Monday, April 4, 2011

Yep. We sure love to manipulate our appearance - many of us will happily (or obsessively) putter about it, or spend much time excitedly concocting our next ensemble, which we will wear with aplomb. Any why not? Our attire is definitely the most in-your-face way of communicating that which we wish to present to the world - who we think we are, who we want to be, our roles, our ruts, our aspirations. That, or a way of editing or hiding what we dislike. The value of clothing as a social, personal, creative, or vocational barometer clearly eclipses its primary function of physical discretion.

However, what do you suppose the percentage is, of us who honestly communicate our own essence? I mean, it's easy enough to be a dropout, and then throw on a few well-ironed corporate pieces and project an image vastly different to the true status. Or, it's just as easy for a anyone to don an outfit conforming to any given subculture and present themselves as hip. (Hell, some even use it to conform to supposed non-conformist subcultures, but that's another story). But here, I'm not solely referring to this matter in regards to the projecting of an inauthentic image - it's more so about the beautiful, unique essence each individual has, which sometimes gets hidden, distorted, or neglected underneath layers of rejection, negation, self-doubt, the judgment of others, and even mass-marketed trends. How many brands out there do you see encouraging customers to retain true independence? If I had a dollar for each one, I'd be on a sweatshop employee's weekly budget. It's not really in the fashion industry's interest to encourage such independence, for profits mainly rely on the insecurities and fantasies of consumers. Who cares who you really are? When making you feel inadequate or somehow incorrect can compel you to hand over the dollars in immense and ever-increasing proportions. Even if we're talking competitively low prices found at the fast-fashion chains, it's still based on compelling customers via fears, fantasies, and impulse.

Here's an interesting exercise, which I will also do: head over to your wardrobe and take a thoughtful look through its contents. What were you hoping to achieve with each item as you purchased it?

How many of the garments really make you feel like yourself, and how many items remain by reluctance to admit they are a bit of a stretch?

Did you select each item with independent thought, or did you feel led into the purchase by either pressure, need, runaway ideas, or insecurity?

How many did you consciously choose to hide or downplay a part of yourself, and how many did you purchase to truly honour and validate a part of yourself?

How many items did you purchase because you felt an instant connection, or caught a glimpse of something you can't quite describe but really adore?

How many - and which ones - would you rid yourself of, if given an allowance to purchase what you truly, really resonated with?

The whole point is this: the more conscious, independent, self-aware consumers who are making CONSCIOUS purchasing decisions means a few things: less landfill, less debt, less ravaging of natural resources, less money wasted, less insecurity and less power in the hands of companies whose interests are not in the wellbeing of individuals let alone the planet. The more conscious, empowered decisions you make as a consumer, and the more consumers acting as such, means a shift in the power balance.

While fashion and appearance won't save the world from its disastrous trajectory, being your authentic self, embracing and sharing that with others, and making conscious empowered decisions will ultimately create the kind of innate sense of peace that increases levels of happiness. And more happy, empowered, conscious, independent, peaceful people is one of the things this world needs.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Because they're everywhere?

Being held captive today in a waiting room, I was subjected to a talk show in which the guest, some celebrity-beautiful-person-etc-type, was asked about the ridiculously high shoes she wore - the ubiquitous 8" heels with massive platform. Asked why she would wear shoes so high and obviously impractical, she chimed, "because they're "in", this is all I could find!". The host pointed out that she herself was able to find a comfortable alternative, and I felt like facepalming at the idea of anyone purchasing any item "just because it's everywhere". Sigh.

In spite of myriad chain stores, outlets, and the omnipresence of many brands (including luxury brands), it still doesn't take too much to decide on autonomous selection. Rather than just opting for the brands that really put it out there, a little exploration and research goes a long way. Who knows, there may even be - gasp - some brands that don't use sweatshop labour, or maybe have sustainable, ethical practices and materials! Some may contribute to recycling, upcycling, or the local economy. And the cherry on top, one may find something that has some soul, that was made with love and care, and was infused with the creator's passion and vision, which magnifies the same in the wearer. Oh the possibilites.

Yes, I realise it can be a formidable mission to seek out alternatives in a market which is absolutely drenched in trends, on practically every level, especially in a time-poor situation. But really, there are alternatives, and there is the simple fact that choice is an ever-present faculty awaiting our attention. Fair enough, a necessary quick purchase might at times be required, however that (in my opinion) is far more understandable than resigning to a trend simply because that's what they say is good right now. It's a safe bet to say we all have fallen prey to the tastemakers at times, and sometimes still do. Incredible amounts of time, effort, and money are poured into the goal of baiting people on transient trends to feed a bottomless bottom line.

Don't get me wrong - this is not a judgment on anyone, but the system which erodes and strangles freedom of choice and individual expression, especially for the sake of monetary gain. While it does frustrate me that there are many who prefer not to think for themselves, the fact remains that marketing has become a dominant force in our culture, persuading us in increasingly sophisticated, strategic, and overwhelming ways. Have you ever tried going a day without paying attention to a single advert? Let alone attempted to not allow a single advert to reach you? How far out of a metropolitan area would one have to be to succeed at the latter?

Unfortunately, things look like they'll be this way for some time - readily available supplies dictated by a select few, for the benefit of the select few. I'm sure you've heard this rant many times before. But my hope is that in time, the prevailing landscape will be changed, and nobody will feel compelled to follow values and created needs prescribed by those who have little or no interest in others apart from what power may be gained from them - and not just in fashion, but in every human interaction.

I'd like to challenge my readers to either avoid what's "everywhere" like the plague, or use parts of it irreverently and completely on your terms. My guess is that many of you reading this already do, and in that case, I encourage you to take it up a notch, finding new levels of authenticity and originality.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Search for the unknown

Unknown quantity:
A person or thing whose nature or value is a mystery.

