While doing the rounds of the internet recently, I came across two very good articles about fashion. The first was by the inimitable Suzy Menkes in her piece “The Circus of Fashion” for the New York Times T Magazine. Menkes casts a critical eye over the spectacle of the fashion industry commentariat. “The fuss around the shows now seems as important as what goes on inside the carefully guarded tents….the fashion world, the celebrity circus of people who are famous for being famous…are known mainly by their Facebook pages, their blogs and the fact that the street photographer Scott Schuman has immortalized them on his Sartorialist Web site”, states Menkes.
If fashion is for everyone, is it fashion? The answer goes far beyond the collections and relates to the speed of fast fashion. There is no longer a time gap between when a small segment of fashion-conscious people pick up a trend and when it is all over the sidewalks.
Fashion has to some extent become mob rule — or, at least, a survival of the most popular in a melee of crowdsourcing. The original “Project Runway,” a television show that chose participants with at least a basic knowledge of fashion, has been followed worldwide by “American Idol”-style initiatives, in which a public vote selects the fashion winner. Who needs to graduate from Central Saint Martins in London or New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology when a homemade outfit can go viral on YouTube with millions of hits?
Playing King Canute and trying to hold back the wave of digital fashion stuff is doomed for failure. But something has been lost in a world where the survival of the gaudiest is a new kind of dress parade.
There is no denying the massive influence art has had on fashion over the years. From inspired ideas and almost blatant plagiarism to direct collaborations and capsule collections, the relationship between art and fashion has grown exponentially ever since Dali and Schiaparelli’s famous Lobster Dress in 1937.
Now more than ever, modern art can be seen in current fashion trends across high street stores and designer menswear collections, exquisitely composed on a human-shaped canvas. The inclusion of limited edition pieces in numerous campaigns adds a unique feel synonymous with a work of art, as does the individually numbered items that labels such as Common Projects now often offer.
It is not only modern art’s painters that have influenced men’s fashion, the extensive use of iconic photography on t-shirts and the sculptural shapes in sportswear and athletic clothing collections have also helped mould the identity of menswear in recent years.
Some nice food for thought there.