For many, fashion is a frivolous field. Amidst such perceptions, this is what kept my faith in the industry intact
I remember the euphoria I felt when I first learnt about the idea of studying fashion. It was from a career counsellor who happened to visit us when we were about to graduate from school.
However, to find one’s parents cold to one’s choice of subject for ‘further studies’ is not a situation any teenager wants to be in. Furthermore, when extended family members start giving out their own opinions as to why fashion is not a worthy subject to study, there is a bumpy road ahead.
Well, irrespective of all these trials and tribulations, some sort of unconventional desires led to a fashion school. It has been three years now that I have graduated and have worked multiple jobs, during and after college. In all these years, I have met enough people who have shown their discontentment towards fashion and those who study it, like how the subject requires no critical thinking or skill. They wonder why I even qualified for a discipline that needs four years of training.
And I can say it is not just an Indian concern. I went to Jaipur literature festival back in February 2018 to hear Anja Aronowsky Cronberg, founder and editor-in-chief of Paris-based fashion magazine Vestoj, speak about why she went ahead and created the magazine she heads. She said, “Still there is this preconceived idea about fashion when often compared to other forms of culture, it is seen as something… lesser than. Something that is connected with vanity, surface or superficiality which affects the attitudes of people who work in the fashion industry as I do, people who are scholars of fashion and also everyday people. The idea of Vestoj is to bring a more thought-provoking, analytical and when required, a critical take on fashion.”
I have tried to ignore the lay person’s judgmental attitude as often as I could. People always have questions regarding what my education was like at NIFT. I studied fashion communication which is different from fashion design. I can say, some questions did make me uncomfortable on multiple occasions, especially in college when I was only learning and did not quite understand or sense the disregard in people’s minds for what I was doing with my life.
Fashion is still considered as ‘not so academic’ by many folks, but in the last couple of years, I have accumulated the courage to navigate difficult conversations. A lot of writing exercises, meeting people and getting an opportunity to share my ideas, with a non-fashion community on a weekly basis (edit meets) has incredibly helped me build my confidence when I talk about how I see the idea of clothing.
As a creative being, I have been truly interested in work based on the fashion that is unique, cares for the environment, the physical and mental health of all living organisms. Work that makes us think and see life in a new light. Work that tells stories. Anything that is made out of sheer passion and not the run-of-the-mill-kind is what I have always admired and has helped keep my faith in fashion.
Meanwhile, negotiating these conversations and story ideas, I have also learnt a great deal about the adverse effects of fashion on the environment. It has not remained an intellectual conversation anymore (it never was, now we are just short of time), given the climate change and its relation to fashion being the second more polluting industry after oil.
It is interesting to note that irrespective of the fashion industry’s image at large, each one of us is responsible for the harm the clothing industry has done to the environment. The way fashion is being consumed is what gives precedence to the entire fashion system that has led to serious damage to both living beings and the eco-system.
The fact that we all wear clothes and our recent buying patterns have had a direct impact on the environment without us even imagining it in our rarest of thoughts, is what suggests human ignorance on various matters.
Nevertheless, this situation also gives me hope for the extent to which the fashion industry can bring change to global carbon emissions being the second largest polluter. The designer in me waits for the day the entire fashion community comes together and actively reinforces environment-friendly measures and materials in their production methods. Isn’t it sounding like a dream? Fashion saving the world!
As for those who are not directly involved in the fashion business, they must educate themselves about clothing and how it affects society, human behaviour… and of course life itself.