In his lecture, Garmento editor, Jeremy Lewis mentioned that from his experience of working as a trend analyst, he came to the realization that with time the runways seem to have “less and less” to do with the lives of real people, alluding that authenticity is fast becoming a lost concept in the fashion world. Lewis’ critique of the frivolousness of fashion mirrors Elizabeth Hawes’ puzzling work; Fashion Is Spinach (1938), in which the author and couturier warns us about fashion and its parasitic nature. She blames the “deformed thief” that is fashion, for stealing the real value out of what we buy while encouraging false needs which lead to the ultimately unsatisfying consumption of clothes: “Fashion gets up those perfectly ghastly ideas, such as accessories should match, and proceeds to give you shoes, gloves, bag and hat all in the same hideous shade of kelly green…”
Hawes’ extensive discussion of the wickedness of fashion’s wiles brings to mind Giacomo Leopardi’s poetic work, Dialogue Between Fashion and Death (1824), where “Fashion” is similarly presented as the villain responsible for inflicting unnecessary human suffering. Leopardi amusingly yet convincingly establishes fashion and death as closely interlinked. It’s interesting to note how despite the fact that Leopard’s work is written before long before the development of the fashion industry into the Modern system as we know it as today, the concept remains powerful. Not only is as historian, Ann Hollander notes that “Fashion itself is now founded on waywardness, nostalgia, fakery, and so forth, certainly on markets.”. popular trends in fashion more so now than ever before tend to continuously revolve around the symbolism and representations of death (McQueen’s skulls anyone?).
So how do to steer away from ending up on a-one-way road to fashion dystopia? Hawes suggests an antidote: style, which she equates to functional and durable clothing. As fashion designer, Hawes’ concern was to make something as beautiful as it is useful – clothing that retained its innate appeal no matter what the fashion du jour might dictate. Though perhaps not trending at the time, Hawes solution is inseparably tied with the concept of sustainability. If the essence of style is flair and longeivty, sustainability is essentially the sign of a good design.