Catwalk – A Sidewalk
Napoleon already knew it; if you want to rule the world you’d better look good while trying it. And it’s true, if you want to be at the top, you can’t show up in glittery pants and a one- shoulder-covering shirt. You’re required to wear at least a suit. Even Barney Stinson says it: “Suit up!”.
Fact is that men and women are getting taken more seriously in a suit. They send out a certain power. This, obviously, only works in a work field where people are required to look neat. If you work as a surfing instructor, showing up in a suit will definitely not make you look professional.
People nowadays mostly dress to ‘blend in’, and fear the outstanding. Even the biggest fashion brands all look the same. The ‘ready to wear’ all share the same colors and shapes. Maybe the minor detailing is a little bit different from each other, but that’s about it. There’s no own identity in clothing anymore, and that’s exactly what we need! People are too afraid to look different or weird, while a little difference is that what makes people real.
Let’s first take a look at the models that walk the runway shows. For me, a catwalk represents a sidewalk. What you see there is what you see on the streets, but with better lighting. And when I walk on the street, I see a million different people with different forms, shapes and personalities. I don’t see that on the catwalk. All the models are exact copies of the one walking in front of her. There is absolutely no diversity present.
I remember something that happened to a friend of mine. She’s extremely beautiful, tall, and had worked and lived in Paris as a model for a short period. She quitted her modeling life because she felt held back in life completely. Eating according to a special diet, well, you know the drill.
When we lived in Amsterdam, she got a call from an agency. She was requested by a famous brand to walk their show during Christmas. She would get a huge amount of money and a private car from Amsterdam to Paris and back. There was only one small flaw. Christmas was in a month, and she had to lose 30 pounds. She could only walk the show if she was narrowed down to look exactly as a copy of the rest of the models. And believe me on my word, as a man who calls anOlympic gymnast fat, she was already skinny.
A perfect example of the narrow minded fashion industry. Even if there IS a ‘big girl’ or another ‘exception’ in the show, they have to make it really clear that she indeed is the exception. Or him, of course. They can absolutely not be just one of the rest.
People are mostly afraid to do things against the norm. For the last few years I’m trying to convince people otherwise, but it’s a lot harder than you might think. Let me make a list for you with comments people making on my, apparently abnormal clothes.
Some of them even are supposed to be positive, but actually they are not. The fact people feel that they have to make a comment on the way I dress is already something ridiculous. Consider it like this: it would be absurdly weird if I walked up to someone and said: ‘dude, you look completely simple today.’
But enough with the whining, because fashion is so much more. With rules, there are always exceptions, and thank god in the world of fashion there are a lot. Take for example the Dutch designers Bas Kosters, MaryMe-JimmyPaul and NieuwJurk. They give a complete new view on how fashion should be and what it should mean. I asked Esther Meijer, director and designer for NieuwJurk, what fashion means to her.
“Fashion says a lot about the time and society where we live in. Looking at the history of costumes, trends can be traced back to social and civil developments, for example the financial crisis. Besides that, clothes are the reflection of someone’s personality. Fashion is an interesting topic to research, and a medium that I like to use to send a message, for my work as well as in my private life.”
One of the most important things of fashion is that you can make a statement. Take for instance Pussy Riot; the first thing that comes to mind when you think of them are the bright facemask they wear. Now that mask has become a symbol for that group, used by protesters all over the world. But you can also use it on a much smaller scale. If you want to send out the message that you’re really into neo-punk rock bands, you’ll wear a t-shirt that says ‘NOFX’.
After all, if you meet someone, the way they dress upis the first thing you notice. If you, for instance, wear a pants with holes and an un-ironed blouse with greasy stains all over it, you’ll give the person you’re meeting the idea that you completely don’t give a shit about anything. Even if you might actually give a shit about a lot of stuff,but not foryour appearance. And that’s ok, but the person you’re meeting will probably think you suck in life, and it’s extremely hard to wipe that image out of your newly met acquaintance.
Statements come in many different ways. Teenagers who want to act rebellious against are painting their hair blue or purple. Parents reacting to their children by wearing clogs when they drop their kids off at school.Athletes who paint their nails in rainbow-colors to protest against Russia’s laws.
But also showing that you belong to groups is making a statement. The orange ropes of Buddhist monks, the Hasidic Jews with amazing hats and beards, the KKK with their funny impression of Casper the Friendly Ghost, people working at McDonalds (or any other company that requires a work outfit) or even wearing the same t-shirt to your weekly bowling-tournament. Belonging to a certain group asks a certain look, showing you’re together for the same cause.
