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May 9, 2017

Story on your sleeve

There's still more to fashion than the false idolisation of Kendall Jenner, argues Sharmonie Cockayne.

  • Words: Sharmonie Cockayne

When I arrive in the studio on Monday morning, our Design Director, Lauren, is wearing blue/grey boots.

“Are those shoes Acne?,” I ask.

They are.

Sharmonie Cockayne is CityMag’s fashion director and creative producer.

Even before I heard the answer, I knew what Lauren would say, because I know Lauren.

I know Lauren because I’ve asked her a lot of questions about the clothes she wears, why she wears it, where she buys it, how much she pays, what are her thoughts on eBay? Gumtree? Tradelaide? What do you think SWOP’s buying algorithm is? What are your thoughts on Jacquemus?

Who designs for women, and who designs for themselves, and who designs for art’s sake? Lauren, what do you think about the converse/thongs hybrid? Lauren, do you think we can pull off Solange’s triangle haircut?*

Today she’s wearing the Acne pistol boot in a size 38 – a boot worn by every celebrity to exist in the Western world in the year 2012. She found them on eBay after researching the boot for years. She has the same pair in black.

This might not mean much to many people, all this talk of a very specific person and her very specific pair of boots, but, to me, all of this very specific information is the link between fashion and something important. For me, this pair of boots translates into who Lauren is as a person and as a designer.

For many, the business of fashion is filled with bad associations. Just saying “fashion” evokes visuals of fast-fashion chain stores filled with poorly made clothes, a revolving door of Kardashian-endorsed trends, unethical working practices, slave labour, mass waste, environmental destruction through dyes and materials, and/or the perpetuation of unrealistic beauty standards.

For those working within the industry, the word often connotes the loss of unhindered creativity and the rising power of fashion conglomerates and consumerism. Even those who have dedicated their lives to the industry are beginning to feel disenfranchised by it.

In 2015, Glenn O’Brien (a man whose name holds almost as much or just as much weight as Anna Wintour’s, depending on who you speak to) said, “fashion and the big time art world have been corrupted. The only space noncommercial culture has today, is a little temporary space that nobody notices”.

There’s a reason our small-scale Adelaide-based independent designers don’t experience the same financial success as large-scale fashion businesses who operate on the international stage. One of these business models operates for the love of the craft, and takes pride in the design process; one of these models does not.

So, yes, all of these bad associations with fashion hold true – I still do, and probably always will, cringe when I hear and use the word “fashion”. But, there’s a reason fashion persists in our culture. At the heart of it all, fashion is still a way we tell the story of who we are, and a way we understand the people around us.

What I see in Lauren’s Acne boots is her deep respect for well designed, well made objects, and her patience. Lauren doesn’t rush to buy or create in the heat of a trend, because it’s about process, and it’s about doing things right. We see this in her self presentation and in her work – for CityMag and not for CityMag.

At its core, “fashion” is a tool for communication like anything else. Like words, the items we put on in the morning hold meaning, and that, for me, cuts through all of the crap of the industry.

So I’ll leave you with another quote by Glenn O’Brien, because it is, in essence, the CityMag approach to fashion:

“When I was young nobody wore designer clothes. People had their own personal style. Today fashion has taken over what style once was. Style is what makes you different to others. Fashion is what makes you the same. I think it’s very important not to be fashionable.”


*Response: “Don’t touch her hair.”


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