For some reason it has been hard to find something that catches my eye during fashion month. I might like a look or two from a collection but I begin to wonder if the props and sets are starting to be more important than the clothes as a way for designers to tell cultural stories? There were more articles about Gucci’s shrunken heads and operating room set than there were descriptions of the clothes, which the designer also put thought into. There were drones that carried handbags, and a virtual influencer avatar who is insanely popular on instagram taking selfies. Futuristic visions of women’s utopias where they take over the streets at night or become hyper glamorous robots were a response to recent events concerning women such as “me too”. Suggested as a form of virtual, futuristic escapism, because our present is too difficult to face or bear, this veering away from reality might be a momentary distraction. To me it trivializes the enormous role and impact fashion can have right now as a driver of change. The issue remains that a great deal of work needs to be done to get us to a real, and not virtual, women’s utopia. In other words the Drone needs to land and come back to earth for a dose of real before it can fly again and take the next set of photos.
That being said I am drawn to clothes right now that are comfortable, utilitarian and look like the women who are wearing them are ready to get to work. I have been thinking oversized coats, I saw a few in Milan, with big pockets so we are not encumbered by having to carry bags. I am thinking interestingly shaped knits that also keep us warm. I am thinking basics that can be stamped after purchase with a woman’s unique positionality in places where there are no categories or labels except for the ones we create for ourselves. For me the interesting question for designers is not what kinds of clothes should we be wearing to escape reality, but rather what kinds of clothes need to be created for us that will move and inspire us to take action to change it.
As we celebrate International Woman’s Day this week I will be joining conversations about how fashion can be used to empower women through aesthetics and economics. In my view for “me too” to move beyond a marketing tool or social media hashtag there needs to be significant work being done to promote women’s economic stability. This will go a long way towards protecting women on many levels. It is not enough to show pictures of strong women, we have to give them some economic muscle and bones. Social Media is an exceptionally important tool for change and we should be thinking about how to use the more productive aspects of it to communicate and engage but then come back to real so real people can take actions in response.
This week I will be working on a project that was completely fueled by creativity, collaboration and support. A project that a group of men and women participated in simply because it was important, interesting, fun and a way to support each others desire to be expressive and creative. Put together by the designer and I interweaving a web of relationships we each brought to the table, the project creates a product but also enlarges the circle as new relationships are formed by the end of the day. These sorts of collaborations within fashion can be the basis for change. Stay tuned to hear and see more.
As I continue to work through my design concept, I see something beginning to emerge from the abandoned spaces. I see clothes for these people, clothes that let them freely move both together and apart, that keep them warm and protected and can conceal identity and reveal it almost at the same time. Clothes that allow for building something that rises from ruins. I will ask myself the very question I posed to other designers. My fingers are itching to get beyond an afternoon fumbling around to just figure out thread tension! This too takes work and I don’t yet have a robot programmed to do it for me.
After viewing Fashion Month, what do you want to say to fashion designers?