So, I came out of the closet in a recent post about my brief annual fling with runway fashion. For a couple of weeks a year, I browse the photos from international fashion weeks– half aesthetic pleasure, half anthropological study.
Browsing London’s fashion week, I’m very aware that I’m stepping (briefly) into a whole world that I know nothing about. Thousands of websites, blogs, and magazines exist solely in the world of fashion, and play no conscious part in my own life for most of the year. But clearly, this is something that many people take seriously. Very seriously. Every day.*
Fashion writers acknowledge the economic recession– the effect that that the “outside world” is having on the “fashion world” –but they also express a sadness that it has to be affected. I wonder if I’ve stumbled onto a grown-up version of an escapist fantasy world– a topic that I’ve written about before.
Thing to Notice #1: How strange is it that we as a society grown comfortable referring to distinct “worlds” within our own national borders, as though one part of our complex culture could exist separate from another part? The ‘art world’, the ‘world of fashion’, or of roleplaying fantasy games– it doesn’t matter what it is; the idea of ‘worlds’ existing outside of other parts of culture reflects our tendency to segregate in far more devastating and political ways. It would be difficult, for example, for us to admit that there is a “white world” in the United States, though that is far more true than having an “art world” (which is dependent on a highly fluid, and still debated, definition of “art” **)
Thing to Notice #2: London’s runway models are real human beings. I was totally impressed by the variety of body types in multiple shows. There’s also greater racial diversity among the models, which I thought was quite interesting. I wish I knew more about the social dynamics of London, and why it would end up reflecting in their fashion week. I do know that British feminists tend to include race as a primary factor in their dialogue about gender and sexism, far more than American feminists.
In any case, here’s what I’m digging from London’s fashion week (we’ll see if I can follow up for Milan’s fashion week).
** The more important thing is that we still debate the definition of art in very vocal and visible ways, whereas debates over the definition of “white” are practically nonexistent, and remain confined to upper academia.