What Fashion Isn't
I’ve been thinking a lot about fashion lately--I mean, more than usual. It’s really quite an interesting subject and everyone seems to have their own opinion or own views on what fashion is to them and how they view it in society. In the 2009 documentary, “The September Issue”, Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief at Vogue, said:
“I think what I often see is that people are frightened about fashion, because it scares them or makes them feel insecure, they just put it down. On the whole, people that say demeaning things about our world--I think that’s usually because they feel in some ways excluded or not part of the cool group, so as a result they just mock it. Just because you like to put on a beautiful Carolina Herrera dress or a pair of J Brand blue jeans instead of something basic from Kmart - it doesn’t mean that you are a dumb person. There is something about fashion that can make people very nervous.”
This quote is so important and really says a lot. She’s absolutely right when she says that fashion makes people nervous. People do often mock fashion and think it’s something frivolous and that it really doesn’t matter--but it does.
Fashion is a lot of things but at the forefront of it all you must understand that fashion is, above all, an art. From the initial design sketch to the production and sale of any garment or accessory, every detail is as thoroughly thought out as any work of art an artist creates. The thing that makes fashion special, however, is that you are rarely as immersed in a painting in your everyday life as you are in the clothing that you wear. It’s something that literally changes every day and, in my humble opinion, truly effects how others perceive you and, more importantly, how you perceive yourself.
“Art produces ugly things which frequently become beautiful with time. Fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things which always become ugly with time.”
I’ve often found when discussing fashion that people have a few major misconceptions. The most common delusion I’ve found is that people often think that anyone who works in fashion is a designer. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard “Oh I’d love to see your work” when I tell someone that I’m a Fashion Merchandising student. There is a very distinct difference between fashion design, and fashion merchandising. Fashion designers are the ones that the general public are most familiar with. ie. Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Chanel, Marc Jacobs, etc. Designers are the people who literally sit down, come up with a concept, and create a work of art from scratch. They are true artists and visionaries whose work directly affects every piece of clothing you see-- from the runway in Milan to the clearance rack at Walmart.
Fashion Merchandising is not the same as fashion design. Fashion is a business, and a multi-billion dollar one at that. Fashion Merchandising concerns the business side of fashion rather than the design and creation of it. This is where people like me (people who love fashion but have no design abilities) get to work closely with what we love. From marketing, to sales, production, merchandising, and everything in-between fashion has plenty of opportunities for hard working non-designers like myself.
Another misconception I often observe is that the word “fashion” is synonymous with “high fashion”. Not everyone who works in the fashion world is working with luxury brands like Louis Vuitton or Ralph Lauren. Brown Shoe company, for example, is a very successful shoe production company that makes footwear for Famous Footwear, Naturalizer, and Buster Brown Shoes. If you’re not versed in fashion (and even if you are) there’s a good chance you have never heard of this company. It’s not a luxury brand and they’re not featured at red carpet events or in Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, or Vogue. They are not a luxury brand but they are still very important to the apparel industry. They create shoes--good shoes that you have maybe worn and not realized it. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of companies just like Brown Shoe that are as much a part of the fashion world as Alexander McQueen. The only difference is that they are not glamorized. So when you think of fashion, try not to think of luxury garments, couture designs, or runway shows, but instead realize that the fashion world is about all apparel (both glamorized and not).