In case you missed it, this past Sunday, March 31st, Refinery29 published a smart little listicle on “8 Taboo Topics In Fashion”. The piece, by three Refinery women, Connie Wang, Leila Brillson, and Isabelle Rancier, began with the proposal that, despite what fashion might look like (their words: “a circle jerk of pretty clothes on pretty people”), it is a multi-trillion dollar global industry with undeniable cultural influence and environmental repercussions, and that that side of fashion deserves to be reported on more than it does. Wang, Brillson, and Rancier also preface with an admission that their listicle may be reductive (I mean, it is a listicle) but that it’s designed to incite discussion. So, let’s discuss…
Among the more interesting of the eight so-called taboos was this one: “Most Fashion Shows Don’t Need To Exist.” I recently attended a well-meaning but embarrassingly shallow panel discussion on the topic “Is Fashion Week Getting Out of Hand!?” (their punctuation). The beef those panelists had with Fashion Week (here on out: FW) came down to New York FW letting such “un-fashionable” brands as Spanx onto the calendar when it “should be” more exclusive and prestigious; that you can now “buy” your way into FW when you should have to “earn” your way in. Refinery’s point is that what fashion shows portend to do (present clothes to buyers), is not what they’re doing anymore. Fashion shows, now, are all show. They are essentially, especially with live streaming and other immediate, to-the-public access, a form of advertising. To both the “!?” kids and Refinery, I say “here, here,” but hear this: let’s not complain about an industrial complex we can’t change, and instead, encourage young and innovative designers to think outside the Mercedes-Benz box. Many already are—they are showing in art galleries or opting to produce a fashion film or show privately to buyers. Let Spanx have NYFW, the Lincoln Centre sucks anyway. I’d rather stay in Brooklyn and watch a live strip show for my favorite local designer at Pumps (this hasn’t happened yet, just a concept, up for grabs).
Taboo Topic #4: “What Happens To Fashion Bloggers Once They Get Old?” The Refinery writers get one thing right—recognizing fashion blogging as a new career—but they then suggest that the asset this career is most dependent on is the youth of the bloggers? No. A fashion blogger has to be normatively attractive and photogenic, yes, but their most significant asset is their spending power (especially because being normatively attractive and photogenic can be bought). I know Tavi wasn’t wealthy when she wrote her way to the Chanel show but she wrote her way there. Tavi is an exceptional wunderkind (I love you) and most fashion bloggers (the elite that then get invited to the shows) are popular because they can buy a ton of shit to model as “what I’m wearing today.” Rich Texan teenagers, rich Swedish babes, and kids who live at home without any expenses and can spend all their money on Céline—these are your careerist bloggers. The dominant fashion industry loves wealth because that’s what it’s all about (luxury=wealth). What happens to fashion bloggers once they get old? They get some botox and a handbag collaboration or prestigious consultation job. Next!
“Where Are All The Queer Chicks In Fashion?” Extrapolating from Refinery’s write-up, the gist here is: we imagine fashion as dominated by sassy gay men, willing-for-anyone teenage girls, feminine straight ladies, and predatory straight dudes, but where the lezzies at!? I don’t get it, I’ve met tons of queer chicks in fashion. But I’m also allergic to, like, Kate Spade or whatever the straight-dominated sections of the industry are, so maybe I have a self-selecting peer group. Whatever, I still don’t think this is necessarily the right question. It should be more like “Where Are All The Thinking Chicks (Or The Thinking Anybodies) In Fashion?” I know so many brilliant people who have started careers in fashion only to get burnt out and demoralized by an industry they feel they cannot change. They still love things about fashion, they may still look the part, dress themselves well, but they can’t work in it because the industry is a thankless, thinkless bitch.
I stay in fashion because I, high and mighty, think the industry is better off with people like me in it. I’ve thought about leaving fashion for a culture industry I’m more comfortable in—and I will step out and write about and mingle within the literary, film, and art worlds—but I stay in fashion because I feel it pushing me out, feel it resisting the art critical and anti-capitalist p.o.v. I want to impose on it. I encourage my thinking peers who are considering ditching out to do the same. Here is our theme song: Ima read that bitch, Ima school that bitch, I’m gonna take that bitch to college, I’m gonna give that bitch some knowledge.
Taboo #7 (“Most Sustainable Clothing Endeavors Are Garbage, Literally”) and #8 (“Designers Don’t Make Clothes That Fit 100 Million Women In America”) work well when paired. We’re talking about consumption here, and again, I’ll suggest we stop whining and instead look for alternatives, because you have agency w/r/t these topics. Most high fashion brands do not design for “plus-size” and many “sustainable” markets are garbage (ugly and/or lying) but that’s an issue of ready-to-wear in general. “Off-the-rack” fits few well, whether you’re a 32-28-28 or a 38-24-36. So try this: buy second hand or consignment and then take that money you’re saving and get your garments tailored. The clothes will fit you better, be more sustainable, and employ a local craftsman.
Have we discussed enough? Never. Go forth, Internet mass, I want to hear what you think.