life. And not to sound totally sad and pathetic, but fashion also gives some sort of substance to my life.

    That said, I wouldn't want to do fashion as my career. Of course it would probably be fun, challenging, etc but still so superficial and honestly, a bit dumb. Also I don't think I could manage with all the prissy and bitchy people around.

  8. It gets me down when people think that fashion has to involve being egotistical and self-absorbed and looking down on others

    sooooo agree!!! people think im self righteous bc of the way i dress, not the case at all!! oh well...

  9. I love fashion. Although at the end of the day, it is just a candy feast for my eyes.

  10. I love fashion's devil-may-care attitude towards the masses. Fashion industry's biggest players know that the masses lap up everything they produce, including ugly patchwork bags(read: Louis Vuitton etc) and shorts that cost way beyond its production cost, just to name a few. But true craftsmanship, design and style are what I truly appreciate! I don't care if it's this season's trends or last, as long as it suits me, is comfortable and won't tear apart within months (or a year/years), I'm a happy consumer!

    I agree that not everything about fashion is agreeable to my terms. Just the other day when I purchased this gorgeous Alexander Mcqueen scarf, all seemed to go well til the last bit, which is when I made my payment. The sales person was really friendly, showing me the ways to tie the scarf etc. I was awed by such attention, but what I didn't like was when I had to run out to get cash from the ATM and the other salesperson who was handling the purchase gave me a look! A condescending one! How very rude! This is the part that the fashion industry needs to sobre up to. That not everyone who dresses down are on drugs (etc)!! But other than that, it was a good experience!

  11. A wonderfully loaded post.

    I think there has been much talk about why fashion is important in the comments, so I won't dwell on that too much.

    I'd like to dwell on the ridiculous comment spamming that drowns the whole fashion blog world. I really try to not even look at the comments on the Sartorialist's site. They are more often than not, superfluous and vapid. Vapid is actually just the right word.

    99% of the comments on the post you mentioned are one liners, about 30% of those have links to their websites. For the intellectual discourse they are adding, they might as well just have left their link address. What is possibly even more scary is that I am sure The Sartorialist must filter those messages quite carefully, so I can only imagine what comes in before filtering.

    This takes me again to a topic discussed on Hapsical earlier in the year (might have been last year) about bloggers and their content. I think that those out there that are just feeding a torrent of news feeds scoured from other blogs and news feeds are the bane of the fashion blogger world, they add nothing, they are fickle. These types of blogs (they can hardly be termed that) add to the superficial image that fashion seems to have for the masses. I have actualy had a few such blogs on my Google Reader list and decided that enough is enough.

    Wow that was quite a rant, but I'm gald I've gotten it off my chest, because it really is my biggest issue with the online fashion news world [which is the future of fashion news].
    Now I can go to sleep.

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  13. i almost never stop and read any fashion articles on blogs. and something about this has caught my eyes.
    people do love fashion for the wrong reasons. especially those who are avid label followers (they are clearly not fashion lovers), whatever lv churns out, they buy. also those who avidly follow trends or those who make snide comments about others outfits. they think they love fashion but they don't.
    i never understand topshop anyway. i know a few topshop designers and its just grim when you're an aspired designer and your contribution is heavily played down. whats more, if you ask them to design an item then you might as well respect the complexity of their creations. but no, almost 90%of the collaborations yield disappointing cuts and factory churn out goods that are not dissimilar to the rest of the shop floor - apart from the much costlier pricetag.
    also... some stuff at topshop are primark quality? so... whats the point?
    fashion can be appreciative or expressive. i recently overheard one of the writers at the newspaper i write for damnning fashion reporters for not being dressed up enough. ie finger points to sarah mower or hilary. these two are the best reviewers you can get out there. that comment is reflective of what of many fashion packs are like - shallow...
    enough moaning, but i think something about this article has struck a nerve. i share the same vibe :)

  14. This is an excellent question that fashion lovers should ask themselves regularly; the answer has a way of evolving as time passes and it also forces us to push past the superficial "I like pretty things" type answer.

    I love fashion because it is a unique intersection of culture and commerce. I certainly appreciate the craftsmanship (feeling the weight of a heavy wool or delicate stitching on a dress can be very awe-inspiring), innovation and other aspects you and previous commenters have expounded upon. Fashion also serves as an interesting social barometer, because, as you noted, *everyone* loves fashion. Becauase of the pervasive interest in fashion, one can get this panorama of society that includes a wide range of demographics. Whether this panorama takes the form of fresh trends (e.g., inspiration from youth culture) or sales per square foot, it's amazing that we can take this little slice of our society and somehow get a greater sense of the whole.