As an army kid who grew up in hamlets, villages, and small towns, my exposure to fashion was limited to the extremely fashion-forward aunties who frequented parties at home, my mom’s ever intriguing wardrobe filled with clothes that a little girl could build castles out of, and the fashion magazines that came home from the library (and which I sneakily read after finishing my week’s dose of Famous Five).
It’s remarkable how clued in I was, considering I was quite the serious kid, and something as ‘frivolous’ as fashion shouldn’t have captured my attention the way it did.
But I wanted to be a writer and I knew that to tell stories, you needed to read stories and explore the different tales that exist in the world. And so, in a way, these fashion rags raised me, teaching me about those stereotypically ‘girly’ things that ‘serious’ writing shies away from. Somewhere along the way though, while I realized that dressing oneself well was important, the world told me that writing about it or a career in it was not suited to my intellectual ability; that fashion magazines, with their ‘size zero’ models, wearing clothes which will always exceed the ability of my bank balance, with shallow headlines, focused on trends, and showcasing celebs in designer gowns, were not what I wanted to waste my education in writing on.
Thankfully, about six years ago, I rediscovered my interest in fashion.
At that point of time, I didn’t know much about fashion weeks or the top models, I didn’t know any designers other than the usual suspects but I knew one thing, looking at fashion magazines and the sheer beauty and craft of clothes always left me breathless, wanting for more. Over time I discovered how intriguing fashion, as an industry and a topic, is. It is the melting point of identity, culture, anthropology, and history.
Fashion can be personal or political, it can be fantastical or realistic; it is a collection of stories that we have not yet discovered how to read.
These are the stories that fashion magazines need to tell. It’s not that they don’t. They have definitely evolved. Today you are as likely to find a story on a lost textile-based art and how clothes transformed someone’s life in a magazine as you are a story about next season’s hair colour trends. Magazines are treading that fine line between aspiration and accessible with grace and panache. Magazines, with their web counterparts, have finally been democratized; fashion features that style a Zara top with an Armani skirt and Louboutin shoes are no more pathbreaking but a staple.
But they still have catching up to do. It’s not that they aren’t showing us the truth but they are not giving their readers enough credit. We want to know what colour will dominate our wardrobe next season but we also want to know how fast fashion is killing the environment.
Yes, we want to know which eye makeup trend will displace cat eye but we also want to know which dying art has been revived and what smart textiles are. We want thought provoking journalism and inspiring writing.
Help us discover the stories in our own wardrobe. Be that magazine that helped a 7-year-old find fairy tales without a prince and one that she could write herself. That’s what we need.