Consider your wardrobe. How many dresses, shoes, shirts, bags, track suits and suits do you have in there? Do you wear them all? And how often do you replace them? Now multiply what you see in front of you by 2bn—a rough estimate of those who earn above $10 a day and are therefore free to express themselves through clothes—and you’ve got a lot of stuff. Sustainable style, ring any bells?
Amazon isn’t synonymous with high fashion yet, but the company may be poised to lead the way when it comes to replacing stylists and designers with ever-so-chic AI algorithms.
Researchers at the e-commerce juggernaut are currently working on several machine-learning systems that could help provide an edge when it comes to spotting, reacting to, and perhaps even shaping the latest fashion trends. The effort points to ways in which Amazon and other companies could try to improve the tracking of trends in other areas of retail—making recommendations based on products popping up in social-media posts, for instance. And it could help the company expand its clothing business or even dominate the area.
As the story is usually now told, Charles Frederick Worth (1825–1895), often described as a French couturier of British origin, created the institution of haute couture. This take on fashion history defines the most respected sector of the fashion world—the sector where the economic stakes are highest—as having always been what it largely is today: a male preserve.
It’s true that, despite such notable exceptions as Coco Chanel, beginning with the founding of the Maison Worth in 1858, the great fashion houses have been run by men. From today’s vantage point, it seems as if it’s always been the same scenario: men designing women’s clothing and dictating not only color and skirt length but the ideal shape for the female body—even the types of undergarments to be used to achieve perfect proportions.
The rise and fall of popular positions in the field of philosophy is not governed solely by reason. Philosophers are generally reasonable people but, as with the rest of the human species, their thoughts are heavily influenced by their social settings. Indeed, they are perhaps more influenced than thinkers in other fields, since popular or ‘big’ ideas in modern philosophy change more frequently than ideas in, say, chemistry or biology. Why?
Aesthetics is the philosophical branch of inquiry concerned with beauty, art and perception. From its philosophic roots in ancient Greece, where thinkers like Socrates and Plato considered the inherent meaning and beauty of things, aesthetics is also used to refer to the critique of art and design.
The word—aesthetics—derives from the ancient Greek word aisthanomai, which means perception by the senses. As such, it is used in modern English as a noun, in the sense that something can appeal to the senses. Since the meaning of the word relies upon sensory perception, its definition is fluid, varying through time, and it is subjective, differing between people and cultures.
The term ‘popular culture’ holds different meanings depending on who’s defining it and the context of use. It is generally recognized as the vernacular or people’s culture that predominates in a society at a point in time. As Brummett explains in Rhetorical Dimensions of Popular Culture, pop culture involves the aspects of social life most actively involved in by the public. As the ‘culture of the people’, popular culture is determined by the interactions between people in their everyday activities: styles of dress, the use of slang, greeting rituals and the foods that people eat are all examples of popular culture. Popular culture is also informed by the mass media.
The conformity paradox in fashion looks something like this: Say you are an individual in the truest sense, and everything you do and wear is so unique and interesting that everyone who sees you acknowledges that you are different. A real trend-setter. As a result, your Instagram photos routinely get Pinned across the planet and end up featured prominently in trend analysis reports by mega-retailers like Zara.
In a matter of months your unique style becomes everyone else’s, and you are forced to evolve, or become just another clone of yourself. So you evolve. Again and again, until the only thing that makes you appear an “individual” is the fact that you keep evolving. The paradox lies in the fact that being “an individual” doesn’t seem to be possible in fashion, because eventually, we all end up dressing the same, liking the same things, and posting the same Instagram photos.