original thoughts

One thing I’ve noticed when debating fashion (which we love to do), is how often the point of contention turns on whether a collection is original, or unoriginal. Fashion is a funny place to look for authenticity yet we value it highly all the same.

As someone who has read almost all the fashion books in the library, I get confused when I see the word “original” tossed upon things that are not particularly novel. What is original?

Original has so many different connotations in fashion.
Christian Dior's New Look 1947
Original as in Couture Original. Paris Original used to be a very common term back when the world’s creative design came from Paris only and everything else was a blatent copy and advertised as such. Yet the ideas of the oh-so-novel “New Look” themselves aren’t particularly original – corsets, this is new? It was a Second Empire revival, which was a revival of the Baroque… and so on. So “Original” in this sense seems mostly a marketing thing – which is what couture is supposed to be about.

By the way when you google Couture Original the top spot is Juicy Couture. It’s no wonder these words are so alarmingly misunderstood.

Then there is Original as in…

The Original?

Original in the sense that a garment truly is a novel idea – in this case, an indigo-dyed denim 5 pocket jean with rivets attached for strength. Now how novel was it truly – who knows, but Levi Strauss was a savvy marketer and is now forever remembered as the originator of all the denim we wear today.

I like to think of this type of original also being archetypal – a basic piece of clothing from which variations are made to adapt to current fashion, yet the original remains a timeless classic in the true sense.

Then there is Original in the legal sense – in fashion the word original is also a legal word. Counterfeit Chic can tell you more than I can.

Then there is original in the artistic sense. Fashion designer as artist may consider their work to be an expression from their soul and therefore as unique as a fingerprint.

At the brunch we touched on the topic of addiction to novelty, and it makes sense that among the fashionable the word original can be so loaded with meaning. The problem is that is has been overused to the point of meaninglessness.

The heavy weight of the term means that it is often used to dismiss other meaningful aspects of good design which improve upon the existing knowledge, rather than merely claiming novelty. I don’t understand why “derivative” is a slur in fashion when it should be a tribute.

Personally, I am not interested in originality in fashion. To my thinking the success of a given fashion has more to do with timing than novelty. What do you think?

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5 thoughts on “original thoughts”

  1. Hello!
    ah-um. Someone noticed that I haven’t been taking the time to read the blog….so here I am, devoting my lunch time to it. (go ahead and send those brownie points my way, please!)

    Originality is a waste of time for a fashion designer. If you want to be original….be an artist plain and simple. The bottom line as I see it is that no one really wants to wear anything really “original”. People who stray from conventional clothing get stares, and unless you are doing some kind of cry for help or something, that’s just not what anyone wants.

    The best a designer can do is an evolution of an existing garment. Shirt, skirt, pants, coat, dress….what else can there be….dickies? Someone who was trying to be “original”, I’m sure. Who came up with that anyway. We’ve already got the basics covered here people!

    Designers are successful when they create things that make it relavant, make it useful, make it comfortable, make it beautiful and use a process of development and production that makes sense for this world.

    When I go shopping, I ask myself “does it look good?”, “is the price right?”, “will it last well?”, “did the production hurt anyone?”. I’ve never asked myself “is it an original idea”. From what I see on the street, I’m not the only one.


  2. ur amazing..
    ur works are amazing..there i said it again.
    i think ull be huge one day..or soon

    I’m a fashion student too in Melbourne, so I can totally relate to ur blog n the whole paradigm on being a fashion student striving…surviving…no social-life…being lonely (maybe ur not)…
    well all the best on for ur future..


  3. Hey Sarah! Gold stars for you and not just for reading the blog but for posting content-rich comments – I liked this bit:

    “Designers are successful when they create things that make it relavant, make it useful, make it comfortable, make it beautiful and use a process of development and production that makes sense for this world.”

    Emmelyn – thanks for visiting. I haven’t been a fashion student for a year now but I definitely identify. For me, fashion is my social life =) Thank you for the nice words and best wishes, and same to you on your journey!

  4. Hmmm, sounds like a discussion that could be had about contemporary art. I don’t know enough about fashion but, what I say about art is that it doesn’t matter that it’s been done before, it’s how you do it.

    Sure, Juicy can be original…the original load of crap that spawned countless copies of inane leisure wear with lettering across the ass.

    Thanks for the brunch invite! I will have to politely decline. Obviously you are a pro. I would feel silly with you all. I know squat about fashion. I just like getting dressed.

    I’m going to keep reading your blog I love your thoughfulness on fashion. I’ll be linking you!

  5. S. – Obviously I am a pro? As if!

    I’m just a fashion blogger in Toronto too – that’s all the qualification you need to come to the Brunch. I mean, I know squat about styling – I hate getting dressed. But I’m still allowed to come to brunch =) we’re a very welcoming bunch, us TFBBers.

    If your anonymity is an issue you never have to tell us your real name =)

    Check out past brunches and pics of us in the archives –

    And reconsider please! I’d love to meet you.

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