Dissecting Interesting

Rei Kawakubo, photo by WWD

Yesterday Women’s Wear Daily published an interview with Rei Kawakubo, designer for Comme des Garçon. She founded the house in 1969. Kawakubo is a Japanese designer with the mind for invention and the avant-garde.

The interview has been bouncing around in my mind since I first read it, and I felt like it might be worth discussing here a bit. I hope you’ll share your thoughts with me! Please go read the article, if you haven’t already, and then come back.

There are a few lines in Kawakubo’s succinct responses that stuck out to me, but maybe none more than, “I think the media has some responsibility to bear for people becoming more conservative. Many parts of the media have created the situation where uninteresting fashion can thrive.”

As someone part of the media (thanks blog), it made me think about what I present and if I’m part of the problem that Kawakubo sees. I would agree that there is a lack of criticism in the blog world, which probably leads to a lot of “uninteresting” fashion being propped up. Elsewhere, particular magazines are loyal to their favorite designers regardless of what they show each season. It’s rare for Hollywood to take a fashion risk.

But what is interesting? I assume that Kawakubo thinks it means things that have never been done before. As she also said in the interview, “I was only trying to make something completely new” when referring to her most recent collection. Kawakubo’s work is avant-garde, which is attention grabbing and makes you think, regardless if you like it or not.

Interesting can be unusual, different, odd. Those are easily attention-catching characteristics. But it can also be more subtle. Interesting fashion can be found in the details, like a piece by Ralph Rucci, who is famous for jam packing tons of intricacy in the tiniest of details of a piece.

I think interesting can be found in the mass-market fashion industry, but it is rare. Well-made clothes can be called interesting. A clever print, a seldom-used color, and a silhouette that enhances or edits the body can all be interesting. But Kawakubo is on to something about newness. Popular trends quickly fade out of the realm of interesting when they begin to reach market saturation. They aren’t new anymore, and therefore don’t peak curiosity.

Fashion and its carnivorous nature means tried and true looks keep coming back. They sell, so the industry is eager to put out what it knows it will make money on. And maybe this isn’t entirely bad, but it does mean that a person who has been in the fashion industry for more than 40 years can get bored quickly by seeing the same things over and over and over again. I can’t blame Kawakubo for her sharp remark.

So what do you think? Must “interesting” fashion contain a level of newness? What does that word mean to you? And what can the media do to stop perpetuating “uninteresting” fashion?


  1. Vado says:

    I know that Judges hate it when we treat the courtroom like an episode of What Not to Wear. Attorneys don’t really get to do “edgy”. Today I’m wearing a new dress, and I actually feel spectacular in it, because it is more interesting than most of my outfits. I recently tried on a skirt that had a zipper all the way up and down the back, and you could unzip it to whatever your fancy was as far as level of revelation on the back slit. I dismissed it as both too interesting and too slutty.

    I don’t get paid to be interesting, and I’m not alone. I believe that clothing can make or break an attorney, but I also think that when you get into really interesting stuff, it detracts. So what does my own experience have to do with the media? As a consumer, I gravitate towards fashion as function. I see great shoes and fabulous dresses as art, sure, but what I’m most interested in looking at or reading about are the various ways to make a black suit suitable for all seasons and how to dress up grey plaid with a sensible shoe. So if people like me, who need to y’know, do our jobs and function, are responsible for making uninteresting things thrive, I’m sorry but I’ll take the hit. I wonder if the problem is now that the consumers of fashion tend to be more people like me, who want practical and sensible, and so the high-art avant garde fashion is having some trouble thriving in the same community? I don’t know.

    • jacqueline says:

      It is very true that not everyone can dress in an outlandishly interesting way, because some jobs require more conservative clothing. I think that’s where color and detail can shine.

