I must confess I have been a little uninspired lately. It has become my daily habit to review a number of fashion oriented web platforms for the purpose of staying in touch, finding interesting articles for my fashion bibliography and well frankly to get inspiration. What has become somewhat disconcerting is that most of what is written is about how to make money or conversely how to not fade away and die (like department stores). There is a frenzied kind of desperateness that drains every ounce of creativity out of the sphere. In some ways engaging with this content has been contributing to making me feel a little desperate too. But problematically when one is too engaged with these sorts of thoughts there is no room left for inspiration to come into your brain and plant some new seeds. What gets planted instead is obsession.
There was one article I read this week, by a writer I admire, Lauren Sherman, that made me quite sad. Discussing the problems being experienced by the retailer J. Crew, she suggests that the demise of “middle of the road” brands like J. Crew, Gap, Banana Republic and Sears, parallels the disappearance of middle class households. Most choices are fast, discount or very basic fashion (think H & M and Uniqlo) or very expensive and high end (Gucci). Sort of like the rich and the poor. There is no more in-between. The word luxury appears in every title. Despite consumer gains made through the accessibility of social media, there is the potential for the loss of democracy. Fashion, despite its new mantra about inclusion, is forgetting about the one category that always seems to matter and always gets ignored (and this is not exclusive to fashion right now): income and social class.
One of my talents in life, thanks to a very odd sort of upbringing, is that I have always been able to seamlessly cross class. My mother came from a highly educated and wealthy set of parents while my dad came from a family that did not complete high school and was solidly working class. I embarked on a path that included highly educated, but chose a profession that kept me in the ranks of a class somewhere in-between that of my grandparents. I moved back and forth between these two worlds throughout my entire childhood and in many ways still do. I suppose in this way I am honoring all of my DNA, I must admit that in the photo I posted today I am wearing an expensive coat like the plaid one with a velvet collar my maternal grandmother bought me in Saks when I was 7. Kind of ruined me when it came to coats after that. My first purchase at age 16 when I got my first paycheck from working in a grocery store was a camel’s hair Villager coat. In my lovely bag in this photo, is a very worn, but butter soft leather wallet I have had for a very long time. I also bought my brothers ice cream and candy with the leftover paycheck money.
Being exposed to extremes also allowed me to become very creative and pragmatic in making way more with less. I think it is why and how I developed my own personal style. In some ways, I think this may explain why I have such a widely diverse set of followers. An editor once said to me during an interview, “You are aspirational but you are also accessible.” This is why brands like H & M despite issues with sustainability, remain so popular: they too are aspirational yet allow many people who do not have a hefty income to love, participate in, and enjoy “fashion”. H & M allowed everyone to have something Margiela, Rei Kawakubo, Kenzo or Erdem. That is why there needs to be more inclusive aspirational choices and inspirations. There is a need to preserve democracy in fashion.
There are some brands that seem to understand what democracy may mean in fashion. An American brand that is a proud sponsor of democracy is Calvin Klein. Selling a very aspirational (and expensive) collection, 205W39NYC, in its Madison Avenue store, it also sells underwear and jeans on Amazon. A young Chinese designer I have met, Momo Wang, has developed an entire brand around the memories and secrets that girls share called, Museum of Friendship. Her WeChat shop offers earrings and other objects that any girl can afford alongside her higher end collections that evidence her privileged Central St. Martins training. These are the brands that allow all of us to play in some small way in a fashion that is democratic and truly inclusive. So today, on this day before Thanksgiving, I remain grateful to my grandparents for the experiences that they provided that allow me today to move from desperate to inspired. They have been instrumental in helping me to create this new life that I am very much enjoying and started with literally nothing but a website, a phone, a closet full of consignment and a very supportive partner who happens to be a good photographer.
Who or what are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?