Stigma in the fashion industry

Katie Ward

Feminine-heavy focus lowers public view of field


Fashion, for the most part, is viewed as being superficial.

The labels of “narcissistic” and “conceited” are often directed at those who show a distinct interest in fashion, described as caring a little too much about what clothes they wear, where they shop and how they wear it.

For a good majority of my life, I have had a keen interest in clothes, an interest, I can admit, that probably derived partially from the satisfaction of getting new things and showing them off at school the following Monday, but also from something more significant.

Clothes, which were once just items my mom and I rapidly consumed, eventually grew into a concentration on fashion, which in turn grew into an appreciation for textile, appreciation for the idea of creation, and appreciation for the intense satisfaction a person can feel when wearing that ultimate outfit.

For a long time, a consumptive interest was all fashion was, because to my recollection, it was simply a hobby for my mom, grandmother, best friends and I to participate in.

To my young, naive mind, there was nothing more to being “into” fashion but consuming, unless, of course, you related with or held the key to being the next high, couture designer.

My ex-boyfriend proved me very wrong. It was through him that I learned purchasing clothing, shoes, accessories, the whole shebang, was so much more than spending your money on the next trendy thing.

In that time, fashion became Fashion, the ability to be transparent through clothing that expressed your body, appearance and sexuality, something far more personal.

Through him I gained the knowledge of seeing fashion as a functional thing rather than a simple, superficial hobby which I had obtained instead of sports or other hobbies.

Using clothes as an outlet for the voice of my rather shy self was gratifying, but it also led to possibilities I never knew were reachable. Colors schemes, patterns, texture of fabrics, stitching and the cut of the design all became an outer shell for me to silently express myself to others.

Within the recent years, from what I have observed whilst living in the age of fast media and influence, we are all fashionistas.

Fashion is a symptom of taste. Those who held that craving for it were oftentimes seen as less intelligent, vapid, simply for acquiring an interest.

As social media has become a large platform for consumers and users to browse for enjoyment, it has also lead to in increase in the influence of the individual.
Today, everybody is inventing their lives.

So, how is it we became so fixated on fashion, but continue to feel ashamed of it at the same time?

“Maybe it’s because fashion is still seen as a women’s work,” Miuccia Prada, head designer of Prada and founder of the brand Miu Miu, stated in a conversation with journalist Anja Aronowsky Cronberg on branding authentication. “Maybe it’s because we [still] feel shame in talking about ourselves.”

That can’t quite be it, though. When looking at the larger picture, the fashion industry is still predominantly male. It’s being an involved consumer of fashion that society has deemed as lesser.

There is this preconceived idea that people will be easily judged when going into fashion, and with that comes the stigmatized concept that being into fashion is only for women.

The interest in fashion can become a multitude of different outlets for people, a form of communication, an expression, an interest or even just as a consumer base obsession, but for decades it has been labeled as being solely a woman’s hobby.

Companies began aiming their products toward the average day housewife when first introducing advertisements, because their marketing research told them that that’s who was buying: a wife, a mother, a girlfriend, or a young adult female in college or beginning her career.

I can remember numerous accounts of having my father roll his eyes whenever I cared a little too much on what my outfit looked like, or to simply question why I’d want to buy a pair of shoes that, in his opinion, looked the same as every other pair I owned.

Nowadays, “it’s not even surprising now to see eight to 10-year-olds shopping in Soho, carrying Supreme bags … Gucci sneakers,” said Alex Hackett, founder and designer for the British streetwear brand ALCH, in a recent i-D Vice article focused on millenials’ obsession with the underground streetwear scene.

When it comes to gaining attention over our own personal style and fashion choice, millennials have evolved an exquisite and refined taste for designs and brands. The fashion industry is seen as intimidating and harsh, and that is where I believe this idea of shamefulness in fashion to stem from.

This aura of shamefulness, then, makes it all the more powerful to see those women, who have been thrown into that bubble of superficialness and intimidation, continue to strive and succeed, disregarding the immense amount of negativity thrown their way.

The speed of fashion is daunting, but also fantastic. There should be no labels to who can and can’t be openly expressive in caring about what they choose to wear.

In the end, we all here trying to achieve the same thing: the creation of our own individuality.