      And I don’t think the Kawakubo’s comment is a criticism against media that shows woman how to dress a black suit like you indicated your needs are. I think she’s making a criticism on a designer level that designers who don’t try to come up with anything new, who design based on numbers, are still lauded as geniuses even though nothing they do is inventive. One does not need to reinvent the wheel every season for all market levels, but certainly people shouldn’t receive praise or attention when they produce unflattering, unoriginal work every collection.

      There is more media than ever before, and certainly some of it should be tailored to the working woman on an average budget. I certainly love the sections of late 19th C. magazines advising woman how to rework a dress or blouse for the new year — actually that sounds rather interesting to me! Right now a large portion of woman’s media focuses on buying new, new, new each season rather than teaching women how to update things.

  2. Liz says:

    I was all set to agree that interesting is important. Interesting is dynamic. Interesting is what keeps me coming back for more. Interesting is what makes the salon shoe department my happy place. Interesting is what allows talented, creative individuals explore and thrive.

    But then I remembered I don’t actually buy any of those clothes. The well made ones I can’t afford. The poorly made ones I refuse to let into my life. I would love to wear my fashion forward clothing but my pesky life (walking and commuting in a city, my semi-casual workplace, my bank account, limited closet space) gets in the way. So while I like and appreciate interesting, I can’t let it overrule function.

    I like to think I exist in a middle space. I find clothing that suits my lifestyle but also allows me a level of creativity and self-expression. Being presentable and attractive is important to me, it helps reinforce my confidence and competency. Wearing something of interest is an integral part of that.

    • jacqueline says:

      I do not think than function or consumer price should limit interesting. I think it’s a cop out of companies to claim that. Finding ways to make clothes functional and inexpensive while still creating something interesting to look at is a creative problem that requires a creative solution. Any designer or company who claims it isn’t possible just doesn’t want to work hard (or isn’t very good at what they do). They’d rather not expend the mental energy and/or capital to experiment in order to figure out how to do so.

      • Liz says:

        I completely agree and that’s where I agree with Rei. It is possible to create clothing with both depth and function, especially with all the material improvements over the last fifty years. Lines like J. Crew and Lands End Canvas seem to want to find a niche of fusing mass market clothes with heritage brands and I find the quality refreshing.

  3. Amanda says:

    I like to believe my clothes are interesting… there is something in me always looking for the authentic, the original, the different. A sweater with the buttons on the side instead of the middle, dresses with wild unusual patterns, bright colors or unexpected combinations.
    But like you mention, items like this are often expensive. So either you make clothes yourself, or mix it up in such a way, or stand out with accesories.
    Every now and then I like to splurge in a good quality dress, even if it is “weird” , perhaps because of it.

    • jacqueline says:

      Yes I think that unexpected details like buttons in an unusual place is a prime example of how clothing can be made interesting without costing a lot of money. It doesn’t take much more to move a side seam or create an unusual pattern, but designers/companies don’t do this often. Why? I don’t think it’s because it makes the garments more expensive for the consumer. I think this is because they refuse to take a risk. Media shouldn’t reward that, don’t you think?

      • Liz says:

        I’m not on pinterest but I’ve seen so many people share outfit pins described as “the perfect outfit” that are the most boring things I’ve ever seen. White washed of any personality or creativity. Yet they are “on trend”, so celebrated. I can see how Rei gets bored quickly.

  4. Liz says:

    How did I miss this yesterday?! I have some mulling to do, but at first blush, I think in tough times it’s human nature to cling to the past. So, even more than usual, folks are embracing vintage and retro aesthetics that don’t encourage innovation.

    But I have much more pondering to do on the matter. Hm.

  5. Ceej says:

    Only really picking up on one specific thing in this entry – that Hollywood never takes risks. Because UGH so true, but every red carpet gets the focus of every tabloid, and so many of my friends obsess over who was the best dressed. And they think I’m not being fun enough when I say, “…but…it’s the same dresses…every single time…” Also I get WAY too personally offended when Bjork and Tilda Swinton and Chloe Sevigny wear actually interesting things and are skewered in the tabloids.

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