“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Sometimes, the universe is really trying to send a message. And sometimes, like yesterday, it has the shape of an old red shirt and an annoying Oscar Wild quote.
Of course, that day, like any other, I woke up too late. I had to run around my room half asleep, looking for every bit of clean (well, more or less) clothes I could find, as I started to realise that my 30-minute lateness would probably not be considered fashionable.
So I ended up wearing my eternal black jeans with an old red shirt I found hidden in a corner of my closet. The shape was a bit odd, the colour had faded and it was ripped on one side. I was still strongly in love with it. It had lived a little, but, eh, it was clean. That was something. And I was ready for my day.
But then, a bit later, the quote happened. It was my teacher’s way of introducing the current and prevailing vision of fashion.
“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”
That immediately annoyed me. However, at first, I could not exactly see why. I mean, there was obviously truth in it.
Indeed, I knew what the definition of the word “fashion” given by most dictionaries, such as Merriam-Webster was: the « prevailing style (as in dress) during a particular time ». I also knew that the current prevailing style was the one given by the “fast fashion” model.
Yes, you know, the “fast fashion” or this constant renewal of clothing collections, a model that tries to reproduce as fast as possible the fashion trends observed at one point, by selling accessible and representative products; a way to incite the consumers to quickly renew their wardrobe with new products. “Every six months” said Oscar Wild. The fast-food of clothes. Even if I doubt the Retail Empires of Zara and H&M would appreciate the parallel.
I also thought about the strong bound existing with Haute Couture and the work of extremely famous fashion designers.
Finally, although fashion was, with Haute Couture, linked with luxury, quality, uniqueness, whereas the fast fashion model of ready-to-wear was more linked to low cost, poor quality, common and disposable clothes… Both oddly included the notion of “waste”. Waste of money, waste of fabrics, waste of natural resources, waste of time.
Consequently, fashion was then not only a form of “ugliness”, fashion was a waste, and an endless one, as it seems.
I took a look at my faded red shirt. And for once, I felt the need to argue with Oscar Wilde.
I mean, well, maybe it is a bit ugly, but what about that not so ironic idea of permanent waste and dissatisfaction? Hm. No. In this 3-year-old shirt I have never stopped loving, I was wearing evidence to the contrary.
Counter-models do exist. The terms of “slow fashion”, “green fashion”, or “sustainable fashion” touch the same reality, that is the possibility to produce, consume and live fashion in a way that can durably respect our resources, without waste and with less dissatisfaction, (and the website of The Centre for Sustainable Fashion explains it so much better: http://sustainable-fashion.com/ )
Non-profit fashion organizations exist as well and try actively to use fashion as an effective way to improve the situation of people in need, with for example the eco fashion charity “Fashion Fights Poverty”, or “Dress For Success”.
Unconventional aesthetics, different from “the prevailing style” also have their place and beauty.
As they are not part of the “prevailing style”, does this means that these counter- models can’t belong to the fashion universe? That this is not fashion, only anomalies?
That’s what I would like to explore with you, that is, if you tolerate questionable sense of humor and weird stories about the universe sending you cosmic message through old clothes.
Orson Welles (1915-1985) said it best :
“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn”