Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Fashion, places

One does a lot of growing up after university.

And I can say from experience that adulthood is a bitter pill to swallow. As inevitable as it is unpleasant, growing up is something that you immensely look forward to as a child, and then realise the true extent of your erroneous thinking more and more with each passing year.

Adulthood – the mistake you somehow keep on making.

One thing that I have personally noticed about ageing is that I have started enjoying things that I didn’t like when I was younger. I used to hate alcohol but over the years I have reluctantly had to tick cider, wine, beer, rum and, most especially, gin off the no-drink list. Whiskey is my only holdout because it literally tastes like paint stripper, but I can only assume that within a few years, I’ll be sinking it down with no regard for my health or tastebuds like a middle-aged hedge fund manager.

I also enjoy tomatoes, spinach, granola and tonic water, even though I know for a fact that none of them taste good. But worst of all, I now have a predilection for Supermix Haribo – a flavour that is objectively and undeniably inferior to the classic Starmix or  the exotic Tangfastics.

God, have mercy on my soul.

On the plus side, among maturity’s other consolations, I have recently discovered the understated joy of wandering around stately homes. This discovery has led me to succumb to the only thing that ages a person more than male pattern baldness: I signed up for National Trust membership.

Like a sort of MTV Cribs for baby boomers, visiting a heritage property offers a glimpse into an unattainably lavish lifestyle – a peek into what could have been, had I not been born to parents of such humble means.

The younger me would have scoffed at the thought of spending a day in an ancient mansion. But the younger me wouldn’t have able to afford it even if he wanted to, so he can pipe down.

It is for this reason that, whilst visiting the property some weeks ago, I decided to do an impromptu blog shoot in the grounds of Castle Howard – one of the grandest houses in the country.

Home-ownership might be looking less and less likely for millennials, but a boy can dream.

Borrowing the neutral shades and minimal feel of Scandinavian style, today’s outfit is simple but packs a punch. So let’s start of with today’s statement piece – my dragon print shirt.

I bought this at a vintage shop in Belgium. I love being able to say that, it makes me feel fancy and cosmopolitan. What sounds less fancy and cosmopolitan is the fact that it only cost €3.

A simple off-white shirt with a Cuban (or revere) collar, the pattern elevates what would otherwise be quite a basic item. The ‘oriental-style’ print hints at the Chinioserie trend that has been popular over the last few seasons. East has met West time and time again in designs from Maharishi to Gucci, culminating notably in the popularity of  last year’s standout item – the embroidered souvenir jacket.

Fortunately, my printed dragon evokes the aesthetic, whilst costing me considerably less than Gucci would have me pay for this embroidered shirt.

You’ll notice that I am wearing a white tee underneath my shirt. This is for two reasons:

  1. It provides a casual, yet put-together look that also offers an extra layer of warmth
  2. A button fell off the dragon shirt the first time I wore it and the hole
  3. would expose more of my midriff than I feel comfortable about.

Annoying as that is, you really can’t complain when you paid €3.

Below midriff level, I have gone for the beloved favourite of hygge-loving hipsters and middle-aged piano teachers alike, beige chinos. When you literally have a dragon emblazoned across your chest, it’s best to go low-key with the rest of the outfit.

These guys were my go-to trouser of the summer and I love the simple, relaxed style. And, as you may have noticed if you have read this blog before, I continue to be physically unable to wear trousers without rolling up the hems.

Bringing a little colour to an otherwise plain and neutral outfit is my denim jacket. Another gift from the thrifty Belgian vintage scene, this oversized outerwear is a great layer to throw on for an effortless retro look.

Finally, on my feet are some sport socks (bought purely for aesthetic purposes, I rarely play sport of any kind) and some simple plimsolls from Primark. Try saying that last bit 3 times fast.

Having now spent 6 years as a legal adult, and 2 years out of university, I have to admit that some days I really do wish I was a kid again.

But aside from the changing tastes and the having to go to work like every day (what’s that all about?), if adulthood looks like this, maybe it’s not so bad after all.





Is fashion art?

Fashion, musings

Is fashion art?

This question, undoubtedly asked by many a fashion designer clamouring for a sense of legitimacy to their craft, has probably existed for as long as the two disciplines have.

Of the creative arts, fashion is perhaps seen as the most frivolous. Fine art has a centuries-long legacy of appreciation and academia, as do music, creative writing, and theatre. Even film and television enjoy a populist endorsement that leaves their existence immune to interrogation.

But despite its ubiquity – most human beings wear clothes, most of the time – fashion can  often be seen as a superficial younger sibling.

But this all rides on the titular question: Is fashion art?

The creation of fashion definitely mirrors the process of making art; from conceptualisation, to sourcing of materials, to the production of the piece. Other than salary, what is the difference between the person who produced these paint-splattered Levi jeans and artist Jackson Pollock creating his iconic “drip-style” artworks?

That said, as Alice Rawsthorn notes for the Guardian, it could be said that fashion and art serve different purposes. Fashion is for expressing beauty – a duty that art, especially contemporary art, is often unconcerned with. Art’s function is to explore the complexities of life and to (at least attempt to) make meaning of the world around us; any beauty that comes from that is merely a by-product, Rawsthorn argues.

I, however, would suggest that perhaps our question is too simplistic. There is still much debate in creative communities over what does or does not constitute art, as well as many line-blurring and line-transgressing works, from performance art to street art to art installations. If we can’t even say for sure that art is art, surely we will struggle to agree on whether or not fashion is.

Regardless, over the years, fashion and art have in fact walked hand in hand. In the 1930s, Lola Prussac’s Hermes handbags wore Mondrian’s cubic aesthetic – as did Yves Saint Laurent’s dresses in the 1960s. Fast forward top the 21st century and Alexander McQueen has collaborated with Damien Hirst, Marc Jacobs with Daniel Buren (displayed, of course, at The Louvre), and even self-proclaimed genius Kanye West accepted help from performance artist Vanessa Beecroft’s when launching his Yeezy collections.

Art and fashion’s give and take is well documented, but the growing popularity of fashion sketches from the likes of Hayden Williams or Richard Haines is a perfect example. Are these drawings fashion or are they art? Or both? Or neither?

It’s difficult to say. But this lack of definition doesn’t make them any less beautiful.

Photo by Rob McConkey.