I am working on a project on how space exploration would lead to new fashion, and how fashion is important to culture, and what the relationship of fashion to culture is etc. And by project I mean 3 slide decks.
So let’s start. Think of all the ways fashion intersects with exploration. The diving bell and steam punk, the actual company “banana republic” -however triggering the very name may be for us today, North face and REI, vinyl, mylar (ok so maybe no one really wears mylar). Pantyhose going from status symbol to mass commodity to no one wearing them because we are all wearing sweatpants or pjs. Maybe we need clothing to explore inner space, sleep and meditation.
So this is a rough beginning that exploring extreme conditions necessitates a change in apparel which then filters into the wider culture. Maybe we dress aspirationally, so that we can pretend we are adventurers. Maybe it is just really pleasant to have a light weight but very warm jacket, and maybe we like how we look, the social group that our sartorial decisions identify us with. So this is what fashion does. Is it a need or a want? When I think about presentation I want my outsides to match my insides, to be coherent, to be “in alignment”, to be “in integrity”.
In this sense fashion is important, and in this sense perhaps fashion is a way to further understand who I am. By the act of dressing, an act of creation, I explore new possibilities of who I am and align with how I feel. Or I look the way I feel, or I look the way I am.
Let’s talk for a moment now, about how we get these new clothing. I recently got a ring. I call it my ring of power. It is powerful. It has a black tourmaline stone. Where did this stone come from? I hope someone cut it from the side of a cliff but perhaps it came from a mine, mined in a very unequal and unethical way. I hope not. But I don’t know. I know the man who made the ring. I imagine him, smelting and carving and fashioning the ring, and procuring the stone in an ethical way. There is a snake on the ring, and intricate engravings. I imagine this taking some time. It is a construction of his mind. It is not a mass produced ring. Although who knows, maybe he got it from YiWu.
So let’s talk about how clothing is constructed. People dont really buy clothing in the same way that I bought this ring. Almost all clothing is mass produced and so people generally wear the same things. This is because it is fastest to make the same thing over and over again. We live in the age of optimization. I first considered this 20 years ago when read The postmodern condition by Lyotard. That in addition to the categories of the good, the beautiful, and the true, we we have a new category … THE FAST! In fashion, there is fast fashion, that is something that moves quickly from the catwalk to the retail store. When you search for fast fashion on the internet, one of the first links asks… Is fast fashion ethical. When we optimize what do we lose, what are those thing that we are stripping away? Perhaps ethics, social relations, the ability of the body to replicate it self… since this is not easy to capture in a price, and the way to measure these things are not standardized, non-linear, and unpredictable.
In my work in devops this is the area that I focus on – THE FAST. The fast only applies to systems (ie to processes). The fast imagines time as something malleable. Is THE FAST always at odds with THE GOOD. I dont think so. When I automate the creation of infrastructure, so it takes less time to spin up an environment, so that we can move FASTER (mean time to deployment, mean time to recovery, etc), my actions do not have an ethical component. In this regards, the FAST is a natural outcome of ordering. I am ordering actions in the best way, and as a result all these wonderful things happen, all these metrics are optimized. The FAST is a result of THE GOOD. So perhaps we are mistaken to think there are these separate categories after all.
I wonder if it is not like Plato said, that everything flows from THE GOOD, the sun that creates the source of light for both the forms and the shadows on the cave. When are are doing things correctly there is TRUTH, BEAUTY, and SPEED.