Clothing never made the person, however, it can create the character. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my twenty some-odd years in the “fashion” industry, it’s the psychological effects of “style” will always outweigh the material manifestations of it. With this in mind, (clothing) companies spend billions annually to ensure their products outfit our thoughts as well as our bodies.
There’s nothing like being obsessed with an item you just gotta have. That pair of $425.00 Alexander Mcqueen jeans, those $1,595.00 Louboutin pumps, or the exclusive $200.00+ pair of Jordans, obsessions seem to find their way into our subconscious effortlessly. Never-mind the constant bombardment of advertisements, “Reality TV” and fashion magazines literally telling us what we must have to be In-style, we actually need these things…right?. Perhaps, but most likely not. Even if you can afford such objects of desire, the question is, what makes us want them? Regardless of your tax bracket, it’s hard to justify 200 pairs of designer shoes as a “necessity”. Although, there is no direct correlation between an expensive wardrobe and style, it does seem like the really “nice” things come with a hefty price tag.
Throughout history, people have always found indulgent ways to adorn themselves. Whether through religious, political, social or pure individual expression, style can launch careers or capsize kings. I’ve seen extremely stylish people pull off great looks derived from second hand stores and discount outlets, while I’ve also witnessed extensive budgets wasted on couture creations that clash with the individual’s persona. As a designer and stylist, I’m constantly exploring the evolution of past, present and future (fashion) trends, and have yet to find, or hear of anyone who holds claim to ultimate style. Of course there are forecasters and trendsetters who channel the mystical wizardry of Anna Wintour and Andre Leon Tally, hoping to distill a perfect style formula, but most fall short after a few seasons of casting their recycled spells.
After all, is this not what fashion has become? The persuasion and programing of people through mass media to sacrifice needs for wants? Put style over substance, and look the part, either real or surreal. The question is no longer whether you can afford it, but how bad do you want it?, and how fabulous will you look in it?. Ironically enough, the pursuit of luxury brands (by the haves and have nots) has fueled an ever growing “bootleg” market. As a matter of fact, I know of several “well to do” women who frequently purchase black market accessories, but will only discreetly admit it. Their reasoning is…”nobody will know the difference, so why spend the money? I’m obviously well off, who would expect my bag to be fake? Besides, the quality is just as good (laughter)”. Go figure!
This interesting phenomenon prompted me to try a little “style-cological” experiment of my own. I went down to my local thrift store and purchased a nondescript, yet nicely crafted vintage men’s blazer and an old tattered track jacket, and took them both to my studio for a makeover. Stripping away any obvious markings, I then stitched the labels and buttons of a high end, well known Italian brand onto the blazer, and the labels of an even more exclusive Parisian brand on the worn out track jacket. After complimenting each decoy with their appropriate packaging (bags, hag tags, etc), I set off to test my theory amongst a crowd of educated consumers.
In classic, blind taste-test fashion, I asked participants to choose between the two designer labels. Which was more coveted and stylish? Some chose one over the other, some chose both, some even offered to purchase what they thought were legitimate articles, but when confronted with the fact that neither item was an authentic product, most shuttered in disbelief. However, several people said they would still wear the garments, the notion of them being “almost real” was good enough for them.
Ultimately, we (the consumers) dictate what style is and how much we’ll spend on it. Even amidst the barrage subliminal influences and social (style) engineering, we have the final say on what embellishes our bodies. As companies cross pollinate ultra luxe with street wear, skate with tailored, department store with boutique and a million other combinations creating the next hot trend, we decide what makes it from the catwalk to the sidewalk…n beyond.