27 July 2013

A Slow Evolution

Autumn/Winter 2013

"Clothes should be practical. [...] I don't like clothes that constrict. the idea is that they should accompany and help you. There's nothing superficial about getting dressed. Clothes can give you self-confidence and help you be yourself. We have a direct contact with our clothes; they're like a little house. You have to feel good and at home in what you are, and I think that's elegance."

- Christophe Lemaire in interview with Rebecca Voight [full article]

Fashion is a visual culture, promoting and selling an image as much as it aims to sell a product in and of itself. This ultimately applies to all consumer products, with everything from the exact colour and font of the label, to the angle of the product in the advertisement, researched and documented for maximum potential uptake. Everything we own is meant to say something about us - the clothes we wear, the plates we eat from, the headphones we listen to our music with. We make choice after choice after choice, marking out our sense of individuality and expressing our tastes and desires (or so we are led to believe).

You have to the right shoes, you have to drive the right car, you have to eat at the right restaurants, you have to watch the right television shows, you have to listen to the right music, the list is endless. What the right choice is, and who makes it the right choice, are essentially meaningless, but fashion as a system applies to almost every consumer product there is. All that matters is that there is a right choice, and that this right choice is invariably something you do not yet own. Combine this system with planned obsolescence and the like, and rather amusingly it is Fashion that seems the truest consumer product. It is fully aware of its status as adornment and surface image, and it revels in its own constant renewal. 

But just because there is this relentless cycling of products and associated lifestyle images it does not mean you have to take part. Once again it comes down to those two favourite focuses of mine - function and feeling. Does it fulfil a function? Does it engender a feeling? This applies to everything from a spoon to a jacket, and is actually far simpler than it sounds. Take the example of a spoon, the first thing we have to consider is function. Is this spoon a good shape, does it have the right depth, the right length of handle, is it practical, and so on. It is not necessarily a list of questions, but rather a matter of picking it up and knowing in an instant whether it is suitable for what it is you intend to use it for. Now whether it is a spoon of a jacket, this is essential because the fulfilment of a function gives the object a meaning, and that meaning necessarily precludes it gathering dust.

I dislike the idea of owning so many things you forget that you owned something. If it fulfils a function it is both useful and worth the effort to find just the right choice for you. I say for you because you have to live with and use whatever it is you buy and own, so buying something because somebody else likes it seems odd. Cutlery and plates bought only because guests will think they look good are useless. You should buy cutlery and plates that you like and enjoy, because you will be the one using them day in, day out. And as such they must fulfil the function you require of them for the majority of the time, not for the odd occasion here or there. 

How does this then apply to clothing? In much the same way that fulfilment of function provides the spoon with meaning and purpose, so it is with clothing. If you live somewhere that has cold and prolonged Winters, you need a warm coat. So buying a dozen ball gowns but then picking up any old, ill fitting, warm coat to cover them up with seems an odd way of prioritising. As such I always think you need to start with function - the type and style of garments you need for your day-to-day life. If you work on your feet all day long, then buying lots of high heels instead of some more practical shoes is pointless. If you work in an office five days a week with a strict dress code, spending all your money on jeans and t-shirts rather than a few good suits is pointless. Fashion can provide an escape into complete fantasy, but that is not always practical. Self-realisation and self-awareness is based within understanding your life as it is and making it beautiful as it is. Using fashion as an everyday tool rather than a diverging luxury is a far more fulfilling method, because it allows you to explore and find beauty in your own way and for your own life. Function provides a focus, around which you can explore your options and see which ones fulfils the next requirement - that feeling.

Pure function and practicality is a beautiful thing, for the truth of a tool (in terms of design informed by function) that works seamlessly is incredibly alluring. But while this may be applicable to design, it is not particularly relevant to art. Look for a tool and function is the primary concern, but look for a work of art and it is feeling that is the crux. For art is, in the strictest sense of the term, functionally useless, therefore we must consider it from a different perspective. It must create a strong feeling within us that makes us want to pursue it. And this will inevitably apply to a number of the things we may buy, whether it be a painting for our wall, or a piece of jewellery.

Clothing however belongs somewhere in the middle of art and design, and thus, depending on which end of the scale it leans, it must primarily fulfil either of our categories - function or feeling. But just because we seek a specific garment for a specific function, it is not a cold and calculated decision, for in order to have personal meaning, it must engender a feeling. They are clothes you will have to wear, they will live and move and breath with you, they will become your social skin. With such an intimate relationship there must necessarily be a deeper meaning and a deeper attachment. So once you find the choices that fulfil the right function, you then have to decide depending on which piece speaks to you. 

Ignore brand, ignore price, ignore fashion, ignore trends, ignore what anyone else says. As long as it fulfils the function required and suits your body, go for whichever one makes you feel beautiful. And never settle for less, because although it may be easier to buy something right now that looks similar but is easier to obtain, it will never feel quite right. We live in an age of instant information and instant gratification, but sometimes things need to slow right the way down. Take your time, research your options, find something you love, and work towards getting it. There is no rush, because the journey is just as important as the destination, and when you do finally reach there, you will appreciate it all the more.



  1. Beautifully written. For those reasons, it's why I tend to respect design more than art, because design is ultimately intended for use. I think it takes even more thought to create something not only beautiful but also useful. Take Christian Louboutin for example, while I don't have experience with their shoes, I've gathered from interviews that he pretty much doesn't care if the shoes are uncomfortable or whether/not women can walk in them. But I'm sure there are women out there that have scores of red soles that never left the shelf. Versus Manolo Blahnik who want to design shoes that women can actually wear.

    For me the best pieces are ones that can combine form (avant-garde/innovative design) with function/practicality. In my experience Rick Owens is very good at this because he translated the beauty of Gres' work into street wear.

  2. I enjoyed your post.I agree especially last paragraph.I don't care about trend, brand ,fashion. I prefer expensive but good quality and design will not become old even though I can't buy those clothing often.

  3. love this!!

    how would you like to follow eachother?