Monday, June 13, 2016

Investing In The Fantasy

    In both the literal and the figurative sense, most of us invest ourselves in the fantasy of Attire that is presented by the fashion industry.  It is difficult to avoid.  We are bombarded at every opportunity with imagery and text telling us what is hot, cool, sexy, and fun to wear.  Every city street presents us with endless variations on the same theme.  Every fashion periodical, and fashion blog deluges us with ideas bent on one goal, to get us to buy into this fantasy.  And by fantasy I mean that rich, lithe, young, hip dream that is at the core of nearly every advertising campaign.  We have been schooled to think that we are only worthy when we are in our 20s and 30s, have less than 5 percent body fat, and have so much financial wherewithal that spending 8000 dollars on a coat for the spring season seems a reasonable idea.  The reality as we know, is something less than that.
    Okay, granted. We get presented with this largely unattainable ideal of physical perfection and superficial beauty. Got it. Having ideals to climb towards is essential to us if we are to challenge ourselves and progress.  What we can do, however, comes down to two things.  We can, if we wish to, take those fantasies and re-invent them for ourselves at our own level, and with our own available means.  That is the course that the vast majority of us take.  In fact, it's the course the retailing industry hopes profoundly that we will take. Their success, and their profits depend upon it.
    This massive industry, which generates trillions of dollars world wide, (when you consider all the parts of the Attire language that make it up), wants one thing above all others, to get us to spend. They are not ultimately interested in how good we really look.  They are interested in profit.  Sure, many designers out there really are trying to move things forward in terms of how we see ourselves, and our true understanding of our nature.  But the huge majority of purveyors of fashion are interested primarily in the bottom line for themselves. What is going to sell.
    I can't really fault a business person for being interested in profit. It is, after all, what business is about to a huge degree.  What I fault is this. I fault the design community when it forgets the real needs and aspirations of its client base.  For example. Women's clothing typically has either no pockets at all, or only vestigial ones that serve no purpose.  Why?  Because the industry simply refuses to acknowledge that women want to carry stuff with them that is not in their handbag.  Nearly every woman I know would LOVE to be able to reach into a pocket in their pants and pull out their phone.  But anything other than jeans makes that impossible.
    And for men there is a different but equally profound disconnect.  Throughout the animal kingdom it is the male animal that shows the brightest colors, and the most extravagant patterns.  Just walk into any menswear department and you will find the exact opposite.  Gray, black, and navy, an endless sea of it. Why?  Men like color. I like color.  Finding it is a problem though.  Because we have been schooled that it is not masculine, it is not safe.  For the retail industry that has worked so hard to support this, that narrow range of color means money in the bank.  Colorful means potential loss.
    All of these things are part of the fantasy we get given. All of these things are part of the dream that the fashion industry wants us, needs us really, to believe.  They themselves have invested in, created a fantasy, and pushed very hard indeed to get us to accept it as truth.
    The problem is this.  We are not a fantasy.  You and me are real folks with real lives. We might have our fantastical aspirations, but they do not suit a real world and a real life. So, we can choose to remain with this first choice I mentioned, and manipulate some diluted version of the common style.  We can choose by that to be of the herd.  And for many of us, that is what we really want. I don't mean to decry it.  Most of us don't really want to stick out that much.
    We have another choice. If we wish.  If we have the moxie, the brio, the chutzpah, we can chart our own course entirely. I can honestly say that for me, the people who get the most attention are those whose apparel choices are not entirely normative. I find those who make choices outside of what is stylish or safe, to be exhilarating, and delightful, even if I don't entirely understand what they are about.
    I'm not saying that this choice is for everyone. It's not.  I will say that I have seen people who have few means, but enormous creativity, take whatever was to hand and make a whole new subset of the Attire language that refers particularly to them.  I applaud these extraordinary folks, and want only to be more like them.
    So I will leave you with this. Think about it. Think about what you bring to the table.  Is it really you? Is it the safe and cozy you? Is it only partly you?  Perhaps it's time to push your own boundaries a bit, and show people more of who you truly are.

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