01 April 2013

if it's good it's worth it, or, a long ramble about fashion feels.

 Note: This is a long blog post and I know the text of my blog is small, you might want to enlarge it. Also, read the actual paragraphs first and captions second, I only included images so you wouldn't die of boredom. I CARE. 

One of my favorite things to do is visit stores where I can't really afford stuff and obsess over my favorite designers. I try to only buy investment pieces now, which means I spend more, but also, (ideally) less often. The idea of the investment piece to me used to be a super statement piece, usually runway -- because most of my investment pieces are runway Comme des Garcons, haha. Investment pieces don't have to be expensive, just high quality, something you know you would wear for years to come, something that hopefully means something to you, made with quality craftsmanship. This eliminates most fast fashion but also, if you think about it some high end products too. I mean, just because it's expensive doesn't mean it's good.

JW. Anderson Min Skirt, $665. Proenza Schouler Leather Woven Skirt, $648.

There is an inevitable markup for it being a label of repute, but putting that aside, it just might not be made well enough if you look at the stitching, it might not have lining (or be lined properly), it might not fit just so, the fabric might be totally average (why the hell would you spend hundreds on a 100% polyester dress, I truly do not know). I think there is a lot of value in actually going into a store and looking at clothes before you plonk money down. It's not always possible, but it's important. Physical interaction with clothes is the only reason I bother going to events anymore. I don't care about your DJ. I don't care about your catering (unless it's yummy and open bar, let's be real ok), if you're trying to get me out of my hermit cave you better present something worth the trip. Seeing friends is awesome and luckily part of the job since so many of them work in fashion for a living, but I want to be impressed and inspired by the clothes in the industry -- because people revolve in and out of their jobs in New York like musical chairs, but the clothes will stay for years.

The fact CDG used this quote is funny because Rei adamantly doesn't align her work as art, she is a businesswoman. To align herself with Ai WeiWei, a political artist and dissident, is great/funny/strange, just like her. The method in which she does business and brands her company is as political and paradoxical as her designers, and so I love her endlessly not just for the designs her house produces but the method in which they are represented. It's this rebellious, masters-tools-to-fuck-with-the-master's-system approach to things that I look for in all of the brands I admire.
 That being said, there are a few brands that over the years, I've grown to totally obsess over and admire almost as much as CDG. Their craftsmanship totally blows everyone out of the water and it's clear even in a 2D landscape the internet is, but in person, I literally cannot help myself from petting their work hypnotically. It just kind of shouts at you and is utterly impossible to ignore, because it's so good. Literally perfect seams, perfect cuts, perfect lining, the fabric is beautiful, supple, and often intricate. And when you do a little research and realize they source the highest quality products from all around the world just to weave in layers to form the perfect basket weave or the most luxurious, strangely psychedelic brocade, you kind of get overwhelmed. Or at least I do. Because it's really the end result of a long process of a lot of communication between multiple factories around the world (or even the now rare local garment industry), a lot of testing, probably a lot of failing, and all of that work went into every yard of fabric and every button and now it's in your hands. That's so fucking cool to me. That's the perfect balance of art and commerce. That's the fashion system in the purest form.

Ann D. is a fashion saint when it comes to her method to design which is why I'm including her. You should read the quote that goes with this image here.

 It gets muddled with diffusion, with knockoffs, etc -- though it's clear those are parts of the system as a whole now too of course -- and the quality is lost for easy profit margins the farther down the line it goes. But when you see the original, pure end result of a small label's work, it's something I can't help but appreciate and be in awe of. Because yeah, J.W Anderson and Proenza Schouler might be now international fashion names but they still have a very small workforce. Actually, Anderson and his small team (I think maybe 11 others work with/for him?) produce every piece. The name might be big but the workforce is small, and it took so much to get here. And it takes very little to reproduce the material idea and the profits are disgusting, and sometimes the knockoffs are weirdly good, but you know, I'm a romantic and I want the real thing, I want a connection and I want to pay my respect to all of the people. All of the people, not just the famous designer name but their workers, and the factory workers they get their source materials from that often have shitty working conditions. Paying it forward helps sustain so many relationships that are the backbone of practices that make every beautiful piece of clothing we see on the runway, and those practices are dying out or being bought up by LVMH etc in an effort to survive.

