Timeless timing Maria Foka, 27 December 2020
Fashion and the notion of time coexist in a parallel and complementary manner, although constantly contradict each other. Fashion’s eternity depends on heterochronous fragments, rowdy veering towards each other, toiling to characterize in their domination a specific time frame reference fathomable enough for the mortals to grasp. However, fashion, in its omnipresence throughout aspects of social existence, is predicated on leaving contradictions intact, classifying them as instances of the unspeakable impossibility of human subjectivity. The egregiously painful contradiction lies within the existence of said subjectivity – Bryan Turner in ‘The Body and Society’, stated that ‘we have bodies, and we are bodies’. Bodies are time, but fashion bodies are long gone before ever being conceived, and time always exists and constantly eludes them. Fashion time is both linear and circular, new and obsolete, a plum future and a forgetful past. It is a perpetual process of elimination as well as discovery, and the rate of its ever-changing cadence probably expresses the lost cause of parthenogenesis as well as the conception of new forms of creativity. Time in fashion is an agent of illusion and artifice, defined by its level of subjectivity – the coherence between the linearity of the wearer’s life, and the circularity of the industry. Creativity has come to be a matter of sustaining, or even accelerating change and the ability to impel a fashion cycle, so the individual expression though it is a matter of distress signals for a declaration of existence.
February and September are indicators of a novelty for six months ahead; but when the time for consumption arrives, this preview is rendered a decay. Out-of-season or in-season presentations, menswear, resort, haute couture, ready to wear, are all a ghostly reminder of senior glory in the mind of the designer or creative director – allegedly; short-lived enough to be considered nonchalant. Oscar Wilde exclaimed: ‘And after all, what is fashion? From the artistic point of view, it is usually a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.’ This calculated time frame of six months is of imperative importance to the incarnation of the zeitgeist, this illusion of a recognizable collective taste that relinquishes the longed-for need for belonging, and clothes generate temporal associations that conflate a shared past, present and future in order to do so. Herbert Blumer, a sociologist who believed that individuals create a social reality through collective and individual action, expects this establishment to carry the stamp of propriety and compel adherence, limiting the range of variability and enhancing uniformity and order. Thus the evident incapacity to maintain the six-month rule of presenting ‘new ideas’ has been compartmentalized into smaller fractions of time that keep the anticipation beaming, always thinking that fashion is one step ahead, when, in reality, it is at least one year behind.
That yearly heterochronous sequence is also made visible when thinking of the innards of the business of fashion. As Dana Thomas mentions in ‘Fashionopolis’, especially in the ‘80s, clothes were produced so far away, designers conceived collections a year in advance, and stores placed their orders six to eight months ahead of deliveries. Retailers guessed what might be hot, and if they were wrong, they were stuck with inventory that had to be sold at reduced prices or scrapped. Then again, when talking about fast-fashion retailers, there are no biannual, but biweekly presentations; if a style doesn’t sell out within the first week, it’s discontinued from production – if it makes sales, it will still be replaced within a month. All that jazz on an industry built on selling new ideas, when in fact it is ferociously promoting old ones.
Claudio Abate, Yvonne Rainer and Philip Glass ‘Lives of Performers’, 1972
Carl Fischer, Andy Warhol in a Closet, 1975
The temporality of fashion nestled into real-life, sort of speak, throws us onto the realm of hyper-realism; fashion is more beautiful than beauty, and it becomes more real than real when clothes become the act of clothing and artificial comes to be more definitive of the real than reality itself. (Jean Baudrillard, ‘Simulacra and Simulation’, 1981). In morning rituals, the act of clothing set fashion into yet another ecosystem that abates the controlled time of fashion into merely minutes, defining its limits in a frame of psychological, cultural, and societal relationships created by the wearer and their interpretation of everyday life. The fashion industry is a means to an end, that end being the existence of an article in one’s closet. That purchase is a finite act that carries an intention of forever – the wishful wearer’s anticipation, who snagged a piece of history to reject it every other day in favor of a part of pre-history, is ceased, and onto the next one. A piece of clothing, a temporary treasure, is stripped of its eternity when it becomes property, available to manipulate at any time, with or without context, lacking the mythical surroundings and the promises of eternal utopias – it has now become mortal. But we humans can’t help it; according to Foucault, picturing utopias, time ruptures, and timeless lands is a way to project our resistance – his refusal to define any limits or context as to which way our resistance is oriented towards, grants us the authority to exert it without regard to its form or consequences. So even when the enrichment of one’s closet is merely an indicator of resistance, art, taste, compliance, or individuality, the ecosystem of a closet is the lethal enemy of fashion. This hierarchy of a collection of clothing is the core of opposition fashion, simply because it is based on that forever, whereas ephemerality characterizes success for the industry, and failed fashion prompts permanents attachments. In the world of ‘new is always better’, things that cannot go out of fashion cannot ever be fashionable, they cannot ever be profitable; so to be forever favorable in one’s closet is to be a fashion pariah. Fashion reaches its cause when its eventual failure can be easily imagined, when the next iteration that will stem from it and invalidate it is already discernible.
Virginia Wolf wrote in ‘Orlando’: ‘ Clothes… they change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.’ Truth be told, clothes change the way we perceive time, too. A twenty-minute period of time on a rushed and gloomy Monday morning carries lots of different meanings than the same amount of time on a bright and lazy Sunday morning. Fashion does not move at different speeds; it is confined into our own rhythm of living, it derives from our pro-activity, enabled to exist in its circularity through our mornings and our nights, paced-up or slowed-down, without thrust, without torque, if we chose so.