May 4, 2007
This is an idea I’ve been thinking about lately. My own design “style” has been on a steady track towards simpler, archetypal ideas… stripping the fashion away from clothing and trying to eliminate the temporal obsolescence traditionally built into fashion.
Now, I love fashion and love hanging out with fashion people but they don’t necessarily “get” my silly ideas. “People are looking for something new, something different,” I get told, despite the fact I am surrounded on the street with people wearing dull, expected clothing, or occasionally, bright and interesting clothing rehashed from some other decade.
Here’s a thought. The fashion-forward woman already has plenty of choice. She doesn’t need another designer competing for her jaded eye.
It seems to me that most people are overwhelmed by too much choice – and they don’t get served. I am constantly seeking clothing that will last me for many years, be versatile, simple, easy to care for, and above all functional. The criteria “new” and “different” are nowhere on my list of desirable attributes and I believe I am not the only one. I don’t need to be presented with a zillion different options because I’ve already made my choice, it is singular, it is obvious, and it ought to be available.
“The fashion business runs on novelty,” I am told and I won’t dispute that. The ebb and flow of (relative) novelty produces the trends that live and die in such fascinating succession. As I said earlier the designs I am envisioning are not fashion.
“Will people buy it?” is the hundred thousand dollar question. The very idea of a line of timeless archetypes suggests the opposite kind of sales pattern than the fast fashion we have become used to. Instead of constant, implusive consumption, the choice to purchase archetypal designs would be extremely deliberate and infrequent, as my own shopping patterns are.
In fact, if I was to produce such a line I would want to discourage overconsumption. I would limit the availability, focus entirely on fit and quality so purchases could be staggered by five or ten years instead of a few weeks.
I don’t blame fashion people for finding my ideas mystifying because I am purposefully slaughtering some of fashion’s sacred cows. The seasonal treadmill fashion runs on demands consumption, obsolescence, novelty, change, and always progress and growth.
How did I become interested in these ideas?
When I try to look into the future as a fashionophile, I don’t see this treadmill leading anywhere. In fact, I can’t help but feel as technology complexifies, turnover times shrink, and trends become tired before they even hit the shop windows, that we are about to enter the unthinkable – a regressive age.
In the near future it is apparent that we will have less resources, less mobility, less productivity and less choice. No one wants to admit that we are entering an age of regression. We want this amazing golden age to continue along its path of exponential growth and we ignore the ceiling of limitation – namely the finite resources of the Earth.
Some well-meaning activists suggest that if we make “better” choices in aggregate the eventuality of reversed progress can be slowed or even avoided but these exhortations don’t fill me with hope. They still rely on the idea of improved technology whose development is deceptively resource heavy, or the green consumer movement, a contradiction of terms which only gets more complicated the closer it gets examined.
As I ride my train of thought into darkness I find myself becoming comfortable with belonging to a generation that will see the age of regression finally arrive. I am divesting myself of the cultural assumptions that progress and improvement are desireable.
The late Kurt Vonnegut said “don’t spoil the party” and I live by those words. I savour the freedom I have, the incredible abundance of choices available to me, and the joy I derive from technology as the accidental privileges of birth that they are. But in my mind I am preparing myself for the next step.
Part of that is embracing the ideas of regression, scarcity and simplification.
It is only natural that I would adapt these ideas to my fascination with trends in fashion or clothing. Whether these ideas apply while the party is ongoing is open for debate.