Can we still be moved by the work of many hands to make a single perfect thing? Or do we now constantly live by the mentality first in best dressed?
Our approach to fashion is altered by our attitude and our awareness. To some, clothes are just that- clothes. Things we use to conceal our body from our environment. But then there are those, who see the opportunity for quality and luxury. They see it as a form of expression.
I recently read the book, The Coat Route by Meg Lukens Noonan. It’s a book that follows the journey of bespoke tailoring, specifically that of a coat made for $50,000.00. That’s right, $50,000.00.
This is the bit where your eyes should pop and mouths should drop.
Whilst this is an extravagant figure, an amount of money I could only ever truly possess if I meticulously planned my marriage to Prince Harry, I started thinking and comparing the different “speeds” of fashion and in what direction can we see this industry heading in.
If we look left, there is the global epidemic of fast fashion. When the world became global, so did the industry. Globalisation allowed for potential, growth and equality. What brands saw was the potential to fill a gap in the market, where every day people were able to access high end trends with a low end price tag. With the ability to resource cheaper materials and labour, brands knew they could meet this demand, one that will never go out of style. We will never stop wanting what we don’t have, but could. Globalisation created the idea of pushing ideas and trends into the grasp of the hungry consumer, who is not necessarily looking for quality but an image.
Then we look to the right, beyond the high end to the bespoke where luxury is like no luxury we have ever seen or felt before. Bespoke focuses on the collaboration between the tailor and client, one that is crucial to the bespoke journey. Whilst bespoke is as distant to me as Prince Harry, it is something I can’t help but respect. In The Coat route, Noonan travels with the coat. She learns and experiences the craftsmanship that goes into this coat. She travels to the Andes, to witness the shearing of the vicuna, a cousin of the llama, which can only be shorn every three years. Its coat is more rare than the finest cashmere that we know of. Then to Florence, then to England’s West Midlands where the water buffalo horn buttons were made. Whilst this may all seem so… extravagant for just one man’s winter coat, I believe that it is preserving the skills and knowledge that has been passed down for generations but it is also creating a story like no other.
I want a world where the exclusivity of bespoke is more accessible, more equal. But if that were the case bespoke fashion wouldn’t be what it is, would it? There is no denying fast fashion comes with the negative perception of exploitation, but with advancements in technology and a better awareness of its harsh reality, brands are starting to develop fashion with a conscience. But fast fashion doesn’t offer me that individuality; it gives me what everyone else has. The fact is, exclusivity is something I will always chase and low end costs are what I’ll always go back to. There is no doubt that I’ll always respect the individuals who spend countless hours mastering the craft of fashion but I’ll always be grateful to the person who allowed fashion to be accessible for you and me.