Fashion. It’s quite a complex and almost complicated thing to write about considering the broad extent of which the industry can cover. But in that sense, you could also ask yourself what exactly is it? Posed like this you have to scratch that (rather stylish fashion-addicted) head of yours and ponder. To you and me it can be classed as two completely different things. Confuse Google with the question and it will churn out 2,590,000,000 articles on the topic, but also leaves us with that all important definition at the top of the page that reads: “(Verb) Make into a particular form”. And that’s simply it. Everyone’s perspective of it is going to be completely different, as form and influence differs from one individual to another. But you can’t help but argue that the mainstream fashion industry has got a lot to answer for in more ways than one.
|Christian Dior's New Look|
|Mat Quant's revelation of the Mini Skirt|
Initially a way of keeping modest and warm, the diversity of the industry has expanded quite dramatically over the past century. We notified the definitive arrival of change during the 1920’s, where Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, a designer from France, burst onto the scene during the Art Deco period. The controversy made about how women should be perceived within society took a turn for the freedom-searching individuals when corsets became a thing of the past as the Little Black Dress became the iconic go-to evening garment, which still holds its right in every female wardrobe today. The relaxation of tailoring inspired by menswear at the time likewise became an iconic piece in Chanel’s classic tweed suit in 1925, which reinforced a desire for comfort amongst women. In 1947, we saw Christian Dior embrace the industry with the ‘New Look’ after women had donned trousers and shirts during the second world war to help keep Britain’s workforce running. Although rations were still enforced after the war had ended, Dior astonished many other designers of the time by creating a figure with swathes of fabric that emphasised ‘prominent shoulders, accentuated hips and a small waist’ to reconnect women with a feminine reality check. However, as decades progressed, one woman by the name of Mary Quant highlighted an important target market that was missing out on fun free fashion. Rebelling against the feminine figure once again, we saw the arise of the Mini Skirt in 1966, along with bold, eccentric colours and patterns that drew in the attention of young people. Once again, the rebellion of form and appearance changed, this time taking its hat off to the youth; which saw developing designers bring new ideas and ultimately a new ‘modern’ image to the streets of London. But it doesn’t stop there. As technology progressed with our desire for inspiration and new developments, so did our experimental taste towards our rebellious nature. Renowned for her Punk and DIY appearance, Vivienne Westwood ultimately brought DIY fashion to the forefront of the industry. Setting up shop ‘Let It Rock’ in 1971, which later was renamed ‘SEX’ in 1974, she began styling for the Sex Pistols during the Punk-Rock age before moving onto more high-end couture later on in her career; which ironically saw the revival of the corset with underwear becoming outerwear in the mid 1970’s. Her extravagant pieces and excellent tailoring-work pays homage to British made fabrics such as the iconic Tartan and even linens to strengthen individuality and a unique outcome.
|Alexander McQueen's Floral Dress|
Another area that hugely benefits our ideas yet seems to be undermined as an alternative magical vision of fashion to wear on a regular basis is the entertainment industry. Originally working at Angels Costumiers, the late Alexander McQueen began his career in theatre costume construction before becoming one of the most influential fashion designers of the 21st Century. His theatrical-influenced catwalks were, and still are, a differentiating change to the regular shows seen by other designers; as it offers a different perspective from an alternative industry towards another. The West end and Royal Ballet Theatre exhibit shows with astounding garments that emphasise personality of characters on stage, similarly to the characters of McQueen’s unusual garments. The Nutcracker, a ballet performance based on the story ‘The Nutcracker and The King of Mice’ by E.T.A.Hoffman, is in particular a world-wide phenomenon. It’s enhanced by the beauty of David Walker’s costume designs for the main characters involved within the play, which allows you to connect with the exaggeration of personality and elegance of each piece. Extending an array of luxury fabrics and highly skilled hand-crafted embellishments, it opens up a door to beauty and aesthetically pleasing designs. This can similarly be seen in period dramas on television or films, where costume designers curate masterpieces that accentuate roles and periods to their rightful era. The fabrics used, the accessories paired with outfits, and the style and form of each individual provokes an innovative story behind each piece and distinct visualisation as equally as luring as fashion trends, yet for some reason is very rarely noticed amongst the streets of ‘modern’ society.
However, although this sounds amazingly glossy, there is the other end of the scale, of which I like to call ‘The Mass-Market Clone’ component to the industry. Despite being able to have a wide variety of garments to cater for all occasions, events and comfort factors, it seems that everything that is produced in High Street chains is just, well, generally too similar. The juxtaposing soft and harsh features of recent inspiration doesn’t necessarily create just one unique element but seems to be a reoccurring piece within the mainstream industry. It’s nice to have some form of commodity that has an altogether sense of connection between different Light and Dark elements within people’s interests in society, but our desire to be unique and individual seems to be slowly becoming extinct despite an uproar of demand for it. Of course, it’s amazing how such beauty can be clashed together to make a distinctive concept that would appeal to everyone, but it just seems either too formal or too tacky to be desired by an entire civilisation.
We all have dreams of changing stubborn society, but we secretly know we can’t. Contradicting myself to a ‘T’, don’t you get fed up of people getting slagged off because they want to be original? Aspects of fashion are other forms of art and ideas generated through inspiration from paintings, stories, developments in technology, and the need for a purpose. It should be a way of putting something together that emphasises who and how we feel as individuals, and a way of expressing a personality without being afraid of consequences. It’s an alternative answer to beliefs and idealism's of today’s culture. In the words of Gianni Versace, "Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way you live." ‘So what?!’ if it’s not practical? – if you don’t like it, get out there and change it.
I know it can be tedious listening to someone moaning about an insane subject, but I believe that it DOES effect everyone in one way or another. What happened to the beauty of it? What happened to the fierce power it had in an individual way? Trust me, life is just boring with the mass and batch produced trash thrown on the shelves in today's society. I'm not saying it's going to be easy to get my voice heard, but I'm not going to sit back and watch it all crumble into a mess any longer. Let's bring back one-off, bespoke pieces for EVERYONE. Let's rebel.
(please note, the essay here has been copyright protected.)