THE BLOG

Why Fashion Matters

08/11/2016 14:51

So why does fashion matter?

Some still claim that fashion is an elitist luxury reserved for the wealthy, or it's a subject that is merely frivolous and ephemeral.

Not so.

Fashion plays into our human need for change and difference. Fashion reflects our very human need to both stand out and fit in.

Clothes can outrage and alienate. They can provoke the political - think hoodie or burkini - and they can represent liberation and democracy - think trousers for women.

I believe that it is this very quality of change and adjustment, embodied within the landscape of fashion and identity, that expresses our humanity.

And now, more than ever, we have a responsibility to ensure that future generations of fashion design, business and communication talent are nurtured. For the sake of our economy, our industry, our society, our political future and our ability to build robust communities, where individuals are recognised and appreciated.

That's why we started Fashion Matters three years ago.

Our Fashion Matters gala is the College's annual fundraiser for scholarships and bursaries, providing invaluable support to our most in need students. And the money also supports the work we do with community groups, shoring up our commitment to working with young and vulnerable people where issues around, identity, working with others, developing choices and securing sustainable futures are tackled as part of our Better Lives programme. Be it working with female offenders to set up sustainable social enterprises or with individuals formerly involved in knife crime, we introduce designing and making skills to foster life changing opportunity.

To date Fashion Matters has raised over 600k, and our mission continues this year on November 10th where our special guest will be non-other than fashion legend and super model, Carmen Dell'Orefice.

Born in America in 1931 Carmen grew up during the great depression. And it seems those uncertain times are not unlike the uncertainty the world currently faces.

Carmen was first discovered in New York at the age of 13 and by 15 she had already graced the cover of Vogue. Her early and meteoric success led her to work with some of the most famous fashion photographers of the era including Irving Penn, Norman Parkinson and Cecil Beaton.

The daughter of a Hungarian mother and Italian father, Carmen grew up a resourceful and determined young woman. Carmen once told me - "Women didn't have much choice in those days for a career - a lot of women didn't go to college."

So it was this necessity to survive and her own personal experience of poverty that has led her to a commitment to ensure that fashion education is available to all, regardless of background or privilege.

And I'm on that same mission. You could say I'm a fashion activist who wants to use fashion and clothing to change the world. This belief is a product of my own childhood, which encouraged reflection and contemplation about our responsibilities to others, and it's a product of early insights as an adult into how other people who haven't had the same education and chances have had the possibilities of their lives reduced.

I strongly believe that talent and creativity know no social or cultural boundaries and that education, and creative education in particular, provide the means to transform not only ourselves but also the society and world we are a part of.

Last year's winner of the Fashion Matters Placement Bursary, Cordwainer's Footwear student Amber Capewell, has told us how the money she received meant she could totally focus on her education without financial worry. Amber, who is the first of her family to go into Higher Education and has worked part time throughout her degree, is aiming to get a First when she graduates next year.

Likewise, Lara Jensen (MA in Costume Design for Performance) who won a full Fashion Matters Scholarship to study her MA at LCF, says the money meant she could buy materials that she could never have dreamed of working with. Lara reflects how the financial support gave her creative freedom to expand into her designs and since graduating Lara has worked with iconic performers such as Lady Gaga, Kylie Minogue and has been commissioned by Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.

Globally, the industry is valued at 3 trillion dollars. In the UK it's worth 26 billion pounds to the economy. It's the second biggest worldwide economic activity for intensity of trade - employing over 57 million workers, in developing countries, 80 per cent of whom are women.

If we ensure our students and staff are aware of the issues, they can use the great power of fashion to draw us in and to bring about change.

And already there are changes.

Fashion is collaborating with science, engineering and technology to create a new future. One where it has a positive influence on the environment, society and our health.

And whilst the developments of technology and fashion are undoubtedly very exciting - for example the bra with the ability to detect tumors before both breast exams and mammograms or the photo catalyst which can be used on textiles to break down air-borne pollution into harmless chemicals - it's also important to remember that fashion is relevant to us all.

So don't we all have a duty to foster its continuation and the type of innovation it can lead to?

Next time you're shopping online or thinking about what to wear, I urge you to think about this.

And that's why fashion really does matter.


The Fashion Matters auction website is now live, with a fantastic range of auction prizes. Bidding closes at midday on Wednesday 9th November. Visit the auction website here.

Professor Frances Corner OBE is Head of London College of Fashion and Pro Vice-Chancellor of University of the Arts London. You can visit her website here.

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