Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Colin McDowell

Yesterday I stepped out of the best lecture I have had whilst being at university, with eyes newly opened to the world of fashion.

Colin McDowell, fashion historian and fashion journalist for the Times newspaper, is the most interesting man I have ever heard talk about fashion. OK, so I may not be the next John Galliano, but by gum has his lecture given me the burning to become an influential textile designer at the forefront of design. He was one of those people, that when they talk, you can't help but be drawn in by their words. Every sentence hooks you further. It helped that he was hilarious as well.

He told us that everything in fashion has been presaged and that womenswear in 20th Century fashion can be divided into three categories; long skirts ('Laura Ashley types'), knee length skirts and mini skirts. He shared that his favourite decade by far was the 1950s because this was the last decade of elegance, the last decade of real couture. Now what we class as 'couture' garments are really just clothes made of slightly more expensive fabrics sold for incredibly high prices.

The 1950s saw the rise of the stylist and the demise of the editor in fashion magazines, which had a massive impact on the way fashion has evolved. Now clothes and fashion are geared entirely for young women, meaning that elder ladies simply can't keep up, inevitably narrowing fashion. The young and untrained influence of the young in fashion means that there is no one to lead and steer fashion, under 23s at the forefront of fashion don't understand the culture and design that empowers fashion. Fashion clothes the attitudes, assumptions and aspirations of society. He continued that fashion is currently at an all time low because he artists in the design industry don't have anything to say, instead favouring fame and money in front of strong and powerful fashion statements. Currently we are all happy to go with the gentle ebb and flow of fashion but we need a sense of dis contempt as all creativity starts with dis contempt, complacency is the death of creativity. That's why he thinks that at the end of this recession fashion will blossom again and a new amazing designer will enter the world of fashion, after all, good ultimately rises out of the ashes of something bad.

An example foo this would be London in the 'Thatcher years'. Maggie Thatcher stirred class war and hate for those who don't work. This spiralled into what was seen to be popular turned back on itself to become unpopular. Anything that appeals to everything has no real appeal at all.

Worst of all, the current British Fashion Council is the only FC that is run by people who invest in the high street. Every other FC in existence is run by their countries best fashion designers, this is why people in the UK are so dependant on the highstreet for fashion. Shops like Topshop are bad for fashion as the designers are just barrens of fashion, stealing ideas form the catwalks and recreating them cheaply to sell to mass markets, so everybody ends up looking the same and fashion goes round in circles. Why else are vintage clothes so popular? Because people are fed up to looking the same as everybody else. Fashion and merchandising is a bad combination. The British fashion industry is currently only about making money, there is no real desire to make something amazing.

McDowell said that there are only three key designers of the 20th Century; John Galliano, Miuccia Prada and Marc Jacobs. Galliano is the only man who can really still create couture garments, and he can do this because he is trained properly and continually looks back to the archive of Christian Doir and finds something new to say time after time.

He also went on to explain why menswear is so behind womenswear in the fashion stakes. Men are terrified of their sexuality. Men aren't willing to challenge what fashion really is an instead are happy to go along with fit and cut, not style and design.
He left us with the advice 'never get involved in a relationship with any man that is connected with rugby, you will continually argue about the colour of a pair of socks and they will never grow up!'


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