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Some Like it Haute

The urgency to stay online is a writer’s driving force to madness. The irony is that for all the information put out there, we actually know less about what is happening.

With Tapu Javeri, fellow Tweeter, exchanging notes and the use of Instagram

You’d think all this technology would help make our life simpler. You’d think, right? But the reality of the situation couldn’t be further from the truth. One Lux Style Awards ceremony that took place last Saturday sent my brain into spin cycle and it has been churning ever since. One event should have been pretty simple to cover; it was quite simple back in 2003 when I attended the LSAs for the first time. 1000 words and a few pictures later the event was covered and done with; written, typed and delivered within the four-day deadline. Oh but how things have changed now.

The tweets began from the day of the rehearsals, visuals from the venue was the least that followers expected. Recording short clips and uploading them on YouTube followed. The Facebook feeds came a little more automatically and even after returning from rehearsals around midnight, the urgency to update the old blog sucked up a better part of what should have been a good night’s sleep. Exhaustion was settling in even before the actual event had started and the reports, reviews and retrospectives that followed did everything but drain sweet life out of me. Five days and around 5000 words later, I was ready to burn anything that referred to the LSAs! Complete burn out.

LSA rehearsals, here with Rizwanullah, Fayeza and Sabina Pasha in the picture.

God help me now that fashion week is around the corner. I want someone to confiscate my iPhone so I am unable to succumb to the voraciousness of staying online. But I know that the same weakness that draws me to that last slice of chocolate fudge in the fridge will no doubt draw me into this axis of technical evil! As passionate a writer as I am a foodie, I will not be able to resist the Tweeting, YouTubing, blogging etc that makes me part of this twenty first century shindig.

Resist, you’d advise. You think it’s possible to resist the little lights winking on the phone, indicating that there are notifications waiting impatiently for attention? It’s impossible to ignore the tri-tone tinkle that awakes you in the middle of the night, the email that informs you that a new comment on your blog needs to be moderated. How do you ignore the responses your Tweets are getting from followers and how do you not reply to queries that people leave on your Facebook feeds? It’s a quicksand that traps you in an inescapable quandary.

You’d think that information technology would actually be doing a service to fashion. You’d think, right? But as Cathy Horyn writes on her blog for The New York Times:

“Despite the amount of information flowing, we may actually know less about the real work – the making of clothes.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Writers and reporters aren’t just that anymore. Once a newspaper reporter has now become a Tweeter and a blogger, if not more. A fashion journalist, for example, rarely has the time (or makes the effort) to get under the seams of a collection he is about to review. What whizzes by on a runway is hurriedly reported in a few flowery sentences or more commonly, snapped up in a single shot for a magazine. ‘Trend reports’ are the perfect getaway. Previews are generally unheard of, which makes an inspiration, a mood board or a designer’s stream of consciousness (in my opinion the most integral elements in the construction of a collection) inconsequential. Ironically, as the brand value of the fashion industry rises all over the world, its perception has become unacceptably skin deep. Technology, or our addiction to it, is damaging fashion as much as it is serving it.

Take designers, for example. They aren’t just designers anymore; they are brand ambassadors, celebrities, marketers, entrepreneurs, accountants, publicists, merchandisers and what not. Sometimes you get the impression that they design in the little free time they have left over from publicizing themselves on social networks. I follow Prabal Gurung and it appears he is continuously Tweeting, blogging, uploading clips on Facebook etc. Of course, understanding the scale of operations in the west, he probably has experts to do all this for him while leaving him with enough time to create fabulousness for the runways.

At rehearsals: Anoushey Ashraf, Sabina Pasha and Amna Ilyas

I feel we need to go back in time and salvage what made fashion a cerebral rather than celebrity exercise. Coco Chanel was inspired by fishermen on the beaches of Deauville France, hence the nautical stripes that became iconic. Chanel’s love for androgyny was piqued to new levels. We know this because someone took the pains to explore and write about it and someone else made a film about it. It’s stories like this that need to be woven into contemporary fashion. Fashion cannot be reduced to pictures and sales figures….and Tweets that get flushed out quicker that bolt of lightening. Easy come, easy go.

“Mr. Altuzarra showed me a dress and a padded jacket that had elements of perforated leather,” Cathy Horyn wrote during New York Fashion Week (@whatdidIjustsee published on September 8). “It was obvious that he had really thought about how to integrate components from last season (parkas, for instance) into a spring wardrobe. Yet at the same time, when I saw the subtle effects of the leather in a jersey dress, I wondered how many people on Saturday night – when Mr. Altuzarra shows his collection – will notice the details or be able to identify the fabric as the models zoom past and iPhones click away.”

I believe that social networking and being active on the radar is important for every fashion designer in the twenty first century. Websites are essential and designers who realize the importance of social networking have absolutely viral following. But their Tweets and updates need to be about their collections and clothes not only about their holidays, personal parties and mood swings. And amidst all this technical madness, someone needs to take the time to stop and smell the flowers before they wilt away and are gone with a poof! Like I said, easy come easy go. Only designers with staying power actually will stick it out. Don’t be fooled by what your newsfeed says.

(Top two images by Faisal Farooqui, third and smaller by me & my iPhone) 

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