I had a largely fun filled childhood full of absolutely wonderful memories; I am truly a mama’s boy so the memories that stood out to me the most were the times I watched my mother put on all her finishing touches to her outfit ready for her nights out trying to get gain back her youth. She would place on every bracelet, necklace and shoe with all the precision, care and elegance as a gymnast on a high beam. Also Just as a gymnast would make sure that every step planted was well calculated and looked beautiful during the process of it, was in turn almost an exact reflection of how my mother always ensured that every last inch of her ensemble; maybe it be hat, accessories, shoes or dress born out of the time consuming, rigorous processes looked absolutely immaculate yet effortless. I saw her look at herself in the mirror, and watched her smile grow beyond measurement and a calm euphoria wash over her. It had taken close to 2 hours, but she had finally done it, for her looking back at herself dressed in a flowing black and gold infused ankle length dress, coupled with African accessories; necklaces, earnings and rings creating a true testament to merging of African flare and vibrancy with western elegance and sensibility, was like being Michelangelo stepping back from the sixteenth chapel for the first time and seeing it for its all slender magnificence for the first time. Growing up my mother was a firm believer in always choosing complementary colours, never mixing patterns and certainly never breaking the ten commandments of the fashion world, by no means should you ever break the number one rule by wearing double denim. But it was her attention to detail, and the great amount of care she put in every day to ensure that she looked her utter best when leaving the house, and the way she would be filled with so much confidence and self assuredness, that it almost seemed that she used to glide, and like fire flies to a month every one captivated by her. So naturally from those moments that were the crowning jewels of my childhood, I was soon compelled to immolate my mother in some part in all her glory. So starting my long, joy filled love affair with fashion.
My mother was an artist and her outfits were her masterpieces. From that realisation it suddenly dawned on me the magic affect that fashion can have on all of us, on the surface it may appear to be a superficial indulgent waste of time, after all they are just clothes; but aren’t Shakespeare plays just words on paper, wasn’t Mozart music just noise, wasn’t Monnet work merely paint on a canvas. True on the surface fashion is just about clothes, but if you take the time and care to delve just a little under the surface you unlock the door to an enchanting secret world full of such beauty, its likes stepping into Eden and Atlantis at exactly the same time. From a peace necklace being worn around the neck of a hippie in the 60’s, the famous black Versace dress adorned by Elisabeth Hurley, too the leather jacket the rebellious youth of the 50’s; Fashion has the ability to influence change, capture the zeitgeist of an entire generation, launch career, but most importantly it has the ability to give the freedom to express ourselves, our likes, attitudes and ideologies about who we are and the world around us.
Its 10.28 on a Saturday morning, I’m standing outside a chic little bohemian gem, with crumbling walls, faded signs and chipped wood window frames and doors, but in spite of its imperfections it remains all that more enticing, the exterior is merely the door to a treasure chest and time machine fused into one. I don’t know what it is about even the mere thought of vintage, that just gets your heart pounding and pulse quickening, it really is like going on a scavenger hunt, looking for the holy trinity a garment that looks good, is unique and most importantly fits you perfectly, but the size would have mattered only if I had paid more attention in my textiles class – damn it, I knew that would come back to haunt me! The clock strikes 10.30, me accompanied by my fellow vintage clothes enthusiasts, we descend into the shop with all the same ravenous hunger as a lion would readying himself for the kill. But as you look around at maxi dress from the 30’s, studded jean jackets from the 70’s, vintage stores almost appear to me like Noah’s ark saving and preserving all those fantastic pieces that have withheld the test of time whilst caring with them a sense of important landmark history. I compared vintage shopping to a time machine and the same could be said for fashion as a whole as it is constantly being influence by the past, because like a time machine it can provides for us a gate way to the past and at the same time ensuring that it’s kept alive and with it a sense of who we are and where we came from.
Which also leads to what I mentioned about fashion being able to capture the zeitgeist of an entire generation, you can easily look back over the years and link particular outfit choices to what important things where accruing socially and politically in that particular era. Some of the best examples of this, were the 50’s defined by the youth revolution as the result of the emergence of Rock ‘n’ Roll, finally teen had something to call their own, giving them the impetus to finally break free from the chains and shackles imposed by their parents taste in; music, dress sense and strict moral codes. Gone were the long maxi dress so prominent for girls in the 30’s, the buttoned up shirt and corduroy pants worn by the guys, instead they were now replaced by baby doll pin up looks, leather jackets and denim pants. Which should not come of such a great shook to find out that the key icons of the era was the rebel without a cause James Dean and the sultry vixen Marilyn Monroe. Then you have 60’s which birthed the hippie culture and the wide distribution of the contraceptives, meaning the new sexual awakening was not trailing too far behind. In a decade where spontaneous public acts of sex where not entirely unheard of, you would be right to bet that clothing choices certainly represented this new liberated spirit. In particular the gender who prospered the most form this were defiantly women, now for the first time they were in complete both in control of both their bodies and their outfit choice, allowing them the opportunity to sought whole heatedly to exploit both. With the 60’s also came coco channels little black dress, signalling for the first time that fashion was truly a domain women could rule.
