Monday, 25 January 2010

the death of fashion

For many, it's whimsical, humorous and superficial. For these reasons the fashion industry is tough skinned. It has to be. It is constantly criticised and attacked for its pure existence. But what I find humorous is how such an empowering and multi-faceted [not to mention the big bucks it commands on a daily basis] industry is so consistently disregarded and discredited by so many. A re-occurring argument which has been brought to my attention by a recently published article [personal rant] by Guardian journalist Tanya Gold "WHY I HATE FASHION". 

tanya gold  
image from the guardian wesbite

 Reading this article sort of took my breath away, mainly due to shock centred around the sweeping statements made throughout. Referred to as a "whispering monster" Gold blames the death of a 16 year old girl who was wearing heels and fell between the carriages of a train, on fashion. 
 "I decided to write this piece late last year, when I read that a 16-year-old girl wearing high-heeled shoes had fallen between the carriages of a train in West Sussex. She died, of course. It was snowing that night, but still this young woman, with a lifetime of fashion choices before her, ran along that platform and is now dead. And I couldn't help suspecting that had she been wearing a shoe designed for movement, rather than to push her breasts out and her pelvis forward, she would be alive.
This was different from the usual Fashion Death, where a model has a heart attack on the catwalk, because she lives on grapes. This was an ­ordinary girl – a bystander. And why was she wearing high-heeled shoes on an icy night? Because fashion, the whispering monster, told her to.
I thought about that young woman for days; I couldn't forget her. Why? Because I realised that although I did not fall under a train, like Anna Karenina with a shoe instead of ­Vronsky, fashion has bullied me for ever. It has followed me around like an eternal schoolyard taunt, throwing self-doubt and rubbish into my path. If you are a young woman, it is the ordinary soundtrack to your life. It is never enough to wear a clean dress and comfortable shoes and be done – fashion is a Jewish mother on crack. This will make you beautiful! This will make men want you! Wear this! Wear that!
Can't you ignore it, you may ask? Can't you squeeze yourself into a ­library and have an inner life instead? Ha! Anyone who thinks that has never been a young woman staring into the window of Topshop. Sophisticated weapons are employed to make us need the rubbish. And so we do."

It [fashion] is severely misunderstood. I'm inclined to argue that many people criticise and belittle fashion in it's many guises, because they just don't understand it. Consequentially it is attacked for being the root of all evil in the modern world it seems. I actually get quite worked up about this. And whilst reading this article, I understood the point Gold was attempting to make, but In the end I found myself slightly fuming at what I would consider a rather immature rant.

As a recent fashion writing graduate, I have spent the last three years immersed in a world of all things fashion, and even before that I studied fashion, along with art and photography. In my experience fashion is multi-faceted. Indeed it is a hierarchy and it is flawed, but those words resonate with many things in modern society; politics for example. I have never really been interested in politics, as I don't understand it, but I do not attack its very existence because I would be ill-informed to. 

"Can't you squeeze yourself into a ­library and have an inner life instead? Ha! Anyone who thinks that has never been a young woman staring into the window of Topshop. Sophisticated weapons are employed to make us need the rubbish. And so we do."

Having spent the best part of the last 3 years squeezed into a library, reading more books, chapters and paragraphs than I care to remember, about fashion, this is the point that annoys me the most. Given the sheer amount of literature, and I mean serious academic literature, that has been written concerning fashion, surely it's about time fashion was given a little more kudos. Now the whole - considering fashion as an academic subject - is another debate, but it is important to consider that there has been a lot written concerning sociological, psychological and cultural relations with fashion. Is Gold widely discrediting such literature? I'm not sure. But in essence she appears to have the mindset that you cannot immerse yourself in literature and appreciate beautiful things. I would criticise that point extensively, as a young women who is passionate about all aspects of fashion; the visual components and [slightly more so] the academic investigations and written musings about fashion, and who is equally passionate about clothing, style and aesthetic. 

I think the main problem here is that Gold misunderstands what  Fashion really is. Which is fine because there are many arguments and ideas about the purpose, definition and meaning of fashion, and put simply, fashion is not static. It does not have one meaning. It doesn't have one purpose. It cannot be defined by one definition. It is changeable. It is fluid. It is cultural, social and political. It is bound by economics, advertising and image. But is not exhaustive.

This is a huge argument in the grand scheme of things, and one that I cannot do justice to right now. Put simply, I appreciate Gold's article for it's honesty and its brashness. However I think its at times hysterical and aims to antagonise. 

Most importantly it is an opinion. Like everything written above.
Have a read and make your own opinion.

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