Sunday, 3 April 2011

Fashion to Die for?

Dialogue between Fashion and Death: a chapter in the book of the same name by poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi I found to be a fascinating text that draws upon the similarities between Fashion and Death, here personified as two sisters. The passage is a short, humorous conversation where Fashion convinces Death that they fall from the same tree, so to speak:

Fashion: …you and I together keep undoing and changing things down here on earth…

Fashion: I’m saying that it is our nature and our custom to keep renovating the world. But right from the start you threw yourself on people and on blood, whereas I’m generally satisfied with beards, hair, clothes, furnishings, buildings, and the like.

cause pain:

Fashion: I persuade and force all genteel men to endure daily a thousand hardships and a thousand discomforts and often pain and torment and I even get some of them to die gloriously for love of me.

Fashion: …doing everything my way, no matter how much it hurts them…

move at a different pace:

Fashion: …for whereas you run, I can go faster than a gallop, and whereas you faint by standing still in one place, I waste away.

Fashion ultimately concludes that she is one with Death:

Fashion: …some of my doings that are of great assistance to you.

Fashion: …I have caused the neglect and the elimination of the exertion and those exercises which favour physical well-being, and I have introduced innumerable others that weaken the body in a thousand ways and shorten life and have caused them to be valued highly.

Fashion: …I have put in the world such orders and such customs that life itself, both of the body and of the soul, is more dead than alive…

The work is not dated; however it can be assumed that Leopardi wrote it in the early 19th Century. You cannot deny that Fashion’s arguments still seem relevant today. The rich/poor divide must have been considerably wider during the era it was written indicating that fashion played a more important role in determining status or class, therefore sort after. Yet fashion is still incredibly important nowadays perhaps because it is more accessible. Fashion changes much more frequently in order to keep people interested, maybe even to remind us its there.

This increased speed has quite literally sucked the life out of us and the planet:

  • The Aral Sea was almost completely drained in order to provide water for the ever increasing demand for cotton for the changing fashion garments.

  • Poor working conditions and long hours of those who make fashion garments are struggling to live their lives.

  • Chemicals from dying and laundry detergents, along with pesticides build up in our environment. They can cause disfigurements and even death.

  • Not only this, but the fashion consumer has become robotic; buying, wearing, throwing, buying, wearing, throwing… Fashion has simply become monotonous and only seems to satisfy for shorter and shorter periods of time. Talk about soul destroying.

With fashion being identified with a close likeness to death, is there any way we can change this?