Chanel Couture. It is absolutely gobsmacking how stupid expensive a single piece of couture can run you, but also, how much labor goes into it -- hundreds, no, thousands of hours of manual labor and so many people contribute to every hard of embroidery. Feathers from one part of the world, beads from another, buttons from another, fabric woven somewhere else with materials from 3 places.....etc.

Sustainability is a difficult practice to get down even theoretically and as such we don't discuss it a lot in fashion, we're more focused on immediacy and we're suffering for it. I think Karl Lagerfeld is leading the pack in terms of keeping small, high quality fashion manufacturers alive actually, and that is because LVMH gives him free reign and essentially endless spending money. But the details of that deal are pretty vague to me, and I wonder if the places they save are working exclusively for LVMH now or are able to work with small independent designers., ones in the margin. I think if we're going to discuss sustainability we need to find responsibility within ourselves to contribute to that and not expect big corporations to buy up small ones to have them survive. Personal relationships as a consumer seem to be diminishing, and it's a little scary, you know? Because fashion as an industry based on hierarchies means that somebody somewhere is getting screwed over really badly and I want people to care. At the root of it all, my interest in fashion is a feminist one.


Jesus. I didn't expect to write that much. I mean, I think about this stuff all the time but I never really write about it, outfit posts are """""easier"""". But, I don't like being seen as purely a personal style blogger because what I'm really interested and what got me interested in blogging was actual FASHION. Blogging weekly about "look at the cool stuff I'm wearing" is not fashion so much as a personal statement of brand and identity. That's good and all but it's not as interesting to me. I pretty much stopped caring about what I wear anyway because everything I own is nice and goes together because I have a method and it leaves me room to think about stuff I care about. And I care deeply about fashion as a system, as a process to study, as something with theory behind it. So I'm gonna write a lot about actual FASHION because I think if people know more about it as a system that participates in capitalism they will maybe think more critically about what it means on a personal level. By that, I mean as in how its related to personal style blogging, and how that relates to their purchasing power, and the visibility of people in consumer culture, and how that is linked to systems of oppression, and maybe that will bring some change.

This is my version of activism, this is what I have knowledge of and what I know I can provide, and this is something I don't see talked about much in the fashion blogosphere by "popular" fashion bloggers which I guess I am considered a member of. But I want to talk about things that matter in any way that I can. And well, I guess this is how. I hope you actually ended up reading this whole thing and wanna talk about it with me too.

Much love,

Arabelle

 

11 comments:

leilani.e said...

This wasn't so long - you paced it really well (and might I suggest you up your text size anyway on the site?) Lovely thoughts. I'm going to have to go think about it before actually responding, if I do. All I've got now is a case of the nodding-alongs.

Eat.Style.Play said...

So i have to say, I'm a little concerned that i had to read this three times. Not because it didn't make sense, but because i've become so trained to not read as much. It's sad, and I just realized something about myself that doesn't really have to do with this post. -_-

Anyway i'm much older and when I was maybe 16-18 I was obsessed with labels for the same reason. Seeing the beauty in it's craftsman ship. I wanted a piece of that, not because I thought it was trendy but because I was super obsessed with how people could make something so gorgeous with fabric, needle and thread. I never had enough courage to think I could be a designer and i sort of kick myself everyday for it. I actually told myself if my goals don't work out this year, I'm going to pack my shyt and go to NY and enroll in design school. Anyway. I get it, and I totally love this article. And I'm glad I realized I have no concentration what so freaking ever and I need to learn how to refocus myself. haha. Anyway as always it's been a pleasure reading your blog.

