“Don’t take this the wrong way but… why would you ever choose fashion as your future? Doesn’t the F stand for futility if you see what I mean ?”
To anyone having ever exposed their career and study plan in the fashion, art or even cultural industry as a whole, this blessing of a question should sound familiar. Each of the rare but painful times I get asked this, a burning desire increases within me to retort calmly:
“Oh no, you’re absolutely right! Uhm well, I’m not really planning on actually working and seeing my worryingly low IQ and the close to zero interest I have in anything other than the color of my nail polish, I figured heading for fashion was a good idea.”
To what one would call an “artistic mind”, this question or rather the judgement behind it remains confusing. Thanks to my mother’s courage ( necessary to endure my consecutive “pirate” phase followed by the “gangsta jumper” phase back in 2011) and love of fashion, from a rather young age I had the freedom to explore different ways of expressing myself through my clothing.
It’s not hard to realise how important fashion is to teenagers, who are by definition, adults in formation. Just take a look in the corridors of your school : we all try to express something through the way we dress, whether it is by following a well-defined trend, something we can hold on to, that seems to define us as growing individuals or by sometimes trying out daring outfits in order to explore new personalities.
Growing up, fashion isn’t only a way to express yourself; it is a way of understanding who you are and where you stand in the confusing jungle of society. I have written several times about the importance of fashion and the arts but never entirely dissected the reason behind the disdain one can encounter when speaking of an artistic career. Let’s try to pin it down, shall we?
For decades (rather than centuries, as is commonly thought), artists have been portrayed as raggamuffins on the verge of starvation, incapable of caring for anything other than their art. An artist is so completely out of this world that giving them responsibilities would be like electing Donald Trump President: an utter joke. However, the artistic ability, or manual expertise attributed to artists, designers and writers often saves them from total exclusion: their talent is considered their personality in itself and can account for anything and everything. By virtue of it, artists will always be spoken of with tender condescendance. As for fashion designers and theorists, the idea of spending a life focused on attires and other accessories, perceived by the masses as futilities, appears as a whole to be a frivolous activity that only accounts for lack of intelligence.
However, clichés often root themselves in some extent of truth, and the image of the self-obsessed Barbie/Ken whose Instagram bio proudly boasts “ fashion blogger” when their work actually consists of captioning photos of themselves, does not help the fashion industry find legitimacy in the eyes of the masses. This could be compared to the work of some contemporary artists, which does not seem to reveal any real message or demonstrate particular artistic techniques ( if you'd like a specific example of this, check my column from a few weeks ago, entitled "Where art thou".Yes, I am a fine self-publicist).
But, when people are asked to explain the reason behind their opinion that arts and fashion aren't really relevant or shouldn't be considered as actual careers, their objection generally consists of: " Well, art isn't useful, and fashion is just about aesthetics, none of this is serious".
When this kind of comment is made, my first reaction is to think about the many taboos in our society that just prove the relevance of art and fashion. A woman wearing pants today is just as natural as a walk in the park, however, we do know that decades ago, this same person would have been imprisoned for just this. In such a way, fashion allowed one of History's major social issues, gender equality, to evolve, as it did for many others.
Whether it regards remembrance, religion, propaganda and fundamental freedom of speech, art has a central role in our lives.
The irony in the way some people view art and fashion is that, since these two domains are so central to our existence through publicity, communication, social issues, history, politics, are linked to scientific theories and proportions and basically represent the only thing purely linked to the expression of human emotion, their actual importance is forgotten. Like when one learns to speak or walk: they end up not questioning their movements anymore, as they become parts of them.
Art and Fashion are ever present in our lives, and if the world's economic and political system were to fall to shambles, the expression of feelings through paintings, sculptures, photographs, poems or attires would still exist outside of any lucrative considerations.
The sensibility and culture, as well as theoretical thinking required for any real study of the art world, are things that will never cease to fascinate me. I believe that astrophysicists, bankers, photographers and art historians, to cite a few examples, should be considered with the same level of respect, for their work each serves different purposes that all achieve the same goal: to help humankind evolve and thrive.
So, no, the F in Fashion doesn't stand for futility. It stands for fantastically, fabulously fierce.