Apr 9th, 2016, 01:44 PM

The Fashion Industry Needs You

By Gina Dunn
Image credit: Popmap.com
Dispelling common misconceptions and a call to action for those with no background in fashion.

Smart people do not work in fashion.

At least, that’s what some who don’t work in fashion might tell you. This just isn't true.

You might be asking yourself why would a “smart” person dedicate their lives to something as seemingly frivolous, often culturally insensitive, and many times psychologically demoralizing as fashion? Who the hell wants a ditzy, racist, bulimia-promoting friend, let alone sell their soul/life/time to such an industry?

Take note. For once, fashion has a clean secret as opposed to all the dirty ones (that aren’t really secrets). Smart, critical-thinking individuals dedicate their lives to the industry.  Physicists do. Anthropologists do. Psychologists do. Those who care about society do. And it goes without saying that artists do as well.  

Why? To paraphrase a quote from Francis Corner’s book Why Fashion Matters, "naked people don’t change the world." So as much as former president Bill Clinton couldn’t keep his pants on, he still recognized the necessity for a nicely tailored pair when speaking on the White House lawn. In all seriousness, it's an industry that involves everyone, including you. Can you recall the last time you went outside sans clothing? 

Unfortunately, the fashion system has a branding and communications problem. This most recently became apparent when PFW, Paris Fashion Week, failed to trend on Twitter. Day to day, its branding problem can be seen in the actions of our friends who say they don’t care about fashion with a subtle tone of self-righteousness; however, these same non-naked individuals are often looking for the least expensive clothing possible. They’re also unaware that their cheap clothing is probably produced under inhumane conditions at best. At worst, companies they buy from have factories that collapse killing hundreds of workers. It might help to care.

Image Credit: Associated Press.

It’s too bad that many's first encounters with those who want to work in fashion, are the people who only know the industry on a superficial level. They can reference maybe the last 15 years of fashion. If we’re lucky, the 70’s and 80’s, and the advent of the Dior’s New Look. They use words like "basic" to describe users of mainstream trends like drinking Starbucks' pumpkin spice lattes and wearing Uggs. Many times these individuals fail to see the hypocrisy in their comment while wearing their on-trend biker jacket. Sometimes they string together thoughts similar to a sentence. It’s usually only to communicate a snide remark like, “only if you live in Connecticut and are over the age of 50.” The only time that level of snark is justified is in response to such statements. Even then, it’s questionable. Rest assured, these aren't the only individuals in the fashion industry.

Can you see why fashion needs you? Fashion needs the student of international relations and development to hold clothing stores accountable when over 1000 Bangladeshis die under a few tons of cement. The fashion industry needs the student who is pulling all-nighters understanding a 300-page architecture textbook. You might be the next Behnaz Farah and create clothing that reacts to a stranger’s gaze.

Fashion also needs the communications student. Who else is going to fix its branding problem? Currently there are talented, critically-thinking and conscientious contributors to the industry. Yet many consumers only seem aware of three careers in fashion. They mistakenly believe designers, stylists and models are in charge of the entire $1.2 trillion industry.  There are still wrongs that need to be righted. There are still voices that need to be heard. Could one of them be yours?

“Do you have a background in fashion?” Don’t let this question discourage you. It’s not a very good question. A better question might be: “Do you get it? Do you understand fashion’s relevance and potential impact?”

Maybe right now you don’t. However, if you care about science, people, business and/or creativity, then the fashion industry needs you. Don’t believe what you've heard. You — without your background in fashion — can use your brilliance to illuminate fashion’s shadowy side, and maybe the world.