We can’t talk about statements made with fashion without naming the Queen of Commercial Statements, Miss Lady Gaga. Wrapping herself in meat, showing herself as the Virgin Mary or dressing herself in a boob-bleeding dress, nothing that she wouldn’t do. People may add ‘for attention’ after that sentence, and maybe that’s true, but she sends her message to an incredible huge audience. And it’s paying off. A complete generation of people is growing up with her as a role model. Children who are in the most insecure phase of their life get the message that they don’t have to be ashamed for whoever they are and whatever they choose to do or wear. And we can’t thank her enough for that.
[after the breakup with Ulay, private and workrelated] (…) it was a really difficult and depressive moment, that I really had trouble to go out, and figuring out what my new work was going to be. So in that moment I remember I felt fat, ugly and unwanted. (…) In Paris, I sold a work. It was the first time I had some money so I went to a motor shop and bought some clothes. It was just a trousers and a jacket and a symmetric white shirt. I remembered when I was dressed in that I felt so completely different. I felt good and confident. It was really one of the ways to deal with the pressure. I understood that actually it was not any crime to love fashion and be dressed a certain way to feel good. – Marina Abramovic about Fashion.
Fashion can be used in many different way. You can make statements, you can gain a certain power or choose to clear out any power you have. You can hide in it or show yourself to the world. Your clothes are your business cards. It’s fun to experiment with different styles and creating your own. It’s not something you should be ashamed of, but show it to the world. Don’t be the gray mouse who’s too afraid to show who he is. Be the bright flamingo who sticks out in the crowd, who people will remember when they get home. Don’t let the crowd decide what’s best for you, let you decide what the crowd should see.
But the most important thing is that you’re completely yourself, and that you realize that fashion is fun. And make it the best thing you’ve ever done. Don’t feel obligated to be as thin as the models in vogue and save twelve thousand dollar so you can buy a belt that they show. Be the one vogue wants to have. Don’t look up to the pictures in the magazine, let the makers of the pictures want to look up to you!
Thank God there’s a huge group of people embracing the ‘abnormality’ of people and their clothing. In New York, a website called StyleLikeU was founded by mother and daughter Elisa and Lily (who dropped out of school for this project) in which they portray the different personalities and (fashion)creative master brains they come across. Trough videos they show the world what can be done, but isn’t done enough yet.
I contacted Lily and asked her about the website.
First, please tell me your view on fashion and style in general.
We believe that style is identity and that the way people dress says a lot about who they are and what they care about, whether they realize it or not, so why not be CONSCIOUS about these decisions. Style is political and sociological!
Do you consider your website as a fashionblog, telling people what’s in or not, or is it something completely else?
Something completely else. Actually it’s quite the opposite :StyleLikeU is in a rebellion against fashion magazines that dictate what people should wear. By telling people’s intimate and individual stories through docu-style videos, we aim to empower others to be more themselves instead of feeling like they need to buy into impossible standards of beauty and trends in order to feel good about themselves
Is this a one of a kind thing, or are there more people out there trying to do the same thing as you do?
I think it is pretty one-of-a-kind, because the way my mom and I (we founded the site together and conduct every single interview) relate to our subjects is something that cannot be replaced. Many people are copying aspects of what we are doing but they cannot copy the soul and beauty that we see in the people that we interview. The heart behind our mission completely relies on that pure connection we make with each and every person on the site.
How was it to drop out of school to devote completely on this project?
It was scary at first (I basically took less and less classes each semester until it was zero to give you an idea of how long it took me to gain the courage to make that decision) but now I do not look back for one second. I couldn’t see it any other way. It would be impossible to be on a mission like this and be spread in many different directions. When I was in school, I felt that I wasn’t maximizing my experience of SLU or school, so I knew I had to make a sacrifice to get the most out of one. And I knew that StyleLikeU was a once in a lifetime opportunity and that NYU would always be there waiting for me if I ever wanted to go back. So there really was no hard choice in the end! And plus, the experience I am gaining through the challenges of running this business/site is totally invaluable, so I feel I am getting a great education.
And how is it to work with your mother?
For the most part, it is great. We are very different -I am more macro-minded, while she is more hyper focused on details- so we balance each other out well. We are able to criticize each other and be honest with each other without the fear of “breaking up” since we are tied by blood so that is great. The hardest part is creating boundaries since we talk all the time and are working all the time, so sometimes we don’t know how to stop, but in the end, we are pretty obsessed with what we are doing that we don’t mind.
Is your website something you can make your living out of?
Do you see yourself, as a person but mostly as a website, as the new way of reporting fashion?
I think that print magazines still serve a purpose (it’s nice to get away from a screen sometimes) but yes, I do think that people are excited about platforms that are more democratic, more real, more inclusive, more personal and more genuine, and a lot of that comes from video which obviously you can only get on the internet.
by Niels F. Rodenburg