"I think there is something against fashion in the world. Everybody is so passionate about this, there’s a resistance to fashion, an idea that to love fashion is to be stupid… this is for two reasons. One is because clothes are very intimate. When you get dressed, you are making public your idea about yourself, and I think that embarrasses people. And two, I think that fashion is seen as women’s work."
- Miuccia Prada
It is a truth universally acknowledged that expressing an interest in fashion is almost and always immediately met with distaste or disdain. As though you’d just confessed to a crime. Or a love for pineapple on pizza. Or right-wing politics. Or something even worse.
The only thing that is possibly more horrifying is being a law student – or someone in a similarly academic field – and still declaring that same love for Louboutin’s, Lanvin, our Lord Saint Laurent, etc. Honestly, it’s a hard life. Whilst the field of fashion law is certainly now emerging, it has not always been that way. The Fashion Law Chronicles itself came about as a platform exploring an initially niche area of interest with a consequentially small target audience.
Times have changed (kind of). There is now an official Fashion Law master’s degree run by Fordham University, and the winds of the new age have brought in public attention for platforms such as The Business of Law. But even so, you’ll find that an interest in fashion law is something that still draws in swarms upon swarms of sceptics. It is seen as a strange thing – to pursue a combination of something that is as ‘respected’ as the law, and as ‘superficial’ as fashion. But why the distaste? It comes down to what Miuccia Prada – current director of the style powerhouse Prada – describes as the resistance to fashion. But what does this mean?
The very term fashion has itself taken on a dozen costumes, styles and new appearances over time. In the modern day, it has seemed to become synonymous with clothing. Just clothing. As though fashion were no more than the material it is made of. As though fashion were a physical thing and no more. Just another consumerist trap.
At first glance, this can appear to be a harmless characterisation. But the problem with fashion becoming clothing is that it has caused it to become trapped in a mould of unflattering preconceptions –
Superficiality. Materialism. Luxe. Excess. Money.
Which is, in my opinion, fairly misleading. Of course, there is a question that follows – if fashion is not these things, then what is it?
For centuries, there has forever been a kind of social history intertwined, woven into the fashions of the time. In a piece of fashion – a certain style, item or aesthetic – there is a piece of history. It is a fragment piece of the time and space continuum, that perfectly captures a particular mindset of a particular time, a particular place, group of people, a movement, a feeling, a desire – a particular need. And what about in a particular brand, you might ask? Well, in a brand, there is a story. A legacy of sorts. Whether it be the feminist uprising of a Chanel, or the femininity encapsulated in a Dior original, or the modern-age destruction of gender boundaries interwoven into Yamamoto’s unisex wear – there is always a legacy. A movement. Personally, I would really question why there need be a distinction between the value of fashion and the value of art. No one questions whether Van Gogh’s A Starry Night is simply paint thrown on a canvas. Van Gogh holds an intangible cultural value, and I would argue that, for example, Chanel’s tweed jacket is no different.
If you are interested in understanding what can be described as perhaps the cultural contribution of fashion, I would recommend taking a look at My Dear Bomb by Yohji Yamamoto, or viewing Chanel’s free video series Inside Chanel. You will quickly find that those words – the ones that people associate with fashion – superficiality, materialism, excess? Irrelevant. They look past what really drives this industry; heart and soul. Concepts and movements. Passion. Art. Love. In fact, I am far more inclined to suggest that these issues – of superficiality, excess, money-drive, etc. – are far more pressing in the legal world. After all, barely one day goes by where I don’t wonder if enrolling in my law degree has been a horrifying mistake. But have I ever questioned whether or not Christian Dior’s 1947 ultra-liberating New Look was really the best thing that could have happened to the post-war patriarchal society of France? Not even once.