Stephanie A said...

completley read it to the end it was great. investment is really great but I think it's impossible for some because of spending habits and impulses we've developed. Perfect example is how ridiculously quick mass chain stores like H&M switch through collections! They sent me about 3 catalogues in the space of one and a half months! Some couldnt bear holding onto their money for a bit longer for fear of missing out on something groundbreaking life changing piece if fast fashion . Totally get your obsession with good craftmanship. Superior quality just has something satisfying about it! This post kind of but not really reminds me of style bubbles logo a gogo post she put up today. Maybe not in terms of content but in terms of thinking and writing more about fashion as you mentioned. It's a good read!

thetextiler.blogspot.co.uk

Annelise Resende said...

I found this incredibly interesting and I would love to read more about that, specially about the LMVH group, which is a subject that is completely new to me (I love fashion but I'm really lay in this field). I

illustratorclaire said...

"I pretty much stopped caring about what I wear anyway because everything I own is nice and goes together"

Explaining my recent self to me a bit. Thx!

I look forward to reading the fruits of your intentions. It sounds like it will be very interesting.

Carolyn said...

Fashion is an entirely complex beast to me -- and I'm still trying (and probably will always be trying) to understand it and come to terms with what it means to me. I both love and hate fashion competely. The hate part- was the reason why I didn't follow my dream of sewing for a living. I felt like the fashion culture was too conformist, obsessed with trends and spending money, elitist, judgemental if you didn't dress a particular way- and further more I didn't want to be seen as being 'vain'. Thankfully, now, I can see how caring about fashion isn't necessarily about vanity and fitting in (though for some, it is)- but rather creativity, self-expression and playing. Which are the primary reasons I have always loved fashion.

Though I regret not studying fashion design- I still sew and in doing so - I have witnessed the many hours of labour it takes to make every single item of clothing. You're absolutely right- some high-end fashion is expensive for a reason. It takes time and money to come up with unique designs. While I can't afford it at present- I won't buy fast fashion because with a $15 shirt or a $100 coat- someone is getting screwed over and its probably the little person who spent hours sewing it together.

In the mean time- I'm satisfied with my thrifted and sewn wardrobe. It's all my own- and that's what matters to me.

Yasmeen said...

This is the sort of stuff I love to see on fashion blogs and I a few thoughts popped into my head while readings this...

As with any art, I think a lot of designers assume fashion will lose its "magic" if there's too much transparency in the production process (other designers just don't wanna show off their sweatshops; top secret you know?) and I'm certainly not interested in live second-by-second videos of runway fashion being made (though I do enjoy Project Runway) but it would be nice to see at least SOME level of openness either through social media outlets or their websites. A lot of pieces I own include either a "Made In _____" tag or "Designed In ______" or, in the most hilarious instances, both.

I remember picking up a pair of shoes that caught my eye and directly in the center of the sole it read "Design In Italy" and I thought, "Jeez these are pretty cheap for Italy" and of course, once I turned them over, there was the notorious "Made In China" label. I think I actually loled in the store.

But anyway, my long-winded point is that the typical consumer won't see much beyond these 1 or 2 tags. The reason branding is functional is because consumers can build associations based on past experiences with a brand. For example, if I purchased a pair of Prada heels, I would assume there's a certain degree of quality and care in the materials and production. With a brand like AllSaints, it's a hit or miss (though I love their designs) They do a lot of "Designed in UK" then "Made in Cyprus/Indonesia/China" and they charge ridiculously high prices regardless of the production location.

I don't have any particular qualms with the countries used to outsource labor of course but I think it's quite obvious the labor laws in some of them do not meet universal human rights standards.

I had a another point but I kinda forgot it while typing this haha

H said...

I really appreciate these longer, in depth posts. You don't really see much of this in other blogs.

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Ria said...

Maybe my favorite post. Not too wordy and just enough and well said.

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