The present moment is a time in which the style industry is ubiquitous in the culture worldwide to an unprecedented degree. Everywhere you turn, every narrative you bump up against, you find clothes are part of the story—on television, in print, on-site and on social media. ‘Beyoncé is first to perform in Riccardo Tisci’s Burberry’ is one headline I encounter this morning, as I grab my coffee and settle down to write; meanwhile, Paul Manafort’s ridiculously lavish ostrich jacket (he of the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election) is still the talk of the television pundits. And did Meghan Markle really just wear Club Monaco pleats to Prince Harry’s pal’s wedding? It is now entirely normal that clothes are integral to the conversation in everything, from political discourse to dinner table gossip, and no one bats an eye when even a child can spot a Gucci loafer from ten paces.
For someone like myself, an obsessive and professional style watcher, it is exhilarating and perhaps a tad exhausting. How does my day at Vogue.com begin? There are the pictures to pore over from parties (frocks!) and airports (bags!) and city streets the world over (jeans! boots!). There is the user-generated footage to edit from micro-influencers who live everywhere from North Dakota to Nairobi. There are the original celebrity videos in need of notes and polish. There are the dancers on Youtube I need to check out, the ladies with floor-length extensions in Chicago I need to know more about, the 19-year-old photographers on Instagram who follow a skate world but not one I have ever seen before. There is the slate of candidates for elective office who we cover exhaustively and whose style is part of their promise. And then there are the pop stars, who are now designers and want to be directors as well if we can only find the right casting of, say, gorgeous octogenarian swimmers. Then there are the collections, the pre-collections, the capsule collections, the collaborations, limited-edition collections, that endless stream of clothes and more clothes, some of which are genius, some less so, but all in need of conscious consideration. And then there are the geniuses behind those clothes, the creators themselves, who fuel and shape this giddy barrage of self-expression. They, too, require attention and support. Fashion, for me, is global, democratic, empowering and essential: it is the fundamental element that sends us out into the world to be our best selves in whatever form we choose to do so.
Twenty years ago, when fashion shows were attended by the lucky few and the information gleaned from them highly guarded and dispensed gingerly, I still wanted to find the intersection between the runway and the street; it never made sense to me to see fashion in isolation. Even at the haute couture shows, where one really can appreciate the creations of an atelier on their own terms, free from the burden of utility or scaleable commerce, I still look on at the most elaborate and (possibly) impractical looks by Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino, say, or Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior and think, I want to see someone in that walking down my street. I want the world to look at that marvellous and original thing. I don’t care to see fashion in a museum: life is too short and the burden of our times too great. We need glamour in every form. We need beauty.
And we need change—at least in my country—which necessarily involves the shock of the new, which is the essence of great style. When people say that fashion is not political, I say consider the sea of knitted pink hats that greeted our new president on his inaugural weekend. Remember last year’s Golden Globe Awards and Oscars, and the rightness and chicness of those black dresses worn to affirm solidarity with Time’s Up! For the first time in many a year on the red carpet actresses did not answer questions about their clothes and jewels; they discussed the issues and their work. Their dresses spoke for them. Isn’t it cool when fashion can be part of the conversation without anyone having to say a word?