In Defense of Couture: a recurring argument

With each new year couture becomes more obsolete and the argument in favor of the continuation of couture becomes more difficult. From an economical, environmental, and simply practical standpoint, couture makes absolutely no sense. Hours of work, thousands of resources, and millions of dollars wasted more or less on clothes few people or, in some cases, no one will wear outside of the show. And still it continues, year after year, season after season, begging us to ask ourselves why. The simplest explanation for this is that couture exists because it is an art form and art is absolutely necessary within a society.

Every civilization at every point in history can claim a form of art, more often unnecessary than not. Couture may seem like a rather extravagant art form to maintain "just because", and it is, but in an increasingly competitive world, including the art and fashion industries, beauty is an absolute necessity. Allowing your mind to cruise and letting your senses take control is healthy and an important step in intellectual growth, not to mention enjoyable. Neglecting one's artistic cravings doesn't make you more productive or intelligent, it makes you cold. 

In today's screen-obsessed world, actual human contact and understanding is a rarity, but art, and subsequently fashion and couture, allows people to connect through a common appreciation for beauty and creativity. Personally, I'm partial to couture because the most beautiful thing I have ever seen was the Valentino Fall 2015 couture show; an absolute poem for my senses, regardless of the fact that I watched it through my laptop. Couture, like every other form of art, is beautiful, personal, and touches the soul, whether you're a seasoned eighty-year-old editor or wide-eyed thirteen-year-old intellectual. 

My favorite couture show ever: Valentino Fall 2015. Source: Vogue
A look from this season's Margiela couture. Source: Vogue. (Also be sure to read Hamish's amazing review (as always) for an insight into the glamour behind this collection.)

Iris Van Herpen Fall 2017 Couture. Source: Vogue

That Gray Space Between Art and Fashion

While I haven't yet been to the Rei Kawakubo and Commes des Garçons exhibition at the Met, all the commotion regarding the first Monday in May has me thinking about the past exhibitions I've been lucky enough to witness in person. For last year's Manus X Machina, sculptural creations from the mind of Gareth Pugh particularly stand out; and from the year before, that gold, artifact-esque dress from Guo Pei takes my breath away even in memory. These annual exhibitions from the Costume Institute at the Met always raise the question: is fashion art? Surely if these creations sit in a museum and bring in curious viewers they count as art, but what about the clothes walking down the runway, on the racks, or even on our own backs? Where is the line drawn between fashion and art? 

The official definition of art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. According to this definition, fashion should count as art because it does, indeed, express "creative skill and imagination" and, generally, is "appreciated for its beauty or emotional power." Like art, clothes have the capacity to be crafted with creativity and invoke feeling based off of the pre-existing memories/thoughts/opinions of the viewer. Now that we've established the closeness between the definitions of art and fashion, this leads to another question: if art and fashion are so similar, why are their worlds so different? 

While there are many instances of overlapping between the art and fashion worlds, the Met Gala itself being one of them, in general, the two communities are quite different. The world of fashion is quite fast paced and changes, seemingly, constantly. It revolves around seasons and newness and sales. The art world also revolves around sales (what doesn't?), but it moves at a slower, more irregular pace; there are no specific months for viewing or creating. Trends stem from both high fashion and art and infiltrate into more diluted versions for the masses. While fashion and art influence society in different ways, both of their presences are constant. It's been proven throughout time that a society cannot function without both art and fashion; without beauty and emotion. 

So, maybe having a gray space between art and fashion is alright. One of the lessons learned from actively existing in today's world is that a lack of label or definition is okay. There doesn't need to be clear distinctions and requirements for what qualifies for art and what for fashion, as long as the two exist. 

Personally, I consider myself a member of both the fashion and art communities, currently more involved in the latter only because it's a tad easier because of the lack of strict, fast paced structure, as I mentioned before. But as an active participant in both these "worlds," I appreciate and seek beauty and emotion in all its strangest forms, whether that be through Rei Kawakubo's unusual masterpieces, Kai Althoff's strange instillation pieces, or my own uncomfortable, rather confusing, short experimental film. Artists, designers, and every type of creator in between, not only move society forward, but they hold society together. 

