When it comes to fashion, don't follow the crowd

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http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/fashion/8394137/When-it-comes-to-fashion-don-t-follow-the-crowd "When he pulls his frilly nylon panties right up tight, he feels a dedicated follower of fashion.” In 1966, when The Kinks lead singer Ray Davies penned the lyrics to the song “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”, he was mocking what he saw as blind conformity to the mod fashions of the day. Hiked-up frilly synthetic panties might not be evident on New Zealand streets, but slavishly following trends and conforming to fashions is rife. There’s a small percentage of people wearing interesting fashion but, sadly, 90 percent seem to run with the sheep, blending in to all look the same.

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International Newport Group Fashion and Lifestyle :

International Newport Group Fashion and Lifestyle When it comes to fashion, don't follow the crowd

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There aren’t many people who approach what they wear with true creativity, but the few who do make it seem worth emulating. Iris Apfel , an American designer now well into her 80s, is an inspiration to women of all ages with her colourful , remarkable wardrobe. She dresses totally to please herself and her ‘don’t care what people think’ attitude has freed her to create her own distinct style, which is echoed in the work of fashion designers around the world. Closer to home, for me, is Nelson art collector Bronwyn Monopoli . She’s not a fashion designer, she’s an accountant (disclaimer: she’s also on the board of WOW), but she gives the same sense of not worrying about what others think, of getting pleasure from dressing in her own style. She wears a riot of colour and an eclectic mix of garments and accessories and her personality shines through – she’s an individual and she’s not afraid to be herself. Most people don’t like to stand out from the crowd but for those brave enough to wear outrageous garments, the results can be striking. One lasting impression from a chance meeting years ago is of a couple who both wore parts of suits of armour they had made. They looked totally stunning .

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" When he pulls his frilly nylon panties right up tight, he feels a dedicated follower of fashion.” In 1966, when The Kinks lead singer Ray Davies penned the lyrics to the song “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”, he was mocking what he saw as blind conformity to the mod fashions of the day. Hiked-up frilly synthetic panties might not be evident on New Zealand streets, but slavishly following trends and conforming to fashions is rife. There’s a small percentage of people wearing interesting fashion but, sadly, 90 percent seem to run with the sheep, blending in to all look the same. It’s easy to run with the sheep when every shop window is full of the same thing looking fantastic on a hipless mannequin, but the risk is that we follow fashion at the expense of style and creativity. Since the first World of WearableArt (WOW) Awards in 1987, thousands of incredible, original garments have passed through our judges’ hands. Each year proves there is no danger of these ideas running out; there’s no maximum threshold on creativity. WOW is undeniably about art, not fashion; our shows feature stunning works of wearable art from around the world, set against a backdrop of theatre, dance, drama, lighting and sound. It’s perhaps not feasible for our daily fashions to maintain that level of theatre, but given we have to choose an outfit 365 days a year, we should want it to be a more creative process.

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Not everyone can wear suits of armour and some people will never be comfortable in bright orange, but we can all cultivate our own style. I’m naturally a dark dresser – that’s part of my style. I like the sculptural nature of black and, being a sculptor myself, I like architecturally sculptural-type clothing (a trademark of many Zambesi designs) more than I like a lot of colour . I get my colour from my – slightly obsessive – collection of around 50 of the most wonderful embroidered silk shawls . Those shawls aren’t subject to seasonal fashions (though I can always find an ‘on trend’ colour ) – they will be part of my wardrobe for years to come. Iris Apfel says she has special pieces she bought 30 years ago that she still wears today. Investing in lasting pieces that you like and that make you look and feel good seems a natural antidote to wearing more transient chain-store fashions . If we follow fashions without adding our own style, we’re stifling one of the most obvious ways to express ourselves. Art is the natural home of expression but many designers have blurred the line between fashion and art. Alexander McQueen made the most amazing sculptural wearable art for the body. He was one of the world’s most famous fashion designers, but anyone looking at his collections can see the artistry.

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Another British designer, Gareth Pugh, has been described as turning fashion into performance art. His pieces have been worn by Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga to bring their stage shows to life, but his work also has the stamp of approval from Vogue’s Anna Wintour . While not to the extremes of McQueen or Pugh, New Zealand labels such as Zambesi , Nom D and Trelise Cooper also bring a sense of art, drama and originality to their designs. The creativity of pieces from these collections arguably gives the wearer much greater scope to express themselves than indistinguishable, mass-produced offerings. Tackling the tide of uniform looks on New Zealand streets could begin by consciously injecting more art into fashion through artist-designer partnerships. Art has long been a source of inspiration for designers, from subtle influences to wholesale homage (as in Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian dress), but actual creative pairings between artists and fashion designers would yield truly original garments. It’s an idea borne out by the fruits of past pairings – Karen Walker and photographer Derek Henderson, Jimmy D and Andrew McLeod, and Workshop with a series of artists including John Pule and Max Gimblett , for example.

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Any designers looking for someone to partner with should get in touch – WOW has amassed a colossal list of talented, creative artists over the past 25 years . Once the more creative clothing choices are laid out, it will still be a question of getting New Zealanders to willingly put them on. Our laidback lifestyle doesn’t seem to lend itself to dressing up and yet the signs are there that we want to. We pore over fashion magazines and best-dressed lists. We tune in to shows like Project Runway. Entries and audience numbers for WOW grow every year. Even the voracious appetite for chain store fashions means we’re thinking about what we wear. So we’ll just have to get brave. As much as we don’t like standing out, blending in seems like a poor alternative. Quite apart from the boredom of carbon-copy outfits, one suspects that the cost of slavishly following fashion is losing touch with what actually looks good. We need to stop worrying about what other people think. We need to be individuals and not be afraid to come up with our own creative ideas on what to wear. This season, let’s make cultivating our individual style the new black.

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