Just like the way my mother felt after settling on an outfit choice, I’m sure that the calm euphoria feeling is not something foreign to the bodies of many women, for fashion is one of the few industries where women are able to be placed on a entirely equal standard with men, now in the modern day women make up some of the most highest profile positions in the industry, you just have to look at the likes of Anna Wintour operating as editor and chief at the most powerful magazine not just in fashion but probably the world, with a readership of 11 million every month Vogue is as relevant and quintessential as it was during its inception. Then you have Donatella Versace who is a big reason behind the global icon that is Versace today, she was instrumental in rocketing Versace from a luxury brand to the realm of rare commodities that the world simply can’t get enough off. But it’s not just the women in the board room who are feeling empowerment by fashion; normal everyday women can feel its effects too. Looking at it from a male’s perspective I feel fashion for women is how men perceive football, for us it’s not just a bunch of guys running around a football pitch, it’s more than that, it’s about being part of some sort of a family, being part of something bigger than yourself and for women fashion gives them a similar sense of belonging in a world where it understands them and know how they think, talk and feel as well as helping them find a escape from their daily stresses in a expressive outlet free of restraint and judgment.
That’s another reason why fashion is so incredible it doesn’t just have a positive effect on women, it can do the same for teenagers too, but I always find it crazy the way these seemingly imamate object can have such a positive effect on you when you where them. For me as a teenager in particular it’s often difficult to find your place in this big fast moving world, but with fashion just like a solider wearing a uniform it gives you a sense of purpose that you belong and are accepted by people who share your same interests, whether it’s social groups and dressing styles of; goth, punk, hip hop, rock or hipster and that’s a great thing because it makes you feel understood and appreciated. The only reason human beings have thrived so well on planet earth, was our ability to construct complex social groups and articulate our feelings and ideas, there are endless amounts of words in the English language, but just like the way a picture can speak a thousand words, a simple outfit choice can evoke so much about who you are as a person, the way you see the world and how you feel, and I find this ability to express yourself so effortlessly to being an extremely liberating feeling that you simply can’t get anywhere else.
It doesn’t just benefit us on a personal level; the fashion business is big bucks! You can look at England alone which gets 21 billion pounds a year injected into the economy because of fashion, America 400 billion dollars a year because of fashion and then you have the entire world with 2.5 trillion, and that is because fashion is constantly changing, evolving to suit our needs and adapting into our fast ever expanding world. With all that money, means more and more jobs are being produced, in a world gripped by recession, fashion seems to be a juggernaut that is perpetually moving and gathering momentum. So while other companies are folding left, right and centre, fashion on the other hand continues to bloom and thrive. You just have to look at Oscar nights to gauge the pull of fashion. The Oscars are watched by close to 50 million Americans yearly, but it’s undoubtedly the red carpet and the assortment of beautiful dresses being paraded up and down the red carpet as if it was a London fashion week, that those 50 million people really came to see. A career can be made or boosted purely down to the dress an actress or singer is wearing and by who it is made by, you just have to look at the house of Versace as an example of how the right dress and brand can change a career. The best examples of these probably won’t come as a great surprise; one of course was Elisabeth Hurley looking absolutely majestic as she stepped onto the red carpet of the 1994 premier of Four Weddings and a Funeral in the famous black Versace dress, with slits down the sides fastened by medusa pins. Such was the media hype generated from the dress, Hurley’s career went from mediocre to firmly up into the Hollywood stratosphere, soon after she was being offered jobs like Austen Powers at her every turn. The next example has to be J-Lo adorned in that mesmerising plugged neckline, sheer train chiffon dress that looked like a 3d rainforest coming to life at the 42nd Grammy Awards. The night was full of great acts, but it was her dress that had effortlessly grabbed the headlines; turning Jenny from the block into a multimillionaire dollar international diva sensation.
But for me the most important reason as to why I love fashion, may it be some bizarre ostentatious garment made by Alexander McQueen being paraded up and down the cat walk, or something to simple, black and chic created by Izzy Meyakke for the high street, fashion in all its various forms is art to me. It’s walking breathing art that you can touch and interact with, because it’s not just something that is hung at a gallery for you to view from a distance but you can never touch. Instead it’s a form of art you can pick up, interact with and let it become a part of not just your life, but you yourself. Because with the right clothes in your wardrobe, sometimes you can feel like Rembrandt or Andy Warhol, for when I you step into your wardrobe it’s like stepping into your own art exhibit full of phenomenal textures and patterns and vibrant colours, and the best part of it is that those clothes in some way represent who you are as a person and the why you see the world.