What is fashion?

If someone asked you to describe fashion, what would you say? Do you think of Vogue, catwalk shows and umpteen super-cool fashion bloggers? Do you love the latest Prada menswear collection, faithfully follow trends, or utterly detest being told what to wear? When talking about clothing, many people assume that the umbrella term fashion refers only to something that is or was ‘fashionable’. Something that adheres to a popular mainstream trend as dictated by catwalk shows, magazine editors and store buyers. However, you can still be interested in fashion even if you can’t stand the thought of wearing something like pastel 20s-inspired pyjamas this season, or if you fail to see the joy in anything on display at New York Fashion Week. An interest in fashion can be as broad as the subject itself.

If you look past what magazines and newspapers report on – into the world of books, and fashion as a subject of study – fashion begins to speak about changes in society, subcultures, mainstream definitions of gender, and even an individual’s sense of identity. Fashion is an industry of designers, crafts people, manufacturers, retailers, photographers, make-up artists, hairdressers, stylists, PR folk and journalists. We all wear clothing and, whether we like it or not, what we choose to adorn our bodies with says a lot about us to other people. It always has. Fashion is a subject that goes deeper than who wore what on the red carpet at last night’s BAFTAs… well, unless you look at Livia Firth’s Green Carpet Challenge. Now there’s an aspect of this industry that speak volumes about 21st Century western society. Let’s hope this becomes the Formula 1 of fashion, driving forward exciting innovation that will later be adopted by the mainstream. I await the chance to buy my own recycled soda bottle fabrics with great interest.

4 thoughts on “What is fashion?

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  1. Clothing relates to how I present myself to the world and has a part of my self esteem. My interest in feminism doesn't so much intersect with fashion yet, but my interest in trying to be more worldly after reading 18thC historians does involve an RSS feed to Guardian fashion which is a mix of meritable cynicism (from H Freeman) and bad comedy (Jess C-M).

    As a man, I like reading lifestyle magazines as a guilty pleasure: GQ, Men's Health, Men's Fitness and 'Stuff' usually have a part, and there are loads of lovely consumerist goodies that tempt and give me ideas.

    As my personal outlook I try to be ascetic as much as I can. I also have a really 'boring' wardrobe. I purposely wear the same kind of shoes, I have multiple copies of the same shirts and trousers and I wear a limited colour scheme. I also like to make my clothes and items last, so I avoid buying very much.

    However, once in a blue moon I see something and I just feel I *must* have it. I love thinking about what to wear, or what I could wear next.

    Some of that is a little bit influenced by men's magazines and fashion. However I have some lifestyle ethical principles (make things last, avoid exploitative retailers) which also account, as well as sustaintability and affordability issues, and I am presently living on more limited means so clothing is a little bit lower on my list of essentials.

    Perhaps there should be an antidote to the 'fashion season' of all these celebrity award events and fashion weeks around the world? The 'Year of Feminist Classics' serves as a good distraction to avert one's eyes away from those models and frocks 🙂

  2. I really like Hadley Freeman's approach to fashion. It appeals to my (not so) inner cynic! Making things last and avoiding exploitative retailers is high on my list too, but I still cave in sometimes and splurge on something irresistable.

    I wonder if someone could work out our clothing ethics just by looking at what we wear? What would someone read into having a wardrobe of, for example, multiple copies of the same item or well loved vintage?

  3. Although I work in fashion I don't really think of myself as a fashion person. I just love great design. So the beauty of my iMac is just as compelling to me as a new pair of shoes.

    It's for these reasons I also find all the guff around fashion so tedious – the celebrities, models, trends and hoo-ha! Good design isn't about any of those things. It's about making something that can be functional and beautiful and be remembered for a long time.

  4. I wonder how many people who 'work in fashion' focus more on style and design than on trends? I guess that's one of the exciting things about fashion – it's an industry that has room for so many different angles and points of view. We can all find our niche 🙂

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