Without my knowledge, my work the past couple months has been about relinquishing control. I’ve always prided myself on taking a more “conceptual” approach to fashion, but lately I’ve been vexed by the suggestion that I “hold on” to my concepts too dearly. I believe the actual phrase someone used today, during a critique we had was “take yourself seriously, not ceremoniously.” I’ve spent the hours between then and now trying to wrap my head around what was meant by that phrase.
I didn’t hear Ski Im speak, which is really unfortunate, so I don’t know if he takes himself seriously or ceremoniously. Based solely on the readings he suggested and what my classmates have told me, it’s definitely one of the two. I’m no stranger to modern philosophy, I was a philosophy major in my past college life- which means I understand better than most the strange place philosophy can take you. First, I should point out something I think we forget during grad school- most people in this world do not quote Foucault, or Deleuze, nor do they care about their philosophies or how they can relate to everyday interactions with fashion. This is the strange world of one who studies philosophy: You know how important it is, everyone around you calls you pretentious, and if you’re a pluralist philosopher as I strive to be you have to shrug it off as a possibility.
This is where I come back to Ski Im. Anyone who prescribes pages of modern philosophy as a preface to their lecture on fashion runs the risk of being called a pretentious pseudo intellectual. That was my first impression when I saw our reading list for the week- and I’ve quoted Socrates in my collection statements. Impression management is a tricky thing. The industry lends itself to ridicule from those who don’t know that fashion can come from something as “serious” as philosophy. Even within the industry the first impression is always discerning the intellect and understanding of the designer. Are they building upon an idea grounded in concept? Or are they merely referential, with a conceptual ruse? To clarify, I don’t know that either is “right.” There’s no perfect way to design. The idea of design education is to build upon that paradigm that you can change and mold a concept into a design, and a design back into a concept, much like the idea of “The Fold.” I constantly fear that everything that can be designed has been designed- and yet every season at least one designer does something that I’m impressed with, and in the end it’s all just shirts and pants and dresses. So what is ‘it” (the illusive IT) for those of us who think of our collections from an almost purely conceptual standpoint? Are we using these huge ideas to push our art to new heights? Or are we hiding behind smart sounding words? Are we being serious, or ceremonious?