While reading Sarah Kendzior’s “Expensive Cities Are Killing Creativity” opinion piece on AlJazeera.com, I couldn’t help but wonder how the soaring costs of living and big business in places like New York City, London, and Paris were directly impacting fashion.
Like music or painting, fashion is art–at its foundation is creativity and the desire to transcribe new and cutting-edge ideas. Unfortunately, it seems as if that creativity is waning more and more with each new season. The fashion industry was already an impossible industry to break into, and it has become increasingly harder to do so, especially in the world’s fashion capitals. In order for a designer to make it, he or she has to have funding (which is extremely difficult to come by), traction with celebrities, and the piqued interest of editors, so that the brand can be seen by as many people as possible.
With the added pressures of all of the aforementioned at play, it’s pretty easy to see why a new designer would opt for what works and what will sell versus what it is creative. Fashion is, after all, a business from which companies need to profit–and sometimes creativity just isn’t all that creative. Gareth Pugh’s other worldly designs come to mind: they aren’t the least bit saleable or even functional, which is why they are often altered and adapted for real world wear. Going into his eighth year of business, Pugh continues to be one of the few who have been able to stick around with their original aesthetic in tact. So many brands have crumbled due to economic pressure in a world and cities where the cost of living and rents are just to much to bear.
I think there’s a similar conformity happening with editors and bloggers as well. Street style photographers snap the same fifty or so influencers in looks that are straight from the runway: most often borrowed or gifted. Thousands of onlookers peacock for the cameras each fashion week, but the same old heavy hitters are snapped season after season. These editors are the faces of their magazines, and there’s no doubt that a glossy’s standing with a brand rises when its employees are seen out in the house’s creations.
The same goes for the blogging community, in which there are now thousands of different men and women profiling their style across the web on a daily basis. Despite such a slew of people to choose from, the credibility of most is predicated on the cosign of high-fashion brands and the toting of the season’s latest “It” accessories: most of which are way too expensive for the average person or even blogger to purchase. So many are flocking to cities like New York City and Los Angeles, which are hotbeds for fashion, but impossible to live in without a slew of sponsors, therein creating this kind of go-to formula for those who didn’t already have the means to wear Chanel and Christian Louboutin.
I am a native New Yorker, so I know better than most how crippling the cost of living in this city can be for those doing creative things they love. As Kendzior states, “Creativity – as an expression of originality, experimentation, innovation – is not a viable product” and she couldn’t be more correct. As I stated before, fashion is a business and businesses do not thrive without money. People do not thrive without money, especially not in these big metropolitan cities where almost nothing is free. I see it in the brands that I write about on a weekly basis: the bigger have the means for more press releases and celebrities in their designs, while I literally have to seek out the smaller. Social media has done a great job of leveling the playing field, but there’s still a lot of economic inequity.
Though January 1st is just a new day, I’m hoping that the industry can soon get back to championing all things different and out of the box, so that there can at least be a balance with the mainstream. There aren’t any signs of the Big Apple or any of the world’s other fashion capitals becoming less expensive to live in, but hopefully fashion can once again become a beacon of that devotion to art and creativity that I believe it once was.