For anyone that has signed up to a commercialised fashion news outlet, you will likely find your e-mail inbox full of a catalogue of updates ranging from “How to Nail Fall’s Goth Trend,” “Make Minimal Work For You,” “50+ Ways to Dress Italian” and “Look Like a French Girl With These Six Staples.” Everything is ‘in style’, and yet one trend switches to another with all the impatience of a child in a toy store.
It is a machine. But while we are aware of the machine, there is no stopping it. We might delete and eye-roll and smack our palms to our foreheads, because, duh, commercialism is a joke and we are the enlightened - or so the established anti-fashion corporations want us to believe. Yet we are still hooked in. We, in protest, are feeding our money to them and they are laughing with their four-armed Franken-blazers all the way to the bank. And no, they don’t speak English and cannot be interviewed at this time.
The fashion world is a clusterfuck, to put it politely. It is glittering bullshit, neatly wrapped and packaged by its aristocrats as seasonal gifts to us common earthlings - four times a year - with capsule collaborations and collections in between. “You’re welcome,” they say, in their EUR €5000 Prada shearlings and Swarovski crystal-embellished Saint Laurent stockings. “Behold: innovation,” they bellow, as glossy propaganda recycles 20-year-old ideas updated with Instagram filters and smartphone battery-charging software.
Does this all sound very libertarian of me? Fear not, my friend. Euripides, wise Greek philosopher of a time long before Simone Rocha's Perspex brogues, said, “Question everything.”
With fashion the giant global enterprise it is today, overwhelming, all-seeing, all encompassing, with oligarchs and heiresses and royalty at its head, how are we to approach it?
Let me offer myself as an example, a lab rat for my own solution. I’m a fashion journalist.
Years ago, a young tyke fresh off the school newspaper and new to the backstage fiasco we call 'Fashion', I was a budding pundit, ripe for writing questionably tasteful marketing copy and delivering the holy Parthenon’s message of seasonal beauty to your desktop. But then I glared at the tired headlines and fashion blogs with disgust, and my days as a chess piece were through.
Avant-garde then became my anti-fashion statement. I ironically wore dresses that made me look homeless - but cost more than a month's rent, and walked around in a clownish red tulle tutu, holier than thou, thou pathetic dungaree wearer. It was only after a nearly four-figure USD purchase for an artisanal apron dress, sans closed back, that I realised I was just another sheep in a different meadow.
Subversion isn’t studs, chokers, boiled wool or voluminous pinafores. It’s in making a statement that makes other people uncomfortable; that twists preconceptions and spits them out with flames in a pillar of smoke. That might be sickly green latex separates, thrift store Skechers or tape wrapped around the legs of your jeans, but it's certainly not a pre-packaged show look, a dominatrix costume or Eddie Bauer cargo pants. Push harder. Dig deeper. Allow your internal style cues to take advice from your varsity track coach.
The only way I can stick it to the man - that man being either Anna Wintour or Marc Jacobs or Valentino or Katie Grand - is to ignore their dominion, to make my own path. Trends and the ritualistic cycles therein have no power over me. I can avoid purchasing current-season merchandise, and instead opt for used clothing, of whose profits will hopefully benefit the independent seller or retailer whom I’m supporting. I don’t want people to see me and think, “Season and year,” because shouldn’t we all hope to look like we exist in our own vacuums? I want them to see me; the clothing comes second, or maybe third, after whatever comes out of my mouth - if it's vaguely smart. I’m not a chess piece, or a player in their game, nor must I be cognisant of it. I’m me. So suck it, Vogue.
Words: Madison Stephens