5 Steps to Fashion Whorism
A published novelist, a familiar face on television, a senior journalist, Ms Seema Goswami is best known for her popular weekly column, Spectator, in Brunch, the Hindustan Times Sunday magazine.
So far so good. Apparently Ms. Goswami's novel is entitled "Designer Passion" and unfortunately no reviews of the work could be found, and to cut all unnecessary evil from this post, I'll refrain from the severe itch to judge a book by its title.
Ms. Goswami's column focuses on society, fashion and other such fuzzy logic categories. It is rambling at worst, and doesn't even benefit from the guilty pleasure of bitching and name-dropping. Anyway, on to the column that appeared this Sunday (August 20) which was all about how to tell a true fashionista from a fake one (the HT website requires a free registration to view content, but here's a Yahoo India link to the piece). Anyway, according to Ms. Goswami, here are the characteristics of a true fashionista:
#1 "The Gay Walker: Even if she has a husband/boyfriend/lover, no fashionista worth her Fendi baguette is ever above cheating on the side with a Gay Best Friend."
Congratulations gay men, one more strike for gay civil rights. You've officially acquired the privilege to be the lifestyle accessory to a bored rich housewife. And Seema honey, when you're done hanging your gay accessory back in his closet, read the fashion press. The Fendi baguette went out of fashion since, like, when the second season of "Sex and the City" ended in 1999 (an episode in the show had initially popularized the bag).
#2 "The Pet Designer: The true fashionista always has her ‘favourite’ designer – well, okay, maybe one for every city – though the person in question may change from time to time."
Pet Designer? Ok, besides the obvious silliness of the expression, the concept is utterly and hopelessly redundant. You buy clothes that match your personal style. In the process you have a few favourite brands and designers who seem to design with your colour, style and silhouette preferences and body type in mind. This is not the prerogative of a "fashionista" (whatever the fuck that means), and simply sticking to one brand or designer does not make you automatically stylish.
#3 "The Limited Edition Hand bag: It doesn’t matter what the label or how long the waiting list, she takes pride in nabbing the handbag of the moment even before it has hit the stores."
I'm sure fashion houses and designers secretly have their own cruel terms for describing the women who spend every waking hour filling up waiting lists for handbags. But let me try. Umm....fashion victims? Fashion magazine brainwashed sheep? Cash cows for high-end brands? Women with zero confidence in their own taste who would rather be validated by celebrities and their handbags? Women with far more money than style? Ok I need to stop, but you get the idea.
#4 "The No-Repeat Policy: To be seen twice in the same outfit is a social solecism in her book. And to be actually photographed in the same outfit more than once – frock! horror! – spells social death itself."
To be photographed in the same outfit twice is a breach of good manners and social etiquette? And I suppose no savoir vivre and etiquette is being violated in shamelessly pestering designers to borrow their clothes for such social soirees. What about the Page 3 sort who seem to unfailingly appear in every social event in town every single day? Do they have a new outfit for every day of their lives?
#5 "The Bastien pedicure: ......Needless to say, this procedure is impossible to schedule unless you’re Very Very Important Indeed, like our true-blue fashionista."
Fucking insane. So now we have pedicure pissing contests? Ok wrong metaphor, women technically don't have pissing contests. But equivalent thereof. I bow to the utterly superior marketing genius of the French. Really, scraping off dead skin from the foot elevated to the ultimate in style. Who would have thunk?
So ultimately, I think what Seema Goswami seems to be telling us obliquely, but is perhaps afraid of identifying the elephant in the room directly for fear of being labelled classist is:
Style = Money.
To a certain extent, I agree. Let me explain. The best craftsmanship costs money. A beautifully crafted dress with expert cutting, complex details and superb tailoring from a brand with a reputation for excellence like Lanvin, Dries van Noten, Alexander Mcqueen, Rochas, etc., will not be dirt cheap. A Savile Row suit is worth every penny you pay for it, given the numerous fitting sessions, superior fabric, and cutting and stitching techniques that are unique to tailors in that tradition.
Real Jamawar shawls are painstakingly brocaded on handlooms, which is why so few of them are in existence and the market is flooded with cheap imitations. An excellent Lucknawi chikankari garment would have countless motifs using very fine versions of the murri and jaali stitches and the finest work is usally reserved for tone on tone embroidery, mostly white on white. Most of the cheap chikankari that is available in India is made with the coarse bakhiya stitch or very poorly executed murri. High-end Banarsi and Kanjeevaram sarees are always made with real gold thread and 100% silk, driving up the price of the finished product significantly.
However, Ms. Goswami's article was not so much about high-end fashion and style that is distinguished by finesse, but more about what involves the maximum waste of cash. It is obvious that her ideal fashionista is a woman with a good chunk of money to splurge, but very little cultivation of taste and understatement. And then there is that offensive fetishizing of gay men right at the top.
If this is about humouring and validating rich, desperate Page 3 camera-hogs that the world at large thinks that they are faaaabulous dahling, absolutely fabulous, and oh so chic and stylish, then fine, go ahead. I can read it as an amusing parody and be done with it. However, if this is meant to be some sort of normative guideline for all things chic, then I'm sorry to say, but what this would produce is a caricature, the sort of woman who befriends gay men solely to appear cool, slavishly follows everything fashion magazines tell her and name drop obnoxiously at every opportunity. In short, just because your subject is shallow, doesn't mean you have to plumb the same depths.