Another Year

Salutations! I currently writing you all from sunny Mexico City where I am on spring break for a week. Yesterday marked the 4th anniversary of this blog, my most tiny and precious chip of the World Wide Web and the universe as a whole. Yesterday brought about bittersweet feelings of both pride and shame; proud of all the work I've put into these four years, shame in how it's been months since I last posted. But my faults are not without reason. As some of you may recall, if any of you remain, I am currently a sophomore in high school, which leaves very little time for individually driven intellectual exploration. (See Academia Crushes Intellectual Curiosity, a phrase that I find I repeat to myself almost on the daily.) While I haven't kept up with the fashion world as much as I used to/ would like to, I am maintaining my creativity through other means, specifically art. I've been painting and drawing and exploring the world of fine art, simply because it's easier to keep up with than the world of high fashion, which moves at an ungodly and alarming rate. As for my writing, I haven't been able to do as much independent work as I used to, but my English classes keep me in line, and I always keep a working collection of poetry and prose on my phone. 

I have absolutely no idea what I want to be in life, nor do I think I have to know, contrary to the message pushed on us students where we should have every detail of our life planned out and ready to be executed. I do, however, know what I like and don't like, what interests me and what doesn't, so one of the greatest challenges ahead of me is to find a way to make a living doing something I enjoy. If anyone has a simple solution, please feel free to share, but for now I think hard work is the only answer. 

Almost everyone around me, from my peers to teachers and even my own parents, focuses on the monetary values of their future and mine. But walking through these streets of Mexico, seeing the little girls playing with sticks and the old women, with their broken chanclas, still singing, has confirmed my belief that happiness should be everyone's goal. I know it's hard to be happy without a dollar to your name, but I also know the feeling I get after I finish a painting or a poem or a good book. It's the same feeling that those little girls and old women feel and it's simply impossible to live without.

Academia Crushes Intellectual Curiosity

These past couple days have been a bittersweet time off from school. On the one hand, the stresses of the past semester should be lifted from my shoulders as I indulge in the holidays, but on the other, more overpowering, hand, all of my irritation regarding school seems to only have been amplified by the newfound time to process the absurdity of it all. Although I've come to this conclusion a while back, this past, unnecessarily grueling semester has reinforced my finding that academia crushes intellectual curiosity. Formal education simply leaves no room for independent thinking. As a rather young, self-proclaimed intellectual, I have experienced many instances in my academic career where creativity in thought could have been useful, but was instead discouraged by the system. Now, I don't completely mean to fuck the system, but sometimes I feel there is no other option. My creative interpretation regarding assignments is graded far more harshly than that of my peers, who merely restate both the question and teachings rather than form their own opinions. Although I'm not exactly one who cares about grades, I do genuinely care about learning, which is why I'm disappointed in a system that only punishes my curiosity. 

I take various honors courses and two languages, which gives me a rather busy schedule and doesn't allow for all A's, but my peers who maintain perfect marks in all their (easy) classes are infinitely praised. I don't crave special recognition or praise and school wouldn't be a frustration for me if it didn't take up so much time and effort. I know I sound like any other average lazy teenager here, but bare with me as I rant. 

My high school is a wonderful, accepting environment and I'm extremely lucky to be there. I don't deny it. But (and there always is a but because no situation is perfect), I find it's crushing out a lot of individuality and molding us into super-children, consisting of a high drive for academics, sports, and sociability. I created this space before high school with very clear opinions and goals regarding my future. Since entering high school, not only have I had less time to explore my well-defined passions, but I've found myself changing into a different person, only to reset to my true self during periods of break and desolation such as now. Ultimately, I'm scared to loose sight of myself and my interests. I know where I want to be in ten years, but I've no idea at all what will come between that time. At the beginning of high school (I'm now in my second year), I determined that my purpose in high school was not to "find myself" but to find where I fit in the world. Right now, that means being true to myself within the inevitably strict social constructs of an American high school. 

Instagram art, embodying my current mood.