Tuesday, April 19, 2011
I recently visited the Roberto Capucci "Art Into Fashion" exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. For those unfamiliar with his work, he came to fame in the 1950's as a brilliant young Italian designer. Over the years, his work became more sculptural. Garments from his recent collections (not shown on a regular basis, just when he has a solid round-up) are hardly even wearable. They're art.
What we see in mass-retail stores is obviously not on par with Capucci or other couturiers' work. Regardless, some consider fashion superficial, or completely consumerist based. Only a self-obsessed, insecure woman would spend $1000 on a pair of structural Balenciaga heels (A/W 2010), right? However, for just as many that blindly follow fashion, there are those women and men that value design and craftsmanship. Yet such aspects of fashion go unnoticed by many, and the fashion world remains impenetrable.
Some cannot justify spending a couple thousand dollars on any single item, nor may they have the funds to do so. (Myself included.) But in this context, fashion is comparable to any functional art. However, as I've mentioned, it's looked down upon. As stated by Oscar Wilde, "fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months." Then again, it's constantly evolving, not merely changing. Fashion exists for aesthetic value as well as basic necessity, but it also mirrors the state of society. It can push boundaries or stay within the social norms.
Obviously, contemporary lines are more commercial than ready-to-wear, and ready-to-wear is more commercial than haute couture. In most of these, we see design instead of simple knockoffs. While contemporary and ready-to-wear fashion are marketed to a specific consumer, it is evident that there is thought behind the fabric (especially in the latter). Haute couture, though not for everyday use, is undeniably art in the sense of thought and technique.
With that being said, someone can dress herself or himself creatively, no matter where the clothing comes from. Wearing expensive clothes doesn't even guarantee that person will be dressed creatively. As we know, it's completely possible to put together an artistic ensemble using any sort of garments. But I digress.
Let's return to the claims that fashion is materialistic and essentially useless. If that's true, isn't all art materialist? Especially that which serves no purpose to the audience other than aesthetic value? And useless? If you live in the US, chances are, there's a few laws applicable regarding clothing oneself.
There's nothing wrong with not having a favorite designer or simply not giving a damn about the industry itself, as it's not everyone's cup of tea. Following fashion obsessively isn't necessary to appreciate or respect what it is.