As a fashion merchandising major, the question I get asked the most is “Why is some fashion so crazy?” or some variation of that like “Who would wear that?” or “Do people actually buy some of these outfits?” There are a couple explanations for this, so let’s get to it.
First off, these are called fashion shows for a reason—there’s a large focus on drama and story for many designers. The designers that focus more on commercialism and returns on investment tend to show more wearable clothing, but those who see fashion as more of an art embrace the unique and unsettling. There’s the makeup, music, venue and models that all combine with the clothing to make the viewer feel something. Many times, the clothing is then edited for the consumer at a store like Nordstrom or Bloomingdale’s, explaining why you may have never seen someone walking around in one of the crazier outfits, except for certain celebrities like Lady Gaga.
One brand known for this concept, and celebrated for it, is Comme des Garçons. Their pieces focus on structural innovation, similar to origami, and become collector’s items to fashion connoisseurs. To those who lean more toward practicality, the brand also has Comme des Garçons Play, which is a collection of more simple and affordable clothing. Many brands use these other brands to maintain their business financially and their creative freedom in their main line.
I sometimes compare avant-garde (experimental) fashion and more consumerist fashion to the difference between modern art and landscape art. Go to a modern art museum and you’ll see all sorts of things—some of it will make sense to you, but, odds are, most of it will just confuse you. Landscape art is pretty and practical; it sells, and then it gets put it up in your house. Both of these are still accepted forms of art. Modern art is about trying new things and sending a message while landscapes are typically focused on being pleasing to the eye.
I would argue fashion as another medium of art. Sometimes it pushes the boundaries, but most of the time it’s something that is normal. Typically, pushing the boundaries brings a couple of raised eyebrows, but designers are okay with that; they are not creating to please everyone. Creativity sometimes means trying a new shape, fabric, or technique until something completely new is made. That, though it may not be seen as typically beautiful, amazes me.
Designers tell stories through their collections, and that, to a certain extent, is also true for the consumer. In fact, back in the 90s, the punk movement was a form of revolt against consumerism: people began to distress, adapt, and embellish whatever they could find, even using garbage bags to make clothing. At first these new ideas were seen as crazy, but they began to gain momentum, and now there are still influences of the punk movement in everyday life. So, though some of the styles going down the runway may seem crazy now, who knows what we’ll be wearing in the next 20 years?