the question of authenticity in street style

I don't normally do narrative posts but there's been something on my mind for quite some time I'd just like to get out there: the question of authenticity in street style.

Ever since the advent of the street style blog, we have seen countless photos of "stylish" men and women apparently going about their everyday lives. When The New York Times began publishing the legendary Bill Cunningham's street style photos in 1978, the term "street style" was virtually unheard of, at least in the way we know it today. I recall Bill Cunningham being quoted as saying "I don't photograph fashion, I photograph style.", something that has always resonated with me.

I was in New York City with my mother this past September, somewhat serendipitously during Fashion Week, and we spent about an hour hanging around Lincoln Center, aka street style mecca. The place was lousy with photographers, amateur, professional and... me (ha!). I found it both exhilarating and amusing as it was very evident who was there to have their photo taken and possibly wind up on a fashion blog or even the NYT style section. It was almost akin to theatre; wannabes parading around in get-ups even the flamboyant Ms. Anna Dello Russo would deem over-the-top. I have to pose the question: what's the point? Why would one dress in such a feigned, contrived and calculated way so as to garner (maybe!) two minutes of attention for (maybe!) 5 minutes of blogged, tweeted or instagrammed fashion fame? Does being photographed make someone stylish? And inversely, does being stylish mean you will be photographed? Much like the age-old adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, style is objective. What one person considers stylish, another person may not.

I read that the aforementioned Anna Dello Russo, a street style photographer's dream who sports luxe designer wares mere moments after they appear on the runway, plans her fashion week ensembles months in advance. Now, there is something to be said for careful planning but that's slightly ridiculous. I also don't understand how she can wear an outfit once and it is subsequently filed away into climate-controlled storage never to be seen again by the light of day (or a camera's flash). But I digress. 

When an outfit is too planned, too matchy-matchy or too put-together, this creates, in my opinion, a sense of inauthenticity in how a person dresses. Sadly, people are no longer dressing for themselves; they are not wearing what is inherently comfortable and appealing to them; they are dressing to impress others and/or to be photographed. Fashion and style are two completely different creatures and, with the example of ADR, its hard to discern between the two. Is she innately stylish? Or is she simply donning look 15 from Balmain's spring collection because she knows she will almost certainly be photographed wearing it?

Emmanuelle Alt, Carine Roitfeld, Kate Moss and Ashley Olsen are my personal style icons. They dress unapologetically for themselves and they possess that sought-after effortless style (read: innate). These ladies do not prance around photographers clamoring for attention (quite the opposite, they retreat from it). The clothes they wear denote a sense of self-confidence and comfort in who they are. I believe this is the holy grail of style.    

It was only recently, in the last two years, that I was able to realize, understand and accept my style. I know what I like in my clothes, shoes and accessories and I happily stick to those parameters (for lack of a better word). I can say now that I dress honestly and genuinely. That being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with experimenting with your style; this is the only way you will discover what you really love.

"Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn." - Gore Vidal


1 comment:

Katja said...

when I first attended Paris FW, those were my exact thoughts. I couldn't believe the number of people that came to the shows just to parade around in their outfits.