Are All Clothes Fashion?

Is it fair game to stick your neck out and criticise fashion designers, particularly those that sing from the highest tree? Or are they the untouchables who’s concepts we should embrace? And if that’s the case can they ever convey a controversial message through their work?

The recently lamented and unexpected resignation of fashion critic Cathy Horyn has left some worried as to who will step into her shoes and brave the fashion elite.

I am a designer but that does not mean I understand all the work I see produced. I create but I also need to see a practical aspect to clothing. That’s how I design. I am not the kind of designer who has to weave emotions or some complex story into their work (although certainly it can form part of a wider narrative). I find this a little pretentious but I am also guessing it’s why I didn’t do so well at university. Ann Demeulemeester, who’s every seam line and every cut represent something deep and meaningful, are lost on me. When I look at her work I cannot see it but maybe that’s because I am essentially a practical person.

Ann Demeulermeester (source)

Ann Demeulermeester (source)

I design the clothes I cannot wear. I have an obsession with long dresses, drape and gentle soft fabrics that hang beautifully on the female frame. This is my current trend. But they are garments I rarely get the opportunity to wear. To me it’s about visual aesthetics, colour, flattering lines and elegant women of any size and shape. I don’t read any deeper message into my work other than that elegant clothing can be comfortable, easy wear and unfussy.

Horyn alluded to this stating that “The desire to be comfortable is profound, shaping attitudes and markets.” Certainly womenswear on the high street is dominated by easywear and comfort. But that doesn’t always mean leggings and Converse trainers. These are easywear but they lack imagination, individuality and effort. Casual wear I suppose is associated with cheap high street brands, not high end couture. Horyn provided us an alternative with Vince, a high end easy wear brand. But with leggings at a cool $79 a pair, it’s definitely easy wear for the well off.

Writer Eugene Rabki responded to Horyn’s remarks, stating that fashion differs from clothing by making a strong aesthetic statement, having a theatrical element and having meaning. So if it doesn’t have these things is it simply off the rail on the high street? I would disagree.

The couture catwalks always have their fair share of uninteresting plain collections but I don’t doubt that someone is reading deeper messages into them somewhere along the way. Of course we always expect the outlandish offerings we are all familiar with from the likes of Gaultier and McQueen. But these extreme designs were never meant to be worn out except perhaps by the occasional celebrity like Lady Gaga.

These collections are art, a canvas for the designer to show off what they can do. Few are able to pull them off away from the runway. But as we all know couture designers do make ready to wear that is wearable.

Alexander McQueen - a demonstration of skill, not of wearability

Alexander McQueen – a demonstration of skill, not of wearability

Wearable clothing is fashion just as much as any impractical runway creation. If it follows a trend and it’s current, then it’s fashionable. If it’s on the runway at Fashion Week then it’s couture and serving as the palette for the fashion you’ll soon be seeing on the high street.

All clothes are fashion. All fashion is art. It’s an expression of self. And the clothing we wear is an expression of self whether you wear your heart on your sleeve or hidden behind a peacock bravado.


Comfort by Helmut Lang (source)


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