In his column, An Intellectual Fashion, critical thinker Donatien Grau swirls the seemingly incompatible concepts of fashion and academia into a cocktail of sartorial wisdom, design nous and political intent. Interviewing a pantheon of designers, artists, writers, creatives and innovators, he has delicately probed them into exploring the personal manifestos that guide their work and the way they dress, thereby cultivating a fascinating guide to the thoughts, beliefs and passions of those who guide the fashion industry today.
Here we present our favourite quotes from 2013’s crop of interviewees, ranging from transvestite artist Grayson Perry’s thoughts on fashion vs style, through to Central St Martin’s fearsome Head of Fashion, Louise Wilson, on what of fashion can be taught.
Grayson Perry: Artist
How would you relate the concept of 'fashion' to the one of 'style'?
Fashion is a way to orchestrate the spectacle of ideas. You can get someone who is fashionable but not terribly stylish, and the other way round. I can poo-poo fashion, but it actually plays out in the same way as art: we need the freshness, we need the novelty. As human beings, we are addicted to novelty. Part of being stylish is surprisingness. Part of being an artist is surprisingness. If there are ingredients of beauty, it certainly is one of them. Surprise is like a spice on the meal, it makes you say: “woo”.
Kenneth Anger: Writer, artist, photographer
The word "intellectual" was coined in a time of great political distress. Does fashion have a political role?
If you put on a uniform and go to war: that’s fashion.
Roksanda Ilincic: Fashion designer
What does fashion have to do with intellectuality?
I’m not a big fan of overly intellectual fashion, because I think there should be a certain balance in the way fashion is perceived. There should be a great element of fun, and joy, and I can even use the word 'frivolity', that everybody hates. Some sort of easy, everyday form of carelessness in the way fashion is perceived.
Nicholas Kirkwood: Shoe designer
How would you connect fashion to elegance? Originally it is more of a personal trait, something people can actually have in a way they behave. Someone could be walking through with the most ridiculous outfit on and still somehow have an air of elegance about oneself. But it certainly is a word that has been appropriated by fashion as the propriety designers want their clothes to possess.
Louise Wilson: Head of the Fashion MA Course at Central Saint Martins
What of fashion can be taught?
Skills. That is all that can be taught. Skills enable you to be happy and do things. It is easy to blog, and to style something. But you still need the creativity behind it. At the end of the day, you’ve got to have the designers, which seem to be the least understood and the least supported figure in the fashion sphere. The amount of people I meet in the industry who are good at merchandising makes me sometimes want to ask them: if you are that good at merchandising, why don’t you design the line? I have a lot of people who are not that happy because they don’t have skills in the first place. When you watch this industry as an observer, which I always feel I am, you just think: isn’t it doing tremendously well with everybody that commentates on it? Bloggers, journalists, online-this, online-that? Lots of ways to feed off it. But without the creativity there is nothing to feed off. And that creativity is something less and less visible and less and less respected.
Click here for the full archive of An Intellectual Fashion.