The Fabric of Fashion: What Fashion Really Means

Fashion is arguably the most influential medium in the world; it transforms the way people perceive us and the way we view the world in return. Fashion is relevant to contemporary culture. In fact, it is contemporary culture. There is little distinction between fashion and culture. In fact, fashion is the fabric that weaves the values of our culture. Fashion is not frivolous. In fact, fashion is a weapon.

What better way to understand the power of fashion than from the leaders of the industry themselves? We have gathered a collection of quotes from the top innovators in the field. And while these designers may be biased, they reveal a larger social truth: the influence of fashion far transcends the runway. Read below to discover the essence that lies beneath the fabric.

Fashion is Communication.

Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.
— Rachel Zoe

The visual presentation is permeating human culture–how we dress speaks volumes to who we are as individuals. It reveals who we want to be perceived as and serves as the signifiers we hope people attach to our identity. In a world of instantaneous communication, fashion does speak louder than words. The style of our bodies reveals more about our identities than sentences from our mouths. In this way, fashion speaks a unique language as a tool of communication. This one: with no grammatical rules.  


Fashion is Soul.

Fashion is not necessarily about labels. It’s not about brands. It’s about something else that comes from within you
— Ralph Lauren

Clothing is tangible, style is not. Style cannot be bought, touched, or felt with the fingertips but is rather felt with the soul, so deeply embedded into our personal fabrics. Fashion can be described as an emotion–a product of our mental states that we wear on our sleeves. This makes fashion extremely personal; it reflects our innermost characters and feelings. And you for sure can’t put a price tag on soul.


Fashion is Anti-Conformist.

Conformity is the real fashion crime. To not dress like yourself and to sublimate your spirit to some kind of group identity is succumbing to Fashion Fascism.
— Simon Doonan

Individualism is a major component of fashion. Without individualistic ideas, creativity would not exist. And if conformity is the crime, well then creativity is the key. The major paradox in the fashion industry is the desire to stay on trend while also maintaining uniqueness. In our opinion, the most fashionable are those who can balance these two ideals. Fashion is not just about leading the style path. It is about creating the style path.


Fashion is Identity.

The key to style is learning who you are, which takes years. There’s no how-to roadmap to style- it’s the biggest form of self-expression.
— Iris Apfel

Fashion and identity are interrelated concepts. Whether conscious of it or not, the clothes we wear formulate our identities. Clothing has a transformative power that far surpasses labels and brands; instead, it constructs a narrative of our characters through textiles. Fashion is a vehicle of self-expression and a style of dress is a visual manifestation of identity. Fabrics are our paint, and we are the canvas.


Fashion is Experimentation.

Fashion is like eating, you shouldn’t stick to the same menu.
— Kenzo Takada

Risk-taking is an instrumental part of fashion. Thus, fashion enables us to step out of our comfort zones and get in touch with our inner innovators. The industry is a space for people to grow; to transcend creative boundaries and invent something totally new. Sticking to the same menu of styles would be boring and virtually defeat the purpose of fashion in entirety. What better place to take risks that within the industry that promotes its incumbents to do so in order to reach their potential?


Fashion is Freedom.

Fashion should be a form of escapism and not a form of imprisonment.
— Alexander McQueen

Fashion is an escape from the rigid norms of society. While we have to abide by the laws set forth by our country, there is no constitution in the realm of fashion. Where conformity is not mandatory, rules are not enforced. And as mentioned before, they’re definitely not encouraged. Fashion instead provides a space for freedom. A place where we can exercise our creativity with no restraints and a place where no rules apply. There is not imprisonment in our industry, so run wild.


Fashion is Humanity.

Clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them.
— Marc Jacobs

Clothing, when left on the hanger, possesses little significance. Merely fabrics sewn together with thread, clothing in closets is lifeless. It is the human touch that adds color to these clothes, giving the fabric identity. When illustrating the importance of fashion, it is necessary to examine the interaction between humans and clothes. When an individual wears a certain piece of clothing, it adds symbolic meaning to that fabric, whether it be a satin dress or a pair of vintage denim jeans. In that moment of zipping or buttoning on flesh, fashion becomes human and begins to embody the values and characteristics of the individual.


Fashion is Legacy.

Elegance is not standing out, but being remembered.
— Giorgio Armani

Fashion provides us with an opportunity to make a difference, and, more than that, to be remembered for that difference. The most successful innovators have left a mark on the realm of fashion. The most successful innovators are commemorated for their contributions to the industry. The most successful innovators have their names are engraved into your brain. Icons like Coco Chanel and Giorgio Armani, to name a few, encompass this sense of legacy. To us, there is nothing more respectable than changing the beat of fashion for the rest of time.


Fashion is Revolution.

Fashion is part of the daily air and it changes all the time, with all the events. You can even see the approaching of a revolution in clothes.
— Diana Vreeland

There is no distinction between fashion and society- fashion emblematizes the cultural changes that our society undergoes. This furthers the claim that fashion is not frivolous- it is predictive of social revolution. And to take this notion a step further, is fashion itself  a social revolution? All innovators would answer “yes” with no hesitation. At its core, fashion transforms the styles of the past. While fashion does focus on the repetition of stylistic ideas, it adds a contemporary spin to the past. Conclusively, fashion is a vehicle for transformation-an artistic opportunity to reinvent the ways of the past.


Fashion is Everywhere.

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.
— Coco Chanel

When people envision fashion, they think of expensive dresses and overwhelming department stores. From this perspective, fashion is seemingly worthless. But what most people fail to understand is how integral fashion is in our daily lives. Fashion is WAY more than expensive dresses and overwhelming department stores. Fashion is integrated into our every part of culture- it drives creativity and expressionism. Even if you try, fashion is impossible to escape- it is a direct reflection of the norms and values of our society.


It’s time to erase the negative connotations associated with the realm of fashion. Fashion is not worthless- each seam bursts with value. We need to change the narrative of fashion one step at a time. We need to inform the world of the importance of the industry- the importance of innovation, creativity, and passion. We need to prove to everybody that fashion truly does transcend the runway. And most importantly, we need to further highlight the connection between fashion and human culture. As the wise Coco Chanel once said, “I don’t do fashion, I am fashion.” Now that you hear what fashion means to us, it’s time to hear from you. Comment below what you think fashion truly is- the possibilities are endless.

Brian Zhao