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When you like fashion it is kind of yikes--but that's okay

3.15.2018

Strangely, I remember the exact moment I decided I wanted to be an "expert" in fashion. I was sitting on the porch of my Indiana home with my mother, and I was probably 10 or 11. She was flipping through a Neiman Marcus catalogue, as was her custom in the afternoons, and I was sitting next to her, intrigued. She began naming off all the brands of glossy leather bags she wanted: Kooba, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs. This was evidently impressive to 11-year-old me. I want to know all the names of the brands, too. Around this same time, I got a subscription to Teen Vogue (the only magazine I have ever subscribed to) and thus began my journey into the treacherous world of fashion.

It's funny that this extremely important moment in my life--the moment I decided to devote myself entirely to an industry and a style of living--was based on such a superficial interest. Of course, when you're 11 it's not like you'll be all, "Hmm, I really appreciate the artistic direction and concept behind this Marc Jacobs bag, it seems as if he's making a statement with his leather goods this season!" But like, still. Part of me has always been ashamed of not having "purer" intentions with fashion. What "purer" intentions would be, I have no idea.

Part of me is angry at 11-year-old me, too. Why couldn't she have been flipping through a gardening catalogue, or looking at Surrealist art, or admiring those boring black-and-white Ansel Adams mountain pictures? Why, for the love of god, did I decide I wanted to be a slave to fashion? Because as far as art forms and creative expression goes, fashion can tend to leave a bad taste in people's mouth. When you scream "I Like Fashion !" from the rooftops people do not really respect you that much. Partly because screaming from the rooftops isn't a really socially acceptable thing, and partly because fashion is supposed to be an evil, superficial industry built upon making men and women feel bad about themselves so they buy more sweatshop-produced products. Also if you like fashion, you're evil and superficial too, because you care so much about appearance, and you are obviously very stupid and full of yourself, and how dare you contribute to this consumerist machine! How DARE you!!

These were the thoughts that circulated in my brain for the past couple of years. Close friends of mine in college were not even aware that I seriously liked fashion because I basically refused to talk about it, in fear of being judged. You don't wanna be that dick at the party who's all, "I have wanted a pair of Margiela Tabi boots since I was 13". In fact, liking fashion is sort of a double-edged sword: you look pretentious for knowing what Margiela Tabi boots are, and you seem more superficial for caring about a very specific type of footwear made by Margiela. Because of these god-forsaken boots, you are both a snob and an airhead.

Moving past the negative social implications, it's a chore to like fashion personally, too, because it promotes an aforementioned cycle of consumerism and guilt. Every season, every new product that launches onto the market could be something I covet, which is exhausting--it takes a lot of energy to constantly want to buy things and be disappointed when you can't. I will always spend way too much money on stupid shoes I don't need, and fall prey to a new trend, no matter how many times I assure myself wide-legged cropped jeans will be stylish forever. With other types of creative expression, of course, this holds true as well: there's always gonna be a new groovy type of paintbrush, a new fancy camera, a more efficient type of fertilizer (probably? I seriously have no clue about gardening). But with fashion it's ubiquitous, because it's the core of the industry. Most paintings doesn't exist to be sold, but virtually all articles of clothing are. Clothes are meant to be bought, to be worn; they can be used as wearable cultural and social statements. Fashion is inherently tied to consumerism and capitalism, and thus when you devote yourself to it it's very, very difficult to escape exploitation and waste.

But in spite of all these drawbacks, and in spite of the years I tried to not care about fashion and devoted myself to more "worthy" pursuits, I can now freely say: I love it, god damnit. I love fashion. I love clothes. I won't apologize for it, and I'm tired of feeling ashamed or lesser than my other artistic friends just becauce I really dig Balenciaga satin slingbacks. Now that it's becoming more and more possible to enjoy fashion in an ethical way, what with the numerous ethically-produced clothing companies cropping up everywhere, it's easier to satisfy my conscience on the capitalist and consumerist scale. Most importantly, however, I (and any other fashionably-inclined reader) need to assert the fact that fashion isn't just for superficial assholes. I am smart and not an asshole and I love fashion! We do exist! Not every person in the fashion industry is an evil clone of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. Lots of industry people are incredibly smart, well-spoken, kind, and care about social issues (to name a few).

Although I do wonder what would've happened if 11-year-old me decided to become an expert in ceramics, I've finally stopped being annoyed at her for getting into fashion. Now I just have to find a rooftop to scream that from.


Collage photos clockwise from left: me as a lil FASHUNISTA at age 8, me now, Gucci, Delpozo, Prada, Baleciaga, Balenciaga again, still from The Devil Wears Prada and Margiela Tabi boots.
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