|Richard Avedon's anonymous beauty.|
It is hard to pinpoint the moment when I fell out of love with 'fashion'. Hard because I'm not sure I ever truly fell for her at all. The youngest child in a family of five, I always tried to find a way of re-interpreting an overly worn, multi-hand down, out of date and probably other sex item of clothing. Three brothers and then a sister who confused even the local priest with her boyish haircuts, scuffed up knees and inability to do pink, left me with little in the way of glitter but as Cinders would agree, it's when you're up against it that you really dig deep. So as I grew and would occasionally be gifted some money by my Mum, 'to spend wisely on a few new pieces of clothing to see you through this next year', it was understandable that I might find one item that compelled me to buy it. As I would sit on the cross-country train home, post splurging at the nearest shopping centre in the ultra glamorous city of Peterborough, my sister would be weighed down with a dozen or so bags bursting with dependable navy tops, reliable jeans, the occasional Etam number and a whole lot of grey. I however would have one bag. One item. No change. But I would adore that dress/top/jumpsuit. They would be the most fantastic shoes this side of Paris. The greatest pair of trousers East Anglia had ever seen. Fortunately my parents saw me as the token creative number in a house full of super brains and such things would be allowed to go unjudged. So it came as no surprise to them when, after art school I chose to do a degree in fashion design. It was easy. It made sense. I could do the whole collection thing, work the production, fuss over the details but I never really factored in the people.
My woman, my world, the life that I saw being draped in my designs was never going to be the person that shopped in the boutiques I ended up selling to. She was someone that might appreciate the work I would do but lived outside of the business I was in. She was a woman in her husbands shirt and some jeans, collecting vegetables from an allotment. The woman covered in paint, wearing overalls, decorating a garden shed. The lady who always talked to my mum after church on Saturday evening, perfectly balanced in her dress, antique jewellery and silver grey hair. And then there was the lady who always carried her wicker basket with her, smoking a cigar, her perfect figure wrapped in a tailored shirt and slacks. These were the women I admired. To me they were bourgeoise left bank intellectuals who talked about literature, art and music. Not to say that is what I have become, this is all fantasy don't forget! But essentially it is this woman who made me turn my nose up at the business of 'Fashion'. For all its supposed glamour around show-time, its fantastical crowd of followers lapping up the next it-bag, it-shoe, it-girl, the beauty is pretty thin. I saw a girl crossing the road today, as I was waiting at the lights who, in all her wonky unself-aware ways was one hundred times more beautiful than any of the fash pack, presently pounding their pointy feet around the shows in Paris. She wouldn't have turned heads and she didn't stop traffic but in a world where everyone and everything is sprayed, polished and prepped to within an inch of its life, her natural and uncomplicated way of dressing and just being, made her stand apart.
Fashion will always draw me in but as I get older I definitely care a little less about Vogue' version of beauty. I've lived long enough now to see the wheel of style turn over more than once, repeating old looks with little change. True beauty is often found in the differences and I can embrace that thought. It's a whole lot cheaper to master.