50 insights into the search for enlightenment through fashion

Having consulted, in a strictly off-the-record capacity, with a selection of fashion designers, writers, editors, stylists and photographers, i-D offers 50 insights and tips to ensure fashion proposes an open road, rather than a cul-de-sac.

by James Anderson
01 January 2014, 7:00pm

Gemma Ward Photography Emma Summerton Fashion Director Edward Enninful [The Offspring Issue, No. 280, September 07]

1. Being 'on-trend' is a mediocre aspiration that will never make anyone remember you.

2. Young designers should be wary of undertaking too many collaborations with big brands early on in their careers - even if they need the money - as this will ultimately water down their own USP.

3. The irony of fashion industry parties, is that everyone is dressed to impress but the hottest person there is usually a bouncer in a cheap suit.

4. Warning to mature fashion bods: do not instantly dismiss something created by a young designer, even if you instinctively know you have seen it before. After all, everyone wears their influences on their sleeve until they hone their own special sleeve.

5. Words like 'edgy' and 'directional' should be used sparingly, otherwise you sound like the tacky fashion 'expert' off breakfast telly.

6. Classic with a twist is another way of saying, 'Something old, but now done in a bright colour...'

7. Designers always admire their muse's 'attitude' more than what the muse wears. So, actions speak louder than clothes, ultimately.

8. Everyone has to take a shit now and then. Even the most feared of fashion legends. Picture this when you next feel intimidated at a fashion event.

9. Spending hours and hours getting ready and looking in the mirror is always a good use of time and well worth the effort, but only if the end result creates the illusion of thrown-together effortlessness.

10. If you are going to blog about fashion, make sure you can string a sentence together.

11. A new fashion trend simply requires at least three coincidences, occuring at the same time.

12. Always view an emailed press release that tells you how to, 'Get the look for £15!!!' with the utmost suspicion... then promptly delete it.

13. Turn defects into a unique personal style, by flaunting your acne, greasy hair and poor posture and declaring them as a re-appraisal of traditional notions of beauty.

14. Boys who dress like girls are a grand tradition that must be preserved at all costs. Ditto, girls who dress like boys.

15. Buying an item of clothing which you know deep down isn't really 'you', will always mean you feel like a tosser while wearing it.

16. People with serious mental health issues often dress much more interestingly than those who are 'sane'. Example? Spotted last week, in Camden, at lunchtime: an excitable lady with a green face pack and a hat made of twigs.

17. It is better to buy one stomach-churningly expensive piece of clothing that you love - even if means you can't pay the rent next month - rather than an array of cheap things which you just, sort-of, quite like.

18. At least one sock will always vanish in the washing machine when you do your laundry, never to be seen again.

19. Gok Wan is not a bad person, but putting a belt on seemingly every female one encounters in order to cinch-in their waists is not really fashion.

20. If you want to be a stylist, it helps if you dress interestingly. At least until you are hugely successful, and totally frazzled by your work-load, by which time you could simply adhere to number 13 in this list.

21. Psssst! Fashion people who constantly tell you how 'creative' they are, might not actually be very creative.

22. The best designers are those who come up with something which you didn't previously know you wanted until you saw it for the first time.

23. Trannys become hugely fashionable, at least every thirteen years.

24. The 80s style revival apparently never ends.

25. Fashion feeds off youth, but it generally needs older people to make sense of this feeding frenzy, in order to efficiently package and flog it all back to the masses.

26. Punks, mods, skinheads, scallies, goths, ravers, hippys.... without these well-established youth tribes, at least 74% of designers working today would have zero sources of inspiration for their next collections.

27. Being clean is unfailingly chic.

28. Wearing all black can be a cop-out and discloses a lack of aesthetic confidence (unless you are Diane Pernet, who is clearly confident in her timeless-goth get-up).

29. Ironing clothes is a waste of time: creases create the narrative of a life well-lived.

30. One internationally-successful fashion photographer once - in the middle of a big budget shoot - uttered the following: 'Fashion makes you look like a c***.' Discuss...

31. More fashion designers should 'take a season out' if they feel like doing so. Good ideas do not inherently happen every six months.

32. Having Kanye West sat in the front row of your show is not necessarily a good thing.

33. Designers place big, prominent zips all over everything when they want to inject their aesthetic with a quick-and-easy air of 'modernity'.

34. Espadrilles have never been good and never will be.

35. Wearing no undies is always 'IN'.

36. You have to look way beyond the territory of fashion in order to create a new style. And in relation to that, a 'reference' or a 'homage' should not be a license to simply emulate someone else's ideas from yesteryear.

37. Nightclubs remain the true laboratories of fresh fashion looks.

38. If you are a burgeoning designer, design for your peer group rather than some naff red carpet fantasy that has nothing to do with your own life.

39. The quickest and cheapest way to radically overhaul your image is to just shave all your hair off.

40. Most of the best style icons don't wear many clothes - for example, Iggy Pop or Grace Jones during the 70s.

41. All the best avant-garde looks will get you arrested - for example, women wearing trousers in Paris, back in 1800.

42. If your parents like what you are wearing, you are clearly doing something wrong.

43. Televison producers have never really managed to get to grips with fashion, hence endless 'makeover' programmes, but virtually nothing that ever really examines fashion design as a creative process, or a massively lucrative industry.

44. Never, ever describe yourself as a 'fashionista' if you want anyone to take you seriously.

45. 'There's not much budget...' These are words which any aspiring stylist will gradually become familiar with.

46. Don't be worried by negative reactions to what you wear: all the best fashion statements are misunderstood or maligned at first.

47. Anyone over the age of 35 should be wary of indulging the latest retro-themed trends, as this can end up looking like you've been wearing them since the first time around. The current penchant for early 1990s styles, for instance, best suits those who were still in nappies twenty-odd years ago.

48. Fashion is one of the most effective forms of instant communication and self-expression, but it doesn't compensate for having something interesting to say.

49. Being invisible is often the most stylish look of all - for example, the elusive Martin Margiela.

50. Don't believe everything you read about fashion just because it's been published somewhere reputable: process the information and always make up your own mind.


Text James Anderson

Think Pieces
Gemma Ward
james anderson