I love fashion. It’s one of the only things that seems real anymore.
I’ve become more and more interested in it lately, and I think it’s because fashion is a form of populist media, maybe one of the last forms, that flies in the face of clickbait ethics.
It’s constructed in exactly the opposite way as bullshit content marketing. You don’t pump out lots of cheap content to make a big sell, with buzz primary and aesthetics secondary. Instead, you create a very big vision, spend lots on a couture show, create an inspiring storefront, just to sell fragrances and other small, high-margin items. That’s where you make your money, and those things contain the essence of the brand, the experience.
Instead of spreading the energy out and focusing on desperate, bland marketing for a generic product, you’re focusing all the energy in once place, to create an extraordinary moment. And then that moment fuels a million dreams.
Because of this the vision, the feeling, matters very much in fashion, and this is what inspires me, this is the part of the equation I care about. Not just the moving units but the feeling participating in the whole brand creates in people.
In technology, we take for granted that a product should be excellent, should be inspiring, should feel useful. But in art and culture, we have a very fractured understanding of how to make something “good”. We see art-making as very separate from branding. We think the important and meaningful things we make won’t penetrate the market, because in order to penetrate the market, we believe you have to communicate in “crappy” ways.
We don’t understand how we “use” art every day, how our experience is changed by culture. We see it as ancillary even while consuming countless hours of art per day in the form of music, video, photographs, food, on and on.
But style changes how we feel. Style changes how we think. Style changes how we experience the world. And fashion is entirely style, it’s a laboratory of functional style, it’s style’s densest concentration.
Fashion is a place where style still matters, where aesthetic decisions matter very much, where those are the realm of competition. You can’t SEO optimize a dress. It just has to be a fantastic fucking dress. You sink the shot or you don’t. This is as real as it gets.
Here, I’m not just talking about “high” fashion. The most innovative contemporary designers draw inspiration from streetwear. The kids always drive the market. Nothing is as thirsty for novelty as fashion. This can lead to appropriation, and you need capital to get in the game — it, like everything else, is lashed to the architecture of privilege. But legacy advantage always becomes meaningless over time in fashion, unless you keep moving — because we all want new ways to dream.
You can hate this, you can decry it as consumeristic or frivolous bullshit, but the thing is, it doesn’t really matter. Fashion will continue. This is in our blood. It is intertwined with our day-to-day existence. We seek novelty. We care about being inspired, and experiences of style affect our emotions. When we make these choices they change us.
Human beings create things we don’t need, we explore emotions and ways of being beyond survival, when we have the resources to. This is the unique glory of human civilization, and style is the language we use to describe that glory, to violate it, and to experience it. Fashion is aspiration beyond biology, the urge to live and to experience distilled to its purest form, all inside the utility of a wearable object.
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