Wednesday, 12 November 2014

We are not invisible.

This blog is part of a research project in which I seek to understand how we use clothing to shape our identities. As I've grown older, I've come to view my own style choices as part of a bigger story that stretches back over time. I recognise the collection I've built up over the years as the continuation of something I began around thirty years ago and am still engaged with. It's a work in progress and it gets better every year.

Through my work as first as data designer and then as teacher, I've learned something of how our natural desire to understand the world we live in can be satisfied by gathering information and using it intelligently. Twenty years after the birth of the Internet, we're learning more and more about how this applies to the narrative threads that weave through our lives.

MetaFashion and Timeless Style

A popular strategy is to reduce style choices to simple formulae, a calculus of body shapes, colour palettes, arbitrary classifications (are you classic or boho?) and lifestyle requirements. All useful tools no doubt, but I think it's more nuanced than that. We're all in the thrall of aesthetic influences that we don't necessarily understand, operating on a deeply subconscious level. The only way we can make sense of them is by putting them under the microscope and looking for patterns.

I want to test the hypothesis that gathering data about our style choices can help us forge more authentic, sustainable methods of clothing ourselves. I've long been interested in the idea of documenting the contents of my wardrobe, but I want to go deeper than just counting things up and making a list. That's why I've decided to tell the stories associated with individual garments, the ones  that continue to give me joy. What do they mean, if anything? Why this longevity? Why have I been wearing this old thing for so many years? Where did it come from and why does it still work? And why do I return to the same shapes and silhouettes year after year?

Appropriating the Edge

In a culture obsessed with youth and beauty, I'm convinced one of the worst things we can do as we mature is make ourselves invisible. If fashion is owned by the young, then style is the dominion of the properly grown up, because there comes a time when trend watching takes a back seat to something altogether more personal and assertive. We can use the work of young designers, but we can't ignore our own style heritage. When you've been doing something for years, you can't help but get pretty good at it.

I believe the time is right for us to reconsider fashion as an art form we can all engage with and for individuals to move beyond the consumer models that are now in place. I don't believe that the fashion blog is dead, far from it. On the contrary, it now has the potential to become something altogether more personal and democratic. The high fashion/street style blog may be dying a death, but there are any number of platforms out there for hobby fashionistas to exchange ideas and trade goods, where notions of gender are being reinvented and standards of beauty reconsidered.

With this in mind, I'll be using this as an investigative space for the conceptual modelling of my own personal style with a view to using technology to enable others to do the same. I'll be looking at vintage shopping and home dressmaking as alternatives to the mainstream, but I won't be ignoring high fashion or the high street either. I hope to make space for body politics, gender identity, feminism and sexuality as part of this exploration.

Move over. It's time for something new.