'The Modern Concept' for ZERO Magazine
A few weeks ago, Vogue published an interview with the celebrated Marc Jacobs on his latest collection, his inspirations and his love for the swiftly ever-changing culture of what is deemed ‘fashionable’ in the turning seasons. What really got me stirring in the desk chair was Jacobs’ boldly unapologetic attack on modern technology and the contemporary world of fashion design. "I am so appalled by the whole social media thing" was the most quoted line from the interview – exposed, emphasised and underlined in bold. "I don't get it, it doesn't appeal to me, neither does a computer, or working on a laptop. I don't want to read a book on a device... I am just not of that generation. I get the allure of it, but it just doesn't appeal to me." These strong words that spilled from Jacobs’ mouth like a flood of disgust upon the current generation was a passionate display of fervent disapproval and was ironically published on Vogue’s website, regurgitated by Dazed Digital and spread like wildfire across a multitude of social media platforms.
I have to say I agree with Marc Jacobs on many levels. I like holding a book on the bus; I appreciate the smell of a chunky magazine fresh from the printers. I would encourage the idea of stepping out of the front door to dose up on inspiration for a fashion collection rather than sitting at a desk with Google search on tab. Yet I am typing this article from a MacBook, referring to the Internet as I go along, and last night I even read a PDF version of an Ian McEwan novel in time for my lecture today. I guess I just am part of that generation that Jacob tries to sever himself from, and so are a majority of the current and future young designers that we see offering up their graduation collections, praying to be swept up by Fashion Scout. All current designers seem to use the ever-growing inter-web to research techniques, trends, manufacturers; they use Instagram to showcase their designs and Twitter to promote their shows at some stage in their careers. Even Jacobs with his expressed detest has a Twitter account churning out show coverage and endless brand promotion. So what is the problem? Does modern technology stifle creativity? Does it silence imagination and ensure an endless circle of recycled ‘innovation’?
Jacobs at least suggests that it plays its part. With the rise of technology and accessibility to just about anything and everything through the screen of a laptop, comes a correlated decrease in new, fresh design ingenuity. The new age of easy accessibility encourages laziness, and with laziness it’s pretty damn hard to pioneer a fashion revolution.
"You know, I am an older person now, I'm going to be 52 in a couple of months," says Jacobs. "But I look at young fashion and it seems like it's all the same – the idea of what is edgy or cool. It's style with no substance; it doesn't really seem born of anything. I don't see the rebellion or edge in it. It just looks like a cliché: salad oil in the hair, Frankenstein shoes and the trappings of punk and all these other things.”
On the verso, the Internet is the biggest functioning resource in the modern world. It can connect with those out of touch; it can educate, inspire, and has the power to pedestal new talent to achieve the recognition it deserves. Modern technology can also be a fun tool to encourage even those non-designers of us to get in touch with our inner creativity. The #heelconcept trend that recently took momentum on Instagram ranked quite highly on the scoreboard of weird and trivial social media fads. From bananas to brushes, pretzels to cans of chickpeas, any and every possible object of minute interest was featured through a filtered lens, replacing the heel in a rather avant-garde manner while propping up an elegantly arched foot. In short – it was a creative way for normal people to build their own high heel, no matter how nonsensical and impractical. Misty Pollen, the inventor of the #heelconcept quite aptly summarised the culture of social technology:
“Because online presence is now so thoroughly linked to each of our identities, it is equally so an arena for identity play. People can put more into dressing up for Instagram than what is afforded to them to go out.
Thinking about the #heelconcept in another context, it is quite suited to reflect the trending hashtag on to the British fashion industry and its toils for creativity. London is a city that is rewarded with compliments of creativity and spirit season after season. Making use of every tool and material accessible in order to create something new, and something that people would want to adopt or mimic, is at the heart of British fashion design. In the light of celebrating British fashion for its boundless innovation and imaginative invention, it is interesting to note that out of all the fashion capitals, it is London that struggles the most to keep itself stabilised and fully supportive of its designers and the accessibility of fashion.
Luella Bartley, who is an advocate for reflecting British heritage in her collections, stated, “Britain is a tough place to be. It always seems like a struggle, so when everyone has to try much harder, it brings out really strong creativity and that’s how great things happen.” Known as being notoriously expensive to live and work in, London has been described as a drain on resources, with designer Hussein Chalayan describing British fashion, as a result, to be “aware, multifaceted and empowered by a lack of resources”. Money is tight, so can we blame an excessive use of modern technology as one of the biggest means of getting by in the fashion industry?
It’s a new day. Things are changing, and perhaps Marc Jacobs was a little off the mark with his condemnation of the most momentous tool of the future. Yes, it’s a world away from the romanticised tales of Alexander McQueen and Katy England running the streets of London in search for the cheapest materials going, having fun in book stores and scrapping together enough change to fax invites for the upcoming weekend show. And yes, there is a need for fresh ideas and less design repetition in order to inject the same level of excitement achieved by Britain’s most notable designers of previous decades. But to ignore what we can learn about fashion trends from social media and to remove ourselves totally from what is prominent and progressive within the modern world would be to disregard one of our biggest available tools and disadvantage future innovation in the realm of fashion design.