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October 20, 2016

Is fashion really as shallow as it is portrayed?

by Zahir

People are always saying how shallow fashion is. It is perceived as a vain interest, its existence is for those obsessed with aesthetics and beauty, but I think they’re missing the deep influence it has on the world.

If we look back to where fashion developed from, it has actually become less about wealth and extravagance and, arguably, has taken a more philosophical and political route. So where did fashion begin? With the monarchs and nobility who displayed their wealth through their dress and possessions. Obviously, the more wealth they had, the more they were able to source rare materials and jewels; similarly, the greater power they held, the further afield they could import trends and fashions from. Throughout history, people have used fashion to demonstrate their wealth, travels and experiences; interestingly thought, it is only since the world has developed allowing for greater and more diverse production methods, greater trade opportunities, as well as, people having more disposable incomes, that the idea of fashion has been deemed shallow and vain.

If we take it back to basics, fashion is self-expression through materials and colours rather than words, paints or facial expressions. A true designer isn’t someone, whose sole aim is to make their fortune, but an artist who has been inspired and has combined fine art with sculpture and textiles; ultimately, haute couture is fine art which has been brought to life. Designers take inspiration from all aspects of life; be it music, artworks, lyrics, nature or an experience, so why do we all perceive fashion to be shallow and fickle? I can only assume that it is because we have the opportunity to make it so. Nowadays clothes are so readily available at low costs that we can constantly buy new pieces and change our style whenever we want, thus we are creating the perception that fashion is materialistic.

Everyone wants to be successful in life, achieve their dreams and live happily, and if we’re taking fashion to be a pure form of self-expression then it makes sense that we want to be attractive, because our natural instincts (and the media and every soppy rom-com) tells us we’ll be happiest once we find our perfect partner. So is fashion just an extension of biology and our animalistic desire to be attractive to the opposite sex?  No, not really, that’s probably taking it slightly too far, but it is fair to say that fashion gives us the ability to accentuate our beauty and express ourselves, so we’re almost wearing a brief synopsis of our lives.  When you’re choosing what to wear, there is a certain decision to be made in terms of the personality we want to portray, how attractive we want to appear, whether to demonstrate certain beliefs, opinion. Because let’s be honest, everyone judges people on their aesthetics initially and we all want to appeal to the right people, whether that is for friendship, relationships or business.

But what about the people who aren’t interested in following fashion? Well, that just another expression of themselves, they might not be concerned by the pre-fall collections or Spring/Summer ’14, but they have their own style which they maintain. There is a social expectation to conform to certain fashions, I mean, you don’t see people wondering around in togas anymore. So whilst they might not be ‘en Vogue’, they are conforming just as much as Anna Wintour or Franca Sozzani.

Besides, it’s quite apparent that fashion’s place in society is considerable and powerful; thus people have use this position to make bold statements; from Westwood’s t-shirt’s supporting Julian Assange to Benetton’s ‘Unhate’ campaign which deeply upset the Catholic Church. I am by no means condoning some of the editorials which promote child models, anorexia, racism or abuse; in fact I’m utterly disgusted that anyone would give such proposals the go-ahead. I also believe there are many aspects of the fashion industry which are not positive or admirable and need some serious reconsidering. However, I feel that the artistic side of fashion is too often forgotten by the many of us, as well as many in the industry too.

Primarily fashion is art, and when a piece of art can invoke such fierce debates then I think it is almost impossible to say that fashion is shallow. In fact, in its very purest form, it is far from shallow or vain, it’s a multifaceted concept that affects people everywhere every day; from your average Joe in a plaid shirt and jeans, to the most chic French fashionista who frequents Hermes and Prada. What began in the royal palaces with the wealthy showcasing their opulence has become deeply-rooted into our society and if anything, fashion and its capacity to be unique and a trend at the same time is fundamental to society and our desire for self-expression. It is cardinal to each individual, the story-telling of who we are, where we’ve come from and where we want to go.

Rachael Potter

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