Ten years ago, when I had just entered journalism school, if someone had told me that I would be writing about fashion, strategizing content for fashion brands, I would have probably laughed.
I was one of those people who thought fashion was pretty enough, but definitely not worthy of my time or my abilities. I considered it frivolous, superficial, and repetitive. Today, I would have given that twenty-something version of myself a long talking to about stereotyping and the many aspects of fashion that makes it one of the most important industries in the world, and not just financially.
In my years working in fashion (and it hasn’t been that many and honestly, I am on the periphery of things), I’ve had the advantage of being the curious outsider who also gets insight into what’s happening on the inside. And I have learnt some key things.
Fashion is, if nothing else, powerful. A garment is not only pretty, serving the function of making you look good; it’s also powerful, statement-making, and liberating. Think Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or any other uniform-toting professional. In making a single-outfit choice, they have made a powerful statement, because in making a choice to not bother about clothes, they have made a sartorial decision of sorts.
It’s also a powerful tool of influence; from Gandhi’s khadi to Mao’s Mao-suit, from Diana’s dresses to Sonia Gandhi’s sarees, famous, influential personalities are often associated with garments that become a way of projecting the image they want to create.
On the other hand, think clothes by Commes des Garcons, Yohji Yamamoto, or closer home, Arjun Saluja, all fashion designers and brands that have challenged stereotypes and societal structures to create fashion and a statement way ahead of its time.
Working in fashion has also taught me that your attitude matters much more than your clothes do. Think about it is the biggest names of fashion can carry off torn denims and make them seem like the most aspirational pieces of outfit you can ever own, then isn’t it just their attitude doing the trick. Not everyone in fashion gets a clothing allowance as big as Anna Wintour’s (or an allowance at all), but they make it work and how.
A stereotype that fashion insiders have to often live with is that they are mean and bitchy. Truth be told, they are only as mean and bitchy as people in any other industry. If you think about it, fashion is in fact on of the most open and embracing-of-all industry you could ever work in. I don’t think there’s any other industry (perhaps media) that is so open to the idea of being yourself. Sure, you will get a look of disdain for wearing a print from two seasons ago sometimes, but generally most people are kind and not concerned with who you are, where you are from, and whom you love.
Fashion taught me to look at things differently, with a different perspective. It’s through working in fashion that I learnt that I wanted to discover the stories behind clothes, craftsmanship, textiles, and the art of it all. Every time I meet someone new from the industry, I discover something else I was unaware of.
It’s a process of constant learning, whether I am teaching or interviewing or researching. I am sure it’s like any other industry, challenging, confusing, but exciting and for that I hope it’s a journey that is never ending.