It begins…

1 Dec

“Society is founded upon cloth.”

— Thomas Carlyle

I’ve always loved fashion.

I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that, more than any other creative field, fashion has always existed as a social barometer, giving any outsider a view of what was going on culturally, economically and socio-politically at any given era simply by examining what people are wearing.

Take, for example, the events of the 1920s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.  Factor in the precursors and repercussions of those periods and view what people were garbed in over these decades and you begin to see a pattern of action and reaction, influence and confluence.

When really analyzed, one cannot help but realize that fashion is powerful, relevant and surprisingly cyclic.  What goes around comes around, yet as the world gets smaller and more accessible via technology, these cycles get shorter and faster.

(We’ll discuss much more of all of this in future blog entries…)

Now, for those of you who don’t know me, I’ve worked in almost every aspect of the fashion industry for the past 22 years.  I’ve been a retailer, a buyer, a manager, a pattern cutter, a designer, a displayer, a merchandiser, an accountant, an advertiser, a writer, a consultant and a teacher.

This blog has been a while in coming.  The idea of publishing something online that (with hope) people would read and respond to regularly is both exciting and frightening.

I kept worrying about whether it would be interesting enough, relevant enough, exciting enough.

Finally I realized that I needed to stop worrying and just write — write from my head as well as my heart, write not just from my personal experiences but from fact and history, and write for the pure joy of sharing what I think and what I know.

This will not be a blog touting the merits of the latest Gucci bag or the must-have quotient of this season’s Prada pump.  There are a million of those out there already, and they’re all great.

However I’m not really an it-bag, of-the-moment fashionisto kind of guy.

I think the idea of totally reworking one’s wardrobe on a seasonal basis to satisfy the whims of designers and editors is not only economically unfeasible, it’s just silly.  I believe in wearing what inspires you and makes you feel like a million bucks.  And not just because a magazine tells you so, but because when you look in the mirror, you can tell yourself that same thing.

And I honestly don’t give a crap about what the must-have clutch or shoe of the season is, what celebrity is wearing what designer, or what’s hot and what you shouldn’t be caught dead in.  If everyone had that much time and money to spend on their lives and their wardrobes, we’d all be very happy creatures.

Though, to be fair and honest,  even I have my moments — sometimes a creation is written up that I do truly fall in love with and inspires me tremendously.  On the opposite end of that spectrum, however, if I see another pair of UGGS with jeggings going down the street I can’t be held responsible for what I may do to the wearer.

I know this makes me in some ways the antithesis of all that is sacred in the world of fashion, but hey – that’s always been who I am.  It’s how I dress, it’s what friends, family and clients have admired about me forever, and it’s never going to change.

What’s always done it for me about fashion is the beauty of it, the architecture, the complexity, the integrity and depth of history that pervades every aspect of this industry.

What makes someone not just fashionable but stylish ??  What are your favorite pieces of clothing and, more importantly, why ??  Why is one pair of jeans or a cashmere sweater $60 and the other one $600 ??  What are the influences that are behind trends that we see and sometimes just blindly follow ??  Why do we buy what we buy, shop how we shop, look how we look ??  And just what exactly is sexy anyway ??

These are the things that fascinate me: the history of fashion, the psychology of why we buy what we buy and the immense changes in the whole of the industry in just the past few decades.

Hopefully they’ll fascinate you as well…

Oh, and one last thing: I want feedback.

I want your questions, your opinions, your observations.  I’d love for this to be as interactive as possible. If something I write about intrigues you or you can relate to it, tell me about it !!  If something I write rubs you the wrong way or you disagree, tell me about that too !!

This is no fun without your input.  More on FASHION VS. STYLE in my next entry.

Be well, everyone….




3 Responses to “It begins…”

  1. Jed December 3, 2010 at 3:12 PM #

    Chris, the posting is perfect. It reflects your personality clearly and succinctly. I really am eager to read more, and hopefully learn from your fashion wisdom.

  2. phrodeo December 4, 2010 at 7:10 PM #

    Chris, you definitely don’t need to worry about whether your writing is notable…I’ve been turning your first 2 posts in my head a lot – and I’m someone whose wardrobe is roughly 30% ill-fitting hand me downs. (Your posts have gotten me thinking about topics I don’t tend to think much about.)

    2 questions and a recommendation:
    1) What are your thoughts on the book / movie “The Devil Wears Prada” – esp statements the character of Miranda Priestly makes?

    2) How do you think people’s increasing waistlines will affect the world of fashion (esp lines targeted for the middle class)?

    Recommendation: I’ve been reading a good book called “A Whole New Brain” by Daniel Pink which discusses how workers in the new economy need to incorporate some skills previously considered “right-brain” and “artsy” and not prized in the working world as much. For ex, competencies related to design and aesthetics – partly b/c we’re living in such a world of abundant consumer goods that companies need a way to stand out or won’t survive. I haven’t finished it yet but from what I’ve read so far I think you would enjoy it.

    Wander over to my blog sometime – it’s a little random & ranty but hopefully occasionally interesting, Jen S

    • Christopher Forte December 5, 2010 at 5:57 AM #

      Jen !!!
      Hope all is well for you. Thank you so much for your feedback, it’s very much appreciated, and I will most definitely check out your blog and the book you recommended asap. To answer your questions:

      Regarding ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ — I felt that the book to a certain extent and the movie to a very large extent sensationalized the personality of Miranda Priestly (a.k.a. Anna Wintour). There’s no question that Wintour is chilly to say the least, but to me the book’s real focus is about how becoming too dedicated to any career can blind you to more prescient aspects of your life; namely family, friends and loved ones.
      The movie intrigued me because Meryl Streep played her character so well that you wanted to like her in spite of her sinister nature and more importantly, because Miranda’s statements about the industry were so utterly on target. The scene that sticks in my mind is the the monologue she has about ‘cerulean’ blue and how it trickles down from the haute couture to a bin in some nameless off-price store. That is EXACTLY how the industry works. I’ve actually used that scene to start discussions in classes I’ve taught.
      If you really want to get an accurate idea of just how much power individuals like Anna Wintour (Miranda Priestly’s alleged inspiration) have on fashion, you need only view ‘The September Issue’ (though I’m sure you already have). It is truly unbelievable, and not a bit scary, how intensely all from the highest-end designers to the lowest-end consumers are affected by her opinions.

      Regarding people’s increasing waistlines — I’m going to defer on this question for the most part because, ironically, I’ll be discussing an aspect of this in my next blog. We are definitely seeing a general increase in shape and silhouette for the upcoming spring/summer season, but this has more to do with the nature of the economy and world issues than anything else.
      The alarming increase in obesity in the US has certainly not gone unnoticed — certainly not by the media — hence “The Biggest Loser” and “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” as well as Michelle Obama’s amazing efforts to increase awareness about exercise and nutrition. The fashion industry has no easy solution, and it seems whatever stores and designers do, they can’t win.
      If they keep their size runs to the “normal” 2 to 12, they’re called out for ignoring or belittling plus-sized consumers. If they increase their size availability or create plus-sized lines, they are purported to be approving and encouraging overweight individuals to continue in their ways in order to make a profit.
      Frustratingly, this industry is both a victim and a perpetrator of these issues. It’s a wonderful question, with no simple or quick answer.

      Hope this makes some modicum of sense.

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