I think it’s cliche how people say that fashion is a form of self-expression. It is, but it’s so much more than that. What we choose to wear is a choice we make everyday, whether we want to or not. And I think clothing reveals, and can dictate, a lot of our psyche and the impressions we make on other people. Clothing matters – it can help us look and be more confident, more sophisticated, more individualized – really whatever it is we’re trying accomplish.
In short, I think fashion can empower who and what we want to be. And in light of that, I’d think of the fashion industry and the trends that make it to FW. Despite the fact that the ~$3 trillion industry’s been constantly changing, the imprints and marks that designers try to leave are inspiring and worthwhile watching. I think the most worthwhile are the ones that actively invest in its storyline and brand authenticity. You could think of this as a type of slower, ethical fashion – from brands that make clothing from recycled fabrics (e.g., Reformation and Girlfriend Collective), to ones that source from boutique manufacturing (e.g., 3.1 Phillip Lim) – but I don’t think that has to be the case. In a landscape of optimizing supply chains and growing customer insights (especially since the emergence of ultra-fast fashion), it’s a bit ignorant to think slow fashion is the sustainable solution of this ever polluting, disruptive industry. Fashion will not slow down any time soon, and at one point or another, everyone will buy from “unethical” retailers.
So then, how do you find your niche in fashion? As a consumer, you can look at clothing brand-agnostic, and choose pieces that you personally find appealing for a particular price; or you can look at clothing with the brand focus. For me, the core story of the brand is what resonates with me, and when looking at the former, I focus on how the occasion of shopping or the brand itself resonates with my own life story.
I was in New York a couple of weeks ago, and stumbled across M.Crow. I first thought it was a pseudo-furniture store, which in a sense it was. Tyler Hays bought up his hometown’s 100 yr old general store when it was about to close down, and reimagined his own dreams and childhood:
M. Crow is an awkward collision of all my hobbies and interests and an outlet for fulfilling that childhood fantasy… M. Crow is also interesting to me on more pragmatic levels; rural economic development is a passion of mine as is the heritage of my hometown.
Not every outlet of fashion has the capacity or the need to do this; but when you find the corners of the industry that is able to combine the designer’s own story, own dreams, and a targeting sub-segment of a customer base: maybe those who also recognize their own kind of hometown, childhood nostalgia.
I’ll stop here for now, but a lot of these ideas come from Simon Sinek’s TED talk, highlighting the power of why and the core of a brand. A quick reference to the psyche: if we’re going to choose what to wear and influence others’ impressions of ourselves, then why wouldn’t you try to align the brand’s with your own? It’s much more interesting and impressionable when someone asks you where you bought your outfit to know the story around it than the brand name itself.