Fashion fluctuates between two images in mainstream society: firstly, there is the more common one, which is represented by a golden door locked with a million security codes, only accessible to a certain exclusive group of people. Secondly, there is the image of fashion being the world of outsiders, the industry of freaks and geeks, where all the mad ones end up. Those two images couldn’t be more different to one another, but still, they represent the same construct- a reflection of an industry that seems to be fast-paced but is the slowest in its internal development.
It is all about selling an emotion or a fantasy, that ties someone so close to the garment that they feel the need to possess it. As the fantasies got bigger and more glamourous, they continued to move away from what fashion should be about: the people, that give the life to the garment that it needs to communicate that fantasy.
That’s why fashion feels to a lot of people so inaccessible. It may not even the price in some cases, but the fantasy that the brand is trying to sell.
Fantasies and illusions are what we spent our childhoods with, living in our little bubbles, sheltered from the ugly truths of the world we have been born into. When we grow up, we realize that the world is different than we used to believe growing up, so we naturally distance ourselves from fantasies and illusions. We crave understanding, not escapism. We want to see ourselves in fashion, not size 00 models that Céline sends down the runway or a golden covered fairy-tale fantasy like Dolce and Gabbana, when they do xenophobic campaigns at the same time. We want to see equality; we want to see what we envision for our world to be but in a real picture. We want genderless, but no men in baby doll dresses, since society might not be ready for that yet. But where does genderless start? Is a woman in a suit not also genderfluid dressed?
We want to see our reality, in a mirror. Not the escapist fairy tale book, since we are old enough to know that we won’t magically wake up in a perfect world. In times like these, we want runways to be the voice of those who seem to be invisible but are louder than ever.
The fantasies a brand tries to sell feel as unrealistic as a fairy tale itself- with the complete ignorance of reality, being determined to offer a source of escapism, a lot of people who have to deal with those ugly truths daily feel excluded. No matter how hard they would try, they would always feel ignored, like when you place the children at a big dinner on a small crappy plastic table in the storage room, they will always feel like “the other”.
Louis Vuitton is selling a vison of French craftmanship. Gucci under Alessandro Michele is escaping into a world without the gender boundary, where a man can wear a velvet baby doll dress with a handmade lace collar, decorated with pearls and gemstones without any means of judgement. Celine under Hedi Slime is all about punk and grunge, two by-gone eras that a gen-z member is more than unlikely to have experienced with their senses.
In times of ever-growing change, brands hold on nostalgia, and title everything that has nothing to do with the present reality as “timeless”.
But what is “timeless”? And does such state of human taste even exist in decades being defined by change? Isn’t timeless the most mediocre word to describe something that clings on to the past, refusing to adapt to the present?
Adapting to the present zeitgeist, especially in fashion, is a discipline in itself that demands a lot of proactivity and the ability for constant reinvention. Maybe the past year was exactly about this in fashion. What are some brands without their elaborate shows at fashion weeks? This raises the question whether this is the funeral of the traditional fashion show, ending with the innocent bride in white since there may have been more divorces than weddings in this changing year. And most importantly, now that people have ripped the elitist’s eyes open, how can you make something as exclusive as fashion more inclusive?
That’s why brands like Telfar or Grace Wales Bonner are so successful, especially this year- they embody what the current generation cares about, without selling a tale of exclusivity. They are what most brands could be but refuse to be- they are real.