Fashion has become a suitable subject for academic treatment, but, it seems, only when viewed from the safe distance of the sociologically related fields or when dressed in garments borrowed from more exalted intellectual and artistic fields. The voices of practitioners, or indeed the practice of fashion do not figure large in its academy, and consequently a whole world of
53. Davis, F., Fashion, Culture and Identity, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994, pp. 131-2.
information is hidden from view; unlike other fields in art and design, such as architecture, theory and practice remain disintegrated. The field which is commonly designated as the academy of fashion is the intersection of the various disciplines which have an interest in the subject. Yet it still has to establish its own identity; understanding of fashion per se is usually indicated to those studies which have examined it.
I have enjoyed nearly fifteen years as a fashion designer, and ten educating future generations of designers. I share the view of many that fashion is rich, complex and fascinating, but I have often been disturbed by the subject's lowly status, which derives from not having its own distinct academy or critical structure. When I delivered the lecture in the 'Perspective in Fashion' series which was the basis of this chapter, I reported my embarrassment at replying when asked what I do. Saying one is a fashion designer elicits a certain amount of disbelief; it is rather like saying you are a movie star. Fashion will always attempt to dazzle us with visions of stardom and mythical status, but a deeper understanding of the subject might enable one to say in the future that 'I am a fashion designer' in the same way as one might say 'I am an architect'. So, there is a very pragmatic reason for my wish to see the status of my profession raised but this is secondary to the feeling that fashion should be explored 'because it's there', and it is in that spirit which I write this chapter.
When I delivered my lecture in 1994, I had just been appointed a professor by my university. 'Professor of what?' I asked myself when the announcement was made. I think that I have come a great deal closer to being able to answer that question over the last six years. I am encouraged by the fact that the students who have gone through the fashion course at Kingston University, and elsewhere, during that time, with a much richer intellectual diet than the one I enjoyed as a student, to think that future practitioners will enter the academic debate and contribute to the establishment of the subject as a distinct theoretical entity.
Was this article helpful?