High Fashion 

All this I see, and I see that the fashion wears out more
apparel than the man. But art, not thou thyself giddy with
the fashion too, that thou hast shifted out of thy tale into
telling me of the fashion?

William Shakespeare

The roots of fashion, as we understand it presently, can be traced to the beginning of Renaissance, and Shakespeare aptly recognizes not only the frivolity of the ever-fleeting fashion trends, but also that all are caught up in them, intrigued by their novel appeal, and in anticipation of their future cast. Even a high-minded intellectual divorced from the mundane can at some level appreciate a well-dressed put together individual whose comportment speaks of her identity and convictions and makes a statement about her or his individuality.

Despite its transitory nature, one can, nonetheless, award to fashion an element of stability and permanence by resisting the compulsion to succumb to the overarching commercial pressures that now dictate and mold both trends and behavior, by embracing fashion on the one hand as free-floating and on the other as a carrier of what was appreciable in our past, and by making it simultaneously an expression of dynamism and stability so that even as our race looks to the future, it does not lose its historical consciousness.

Additionally, fashion can be salvaged from its shallow repute and given substance. Defining fashion as the Japanese term “imamekashi” that is up-to-date or modern aesthetic and the French term “La mode,” again linked to the concept of modernity and novelty, suggests that fashion is at a deeper level—granted not entirely—a reflection of societal and cultural advancement.

Thus, to be truly fashionable is to embrace fashion as an expression of evolving thought freed from rigid parochial convictions; it is to attempt to challenge and to stand out, not fit in. When its purpose is emancipatory not limiting, and its expression inclusive, not exclusive, to be fashionable is to be truly cosmopolitan. Fashion is thus elevated from being frivolous to substantial when used as a tool to empower and equalize, to question the imposition on all of the trends originating in and borrowed from the “centers of perceived power.”

In short, only when it is adopted as a valid alternative to the Western/Eurocentric trends that relegate all that is not Western to narrowly defined traditional, ethnic, or exotic niches, does it become a bold statement and not merely a vain pursuit.