Do you ever wonder why people love to hate the fashion industry? I mean, I love it, but I cannot speak for the rest of you. What I love about fashion is not even the industry, and as much as I’d like, it is not the style, beauty and glamour.
What truly draws my attention to the fashion industry is the image it contributes to, the characterisation of the personality at a time in history (in the case of fast fashion), or of all time (in the case of more classic apparels).
People talk a lot about the zeitgeist – which is basically the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time. I believe fashion is the zeitgeist, fashion is the mood, and fashion is the emotion.
Fashion is one of the most underrated elements of a social structure. People assume because it is just clothes and accessories, then it must be vain – whereas fashion is the backbone of a lot of ‘serious’ societal institutions.
Think of uniformed workers – policemen, pilots, doctors, nurses, soldiers, traffic wardens, etc. When we look at them, we automatically perceive them as figures of authority, in a way, their image alters our behaviour, simply because of the symbolism the clothing represents.
Take the same people out of the uniform and they become just any regular Joe. The different uniforms have different styles and a certain kind of beauty attached to their structure, colour theme and texture. But ultimately, it is the image that the uniform evokes, that is more powerful.
Fashion is beyond the runway. Let me explain what that means. If you google the word ‘Fashion’ right now, there are two definitions you will find. The first is; Fashion – ‘a popular or the latest style of clothing, hair, decoration, or behaviour,’ the second is; Fashion – ‘a manner of doing something.’
In this article, I’m exploring what the second means in the context of identity, personality, style, perception, communication and culture.
Simply put, if society was broken down like the anatomy of a human, fashion will be the blood. The first time I understood the depth and reach of the fashion ecosystem – I was hanging out with my landlord in Opebi, Lagos, on a Sunday evening.
He paints interesting works of art and has some degrees in Art History. He explained how fashion is literally the material element in the definition of culture (for context, culture is defined as the material and immaterial elements of any society). Think of any time in history, what do you remember it by? – the clothes, the make-up, the accessories, the styles, basically.
We criticise Nollywood, and Hollywood for this constantly – “Oh this movie is set in the 70s? Why is her make-up that way? That was not the shoes of the 70s.” We determine time in history by the things we place the least emphasis on; cloth structure, shoes, bags, pieces of jewelry, makeup, slang, wig type, even scents.
At this point, if you’ve seen ‘Devil Wears Prada’ – you’d remember the scene where Meryl Streep schooled Anne Hathaway about how her dismissive opinions about fashion was totally unwarranted, because the scrumpy sweater Anne had on, was determined through the ‘frivolous’ activities that she thought were inconsequential.
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Fashion is the most authentic expression of self, expression is art, art is history, and history determines the perception of a society. Fashion has certainly been my backbone, it reminds of who exactly I think I am when my insecurities are doing a madness. It has also been a long journey to figuring out what my style is, because I have found out that not everything I admire will look good on my body structure.
Everyone that wants to be successful in life needs to go through the process of figuring out what their style is. It sounds so banal and unnecessary but trust me, dedicating the time to understand what works for you and makes you feel like your ideal self will totally change your life.
You will feel more confident and certain. Study the feel of the types of textiles that make you feel at home, e.g. as much as I like jeans, it does not work for me at all, I have discovered that I feel more at home in soft and free textiles, makes me feel loved and appreciated.
Study colours, study prints, study cloth structures, study cuts – download Pinterest, feed the algorithm, and it will help you. You will know what you like, don’t shrink yourself to fit in, do mood boards of your unique selections, and invest some money into bringing them to life.
No matter how imperfect or insecure you feel, this exercise will make you whole – you will feel worthy, worthy of opportunities, worthy of trying out, worthy by being enough, worthy by feeling enough, worth that can only be gotten from physically wearing clothes.