Is fashion freaking you out?
Join the club.
Do you find yourself staring at fashion mags with wild-eyed, weepy incomprehension? Are you so utterly overwhelmed by the torrent of designer clothing emails that blow up your device on an hourly basis that you are seriously contemplating entering a convent, where you need only wear a crisp white habit and wimple, thereby turning your back on the world of style forever? Do your shopping trips invariably end with you whirling like a dervish while vomiting green bile and screeching hideous oaths à la Linda Blair in The Exorcist?
The fashion landscape has never been more vast, diverse and mind-numbingly confusing than it is today. What was once a teensy, exclusive world dedicated to servicing the needs of a small group of pampered, food-disordered egrets, has now become a throbbing, pulsating, celebrity-riddled, global, mega spectator sport. Where there were 20 designers, there are now 20,000. Where there was serenity, there is now only mayhem and despair.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that the fashion commentators – editors, reviewers, fashion directors – are in total denial. Rather than cop to the fact that mother fashion has exploded and fragmented beyond all comprehension, these advice-givers persist in distilling the season into a neat little cluster of trends just as they always have: masculine tailoring! Couture shapes! Grey is the new black!
You can just imagine these harried professionals spreading out a football field of images from the fall collections in a frantic effort to identify any common thread. Look, there’s a marigold bodysuit at Céline! And a groovy pair of tangerine movie-star shades from Prada! Aha! Orange is the trend for fall! God forbid that they should acknowledge the complete and utter randomness of it all.
The truth of the matter is that every conceivable hue, look, print, frock and shoe are concurrently available. New trends rarely materialise, but when they do, they refuse to leave. The result is like something from A Night at The Opera, the famous old Marx Brother’s movie. People keep entering the cruise ship cabin, and nobody exits.
And so it is with fashion: whether it’s sexy secretary, western frontierswoman, bitchy socialite, punk, goth, bohemian or fauxhemian, the fact is, every conceivable style that has ever been on offer continues to be so – forever.
But do not panic. There is hope. It is possible to extricate yourself from the quagmire. There is a solution, and it’s a surprisingly simple and creative one. In order to traverse this endless fashion landscape, simply, calmly and effectively, and find gorgeous garments that float your boat, you need only take one simple step: you must adopt – drumroll – your own signature look.
Want to dress like a hired assassin? Try Rick Owens or Saint Laurent. Topshop always has great leather jackets.
Looking for an artsy Bloomsbury vibration? Having a Virginia Woolf moment? Dries Van Noten and Haider Ackerman will hit the spot.
Feeling like a 1950s cowgirl or stripper? Paging Guess!
Want to go to the moon? Alexander Wang will take you there.
Thinking of joining Joni Mitchell and the other ladies of the canyon? Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Mango never fail to do hippie.
Once you have zeroed in on your fashion identity, you will experience a gorgeous sensation of relief and liberation. Those days of chasing bogus trends are over.
Now that you know who you are and what you are looking for, the act of shopping, even among the proliferating websites and endless rolling racks of today’s fashion madness, becomes a pleasant, manageable act of creative personal expression.
More good news: the very nature of today’s landscape – the aneurysm-inducing selection of products and styles which previously drove you to the brink of madness – is now your best friend. Regardless of how nuanced or obscure your chosen look, you will always be able to find clothes – at any time of the day or night, and at any price point – that enhance your signature fashion persona. Channelling Simone de Beauvoir? Follow me, modom, the black turtlenecks are right over here.
Eventually, you may even add to your repertoire. You can be Faye Dunaway in Network during the week, and Kate-Moss-goes-to-Glastonbury at the weekend. Surrender to a little creative narcissism. It’s all about you – but in a good way.
Simon Doonan is author of ‘The Asylum: A Collage of Couture Reminiscences’ and creative ambassador for Barneys New York