In addition to the environment in which man is placed by nature, without any participation on his part, he creates himself another, which is generally called the “cultural world.” When we consider the human being in this cultural world, we see that of all its multitudinous cultural forms his dress is not only the one which is physically closest to him but also that which most immediately and most intimately expresses his relation to the environment. Not even the cultural forms assumed by man’s most elementary vital activities, such as nutrition and reproduction, are so directly and so constantly interwoven with human life and the human body as dress is, except as they express themselves through it.
A century and a half ago Count Rumford suggested that the hygienic properties of clothing merited serious scientific study. Included in the aims of the Royal Institution was the instruction of the public in the proper practice of the domestic arts, particularly those relating to “the management of heat and the saving of fuel.” Among these the application of the laws of heat to clothing and fuel economy was specially mentioned.1 That these very subjects have now become the everyday practical concern of every citizen hardly needs emphasizing; and besides these topics there are in modern war, as Sir Leonard Hill has graphically described in his recent article,2 a considerable number of situations which call for the provision of highly specialized clothing.
The metaphysical and ethical dimensions of human freedom are intimately related. This is the most significant difference between the existentialists and Husserlian phenomenology: the existentialists link the power to disclose the world to the necessity of human beings to decide who they should be, in terms of the fundamental values directing a person’s life.
The concept of “existence” designates precisely this ethical dimension of human life. The existentialists argue that, of all the beings existing in the world, the human being is the only one that can decide what it should be; indeed, it is forced to do so since it has no fixed nature. As the existentialist motto goes, “man is condemned to be free.”
The dynamics of the apparel industry are changing dramatically. To succeed amid the shifting tides, companies need to build up competence in four disciplines.
Few industries require companies to stay as nimble and on their toes as the global apparel business. At a baseline level, there is the fast-moving nature of fashion, which requires companies to jump on trends right away, never taking the fast follower approach. That alone gives the apparel business a unique set of challenges.
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?
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.
Sometime in 1932, Salvador Dalí met with the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. A deliciously queer photograph records them loitering together in a Parisian street, swaddled in fur coats so sumptuous that Liberace would have died of envy. Dalí’s is draped insouciantly across his shoulders like a black cape, his straggly collar-length hair lending him a vampiric air. But Lacan, distracted, has his hands shoved in his pockets, and the coat, a plush and stripy affair, mink perhaps, is a kind of nonchalant afterthought. Clothes war, though.