By Margretta Sowah
Instagram, much like the Fashion Industry, loves people with style.
Our culture is obsessed with seeing seemingly ordinary people mix & match genres and subcultures, injecting their own personal handwriting into Couture and Ready-to-Wear collections. This is why the street-style trend has skyrocketed. Many quotes are devoted to the importance of Style; reminding us that Fashion and Style are not mutually exclusive. Scrolling through Pinterest for visual inspiration (and yet another secret board to add) I stumbled on this quote by Edna Woolman Chase: “Fashion can be bought. Style one must possess.” Therein lies the enigma. Fashion is clothing; it is runway shows, editorials, collections and campaigns – the whole shebang. Style is an internal signature you can’t escape once stood with truth. This proves that we are who we are – we may improve (or not) but we can’t change the essence of ourselves. Philosophical? Yes, in the most fashionable way.
There are plenty of Fashion lovers who can name all the highbrow labels but find it difficult to find their own style within those brands. And by style I mean Taste. That is what Style is – a particular way you do things. Fashion is a commercial enterprise that has several different components to it. There is no stock-standard formula (despite what the glossy pages of ELLE, Harpers Bazaar and the like feed us in bite size canapés) for achieving your personal preference.
At a retail business seminar a few weeks ago one of the speakers (shout-out to brand expert Richard Saurman – his clients list includes Coca Cola, Microsoft, Toyota and Levi’s to name a few. In short, we call him The Brand Guy) made a very interesting point; “Tools are as good as the people who use it.” Big agencies have been known to scout for model’s almost anywhere. Jourdan Dunn was discovered at Primark in London while shopping with a friend. Though some might think it is serendipity to find a model in a clothing store that is not an indication of a fashionable person, let alone someone with great style – no offense Miss Dunn.
Regrettably most of us are not born with Vogue-esqe chic. We go through periods of trial and error. As we mature in knowing ourselves more authentically we mould non-verbal signals to communicate with the world around us. To the outside world, this could be called Body Language. In Fashion, we call it Style. Brands hire Stylists because they are sort of like the surgeons of the Fashion Industry – astute in their practices, their aim to highlight the positive and reduce the negative. A Stylist has to be cut-throat and merciless in their editing process.
We have been told from a young age that Less is More. If Less is More where does it leave room to be yourself and to not feel the restrictions or pressure of the minimalist Post-Post Modern mentality? Is Style not about being unequivocally and unapologetically yourself? Much like a writer or any other creative, one must learn to cut the unnecessary to reach hearts and heads of readers, this is not an easy task. You could say a model can be seen as a blank canvas in which a Stylist “Jackson Pollock’s” on them (that sounds dirty, doesn’t it?).
It is easy, in this world of social distraction, to compartmentalise things – to put them in categories and then generalise those categorises; good/bad, black/white and so forth. The problem with generalising is we are individuals with the propensity to change and evolve. That which was once this can turn into that, and vice versa (think Caitlyn Jenner’s transgender transformation).
The pre-requisite to Style is knowing yourself – what you like, don’t like and why it works for you. Then, like my Mother always told me: try, try and try some more. You will not know the practicality of something unless you get into it. Walk proud in your choices.
Diana Von Furstenberg has said she can handle bad taste, but no taste? That is something the world needs less of. We can afford to get Fashion wrong. Not everything is for everyone and brands target specific audiences which may not always include your taste (e.g. Jeremy Scott for Moschino, though I love his point of view). That is why style is so important. The world can cater for everything, but not everyone can eat the way you.
My advice? Enjoy licking your plate clean and be brave enough to go for seconds – but hey, that’s just my style.