Is Social Media Making Fashion Frivolous?
London Fashion Week arrived to our side of the pond on Friday, and being that it's genuinely one of my favourite weeks of the year, I thought it only right to have a little chat about fashion, it's place and it's representation with specific reference to social media....OK, that sounds a bit dissertation-y but essentially, I wanted to go into a bit more depth around fashion and the social space.
Last week's post was met with a huge amount of support of which I can't thank everyone who commented, tweeted and just took the time to read it, enough. The best thing about seeing such positive feedback surrounding a post like that is it really makes me want to write more, not only because y'all seem to have a genuine interest, but because I love to write, and knowing people may read it makes it all the more enjoyable.
So here we go, this is my attempt at making this a weekly thing.
So I previously mentioned my distain at the recent popularity in presenting (after a very strict curation process) a much more luxury version of one's daily lifestyle. Within this subject there's so many routes we could down, but there was one subject I was particularly keen to explore more closely this week, and that's the subject of fashion and frivolity.
Fashion is alway something that to a disinterested outsider, will always seem frivolous, and here and there of course it can be. As a fashion graduate however, (wanky reference I'm aware), to me, fashion is anything but frivolous.
When you start to look at fashion in more depth and it's place in society, the one thing you learn is the link fashion has with politics, sociology, psychology, economics; fashion is everywhere. Charting the development of the teenager in the 60s, women's liberation in the 70s, the obscenity of wealth & excess in the 80s and then back to basics in the 90s; fashion can demonstrate insight and give context when it comes to documenting social movements and bringing about change.
Now the point I want to pick up on in this post is the recent rise of branding, and coveting that must have item. Of course there's always items that gain more popularity than others and if someone was to hand me this particular Chloé bag followed by, 'it's on me sweetcheeks', I can't say I wouldn't gladly accept. But what I don't like about this kind of trend is how it encourages conformity rather than individual exploration of style and taste. (I know I keep referencing the Chloé brand, but this is purely because this seems to be the brand self appointed fashion bloggers have deemed the choice to define their taste with...think Daniella Westbrook in Burberry.)
What I always enjoyed about this area of the industry was the way in which everyday girls styled themselves. With the help of brands sometimes of course, but essentially, these girls just loved style and exploring and documenting their personal journey with it, it was an overall look, a silhouette or a mood that was being portrayed - totes inspirational right?
More recently however, just instagramming another vase of white tulips and this season's Givenchy, for me, I find less inspirational. Again, though beautiful to look at, this kind of mentality encourages not only conformity, but the illusion of social acceptance and the importance placed on how many likes you get and how this obviously represents your place on the platform. In a time when the documentation of style seems to hold so many possibilities, I feel like we're starting to go backwards, moving away from the stealth, self-styled fashion blogger to a much more obnoxious, overtly obvious promotion of branding, I can't help but make reference to what I like to call the 'lost era of fashion', the time of Von Dutch trucker caps, Juicy Couture tracksuits and Louis Vuitton bags a la Paris & Nicole. A time when branding replaced actual style, and it didn't really matter how you were wearing something, just as long as you were wearing it. To me this is lazy engagement with fashion. Personal style takes a back seat and becomes drowned out by the high pitched overtones of 'this is how much my outfit is worth', the 'I'm not really into fashion enough to find my own style and taste but it seems to be the thing to do and yours is popular so I'll emulate that'...just no babes.
What this represents aside from a disengaged view of fashion, is the importance of social media popularity as opposed to the desire to express your own aesthetic. The idea that fashion is there as a vehicle to elevate yourself as a superficial icon and the desperation to conform to the mainstream. In the words of Suzy Menkes*, 'People want something that proves who or what they are'.
*the linked article is well worth a read
At this point I feel like I must mention, I'm not trying to dictate who has the right to enjoy fashion and who doesn't, neither am I trying to make anyone take this industry more seriously than they want to. I'm also not implying that I'm the most original when it comes to presenting my taste on social media, I too strive toward that the goal of achieving the perfect clean feed, and go weak at the knees at the sight of the perfectly composed flat lay. But what I am trying to promote is the ability to see it as more than just the latest Chloé bag, because, P.S. there are more bag designers you know.
This industry can be fun and frivolous of course, but when really understood and taken seriously has the ability to be so much more for us as individuals as well as a creative force. Fashion doesn't have to be intimidating, it can often be the catalyst for the most prevalent social change. But the best thing about fashion, is you as the individual have the ability to dictate your participation. When you start to understand fashion and how it can work for you, it can in turn, help you understand yourself. This constant recycling of 'the perfect image' really stunts this pioneering community. Yes there are formulaic and perceived versions of what it is to become 'insta-famous' but this needs to stay out of priority, and communication and enjoyment needs to take the forefront. Rebrand your instagram by all means, but do it for your own satisfaction, not because you wish to be seen a certain way.
So I don't really have a conclusion or an answer to this post, I more just wanted to open up the channels for debate surrounding the subject, but one thing I do want to promote, is if you have an interest in fashion, start to educate yourself around it. The British Vogue youtube series, The Future of Fashion with Alexa Chung, is a great place to start if you wanted some nice Sunday viewing to start your more considered relationship with the industry.
What I'm calling for is to bring back some intelligence to fashion, step away from the obvious and embrace what you like as an individual.
Yes we can all be inspired but that's all it is; inspiration not immitation.