13 July 2013

The Metamorphosis

Comme des Garçons Homme Plus
Spring/Summer 2014
[images via Fashionising]

Each season I usually do a post on my initial reaction to the latest collections from my favourite designers, but this season I thought it would be more prudent to allow for more than one or two lines each. I will try to cover a few collections over the next few weeks, using them as a springboard for ideas, but will no doubt be revisiting them later on for a proper look and review (especially once I have had the opportunity to try on the garments). One of the most obvious highlights for me this show season was Comme des Garçons, the technical brilliance of which was thoroughly astounding - multiple layers, multiple lengths, ruched tailoring, metamorphoses in action. Caught in the midst of an unfurling, shedding old skin to reveal new skin, the collection was about the process of change. Whilst the styling of the models with their plastered down hair and gothic overtones could lend the transformation a macabre tone, with Rei you know there is always humour lurking around the corner.

The idea of change and transformation fascinates me, particularly on an individual level, because we are all of us in a continual state of flux. Yet it often seems that in the race for the endpoint we miss out on the journey, or end up following a path without really realising why. We grow up, we change relationships, we change jobs, we change countries, we change languages, our bodies change, our thoughts change, our wardrobes change. Nothing is ever truly fixed because we always have that potential for change, adaptation and improvement. Things change and we change with them, or we stay the same and stagnate. It is true for fashion just as it is true for life. And it is the unexpected moments in our journey that are perhaps the most important and most revealing, for they are where we find out what we are truly made of. Even if you end up not liking the view, at least you become aware of that fact and are thus given a gift - an impetus for change.

I think we can all relate to being stuck in a rut, of existing in some sense of auto-pilot without really experiencing or being alive to the moment. Whether that be a routine behaviour, a routine chore, or indeed a whole way of life, going over and over and over without being truly engaged can lead to a sense of immense detachment and lack of fulfilment. And so the dynamic of change is at once a saviour from that detachment and a vital process for our own development. To change is to be alive. And so the idea of an act we perform without awareness of purpose is to my mind something of a waste. Question everything, or at least know why you are doing what you are doing. That goes for habit, work, action, consumption, and most importantly, thought. Everything is open to awareness if we simply take the time to look and question. But of course the hardest part is almost always taking the time out in the first place to really focus and consider.

For the purposes of this post the actions and thought processes I would like to consider are those surrounding the act of dressing. To me the idea of transformation is fundamental to dressing and how we dress, not simply for the obvious physical and visual changes dress allows, but more for the mental processes behind it. We find ourselves on a constant journey of self-realisation and self-creation, both of which actually feed into each other depending on our experiences and thoughts. We dabble and experiment in order to find some sense of self hidden within the various guises and costumes that assail us, or else give into the idea of ultimate self-creation and lose ourselves in fantasy. I used to believe in the idea of fashion as an escape, but I now think it should actually be about the very opposite. Feeling (and thus looking) beautiful in order to come to the realisation that the beauty was always there waiting to be revealed. The process relies on a certain confidence and awareness that can often be discouraged, for it is easier to dress to an externally ratified standard than it is to try and find our own way and our own sense of beauty.

The reason I like Rei's metaphor of shedding the skin is because it relates to the idea of refinement rather than to the idea of complete renewal. Instead of jumping from image to image, it is about a more organic and natural transformation. The new image is revealed from the remains of the old image, not just directly replaced, and that distinction is for me incredibly important. Transformation takes time, it takes effort, it builds upon, and is shaped by, what went before, to hopefully create something better. And it is that search for something better that I think drives us all, and why we feel such a sense of dissatisfaction when we do finally take the time to stop and question those automatic behaviours and thoughts. The potential for change, and the ability to ride the waves rather than remaining stubbornly fixed and becoming drowned by them, allows us to create something far more interesting and fulfilling.

Dress can all too easily become a form of escape and form of disguise, in which we lose ourselves if we are not careful. It is only when we stop to think about why we are doing what we are doing that we realise that even though we thought we had an answer to the question...well actually, we don't. Lose that awareness of thought and action, and you lose idea of the purpose. Here I speak from experience, for when you lose any semblance of control you thought you had over your body and your health, you grasp onto whatever you can. Dress becomes an escape, an escape from a reality you would rather not face, and a way to exercise some form of control, however small it may be. And in that process it becomes far too easy to lose any sense of meaning or purpose. You do however inevitably come to a point where you realise this, and have to stop and really consider why you are doing what you are doing, and how you can change things for the better.

Rather than continuing to turn your back on the waves, you embrace them entirely and learn to ride them out. And in doing that you find a purpose, a meaning, and a realisation of our infinite potential to change and adapt for the better. You realise that you have to follow your own path and find your own beauty - the beauty that surrounds you, but more importantly, the beauty within you. The journey is not one that leads to instant answers or instant improvements, but one that allows you to be aware of what was always there if you had only taken the time to stop and look. It becomes a journey of self-revelation and self-realisation rather than of self-creation.

You already are everything you need or want to be, you already have the potential to do anything and create anything, you simply have to learn how to reveal those things to yourself. And much like the artist gives themselves over entirely to their art, you have to give yourself over to experiencing the moment just as it is. It is for that reason I constantly talk about dressing to a sense of feeling in the moment, rather than dressing to create some sense of an image. Buy and wear what feels personal to you, what feels beautiful to you, what suits your body, what suits your life. It is a radically simple idea, but one that can admittedly be incredibly frightening to follow. That being said, let me tell you, it is pretty damn liberating once you do.



  1. You never fail to enlighten and engage me with your posts, I'm very drawn to the way you assimilate fashion with life and its innate principles. I always end up seeing things in a different light after reading your words, so thankyou for that! Hope you are having a delightful day. X

  2. So beautiful and so new as always. Make me happy.