Sunday, 9 June 2013

Confusion = derision?

(JW Anderson Mens SS14 - via

It is a sad truth that confusion or lack of understanding is often followed by derision. This is particularly true in the world of fashion. It is perhaps more likely that it is the intellectualisation of fashion which promotes elitism rather than financial divisions. Often it appears to me that much of the most avant-garde comes from those who were once misunderstood until someone noticed them and got it. “Getting it” is really important. Not everyone does. And it is this lack of understanding that causes a rift. Those who don't get it label collections as “ugly” or “unwearable” or “self-indulgent”. Those who do, feel defensive and scoff at others for being too narrow-minded or short-sighted to understand. Few things create such a divide as fashion. It as if it is a world parallel to teenage feuds over music genres. No one is truly right or wrong but merely unwilling to bend to the other's way of viewing things. Or too afraid of hurt feelings. It's all a case of miscommunication.

Of course, I am speaking largely in a general sense and about extreme opinions. It is not always so black and white as this. Examples, perhaps, are the best way of explaining the connection between confusion and derision in the fashion world. Fashion is one of the arts most engaged with by the general public and on a very regular basis. We are all aware of the fashion world and familiar with it but we are not all insiders or truly part of it. It is often those who are not in the business or the “know” that meet new ideas with confusion and derision. But this is not something that is limited to fashion. The “isions” are common reactions to the new and unknown. It is an easy reaction. The lazy reaction. Few of us are innocent of it. Take JW Anderson's A/W collection for men this year - dresses and skirts a-plenty for men. While the fashion world at large labels him a wunderkind, male friends of mine laughed off his clothes upon spying me looking at them. I'm sure most people in the street would do the same. Similarly, Chloe Norgaard was regularly lambasted last month as Vogue's Today I'm Wearing guest. Designers love her for her kooky, colourful look but many readers posted rude comments which were unnecessarily hurtful and cruel.

We do not all have to agree on matters of taste and everyone is entitled to their opinions. However, I do think it is sad that more of us (myself included) cannot accept these differences in opinion and embrace the crazy, beautiful, diverse world we live in as improved by them. Perhaps we all need to reconsider how we react to things that we don't understand and learn to give new things a chance. New perspectives are fun, not threatening! And something that we do not like or understand is not ugly. Judgement is an easy shield to fall behind but it does not promote a forum for growth or nuturing.

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