Clothing Vs Fashion

December 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

If clothing is the most basic, functional aspect of dress, then “fashion” is the infinitely more complex side of the coin. While there are obvious associations, fashion has become something more amorphous, less easily defined, and cannot be fully understood without understanding the symbology contained within.

Traditionally the dress of a nation reflects a core set of beliefs, and often a certain hierarchal structure, becoming a collective symbol of social identity. Now, more than ever before, there is an increased awareness of the different cultural ideas behind various forms of adornment, and a greater need for cultural “otherness” as we face a world where you can listen to the same music, read the same books, and want the same product as any other person on the planet, we face a society that seems increasingly culturally homogenized.

And in an era where everything seems to have been done, contemporary design is pushing at the boundaries of fabrication and wearability, blurring mainstream perceptions of what constitutes dress. With the rapid dissemination of information, and the vast resource of the Internet, we can interact with any other cultural, moral, or aesthetic point of view, from anywhere else on the planet.

At the same time the traditional dichotomy of high fashion disseminating into the mass market has completely collapsed, after decades of slow erosion. Now streetstyle, traditional cultural and ethnic dress, and cross disciplinary collaborations yield new and interesting interpretations of fashion, material, and the idea of “dressing”.

In an environment such as this, now more than ever before issues of culture, status, self-image, and emotional relationship with the objects we choose when dressing have an ever-increasing presence in fashion. Long established designers like Rei Kawakubo, Hussein Chalayan, and Martin Margiela have long since espoused these ideas, creating garments that speak of the process of fashion itself. By re-inventing ideas of what constitutes clothing they have bought design back to a more abstract and considered sensibility that goes deeper than mere technical or decorative application. In an interview with AnOther Magazine, Akiro Fukai, curator of the Kyoto Costume Institute points out that “Fashion is not art, but fashion is sometimes art. Of course it should be wearable but fashion is not a craft because it can express our philosophy and thoughts.”[1]

It would appear that now the cultural and social relevance of Fashion has become increasingly important in the process and interpretation of design, and the new generation of designers, such as Mary Katrantzou, Michael van der Ham, and Peter Pilotto now look beyond the cultural pastiche, and styling tricks previously employed to create objects that speak of heritage, experience, and memory on multiple levels, while still interacting with the body.

[1] Akiro Fukai, AnOther Magazine, pg 160, Autumn/Winter 2010


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