|Roksanda Ilincic, Autumn/Winter 2014|
It was a natural answer for me. As an educated person who adores and abhors a lot of ‘the industry’ as I know it, I feel extremely conflicted about everything from fur to feminism when it comes to fashion. It’s a sentiment that has written about by a ton of my favourite writers, and I’ll put links for ‘further reading’ at the bottom of this post. Most deal with ‘gender issues’, but that’s really only scratching the surface of fashion’s problems. I only have to say ‘anorexia’, ‘Rana Plaza’, ‘nepotism’, and ‘unpaid intern’ to quite neatly encapsulate the dark side of fashion that the industry itself hardly talks about.
For example, when I read that Christopher Kane is using a lot of fur in his latest season, I wasn’t sure how to feel. The designs are as on-point as ever, and my eyes are pleased with what they’re seeing. But there’s an uneasiness that sits alongside my admiration. Is Mr Kane a heartless beast that mercilessly skins mink in order to make some moolah? Who is he trying to appeal to? Won’t that rule out the 95% of British women who would refuse to wear real fur? Or is he appealing to another market, one that doesn’t spend so long fawning on Facebook over the latest cute and furry craze? What does it all mean?
I need to start curbing myself now, because I could quite easily discuss this at length for many more paragraphs/theses/whole books. ‘A Fur Coat Lasts Longer Than a Steak’, and ‘How to Wear Guilt’ are just a couple of possible chapter titles. In the end, I’m not militant enough to start hating/boycotting/decrying designers who use fur. I want Céline to start using more models that aren’t white, but it doesn’t mean I’d judge someone for buying into the brand. I want there to be a larger size/age-range of girls on the catwalk, but I also understand that this isn’t possible for designers who need to run a business. So many things come into play, and there are countless debates to be had about everything from the patriarchal pain harbinger of the high-heel, to the cultural appropriation of tribal prints. Fashion and morals aren’t happy bedfellows and never have been, and even writing this down is tying my brain/conscience into a hideously untrendy knot.
The fashion industry is, quite simply, a nightmare. A minefield. A particularly glamourous circle of hell. But why wouldn’t I care what I and other people wear? It’s something that infiltrates every aspect of life; it’s an industry worth billions, it’s the reason for countless jobs. On a more personal level, it is an extension of personality, of taste, of culture. It is identity in its most obvious form. From the speech that Miranda Priestly gives in The Devil Wears Prada (Sorry! Best version I could find) to Hadley Freeman’s article on Prada and football, fashion clearly, undoubtedly matters. What matters even more is that we consider its implications, and try to minimise the damage that the industry can cause.
Regardless that my conscience might be all over the place, I’m about to embark on a real career in one of the most controversial industries in the world (in case you were wondering, I got the job!). So it’s something that's constantly on my mind, and there are plenty of fashion issues I need to reconcile with myself, or at least try to. In the end, for all its flaws, fashion is something I find utterly irresistible. And I’ll end this with perhaps the best quote I’ve ever read, courtesy of Vanessa Friedman’s departing article for The Financial Times: ‘Why does fashion matter? The world is not run by naked people.’