Image by BostonTrader.nl
Between Suzy Menkes’ vitriolic anti-peacocking piece, The Circus of Fashion and a panel discussion I attended at this year’s Vogue Festival featuring Anna Dello Russo, Susie Lau and Garance Dore, recently I’ve been wondering what it is about street style that we find so irresistibly compelling? I reckon Susie “Bubble” Lau hit the nail on the head during said talk when she described it as “voyeuristic”. But as I suspected all along and forty five fascinating minutes of listening to her, Anna and Garance confirmed, our international obsession with what other people wear is about more than just that.
Anna Dello Russo, Susie Lau and Garance Dore are perhaps the three most important women on the planet when it comes to the street style/blogging movement so I was counting on them to enlighten me as to why we are so fixated by strangers wardrobes. Despite their very different backgrounds, styles and appearances, I thought that the overall message they each gave during their discussion at Vogue Festival was the same: fashion is personal. To some extent it always has been. Women in particular have had an emotional relationship with clothes since the dawn of time (or at least since the late 18th century) but the significance of that relationship has never garnered such widespread attention nor been so celebrated as it is today. While in previous years magazine editorials were the end of the line for fashion inspiration, street style is now not only a sartorial genre in it’s own right – do you know any fash mags without a section devoted to it on their website? Nope, didn’t think so – but it perhaps appeals to us as much, if not more, than traditionally styled shoots thanks to its presentation of fashion as something personal and to an extent, accessible. I’m not for one second knocking the wonder of an exquisitely created, fantastical Vogue editorial shot by Tim Walker and starring Stella Tennant dripping in couture. But while I enjoy gazing at such images in wonder ultimately they’ye presenting a dream, not the reality. The difference between that and the women Garance photographs, Susie Lau and even catwalk-look-clad Anna Dello Russo is that unlike models styled in next season’s runway fresh finery, they really do wear their clothes. What makes Susie’s unique brand of kooky cool and Garance’s stylish Parisiennes accessible and fascinating is that whether they’re dressed in Topshop or Balenciaga, they have a personal relationship with the clothes on their back.
Menkes may lampoon the poseurs outside Somerset House and many other people I know (but won’t name) dismiss street style full stop. Admittedly, it is pretty mainstream these days and perhaps not “organic” in the way it once apparently was. But regardless of whether street stylers are posing or captured unawares, I feel that the fact we’re interested in and often openly covet clothes that are owned, worn and loved often by *shock horror* non-model civilians bodes well for us all. Fashion is not, and most likely will never be, an exactly democratic world. But with clothes snapped in reality now often as influential as those showcased on the catwalk, is seems that perhaps the playing field is slowly but surely becoming more level than before… What do you think?
Love Ella. X