Today whilst enjoying my beloved habit of searching through op shops and forgotten stock in other stores, I entered moments of bliss - one of the easier ways for me! I entered a state of searching, without expectation, without an agenda or judgment on what passed before my eyes. Although the major motivation for my searches was to gather further materials for my work, I did not hold any fixed parameters for intended purchases. As much as I try, I find that slipping back into my judgements and frame of reference is all to easy, and requires ongoing practice to remove these shackles which can dull and confine our naturally limitless possibilities for, and scope of, perception. To see the world as fresh and new, in many different guises and meanings, requires conscious applied effort once we have been indoctrinated into adulthood. Regular op shopping deals a good, hefty kick to this. (So does boycotting current fashion and cultural publications from time to time, but that's another blog entry altogether).

And this is exactly where the blissful moments made themselves known: an experience of arriving at the new, of seeing old things as new, new things as never seen before, as well as finding the obsolete, which reliably refreshes my ongoing frame of reference. Why do I much prefer this to simply drawing up a range, and seeking easily available supplies? Apart from it being downright enjoyable for me, I find it constantly challenges me on numerous levels: to be resourceful; to be creative in both how I perceive as well as what I put out; and because it shakes my 'ruts of perception', especially where they are ingrained by dint of residing in this particular time and culture. And above all, it helps keep that channel to the unknown open, in that I truly never know what to expect - will this week's supplies be fur, old patterns, or lycra? Which decade will my influences be from, and will I find something I never liked and suddenly find new beauty in it?

Another perk is that the majority of what I will come across will be outside of the current prescribed "wants list". Hmm, perhaps I might refer to such as a 'prescription' from here on, the analogies are opening up immensely! The only surfacing of such fashion 'prescriptions' are in the more commercialised op shops, where the marketing onslaughts have influenced their pickings at times, and in recent times there has been a more steady supply of discarded fads. Although, creativity can be called upon and even the recent past's prescribed fads can be played around with, embracing a healthy irreverence for any originally intended purpose and style.

And ultimately, this method supports and enables realisation of my major motivation, which is to create items free from the constraints of the current dictatorship of fashion; some items may resonate with the current moods and themes, but are never created solely to fit them, and in turn are never an expectation that my customer would allow themselves to be moulded into something or someone that simply isn't them - I consider it almost sacrelige to negate any human's intrinsic being-ness in any way. I do hope that my customers feel they are offered items which can elicit or resonate with their true self, and I would rather a customer walk away without purchasing instead of simply buying out of an externally imposed view of themselves.

Friday, July 23, 2010

And so it begins..

Finally, my Etsy shop has been set up - check it out here if you feel inclined. I'm still in the process of pruning and refining some of the details, and the process of adding items is far more tedious than imagined, so please bear with me during these inital stages!

In tandem with finally placing my work 'out there', it seems appropriate to lay some foundations for what I am doing. Sure, I make clothes, art, and the like, but to be clear, I am not setting out to establish just another clothing label - the last thing this world needs. To be honest, I do not have any specific or definitive framework for what I am doing, which suits me fine - in the words of William Blake, "I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's". I am just following my heart and intuition, and being true to where they lead, which can be as daunting and exhilarating as a skyscraper-high rollercoaster.

If it's not just independent art and clothing, what else is in it?

As far as I can see, at this stage, the creations I deliver are part of a process of exploration, of questioning, and of sharing what I find along the journey. I might adore pretty things and colours and new styles, but the whole gist of it all is chasing the fascination behind it, the glimpses into varieties of experience and expression. It works best when I'm not sure what I'm doing, but am compelled to do it anyway.

Intrinsically linked are my ingrained values; of acceptance, and the universal right each person has to be who they are. So, I won't tell you how to dress, what I think is hot or not, what you need, or who you should be this season. I will just create, and encourage others to find their own essence, needs, and expression, on their own terms. To find their own 'unknown quantity', to seek it in others and the world around us.

Once again, this is an exploration into uncharted areas, even if only for myself, so over time things will emerge organically over the course of further posts. I will be writing about my processes, findings, realisations, and observations. I may come off as eccentric, strange, experienced, or clueless, but I will always be honest and brave in sharing. I hope you can enjoy the journey with me and find your own treasures along the way.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A brief introduction.

So many thoughts, ideas, observations, hunches and intuitions, dreams, glimpses, and hopes all flitter  about and combine to make up what is my life's compass, my inherent obsession; something so far beyond me but yet must be manifested in the practical, everyday material sense. It's like trying to bring these visions of the heavens here to this earth. From the outside, it appears I enjoy making things: clothes, accessories, art, objects, collages; but from the inside, these are the tremendous urge to search, explore, and unify with this elusive but utterly familiar essence. I seek to be the channel, and hope that my work can transform, inspire, and create joy - not because I declare any of it to be beautiful or merely a product for others to consume - but hopefully because each item will speak to others on a soul level. I would much rather someone buy my product for that resonance than purely for the sake of acquisition of more material objects to own and consume.

The other side to this coin, or perhaps prism, is that in being one who produces material objects, I seek to produce outside the current paradigm of materialistic consumption, which tends to encourage us to consume mindlessly and without reference to the bigger picture. Surely some might wave this away as 'reading into things too much', a branding angle, or just a useless appendage; however it is without a doubt that our consumption has left out the bigger picture for far too long, leaving us with a damaged planet and a culture starving for something it can no longer find within itself.

Ultimately, I aim and hope to encourage liberation beyond the sphere of my own work; I hope that my efforts ultimately inspire and encourage others to seek their own experience and understanding of beauty and joy on their own terms, and to find their own truth and essence. My work is a distinct revolt against any system (usually commercial) which believes its business is to create and dictate the desires and needs of others.