As a fashion designer, I always thought of the word ‘fashion’ as a verb (to shape with the use of imagination) rather than a noun (a prevailing style or trend), because as a verb fashion held an active, transformative quality that could uplift people and change them for the better (in 2018 I even gave a small talk about it called “Fashion Your Life”  for a She For She forum on women’s empowerment).

During the pandemic, however, I came to realize that there was another side to fashion that I hadn’t fully acknowledged. A side that was harmful to women–the impossible standards and the illusion of perfection prevalent in the industry cut women down and caused insecurities–all  masked in a veneer of glamour. I felt the need to explore this idea, of what unconscious emotional pain wrapped in a beautiful package might look like. So I did a few quick sketches in my journal…and soon forgot all about it.

Recently, while working in our back studio, I remembered my journal sketches and thought it would be a good time to try to create some of the ideas I had drawn out a few years ago. (I thought that using overlooked, neglected materials that we had on hand was an appropriate and mindful way of re-fashioning as well, so an old fitting form was used as a canvas, along with hook and eyes, pins, needles, and other fashion odds and ends.)

Lace, one of my favorite materials when designing clothes, became symbolic of femininity and glamour. But instead of representing it in a soft, ethereal way, I felt that street style painting using bold, black house paint made it harder, more aggressive and covertly intimidating. The intricacy of the patterns would also mask some hidden ‘pain’, where I would add shards of broken glass and pins as beadwork and embellishments, representing the tiny cuts and pricks that the unrealistic, unachievable standards of fashion can sometimes cause.

So while this personal project is still evolving and I’m still exploring where it’s leading, I feel that fashion as a whole has reached a pivotal point where it can continue to ignore the hidden pain the industry often inflicts (for the sake of profit), or it can live up to its active definition by fashioning a way forward that nurtures every woman and champions their healing.


*Photos by Ito Ocampo

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