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Edward Norman

Fashion is a reflection of our times

Given current world conditions, it’s little wonder that designers — who are largely liberal, artistic and sensitive — decided to marinate their collections in a broth of dark nectar.
Since my last article on fall/winter trends, I’ve had numerous people ask me the question, “Where do the trends come from, and who decides?”

Excellent question. Although there are plenty of people — you know who you are — who believe that fashion is frivolous, trite, elitist and irrelevant, it is, in fact, a reflection of what’s happening in our world. Politics, socio-economic conditions, the state of world affairs, the entertainment industry, the overall mood of the population and what designers see being worn on the streets in cities like New York, London, Paris and Milan dictate the direction of fashion trends.

This season a somber, solemn mood is seen throughout the fashion world. A darker color palette has replaced the brighter shades of past seasons.

Yes, black flatters, slims and is easy to pack, but it also indicates a shift in attitude. We are involved in a senseless war with no resolution in sight; we don’t trust, believe or respect most of our political leaders; the economy is shaky; terrorism is the new global norm; and there is an HIV/AIDS pandemic to which our leaders seem oblivious. And while we can spend billions on the aforementioned war, we can’t seem to protect our population or respond to a crisis like Katrina on our own soil. It’s little wonder that designers — who are largely liberal, artistic and sensitive — decided to marinate their collections in a broth of dark nectar. However, red is a major color this season because a powerful color can signify hope and defiance to those who feel disenfranchised.

After seasons, and years, of showing copious amounts of skin, covering up is a way to show discretion, respect and modesty. Piling on layers can create a cocoon-like feeling of comfort and safety in an out-of-control world. The outrageous proportions and chicly disheveled mismatching of lengths is a statement of non-conformity. The popularity of leggings and opaque tights are but another example of the newfound sobriety in fashion.
The overly decorated, glitzy, embellished clothes of past collections have been replaced with more subdued, understated matte finishes like jersey, velvet, wool and cashmere. Embellishments and overindulgence is too whimsical, frivolous and gaudy during times of discontent, uncertainty and sorrow.

The current world crisis is responsible for the abundance of military-inspired jackets and coats. Designers are showing this trend as a paradoxical snub to our administration’s obvious indifference to human suffering and destruction.

While the high-end designers definitely promote their wares — by virtue of their costs — to an elite market, it is ridiculous to assume that fashion is elitist, frivolous, trite or irrelevant.

Within weeks of a designer’s runway collection, it is knocked-off and reproduced by such all-inclusive stores as Wal-Mart, Target, HM and any other number of discount houses. And they do a damn good job. Fashion, like art, is for the masses. If you don’t care, that’s fine, but remember that, like art, fashion is a reflection of our times. Life dictates the direction of trends.

Most importantly, fashion offers us a chance to escape the harsh realities of a world in crisis. It offers us a chance to adorn ourselves in a way that reflects our values, our self-esteem and our unique sense of self-expression. Fashion simply reflects the realities of life.

— Edward Norman is an Image Consultant, Master Designer and Colorist, and the owner of Edward Norman Image Consulting.

He can be reached at 704-614-0207 or by email at qstyle1@yahoo.com.

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