Fashion Wars – Trends vs Style

We have a new guest blogger @Penners_


I’m no one special. I just love a good outfit. I also love football, politics, science fiction & Hollyoaks. Yeah.

And now, her fab first article

In a recent article in Grazia magazine, this quote from one Alexa Chung caught my eye:

“I don’t really follow trends. Trends are a lie magazines make up so you feel like you have to buy something.”

Some might find this a rather odd statement from someone who has made a living out of fashion and being fashionable (indeed, the author of the article in question took great umbrage at Ms Chung’s statement – on which more later). For me, however, it was not so odd.  I felt that Alexa had reminded us all of a very basic point – that fashion isn’t necessarily about trends, but about style.

One does not have to slavishly follow every trend that comes along in order to have a covetable style all of your own. Look at the most stylish women in history, the ones forever remembered as fashion icons. Marilyn, Audrey, Grace, Twiggy and more recently Kate Moss (for me the jury’s still out on Alexa. Her style is certainly individual and distinctive, but I personally find it a bit too scruffy for long term iconographic status) have all been known for signature looks, rather than any eye for a trend.

The most stylish women will look at trends and take what works for them, rather than trying to mould themselves to a particular trend. There’s nothing fashionable or stylish about following a trend that doesn’t suit you – for example, I tend to steer away from drop waisted skirts and dresses (which are having a moment right now) because I know they cling to just the wrong part of my stomach. Similarly, when neon colours were a trend a few seasons ago, I just said no. With my pale skin, they would’ve made me look like a ghoul. And I haven’t got the inclination to do thousands of sit ups to flatten my stomach, or break out the fake tan. I don’t want to fit to someone else’s mould.

I also agreed with the sentiment that trends are there to encourage you to buy something – usually something you don’t need. Nothing wrong with that, necessarily (we all like to treat ourselves if we can), but to an extent, trends are just re-inventing the wheel.  It’s fun to watch, but again, look for something that suits you and can be incorporated into your existing wardrobe rather than slavishly following a trend.

Now I turn to the article from which the quote was taken – the What Polly Saw column. Polly (Vernon) did not share my opinion, and focussed on reasons why Ms Chung had “got it wrong”. Bizarrely, most of the reasons she reeled off were actually reasons why I felt Alexa had got it right!

Firstly, Polly seemed to feel that Alexa was perpetuating “the idea that caring about clothes is the same as being stupid”, something that is “a big, fat, sexist myth”. As someone who enjoys putting an outfit together, I too take umbrage at the idea that this somehow lessens my intellect. But since when did caring about clothes equal following trends? Isn’t that somewhat of a non-sequitur?

Polly also argues that Alexa is wrong because “clothes are a valid expression of creativity” and that “if you dress well…. it’s an accomplishment”. Again, I’m in agreement with that idea, but not that it renders Alexa’s point invalid.  What’s creative about following trends that someone else has picked out for you? True creativity is in setting your own trends, bringing your own unique sense of style to how you dress, expressing yourself rather than someone else.  Nothing to do with following trends, and everything to do with you.

A good point was made by Polly about encouraging people to spend being vital to our economy, and that talking down the fashion industry doesn’t help with that.  Yet while I agree with her, I’m also can’t help but think that if we’re relying on the fashion industry alone to pull us out of this mess, we’ve got some really big problems.

Of course, the fashion industry will continue to produce trends, giving us new ideas, or re-inventions of old ones, to get us looking at our existing wardrobe with a fresh pair of eyes. As Polly rounded up her column “Fashion’s nothing to sneer at, is it?”. I couldn’t agree more, and I suspect, if you asked her, so would Alexa.

About Ross Pollard

Since starting writing on my 31st birthday in 2011 I have held a number of positions at magazines and websites as well as regularly producing articles for numerous publications alongside contributing to TV & radio shows as a freelance fashion journalist including Hoxton Radio & Fashion One TV. Alongside writing, I have worked in other industries helping to design & grow digital platforms, develop businesses and support operations practices. This experience has proved invaluable in building an understanding of how businesses work, and the landscape in which retail, B2B commerce and other commercial operations develop. Knowledge of commercial interests has helped shape my fashion industry insights beyond critiquing of garments

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