Editor's Letter — February 2019 and Fixing Fashion

I was in Paris a few weeks ago to reconnect with our good friends at BYBORRE who hosted a showroom during Fashion Week. A few seasons ago, we partnered on a series of stories which were rooted in BYBORRE’s seasonal theme. As fashion continued its forward drive in tandem with popular culture, this current moment in time has largely been considered one of the worst periods of the industry’s commercial history. The current vapid nature coupled with serious questions around fashion’s ecologically destructive impact have us wondering  to what lengths we will continue to champion and celebrate it. There’s more than what meets the eye, which ironically has come to define what I think about the medium in its current state.

As somebody who once had a more active role in the industry, my Paris excursion felt like a bit of a homecoming. Re-inserting myself into the mix came under the pretense of being an outsider—not that I ever felt like I was fully a member of its structures—since my role there was to observe and listen, rather than participate and present. In the past few years I’ve removed myself stay from the loop, so I couldn’t drive a conversation with the subjects of what was seen most recently, who was working with who, or what I thought about the latest drops.

Luckily, these shortcomings rarely revealed themselves.

The broader issues that are challenging fashion and any creative outlet are macro. It’s the big ideas that are pushing, pulling, and contorting the artforms. At worst, my ignorance as to who’s big at the moment is corrected, at best, being removed to focus on more conceptual things gives me more clarity and more understanding of why things are the way they are. The greater clarity and understanding leads to a desire to maintain distance from the distracting ephemera that keeps the machine going.

The narrative currently driving fashion is still about the volume of output and conspicuous consumption. But that’s not to say change isn’t on the horizon. Each of the world’s most prominent designers, whether you love or hate them, has a finger on culture’s pulse. They’re able to take a confluence of art, design, music, culture, tech—essentially everything—make sense of it all as they intersect, and then translate that into forms that are mostly well-defined. Clothing, in general, is fabrications made for the human body, typically accommodating the usual number of limbs and parts. The industry continues to be the same and in it, the relationship between creator/designer and consumer seems to be shifting and aligning more clearly on an output. Creators want to create more meaningful work just as much as consumers desire creations that are honest and purposeful. I hope so anyways. 

Amidst all of this, the conversations that emerged in Paris were a strong validation that there are eye-opening and inspirational conversations that are taking place. However, they are not at all reflective of what’s happening behind-the-scenes, especially when it comes  to some of the industry’s most influential and profound thinkers. With these thoughts in mind, my Paris trip was a strong validation of something I had suspected: while the general media landscape (inclusive of social media), consumers exist within does occasionally stimulate eye-opening and inspiring conversations, they are not at all reflective of what the industry’s profound thinkers are concerned with behind-the-scenes. Their private conversations aren’t yet common knowledge because they lack what gives fashion strength: the ability to immediately identify with it. Maybe MAEKAN can play a larger role in providing a place for these conversations to live. I removed myself from the space and that has meant that MAEKAN hasn’t played a prominent role as an arbiter in fashion, but Paris revitalized me.

Fashion’s strengths emerge from exactly the same things we may loathe. When it works well, the right garment or brand, styled a certain way, serves as a very strong piece of cultural commentary. When it’s a clear misunderstanding of context, relevance, and above all else style, that combination of clothing exists not for any reason beyond as a means of earning social currency, a rat race into itself. The fine balance between trivial and meaningful fashion is a constant debate that needs greater visibility.

Thank you to Borre and the team at BYBORRE for introducing me to some passionate new friends hoping to change and rebuild what is currently a broken system. It’s a system that has lost sight of fashion’s strengths as a cultural communicator which provides an opportunity for discourse. It’s not meant to exist simply as cloth and stitch that wears seasonal-relevancy on its sleeve and there are many who still understand that.

I thought the fashion week circus would be a buzzkill—I’ve been served a strong reminder that it’s an unproductive exercise to establish a perspective before having the experience.  

Signing off for the month,

Eugene Kan Signature

Eugene Kan

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