On her blog Into the Fashion, Milan-based fashion instructor Diana Marian Murek analyzes current fashion trends based on their historical referents, sources of inspiration, and similarities with like-seasoned collections. Murek’s eye for echo is fantastic, as are her research skills. This Fall 2012 season, she’s connected Erdem to late-sixties Pierre Cardin, Louis Vuitton to a 1971 Barry Lategan for Vogue UK editorial, and Moschino to Balenciaga by Nicolas Ghesquière just six years prior. It’s not just present-to-past fashion connections she makes: Murek draws our attention to art historical referents, to the high street’s mirroring of the runway, and to the synchronistic similarities between collections presented the very same week.
Here, Murek discusses her background, process, the cyclical nature of fashion, and what it means to be educated about clothes.
Aside from your blog, you also write for Grazia.IT. What other work do you do?
I started my blog in 2009 to share my point of view on fashion with others. Since launching it, I’ve answered several requests to work as a journalist, such as my column on the Italian online magazine Grazia.IT. My main work, though, is as a fashion design teacher here in Milan. My background is German but I’ve lived in Milan since 1998. I worked as a fashion designer and product manager with several design companies, such as Costume National, Wolford, and Francesco Scognamiglio, before starting to work at the Istituto Marangoni (a fashion design school with campuses in Milan, Paris and London). I teach collection development, fashion history and trend forecasting.
I’m curious about your background and expertise. How do you find the references and inspirations you source?
My expertise is based on my education and work experience as a fashion designer and my general love for fashion. I’m used to researching design ideas in costume history books, photography books, art books, and I’ve been collecting them for a long time. Every season, after I’ve seen all the shows, I go through my books and vintage Vogue magazines and look for similarities. Sometimes I don’t even have to do that because the similarities between iconic items and their “re-interpretation” are really obvious.
What are the differences between inspiration, homage, reference, and counterfeit?
Researching the history of art and fashion is part of the process in designing a collection. But after a designer has done this, he is supposed to elaborate on this information through his own creativity, adding a great deal of his personality into it. That would be an inspiration or a reference. Counterfeit is when this further elaboration hasn’t happened and we see an outfit on the runway that’s the same than its original. A homage is, in my opinion, a sort of coping in a polite way by naming the source of your ideas.
But what I want to point out in my blog is that fashion lives in cycles, and that this is the nature of fashion. So styles and fashion items will always return somehow. That’s why I call my comparisons “inspirations” and not “copying.” I think quotations in fashion are necessary and inevitable. A huge part of the language of fashion has been defined during the 20th century. Every silhouette, color combination or material use has a meaning that has already been established and belongs to a period of time, a specific mood, or sociocultural environment. A huge part of today’s fashion lives from the reinvention of its past. That does not mean that newness in fashion is not possible. It is, of course. It’s a matter of combining the known elements of fashion into something new, into new combinations. Doing interesting things today is challenging, and I really enjoy seeing how designers manage to create something that can make us emote season after season. But I mostly dig designers who create their own identity using a strong personal approach and perspective to the period they live in, without using too many obvious quotations.
Do you see your site as educational?
I absolutely see my site as educational. I started it partly with the intent to explain to my students how important it is to study costume history in order to understand today’s fashion. It was important to me to explain that in an amusing way without being too academic. I started to post similarities of outfits from the past to contemporary collections taken from the catwalks. I think that the success of my blog relies directly on its educational factor.
Do you think the fashion world and consumers could benefit from a more educated approach to their wares?
I think it’s always a benefit to be as aware as possible about what you are consuming. I must say that my awareness of fashion–knowing which designers create genuine ideas and newness through their own creativity more than through just repeating concepts and ideas 1:1 as they had already existed–that influences my opinion on design labels and my consumption of fashion a great deal.