I’m sure many professionals within the fashion industry have felt the need to defend fashion to their peers. From my own experience I understand that at times fashion can be perceived as an unintellectual interest, for example throughout my A Levels, my teachers of more academic subjects would continuously judge me for choosing to take a “dumb” degree (BA Fashion Communication and Promotion). Contradicting my status as a fashion student, however, I would be lying if I said I have never sat in a lecture and felt like we were learning about something completely irrelevant. Thousands of students worldwide are discovering new life-saving medicines and methods, whereas we’re learning about why River Island currently have a number of neon pieces in their collection or who is sitting in the front row at Milan Fashion Week.
It is true that at times the fashion industry may appear merely about aesthetics and frivolity , but in reality there’s far more than meets the eye. On one hand fashion can be brutally addictive; with “size-zero” models encouraging eating disorders and bullying. It can glorify issues such as violence and gang rape, drug use (think the ‘Heroin Chic’ era), and the sexualization of children. On the other hand fashion can be used as an educational tool for tackling these issues, warning the public of the consequences of societal issues. Stephen Meisel’s Water and Oil shoot for Vogue Italia’s August 2010 issue responded to the tragic Gulf oil spill, educating readers of the consequences of natural disasters as well as self-inflicted tragedies.
Fashion enables our society to have a strong element of diversity. It enables us to freely define our gender roles in society. Clothing can be used as a means to express different gender identities, with designers such as Karl Lagerfeld and Riccardo Tisci continuously encouraging their audience to be true to their identity. Chanel often features lesbianism within its advertisements, and Riccardo Tisci’s muse Lea T brings the house of Givenchy to support transsexuality. In this sense, fashion is powerful. It can encourage the less-confident to express who they truly are, something that is a big step forward in making our world a more pleasant place to live.