Is "Newness" Over-Rated?
I love this feature in On The Rocks magazine because I was asked to bring in some jewelry I already owned and along with other fascinating women was asked to explore my relationship with jewelry. I realize what I love about it is that the stylist and photographer used something that was not new, my jewelry, as a way to present me in a new and interesting way. This got me to think more about the notion of “new” and why there seems to be such an obsession with it in fashion.
In every article I read about the business of fashion, there is the idea that there must be a constant flow of “new”. From the turn away from mass market retailers and move to experiential retail, direct to consumer business models or capsule collections and “drops”, these market moves are all designed to allow for fast and flexible movement in the service of producing something new, next and special. Brands have been told innovate or die and consequently we see a rapid turnover of creative directors, frenzied and expansive fashion calendars and consequent damage to emotional and creative health. To me, “new” is becoming irrelevant because it is still conforming without thought and thus all “new” begins to look alike.
Sadly we have recently lost one man who did everything in his own time and in his own way, Azzedine Alaïa, He remains an example to us all that we do not have to conform and that creativity in fashion is collaborative, experiential and can be slow (and in his case involves preparing sumptuous, hours long, meals for your friends). He understood that to fully digest, a concept or a plate of food, takes time. He surrounded himself with young people, supported them and he collected vintage couture for inspiration. He worked on his own clock and calendar, defied every “rule” in fashion, appreciated the importance of intimacy as a significant part of the presentation of new. He appreciated the value of the “old” when innovating for new and next. The tributes from his many devoted friends attest to his continued relevance in the fashion world, despite his refusal to play the game. He was in some ways like a very wise parent knowing that sometimes what your children want is not always what they really need. It has been my experience in life that setting a limit, when done in a caring way can make the person you are setting it with self-reflective and allows them to self-correct. The way Azzedine Alaïa, lived and worked is a good template for thriving in a world that is overfeeding us with “new”.
I have benefited greatly in just two short weeks from my re-set and it has helped me to press pause and continue to question is what I want really what I need? Do I want to be held captive by others telling me what I should want? As I kept getting email after email and looked at post after post about Black Friday and Cyber Monday I felt almost nauseous, like I had overeaten and spent too much time at the Thanksgiving desert table (which I did not BTW because my healthy eating survived Thanksgiving). I made a decision to not shop during this time. Rather I spent some of the time re-looking at all the clothes and jewelry I already own, gifts I have yet to feature and thought about how I could make them new and exciting. Does this mean I am not going to shop? Of course not. But it means I will be thoughtful about the kind of experiences I want when I am doing so. I want time and opportunity to engage with the people I will be meeting and I will continue to ask myself my three questions. I will maintain a balanced, sustainable diet best shared with friends in beautiful spaces. I suspect I will feel newer than new, more unique and innovative than ever and more “next” than I could ever imagine.
What do you do to re(new)?