What is fashion about?

Camilla Belle and Malin Akerman

From The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter

Some years ago, in a restaurant in Clerkenwell, an area of central London, I saw a fat man with the bristly blond head of a pink pig sitting at the next table.  His thighs, in combat pants, oozed over the edge of his seat like ripe Camembert.  Adoring, thin young acolytes hung on his every word, which he expressed loudly and with great confidence, throwing back his head and roaring.

“That,” said my lunch companion, “is Alexander McQueen.”

And a spasm of pure rage passed through me.  For who the hell was this fat bastard to tell women that they were obese if they couldn’t fit into a size 6 dress?  I am tired of fat men telling women whose bones do not show through their skin that they should lay off the doughnuts.  ….  McQueen, like Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs, would later slim down with the assistance of the finest trainers money can buy and no obligation to prepare family meals three times a day.


From the point of view of the designer, the clothes are, of course, the point.  You dream of creating amazing things and sending them down the catwalk and making people want to buy them.  Fashion is a visual aesthetic.  It’s concerned wholly and entirely with how things look.


The great couturier does not consider it his or her business to make the average woman who might wear his clothes look better.  In part because average women are not his customer.


So let’s be clear about what fashion is (or is not):  it is not a desire by designers to dress the body, it’s the dream of a beautiful object, the craft process to make it, and its eventual display on the best possible canvas:   the tallest and thinnest and youngest human form available.


We want fashion to be in our service, in the service of the human race; to fulfill our dreams of disguising our numerous imperfections.  It isn’t.  And the fat man with the thighs oozing off the chair in the restaurant in Clerkenwell isn’t interested in our longing to be made beautiful.  He’s interested in what goes on inside his own head and how to make it real.  His own fatness is beside the point.

That is fashion.  It isn’t, you see, about us.