Comme des Garçons
Comme des Garçons Comme des Garçons
This variety of choice is vital because the most commonly understood behaviour of fashion is its predilection for novelty. There must always be something new. But to be too new is to risk ridicule. Ridicule only gives way to conformity in two main instances: when enough people embrace the new look, or when a few socially-accepted trend setters adopt the new look. The former can often follow on from the latter, but it is worth noting that trends can develop from any level and move in any direction (although there is always a trail for the intrepid researcher to follow - I personally have my own documented files for the New Balance, Reebok Insta Pump Fury and, more recently, Stan Smiths trends that actually stretch back farther than one would think...and yes, I have a bit of a trainer obsession despite only owning two pairs).
But to consider fashion only as a vehicle for novelty is a mistake. An artist creates because it is in their nature to do so (especially if their income depends on it), whether it be a writer writing, a chef cooking, or a fashion designer cutting a dress. It is a way to share what you love with the world in whichever ways you know how. Just as with language it is about communication and community. You propose an idea not simply because it is new, or because it is reactionary, or because it is confirmatory, but because you have something to say. Who listens and how many listen depends on the quality and intensity of what you have to say and the manner in which you do so. I realise this sounds rather vague, but the idea I intend to express is that fashion is at its best when it is about proposing these personal ideas. In this instance novelty is merely an inherent factor rather than a driving force.
As far as I am concerned the role of the fashion designer is to propose new ideas each season. These ideas do not need to be a radical departure from last season, actually far from it, because I feel that refinement allows for more interesting results. When I look at a catwalk show I see the clothes, I see the styling, I see the scenery, I hear the music, and of course I pick it apart and see what pieces I would myself like to wear. But there is far more to looking at a collection than simply deciding whether or not I would personally wear it. What is the designer proposing? What are they saying? Objects are mute, but I would argue design is not. Function and movement reveal meaning.
Dress needs body to be fully realised and understood. To be more precise it needs a body in movement, hence catwalk shows. Movement is where the beauty of the garment is unveiled, and this is what separates fashion designers from those who simply call themselves fashion designers. Anybody can come up with an interesting print to stick on a t-shirt, but it takes someone with an intimate knowledge of the human body and its dynamic relationship with fabric to create a dress that looks stunning in motion. Instagram and Tumblr may have spawned a million and one streetwear labels with their respective "fashion designers", but that is purely because we have a culture where all clothing is synonymous with fashion.
Fashion is manifest in clothing, but it encompasses far more than the garment itself. I think the catwalk allows designers a space in which they can say something meaningful. It is the reason I think so many designers, especially in London, would be better off simply having a showroom collection rather than a catwalk collection - many do not have enough to say to warrant a full show (and having a lot of looks is not the same as having a lot to say). I am not suggesting that fashion week should only have the type of theatrical shows Thom Browne or Iris Van Herpen present (...but I have to admit that would be a golden age), after all I enjoyed the Comme des Garçons Comme des Garçons show just as much as the mainline show, but rather that we need to expand the ways in which we critique and consider fashion shows. There is room for more commercial shows, there is room for more conceptual shows, but what we should value is creativity and meaningful expression in whichever form they may happen to take.