We Need To Keep Talking “Style”: Part 1
What I admire about this quote and this designer is that St. Laurent was challenging the very system that made him famous and was saying that style is situated within an individual and transcends time because of that. Style travels in a body that is uniquely yours. Fashion is a body dressed by others to convey a certain time. They are not mutually exclusive. Together they allow us to create masterpieces of identity.
I continue to receive comments and emails from women asking me to tell them how to dress and what to wear if they are a certain height, or have a particular hair color or have undergone a certain life experience. Women lament that they cannot dress like me because they cannot afford the clothes I wear. I have been asked to appear on at least two national talk shows that would involve me giving someone style make-overs. There are such a volume of these sorts of questions, requests and comments that I can think of numerous “products and experiences” I could create and monetize that would meet this demand.
For me however, style is so profoundly part of my own aesthetic judgement that it is impossible for me to know what to tell, or to tell anyone else what to wear. Garments become materials some with a high price tag, and others not at all, with which I create. My style becomes an unmistakable expression of who I am at any given time and place in history and my access to the raw materials I need to create and express my unique identity. I feel that I would be negating someone’s individuality to engage with these requests and thus upend my project for real, meaningful and actionable inclusion.
Being the academic that I am, after a brief research review I have come to understand there is not a real operational definition of “style” when it comes to evaluating fashion design, production or consumer choices. But there is indeed a tension: style can be seen as a set of descriptive rules (what to wear if…) or as a unique expression that allows someone to stand out (who are you and then what to wear). This means for me that style is uniquely tied to personal identity and inclusion. So the first question relevant to style is who are you, and since we are talking specifically about fashion, in my view also about aspiration, the second is; who do you wish to be?
So my challenge now is how to get people to turn in and look into the mirror first and before, they chose clothes instead of after, when that mirror that will be filled with projections of all kinds of judgements, rules and prescriptions. What kinds of experiences can I design to make this happen so that consumption becomes not a passive response but an active choice?
How would you answer my questions and what experiences do you think might create this transition?