fashion isn’t fair

I am lucky that so many of my fashion friends are smart people with a strong sense of justice. It makes for some truly wonderful conversations that often end, plaintively, with variations on this lament:

It just isn’t fair. It should be fair!

Somehow I find it both endearing and full of pathos, that such sharp minded people repeatedly bash their beautiful brains on fashion’s hardest lesson. Fashion isn’t fair, it doesn’t care, and it never ever will be fair. There is nothing more frustrating to a bright mind than something that defies sense – which may be why the challenge of understanding fashion seems to transfix so many smart people.

Fashion is not a democracy.

All the phony rhetoric about how fashion blogs and fast fashion have “democratized” fashion doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Sure, anyone with internet access can start a blog. But that’s where the level playing field ends. The idea that anyone can be a fashion blogger is a myth – it takes a very specific set of skills and a certain set of advantages. It would seem fair to assess a blog by the numbers, as if every hit was a vote, but in practice that is a terrible way to measure a blogger’s worth… not that there is any viable alternative system.

The fast fashion system, just like the old fashion system, is based on exploitation, not equality. We can buy a top for £10, which was made by someone who would have to work a month to be able to afford such extravagance. And yet, the system is a vast improvement for many, considering that fashion used to be feudal, and only accessible to royals by birth.

Democracy is another one of those things which seems good but I have a hard time understanding. Maybe it does have some things in common with fashion, but they are definitely not the same thing.

Fashion does not reward hard work and intelligence.

For smart kids who did well in school, this statement is incredibly hard to swallow. Hard work and smarts can’t hurt you in fashion – in fact, like most endeavours, hard work and smarts go a long way. However they are no guarantee of any reward. In school, if you work hard and you’re smart, and you don’t party hard, you get an A. In fashion, if you work hard and you’re smart, you will probably be awfully frustrated when you see how many people seem to achieve success and esteem without ever demonstrating an offending sense of intelligence, simply attending parties, with no greater effort than considering what they will wear.

In fashion, “trying hard” is so pejorative, that most working fashion people work on appearing “effortless”, and those who have figured out how to avoid the effort somehow end up making the smart kids look kind of stupid.

Fashion only does favours for the young, rich and beautiful.

If you are not young (that is, over the age of 15), rich (you don’t have to ever think about money) and beautiful (okay, THIN and beautiful) you will find that fashion won’t come to you. If you’re getting cynical (and you probably should be by now), you might conclude at this point that if you don’t fit into the mould, you might as well give up on getting a fashion free lunch handed to you on a silver platter.

Funny old fashion, even though it puts forward an angular, affluent, adolescent face, is actually made up of an incredibly diverse cast. If you look at the leading powers of fashion, none of them fit any type of mould at all – they are intensely individual. The only thing they have in common… is that none of them are young. Perhaps fashion’s oligarchy favours youth because it is the only thing they cannot buy.

Should fashion be fair? Can it be?

Fashion is just like everything else in life: it can never be fair, even if it probably should be, and it is almost impossible to imagine how it could be. What do you think fair fashion would look like?

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9 thoughts on “fashion isn’t fair”

  1. Have you read Fashion Babylon? Democracy in fashion is an illusion. The idea that you get to “participate” is a false front. Lately, I feel anti-fashion. Vogue covers with pop stars make me cringe.

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