Critics’ endless groaning over the disconnect between catwalk clothes and what you can actually get away with wearing in every day life is as insightful as it is irritating.
They’ve missed the point, which, in so many ways exemplifies exactly who the high fashion merry-go-round is catered to, and begs a verbal slap from The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestly:
‘This… stuff’? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and ..you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.’
Allow that dull, familiar realisation to set in. It’s both valiant and endearing to think you’re above something controlled by an elite group with a cognitive clicker. No matter how above or distant from the fashion industry you may think yourself, your integrity falls short of wearing only your underwear to work, unless you’re a Calvin Klein model. Clandestine dependency has a higher success rate. You’re not above it, you’re in it!
Every. single. day.
When wise old 20-somethings, well-seasoned in art and expensive wine dismiss fashion as inconsequential and frivolous, it’s odd. Art sits on a wall gathering dust, good wine is discussed more than it’s enjoyed, yet clothes are chosen and worn every day. They are wearable art, shaping people’s identity. They are a mask as much as they are a magnifying glass. In short, they are more relevant and receive more airtime, so the frivolity tag is very confusing.
I’m not saying that fashion should be placed on a pedestal along with the NHS or charities. But it should not it be looked upon rationally either. It would be like placing a square peg into a round hole.
Why? Because of what it’s fuelled on.
‘Hype’ is widely irrational, but rational to the industry. It should never be overlooked as the industry is predicated upon it. Putting hype into an excel sheet just doesn’t work. It is a social construct, vulnerable to fluctuating taste and more variables that investors can keep their sweaty tabs on.
The industry thrives on chaos and unpredictability. Such ‘hype’ you see on the catwalk ‘I’d never wear that, it’s weird’ trickles down from the catwalk to the high street, where it is watered down, stripped back and made palatable to the ‘black jeans – black boots – white floaty top – New Look – Zara – River Island – British public.
There are endless outfits that not even the fashion editors would be seen dead in that grace the catwalk, but that statement detracts from the purpose of the shows. They purport to spark the imaginations of industry movers and shakers, to raise standards, push boundaries and establish a different set of norms. It’s an exhibition and a prelude. The runway storm before the high street calm.
Snubbing it as pointless only serves to reinforce high fashion’s position… because the snubbers don’t ‘get it’.
And for their complicit part, they will unwittingly buy the watered down version of ‘this….stuff?!’ off a high street rail a few forgotten months later.