Aesthetic Apparel

Last weekend I went to breakfast and discussed art with a local who was looking to sell in a show. As we spoke of aesthetics, he said "Darrah, you should work in an art gallery." Though flattered, I couldn't help but draw lines of comparison in working at a clothing boutique. Is selling clothing not the same as selling something in a frame? It's all art, right?

For me, magazines like Vogue and W are the framework and matting for fashion... publishing some of the greatest artists of the century - Dior, Lagerfeld, de la Renta... Yet, what those artists created was greater than art because we live our life in it.

I realized this when I met a man on the metro a while back. He said, "Define fashion…" And for the first time, I was a writer with nothing to write... As I quickly made up excuses for the incapability to define my passion, he asks again, "Why write about fashion?"

I get that question a lot, and tend to ask myself the same thing. Why fashion? Why is it important to me? Why not politics and poverty? Will God smile upon me if I choose novels rather than novelty?

So I explained that fashion is style. Without any real direction in my argument, I came to the conclusion that it's simply the ability to represent your inner aesthetics on a pallet that just so happens to be your body. Shopping is investing in artwork, and wearing it makes you feel like a masterpiece. We need more confidence in this world, and that alone is something to be passionate about. As I rapped, we rapped together, and he revealed this almost organic poetry that fell off his tongue like saliva. I encouraged him to attend a poetry reading so that he could share this amazing talent. Besides, what is the point of having something beautiful if not to share it with the world? And that is when it hit me.

That's why I love fashion… it's an art that anyone can afford, and that we all create, as subjective as a belief in God… in political interest… in fashion. The constant movement of it keeps me interested…. just like poetry… just like a painting…

My stop on the metro arrived, and we went our separate ways. He wanted to read my writing, so I wrote down the web address to my fashion blog on an old receipt, and with a pen from who knows where. No business card, no bulletin on Myspace. Just a real person to person connection of genuine interest, and a shared smile. However, I couldn't help but wonder why this random man was interested in my writing? As a man of the streets, why should he care about what I have to say - a white girl from the suburbs?

I have no idea, but maybe that's the point? I was judging him on his fashion. An old ski cap, dingy sweater, worn in jeans, and some Nikes that had seen some better days in the 80's. Was this his fashion? His style? An aesthetic that painted a portrait of his soul? Most definitely not. The words he spoke on the metro designed a Gucci suit in front of my eyes. Fashion shouldn't be about trends, designer names, and even though it is 98% of the time… 2% of the time it's telling something more. His clothes said, "I don't give a shit. I'm a man of the word rather than the cloth." Beautiful, no? Clothes can tell a story sometimes better than words can describe, which is why I was left without them when asked to define fashion.

I'm writing this on my blog because I ran across a fashion show for The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was questioning my innate response to their designs. I thought, "Who would wear that?" However, looking through my commercial lens, I decided to change filters to that of an artist... with the desire to let the world see what they see for one moment.

According to WWD, "Not all graduating seniors have commercial currency on the brain. The fashion students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, for instance, opted overwhelmingly for the conceptual in their designs."

Senior, Catherine Mudd, was one of my favorites. This plaid gown with straitjacket sleeves makes a powerful statement. Unaware of her real intentions, I get this sense of religious entrapment. The plaid is reminiscent of a catholic school girl uniform, and the head-piece is portraying a young nun. What's interesting about this gown is that straitjackets are often used to restrain people who may otherwise cause harm to themselves and others... so is the artist making a statement that religion is ultimately harming the people within it?

I can't help but feel like there's more going on underneath the fabric after seeing Mudd's inspirational gown at an event called "Behind the Seams." The rose-appliqued dress symbolized her fresh start after surviving a sexual assault.

Mudd says, "It's a bright, full, happy dress, embodying my hopefulness."

Min Jeong Ko made the cover of WWD with her interpretation of a young girl's armoire. The baby doll style with an empire waist and cap sleeves helped create this innocent vision for me. However, I will be a bit critical in the sense that literally sewing together a young girl's armoire and sticking it on a dress isn't going to the extent of creativity I think it could venture.

Another favorite of mine was Elyse Crowell's senior collection. Tapping into her inner child as well, she went the step further I was looking for.

"I wanted this collection to be personal to me so I translated these notions by using things from my childhood such as kite flying, and my mother's butterfly collection," she says, "I tried using a more childlike hands on technical approach such as using origami to make a pleated top and dress."

After messaging her on Facebook, she seemed thrilled to have received recognition from WWD as an upcoming designer. The piece featured below is only a sample of her experimentation with prints and I can't help but applaud her unique silhouettes, not to mention the texture and rhythm throughout. Intricate, yet conveying a breeze of stormy femininity, I can see someone like Victoria Beckham drooling to wear this collection.

However, Crowell is all about the art. "I'm not concerned about commercial appeal, pushing limits and being innovative should be the first challenge and then you can always tone it down later," she says.

This notion of fashion as art is nothing new, but simply something to rekindle with as True Religions and Ed Hardy overwhelmingly dominate the term "fashion" in the minds of young women. London's Barbican Art Gallery is helping implant this ideal as they will soon be featuring Viktor & Rolf in a new exhibition. Check out my most recent publication on The Dish - Uk.

Will Cond
é Nast please hire me now?! It's moments like this when I despise Lauren and Whitney for having the God-send opportunity to work at Teen Vogue. This season, Lauren denigrated that Alberta Ferriti gown in Paris in hopes that it could double as a "cute" cocktail dress, yet totally shunned it as a piece of art. Watching her sew through it was tantamount to watching someone crop the Mona Lisa like a Myspace picture. Disgusting.

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