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The Power of Fashion

9th February 2023

‘Fashion is very important. It is life-enhancing and, like everything that gives pleasure, it is worth doing well.’ (Vivienne Westwood)

‘Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers. And style is what you choose.’ (Lauren Hutton)

‘Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life.’ (Bill Cunningham)


HOM: Creating, Imagining, Innovating/ Listening with Understanding and Empathy

Vivienne Westwood was a doyenne of the fashion world. She died at the end of 2022, having been largely responsible for bringing modern punk and new wave fashion into the mainstream. She was also an astute business woman and along with Malcolm McLaren, she made clothes and ran a fashion boutique on the Kings Road in London. The clothes were linked to the punk scene of the 1970s and she saw punk fashion and music as a way of ‘seeing if one could put a spoke in the system’.

Fashion was about statement and protest, and punk was a way in which many young people found ways of voicing their discontent. Fashion and clothes as protest has continued, with people finding ways to express their individuality and identity through this medium. And as Bill Cunningham (fashion photographer) is quoted as saying, fashions can be adopted as ‘the armour to survive the reality of everyday life’. They can help people feel confident in different circumstances to fit in, when otherwise they may feel an outsider.

Nevertheless, there is a danger that following fashions may quash individuality and pressurise a sort of conformity. And some fashions have frankly been oppressive, particularly for women who have often forced their bodies to conform to a sort of fashionable shape.

Ideally, as Vivienne Westwood said, fashion should be ‘life enhancing’ and give pleasure. It is another form of artistic expression in which we can all participate and the creativity of designers was much in evidence at the recent London fashion week.

Of course, the fashion business itself is another matter. And over the next two weeks during Fairtrade Fortnight, we will be reflecting on just how our fashion gets to us and that while it may be experienced as ‘life-enhancing’ to the consumers, whether the same can be said for those who toil to produce it.

Finally a Bible quotation that may help us in keeping perspective about what we wear and how we appear to others:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these”.

(Matthew 6:25 – 34)

Christine Crossley