SEEN AND LIKED: A HUMBLE MOMENT AT NZFW.
Last Fashion Week I attended (MBFW), I wrote a post titled “There’s a lot I don’t relate to about fashion.” By the end of Day Two of NZFW — the Tuesday just passed — I remembered why I wrote it.
I was sitting front row at a show, having chosen to opt out of the photography pit — where I spend most of my time — for a seat and a starburst-filled goodie bag instead (yes, this is what truly enticed me).
I found myself both wondering and hoping that I deserved the seat I’d been given. After all, at Fashion Week, the front row is more than just a seat — but a standard, a status, even, a measure of your value. To both the designer and to the industry itself.
After poking my head around said goodies — a hand wash, an eye cream, a fuelling drink from 1Above and a few other nifty things — I moved my perusal to the audience. In fact, even as the show began, my gaze consistently fell back to certain faces in the front two rows across from me. I watched one lady scorn at the model / dress / concept — who knows what it actually was which encouraged her great scrutiny — almost right until the moment the lights lifted again.
I wasn’t entirely sure where this moment — and moments alike [for let it be known, there are many at Fashion Week] — now left my opinion in regards to the whole thing. Okay, perhaps that’s a bit far. I still knew where I stood re the power of fashion, with supporting local designers, networking and meeting like-minded people.
But with that said, it was just Day Two and part of me was already growing old with the atmosphere. The front two rows were filled with faces of people, convinced they were Jimmy Iovine to the fashion industry. Their expressions spoke a bold statement, something like, “if I dislike your collection, this could be make-or-break for your success entirely.”
Tony and I furthered this discussion yesterday, noting that even the underdogs or the up-and-comers are taught to regard themselves so highly. They learn from their predecessors that to be successful, one should never come across too approachable and NEVER, ever admit that they don’t know what they’re doing. After all, a confession like this could threaten your own value in the mind of whoever hears it.
As I watched this woman with her harsh scorn, I really wanted to stop the show and to demand the reason for her sour face (it wasn’t just one lemon she’d had — it appeared that someone had chucked about 57 her way). Did her sitting in the front row somehow demand an overt expression of her dismay? Or was it this display of utter judgement that reaffirmed why she was there in the first place?
If I was to reflect on myself and the things I dislike at Fashion Week, it tends to be for two reasons: either I don’t understand them or I don’t resonate with them. They’re not my thing. My style. My taste. And for the most part, this makes me an inappropriate candidate for shedding judgement.
If I don’t spend any time indulging in grunge or dark fashion, who am I to conclude that one collection is better or worse than another? To me, they probably all look the same — so I just won’t write on this category of fashion.
To share that a collection wasn’t my thing, to me, is pretty invaluable — to both readers and to the designer [of whose fault it certainly isn’t that I don’t resonate with their work]. I’d much prefer to exclaim why I did resonate with someone else’s.
My point is, that a large percentage of Fashion Week goers (of which I can only hope and endeavour to stand apart from), tend to take on a new, and yet, learned behaviour at Fashion Week.
This behaviour assures us that to be someone, you ought to firstly, act like you’re above everyone else. Secondly, fool onlookers into believing this is your life everyday. That you don’t go home, get into your pyjamas and snack on Kettle chips in front of The Bachelor. And finally, you’ll have to convey — perhaps by a mere facial expression — that your opinion is like soy sauce to sushi. It means EVERYTHING.
If I thought my own opinion or experience wasn’t valuable, let’s be honest, I probably wouldn’t have a blog. So while I certainly do appreciate individual perspective, it’s the falsity with which it’s presented at Fashion Week which quite truly frustrates me.
I said this to Tony yesterday on the subject: if I was a passer-by, there’s no doubt I’d wish I was inside Viaduct Events Centre; a place where it appears the elites go to sip on champagne and bask in high-end fashion. But being on the inside, I can as much appreciate folks on the waterfront, having a drink at a local bar. These people have nothing to do with the event at all, and quite frankly, are not bothered with pretending they do.
There are elements of Fashion Week that remind me why I value a humble life just as much as a high one. As the woman across from me scorns at a designer’s perception on art, I find myself feeling somewhat out of place. I almost don’t want to be sitting across from her, for risk of being compared as in the same place or anywhere close to doing the same thing.
But then I think to myself, perhaps that’s what brands such as Aurai Swimwear and Salty Sea felt too. Perhaps they wondered if there was a place for them — two very genuine, functional and all-inclusive swim + activewear labels — within the sometimes-snooty fashion scene at Viaduct Events Centre.
The reason I continue to cover the event may, as it turns out, be somewhat similar to the reason these brands show their collections. It would appear that these two brands, in fact, set out to do it differently. The goal? To encourage that others open their eyes to difference.
They’re walking past the scorning women on the side, and saying, honestly, your opinion doesn’t matter. Because this is what we value. And we’re certain that other people will value it too.
Both brands in the Swim + Activewear show presented a relieving awareness for the everyday person. For the fact that we — yes, us in the audience — do things other than attend high-end parties and gossip about our neighbours.
To describe it in one word: refreshing. It wasn’t the ready-to-wear nature of both brands alone, but the way the show comprised models of ALL sizes and body types (there were even a few mothers in there). This diversity meant I was entirely captured by the show, far more than I was by a series that followed on Day Two.
To see bodies that are close to yours — perhaps with a little more weight on the hips or a height that isn’t 5”11 — made the collections far more meaningful. Not only could I see myself in each piece, I was able to see beauty in each woman too.
It wasn’t about whether you had curves or didn’t; whether you were a traditional model or weren’t. In this show, there was simply no traditional. “Stick-thin” models could not be categorised nor subjected to their usual title at Fashion Week. Amid women of all sizes and ages, they too had a chance to distinguish themselves. I began to see them for their differences, and it felt good. It felt important.
Each woman strutted her way down the runway with so much confidence. For the first time, cellulite, imperfect bums and smiles existed at once. The best part? The scorning woman could not claim what an imperfect bum was. She could not scrutinise the way it jiggled or the way it drooped. She had to sit back and to take it. To take reality and to celebrate it.
If previously at NZFW, you existed in a bubble of perfect people who do only perfect things, your bubble was broken at the Swim + Activewear show 2018. This show was the much-needed reminder (particularly at the beginning of the week) that we ought to take ourselves less seriously. To have fun with it, and to be more real.
For once at Fashion Week, two labels took a bold step yet one step further: they showed us how to own ourselves, whilst also granting our neighbour a platform to do the same.
In attending Fashion Week once again, you could argue I’m taking the same step on Currently Loving. I’m here to say something different. And that’s that you can love fashion; you can value your own experience of it or bask in the high life or make networks or be successful — without losing who you are and how you act to the world it encompasses.
That goes for any world, in fact — not solely the fashion one.
So to those who remain humble in a space that thrives off self-righteousness, I salute you. I idolise you. I also want to be you. Success with modesty, to me, is the most admirable of its form. So too is a voice that utters different words in a space where sounds are all the same.
Good on you, Aurai Swimwear and Salty Sea. I’m not sure whether I’m inspired to work out more, to go on vacation or to love myself. I think it’s all three.
Wearing: Boohoo jumpsuit, Witchery gold-studded white loafers, Arise Collective sunglasses, Lovisa jewellery.
Photos captured by Tony Collins, edited by McKenzie Collins.