Is fashion relevant? It’s a discussion that has taken on new urgency in recent months. As consumers have moved online to shop on virtual boutiques, the need for fashion publications to offer an edit of the seasons’s trends, or suggestions of which shoes to wear, is diminishing. How do big brands engage with their consumers? Is fashion inclusive? Do fashion magazines speak to real people with real lives? And isn’t all fashion writing just a load of advertorial paid for by some billionaire fashion benefactor in the sky?
Each week, a number of readers feel compelled to write and tell me how daft it all is — and how silly I am. Even the industry’s innermost circles are charged with the debate. In a scandalously thrilling interview in Vestoj earlier this month, the former Vogue fashion editor Lucinda Chambers denounced the value of the industry in which she has worked for 36 years. “The clothes are just irrelevant for most people,” she said. “So ridiculously expensive.”
On the flip side, when fashion tries to engage in the issues of the day, things can quickly backfire. In this month’s US Vogue, the magazine suggested that its real-life couple cover stars Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik are “embracing gender fluidity” because they borrow each other’s clothes. The article has so inflamed the ire of the transgender and non-binary community for trivialising the subject of gender identity that the magazine has since issued an apology for “missing the mark”. Not a good look.
It is true that when looked at from a certain point of view fashion may not be relevant. I’m certainly not going to argue with you that the new-season corduroy blazer from Prada — the one worn by Hadid and Malik, as it happens — is necessarily going to serve any bigger purpose or facilitate our greater good. Although I will say it would please me very greatly to wear it.
I would argue, however, that fashion is extremely relevant for the 23.6m people worldwide who work…