Fashion. It is one of those fleeting things that is but, concrete enough to shape identities. Almost everyone, admittedly or otherwise, has been a victim to fashion that has given definition to a sea of generations, cultures and societies. Fashion, as we know it, is the peel to the pulp.
When it moved to being beyond the ordinary, it became a way of self-expressionism. Simply stated, people realized that in a situation where every surrounding element was controlled by a certain other element, fashion was a means that could be used to profess a personal stance. The clothes you wore, the shoes you picked, the colours you liked; everything then, became fashion.
Rebellion, however, seems to be one of fashion’s best friends. A supremely sizable portion of fashion movements has been fuelled by rebellion. Anti-fashion seems just as exciting as it sounds. Breaking out of the rut to be ‘unique’ has been the answer to intercultural and intergenerational strife over very many years. It is this perpetual need to be different from the trending fashion that has given the world everything from the bohemians, beatniks, hippies and skinheads to punk rockers, metal heads, hipsters and indie-folk.
Every fashion choice made becomes the reflection of the ideology of a certain age. The 1950s began with jeans being a strong symbol of youth rebellion. Out of the 1950s and 1960s’ beatniks came the stereotype of men (with berets) smoking self-rolled tobacco while the ladies stayed simple, straight and unadorned; all in rebellion of the class culture of beauty salons. The hippie-happy flower children took to the bright colours of sweet-smelling spring in a way to counter a war-ravaged world. Punks and metal heads submerged themselves in a pseudo anti-Christ worshipping sea of pure black. Religion, culture, tradition, society, institutions and politics – just about everything was dragged into this whirlwind of fashion and in different parts of the world, different symbols become a way of expression.
The point of fashion has never been to stand alone. It seeped into being an attribute for cinema, music, the stage and literature. Audrey Hepburn as a symbol of style, Betsy Johnson and her whimsical designs, Twiggy, The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, KISS, Sex Pistols, Vixen including about a thousand others are all examples of anti-fashion. Kohl-lined eyes, beehive hair, a body of ink, punctured holes – name a choice made and you will find it backed by reason. So much so, that even religion fuels fashion. The cross, the star, the scriptures, chants, symbols, colours and every subsequent bit of religious associations have influenced fashion.
Ahead of this came fashion’s marriage to art. Art is the new rock and roll. A thing of perking interest, art teams with fashion to open up a world of exotic fancy – exactly the kind that has overwhelming potential of being against commonplace trends. Many designers, both young and veteran, captain the sailboats of fashion’s ever-changing fleet. The present-day harbingers of this edgy fashion include the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier, the late Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Emilio Pucci and down to Manish Arora or Kalol Datta, closer to home.
There isn’t so much in names as there is in a designer’s ability to bring out a certain association of fashion into a cultural scenario, either making or redefining its connotation. Fashion’s constant battle is to refrain any trend from becoming a cultural cliché. The need to stay miles away from the ‘mainstream’ is what keeps fashion going in an unending cycle. It isn’t so much an anti-culture if it morphs into the culture itself now, is it?
The evolution of the world of fashion is like a beautiful time lapse that is a collective trove of changes in relation of personal projection contrasting to society. Fashion is thus a common man’s weaponry in the battle of identity.