Dispatches from WOW 2012: On fashion and being who we want to be


It's easy to be distracted from the fact that fashion is about creative expression the joy of dressing up. The industry – as represented in glossy magazines and billboards – often intimidates rather than liberates women to be adventurous and have fun with their appearance. 

Fashion for all

Furthermore, society seems to whisper that, being interested in fashion is frivolous. Going into fashion is something you do when you don't have the depth or intelligence to do anything else. "Fashion: The History of Decoration" at WOW set out to prove just how limiting this view is. Chaired by fashionista Maggie Semple OBE, the panel included Grazia writer Polly Vernon, designer/trend analyst/fashion stylist/lecturer Oonagh O'Hagan and a young woman from Mulberry School for Girls.

This panel of articulate, accomplished, influential and stylish women insisted that you don't have to make a choice between being interested in fashion and being educated. I would add that, by the same token, you can love fashion and still be grounded, concerned about people and planet, in tune with your spirituality and so on and so forth. Yet often, we are made to feel that these identities cannot co-exist.

Ethics questions and questionable ethics


Which brings me to ethical fashion. Oonagh O'Hagan made some great points about one of the problems with ethical fashion being that there are so many definitions of ethical. I am reminded of Vivienne Westwood's recent Ethical Fashion Africa Project promotional campaign. The production of the clothes may have been ethical but, something about staging a glamourous high fashion shoot in a Kenyan slum felt to me like blatant non-consideration for people's dignity. Indeed, one day, as Oonagh suggested, we won't talk about ethical fashion because it will be a given. Until then, I'd agree with Maggie Semple that "ethical fashion is about knowing what ethical means for you."

Permission to play

At the end of the day, it all boils down to each and every one of us, making choices and unashamedly standing by them. Deciding what values we want to live by and celebrating our individuality, right down to how we dress her. 

Read more about the discussion on Maggie Semple's blog – Women Fashion Stories.
Check out Folake from StylePantry, featured in yesterday's post: this is a woman who has thoroughly embraced the joy of dressing up and it's wonderful! 

Image at top: left – Maggie Semple OBE, right – Folake from StylePantry. Next image: Vivienne Westwood campaign

2 thoughts on “Dispatches from WOW 2012: On fashion and being who we want to be”

  1. What a hard topic! But I think you’re right: in the end it comes down to unashamedly expressing as we see fit. And as with all things, perhaps the real challenge (and maybe even the cause of all the contention surrounding fashion) is our inability to Do, Appear and Present without attaching to these activities our identity.

  2. I think that it’s okay to attach the activities to your identity in the context of being conscious of the fact that identities are fluid and dynamic. We are so many different things at any given time – multi-dimensional! I think the whole point is that we run into problems when we try to fit in one narrow space and convince ourselves that we have to stay there forever.

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