I recently received a copy of Dear Fashion through the post… a gorgeous little publication put together in The Netherlands which charts the adventures of some of the folk involved in a year of living without buying fashion, the Free Fashion Challenge. What follows below is my contribution to the journal – a prologue – a stage-setter for what is playfully shoehorned into the pages that follow. Dear Fashion is in essence a love letter to fashion, but one penned from different starting points and experiences. Read on…
“I love a vexing, thorny question. And perhaps there is no question in fashion today more troublesome – and overdue – than that of what fashion would be like outside an endless cycle of consumption. Let’s face it; our experience of fashion today is so dominated by buying stuff that it’s almost impossible to imagine fashion in any other format. Fashion is buying high street and high end. It is watching, shopping, purchasing. In the consumer society we organize our ideas about fashion around commerce and consumerism and end up becoming dependent on them. And yet this incessant cycle of consumption is not all that fashion is, was, or can be. We are, so to speak, shopping ourselves short. By elevating the power of what we buy to be the ultimate arbiter of fashion innovation; we are missing out on fashion’s other-than-market potential; on the multitude of fashion moments that flow from who we are, not from just from what we buy again and again. With consumerist fashion’s emphasis on looking from a distance, we are also straying even further from fashion’s original meaning – as a group activity of making and doing. And what is more, it seems that consumerism is creating an anachronistic form of fashion itself. For we know that fashion always reflects its context; and today its context includes sustainability. So when we see fashion as achievable only through ever-greater consumption; this blinkered ‘performance’ is quite simply, no longer fashion.
So much can be said about the detrimental effect of consumerist fashion on our society. Indeed these arguments need to be rehearsed and restated the world over: its contribution to the drawing down of resources and associated creation of waste; its promotion of short-term thinking and passive engagement with material goods; the psychological anxiety and stress linked to fashion’s instability, and so on. But what do we know about the effects of living without the consumer-based version of fashion? What experiences can we draw upon from other than this one-trick pony view of clothes-on-the-body? The answer begins to unfold inside the pages of this bookazine. With illustration, with words, with passion and a smile, so many possibilities are explored. Dear Fashion is an ode to what can be, to creation, expression, caring, repairing… so much more than consumerism’s ‘have it all’ culture.
I applaud all the Free Fashion Challenge volunteers who signed up to a year without shopping – you now have skills of the future, honed and perfected today. The ceaseless cycle of fashion consumption is ailing. Long live fashion.”