This observation by Gandhi is probably more valid now than when he originally made it. For example, half of us currently live on but a few dollars a day (according to 2007's UN Human Development Report) and at least 1 billion of us are faced with drinking-water scarcity. Water consumption is one of the fashion industry's anti-superpowers: the textile industry is one of the Top 5 consumers of water (just behind paper and oil), in particular, cotton crops - over 90% of which is for use in textiles. "I don’t believe in luxury for luxury’s sake," notes fashion "artist" Andre Walker. "I think it’s a farce and a lie and a joke and boring."
Walker is of the mind that fashion's "infrastructures" have decayed and eroded over the past few decades. "We need to revisit how clothing is manufactured, how fabrics are made and what kinds of materials are used," he continues. "In my opinion, a lot of the top luxury brands are not really making luxury goods. I can’t look at plastic shoes that cost $3,000 and call that luxury."
from left: Geoffrey Beene designs from 1995 (Andrew Eccles), 2004 (Jack Deutsch) & 1995 (Hiro) via GeoffreyBeene.com
Interestingly, Walker doesn't blame the designers but us, fashion's consumers, adding: "Consumption is the new servitude." But is that true? I actually disagree and think Steve Jobs had it right: "People don't know what they want until you show it to them." Which of course brings up the question of what is being shown to them. "If there's a group of boys doing something mediocre, but they're really cute and trendy, then they'll win a $200,000 award," observes Paper cofounder, editor, and publisher Kim Hastreiter, who also penned Geoffrey Beene: An American Fashion Rebel (Assouline). "There are so many great designers," she continues, "but because they're not new or young or sexy, they are really not given the time of day."
Part of the blame is, of course, the fact we're drowning in a so-five-minutes-ago sea of fast fashion, which dilutes the quality-to-crap ratio; at the same time, we're dying of thirst for style with some substance. "I feel like fashion has started to mimic the finance world, it’s starting to mimic the grandeur of that bubble," continues Walker. "Does fashion really need to correlate with the speed with which we access information?"
I would argue no, fashion should not correlate even remotely with the speed of information. The main reason obviously being the strain on resources and the massive carbon footprint that the fashion industry godzilla leaves in its wake. Then there's the human cost of fashion: it's a multi-billion dollar business produced by people - many in inacceptable sweatshop conditions worthy of a Dickins novel.
(images - top: 1984 & bottom: 1996 (both Jack Deutsch) via GeoffreyBeene.com)
One way people are attempting to unearth and promote creativity is by honoring it where it already exists. Take Geoffrey Beene. This American designer (1924 - 2007) was an icon in his day, a winner of numerous top fashion-industry awards and launcher of careers including Doori Chung and Lanvin's Alber Elbaz. "Mr. Beene followed his own path," note the husband/wife team of Russell Peacock and Connie Hanson who shoot as the single-named Guzman (and shot the striking images at top & left). "He was idiosyncratic: a minimalist with a fondness for lace and polka dots. He loved the challenge of combining luxurious materials with more humble, unpretentious ones not unlike his uptown/downtown sources of inspiration...It’s this balancing act, perhaps, that could be our definition of chic: Style, but with a splash of incongruity."
For more on Geoffrey Beene, be sure to visit GeoffreyBeene.com.
- Lesley Scott