An argument for the ages: fashion is unnecessary

Following the Fall/Winter 2016 collections at London Fashion Week last February, fashion critic Vanessa Friedman penned a New York Times article addressing the excess and showmanship apparent at the shows. In the article, “At London Fashion Week, the End of Austerity,” Friedman said, “Fashion, after all, is by definition unnecessary.” While many fashion enthusiasts such as the Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine took offense to Friedman’s claim, there is some truth to it.

One opposer of Friedman’s position, Leandra Medine of the popular sartorial blog the Man Repeller, wrote a response to Friedman’s article. Medine argued that fashion is an escape and is indeed a necessity.

“[I]t is decisively necessary,” Medine said. “For survival. For endurance. For the gumption with which you persevere.”

Sure, the clothes you wear might reflect the character you assume on a specific day and act as armor against the humdrum reality, but it is you who gives the clothing life.


Take Lady Gaga or Rihanna, for example, who consistently showcase over-the-top fashion. The spectacle that surrounds their red carpet appearances and their performances would not be as strong if the women themselves didn’t have the confidence and attitude to match. Their fashion is about the presentation, the show, the flash. It’s about the unnecessary, because with details that combine imaginative artistic image with impeccable execution, a statement is made. It is the excess that makes people look, and it’s the excess that has placed Gaga and Rihanna under the magnifying glass of fashion scrutiny. They communicate through their wardrobe and people listen, jumping on whatever bandwagon the celebrities are steering.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are trends like normcore. It strips away everything to the basics. Throw on a pair of mom jeans, Adidas sneakers and a white T-shirt, and you are on-trend. By contrast, it shows how the embellishment and flashiness of high fashion is isn’t the only way to make a statement. Normcore surfaced in 2014 among the indie/alternative culture as a reaction to their desire to stand out from the crowd. They reclaimed these once-mainstream trends for their own. Taking away the unnecessary acts as an equalizer. Like a uniform, normcore is inclusive and unassuming. Instead of having the clothes speak for the person, the individual speaks for themselves.

In light of the reorganization that has recently been shaking the fashion industry, upcoming collections are sure to throw subtlety out the window. The unnecessary will be quite necessary for the collections to hold their own. With names up in the air and new transplants welcomed to esteemed fashion houses, the 2017 collections will determine which brands will be revived or reimagined. It will be a redefining time. The unnecessary versus necessary dispute will rest at a draw, because either way fashion is a fabulous, materialistic and sensationalistic world that billions of people buy into. It’s ingrained into culture and society, and whether you get dressed to make a point or not, you enter into the gauntlet.

Email Sophie Shaw at [email protected] 




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