One of the perils of being a grad student is the ease with which one slips into a state of being ‘not in touch’ with the goings-on of the world…..unless of course Bin laden gets himself killed. So, I guess I can be excused for reading about the royal wedding a couple of days ago. As I skimmed through the wordy editorials, like the brain of any self-respecting girl, mine too efficiently filtered off the inconsequential, to focus on the bottom line-the bride’s outfit. Automatically, the bride’s person dissolved into oblivion and all I could picture was the delicately designed angelic-white gown frozen in space for viewers to appraise. A lot had been written about the cut, the fabric and the intricate embroidery on the outfit. Some flak about it being simplistic and ‘too safe‘ for a royal attire. The technicalities did not pique my interest as much as what the garment seemed to symbolize in the grand scheme of things. It was simple, no doubt, but not simplistic, mildly tempered with defiance, as though teasing the traditional and conservative pigeon hole associated with the royal family.
With this, my thoughts drifted off to the rotten pages of my secret book of outfit sketches I had earnestly designed in school, to the imaginary fashion labels that would’ve featured my creations to the world, to the look on my mom’s face when I announced my interest in fashion as a career-a look of pity reserved only for people who are mentally unstable, and then finally, to the jet airways flight that brought me here to the US of A to pursue my doctoral studies in pharmaceutical sciences. Although I do enjoy the problem solving stern rationality of the scientific field, I do occasionally feel the achingly familiar guilt of not giving fashion the benefit of my creativity.
Fashion, to this day, evokes a feeling of boundless exhilaration and a child-like curiosity in me. I’ve always believed what one wears is one of the strongest non-verbal expressions of oneself. I imagine that each color, each pattern, each piece of clothing that co-ordinates and, also the one that doesn’t, speaks something about the person, his mood that day, the nature of his work, his personal image and, also the one he wishes to portray to the world. What is often subtly forgotten is that it is also the living image of the thought and the sweet smell of labor of the creative mind behind it. You might think that I am naively attempting to defend the works of a person who is probably swimming in the lavishness of the multi-million-if-not-billion dollar industry. That fashion occupies an enviable position in the commercial spectrum is an indisputable fact. What bothers me is that it ranks a shameful low in the art zeitgeist. Fashion as an art form still receives step-motherly treatment in common parlance. It has become convenient to either elevate it to a slippery dais of glamor-a superficial, incomprehensible, outlandish entity meant for a select-few or degrade it to a utility device meant to layer our skins. While it is true that the clothing and the accessories we wear today were originally, a designer’s brain-child, it is not the sole purpose of their creation.
Coco Chanel brought the quintessential little black dress to the fashion circuit and then, to every wardrobe, to unfetter women from the tight-fitting corsets and bulky gowns of the early 1900s. However, for every Coco Chanel, there is an Alexander McQueen, who is notorious for his raw, even vulgar depiction of female sensuality in an attempt to empower them. His works have been described as dark, macabre, and sometimes having strong political undercurrents. Basically, his line of creations is the perfect example of what one would dismiss as ‘un-wearable’ and crazy. So be it. Maybe you can’t attend a business meeting wearing one of his faux-haired suits, or dance at a party wearing his animal-skeleton shoes. Should fashion always pander to our basic necessities for it to be taken seriously? Doesn’t it deserve the same deliberative evaluation that any other art form is subjected to? Modern art is a deeply discussed subject, although the purpose of the abstract painting is not the first thing that strikes you. Many great books would not have seen the light of the day, had they been written to achieve a definite goal. Could J.K. Rowling have afforded to worry that her work might get the ‘just another children’s book’ tag, while today, it is more than evident to us that some of life’s most sublime values have emerged from the greatness that is the Harry Potter series?
In all sincerity, a fashion designer is an artist too….his creations are a piece of him……an idea that weaves into a fabric, takes on the color of his imagination and the shape of his resolve to create and exhibit some of his innermost flows of thought for us to appreciate, cherish, or even reject, but most of all, to respect.