I’ve never written, or even articulated, anything about fashion before.
But we just saw Mademoiselle C, which displays the eccentricity and waste of high fashion both honestly and sympathetically.
And in the conversation afterward I found myself articulating a stronger, more coherent, and more pro-fashion viewpoint than I knew I had.
Fashion serves four purposes
- Ritual/incarnation (choice of clothing to maximize your power in a given context)
I am concerned here with the fourth. I believe that creativity and art are one of the worthwhile aspects of spending time as a human, one of the things (along with, so I’ve heard, parenting) that makes people feel fully human, fully alive, and complexly whole.
Too few of us have access to artistic training, materials, time and the various kinds of space you need to be an artist. And yet we all have not only the capacity but the need for expression. Fashion provides most people with a daily medium for expression, and therefore, I would argue, is a form of popular, populist, and participative art.
The role of high fashion –by which I mean both couture fashion design and, perhaps more powerfully, fantasy/extreme fashion spreads conceived by stylists Grace Coddington (featured in The September Issue) and Carine Roitfeld of Mademoiselle C in high fashion magazines like Roitfeld’s CR Fashion Book and Vogue– is to inspire and encourage that expression, to encourage people to go beyond mundane conformist fashion and express themselves. To put things together in non-commercial ways, to make themselves into art objects. To allow their peculiar personal vision to take form.
For example, I was inspired by Alexander McQueen’s shoes…
Celebrity fashion designers –by which I mean fashion designers who have achieved celebrity, not movie stars and musicians who have started designing clothes– have a unique responsibility as social artists. They produce two kinds of products, both ready-to-wear which must be wearable and couture where they express their personal artistic vision. The pressure to produce each of these on a regular schedule is a grueling requirement that few artists face, but it is also an opportunity which many artists in other fields might covet, to speak in two voices, to two audiences, one pragmatically addressing the current context (serving #2 and #3 above), and the other an illustration of the artist’s own cutting edge.
Wasteful and absurd as the fashion industry often is, high fashion serves all the creatives in society by constantly and accessibly holding forth on the extreme, by reminding us to be bigger, bolder, sexier, and trusting our own vision.
I am renewed in my commitment to throw out every piece of clothing that doesn’t make me feel powerful, and to go to and over the edge more often.