Meaning-Making: Does Fashion Always Need Defining? Can It Just Be Satisfying?

This week’s lecture by the founders of Eckhaus Latta made room for a very passionate conversation during recitation. I might even go so far as to argue that it was an excellent recitation to end on, as it was driven by differing perspectives, disagreement and insight–all things that we will undoubtedly have to deal with as we move through our careers in the fashion industry.

This semester has proven that there are so many ways to study the fashion system. For me, it was pleasure to be in a classroom with MFA students, who helped me to understand and appreciate more concretely the thought process and skill that is often negated when we think about, look and consume fashion. It is something that I will definitely keep in the back of my mind as I continue to critique the industry as a fashion scholar. More relevantly, their presence helped me to navigate my issues with Eckaus’ Latta’s lecture.

I will admit that the lecture was bit confusing for me. I couldn’t quite grasp the brand’s identity, its marketing techniques or what the designers wished to provoke with their alternative collections, shows and presentations. However, the MFA students helped me to understand the fluidity from which some designers approach their brands. Sometimes, they argued, they just create, and even after completing a collection, they still don’t necessarily know what the message is or what’s the intent.

Tangentially, this provoked in me a slight consideration of the ways in which we critique fashion shows, designers’ collections, etc. As a point of reference (but should not be mistaken as a generalization), I considered Rick Owens’ fashion show in which he invited steppers to serve as his models. The show has been widely debated with a thin line dividing conversations on appropriation and appreciation. However, with the MFA students’ considerations in mind, I added another element to the debate, questioning whether or not Rick Owens, as a designer, just created and the result was a controversial show we continue to complicate, but can’t reach a satisfying decision.

Which leads me to my final point: satisfaction. From lectures and conversations on the victimization of clothing to the current state of fashion, we’ve had to grapple with the fact that while as fashion scholars we critique the fashion system, we also willingly participate because it brings us a certain level of desire.

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2 responses to “Meaning-Making: Does Fashion Always Need Defining? Can It Just Be Satisfying?

  1. I appreciate what you’ve been able to extract from our recitation conversations, however polarizing the subjects of our class discussions were. In retrospect, I agree with you that this kind of dialogue is valuable and helps us see how our opinions inform our interpretations of what these designers have said about their collections. I think in the case of Rick Owens, and any controversial/ambiguous fashion presentation, perhaps a good way to disseminate the collection is to put it in context with the larger canon of work. With Rick Owens, how does Vicious fit in with his body of work as a designer? How is it similar to and/or different from what he has done before? What has he said in interviews? Who is wearing his clothing (etc.)? Also, even if he did simply design from a place of creativity and appreciation, should he still be held accountable regardless of his good intentions? These are all important questions that I’m sure we’ll continue to mull over in and out of class.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Thank-you, Rikki. I appreciate that you recognize the varying view points presented in our debate last Wednesday. I was thinking about it as well after our class. Do designers have a responsibility to consider the implications of their creations? Or is it enough/ok to introduce their work into the world, without necessarily thinking about its implications? It is a provocative question!

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