Bebhinn Campbell explains why fashion and style are not interchangeable.
FASHION refers to what is fleeting; popular now, but what we will likely reflect on in a year’s time with utter disgust. It follows trends set by stylish people. It seems that anyone can be fashionable, all it takes is a couple of glossy magazines and a ‘designer looks for less’ blog post. Fashion sets limits, boundaries, and expectations. With style, these limitations can be stretched – or entirely ignored – and still be stylish. It is timeless, often effortless, and difficult to replicate.
Fashion likes to think it’s unattainable. The close relationship between fashion and beauty can leave a vision of models in luxurious fabrics waltzing down a spot-lit runway. A runway lined with more beautiful faces; people we are told are important and deserving of their spot in the front row. The truth is that just like the clothes, these people are fashionable. Fashion extends past the clothes we wear, it encapsulates the society we leave in, and further the politics ingrained in this society.
“An objective stylishness is slightly harder to grasp, with many building careers arounds styling people who can’t style themselves.”
On the one hand, fashion is an exclusive club, to which most are denied entry. On the other hand, it is becoming more and more accessible every day. The growth of both social media and fast fashion has given way to a constant parade of fashion followers. The two have joined forces to make us so much more aware of what’s on-trend, and these trends are so readily available to us that we don’t need to overspend on runway quality to achieve runway looks.
Style is accessible to everyone. An objective stylishness is slightly harder to grasp, with many building careers arounds styling people who can’t style themselves. The Kardashians are widely (and controversially) considered fashionable in what they wear, but you can bet that some anonymous with an endless list of qualifications has carefully picked out that $1,000 Balmain dress.
It might bothersome to hear the word ‘talent’ used in the context of fashion, but it often rings true when considering one’s ability to style. Anyone can buy an off-shoulder top or gingham skirt and call it fashion, but it’s how they wear it and what they wear it with that determines its place on the style spectrum.
“While fashion focuses on what’s current, style looks beyond shop window displays and takes bits and pieces from here and there.”
Style’s greatest secret is imagination. While fashion focuses on what’s current, style looks beyond shop window displays and takes bits and pieces from here and there. Together these different elements encapsulate the individual – creating something far more personal than fashion could hope to achieve.
Despite their differences, the two come together in perfect harmony. It’s not that style is superior to fashion, or vice versa. The relationship between the two is mutually dependent – without fashion, style would be rigid, unchanging, and quickly exhausted.
Without style, fashion would be devoid of creativity and personality. Yves Saint Laurent famously remarked “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” Style may be eternal, but the flux of fashion keeps it relevant.