Because You're Worth It


This week is the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, which is just one of the approximately seven hundred fashion festivals and fashion weeks now dotting the Australian landscape like so many malnourished, mascara-ed cacti.

I was pondering the issue of fashion recently while walking through Melbourne’s Chadstone shopping centre, which I am informed is "The Fashion Capital" (although it should be pointed out that Chadstone is only the parliamentary capital of fashion; the administrative capital is in Tennant Creek). It was while walking through said fashion capital, marvelling at the apparatus of government, that a great, almost religious, revelation came upon me. A sort of epiphany, if you will. I would like to share this revelation here on this page, because the evidence before me suggests it is an insight that has thus far not occurred to anyone within the fashion industry, any followers of the fashion industry nor any of those who breathlessly report on the happenings of the fashion industry. That revelation is as follows: They’re just clothes.

Call me a genius, I don’t know how I came up with it, but there you go. All those various substances draped over those tottering pouty giraffes up there? Just clothes. I want to get this printed on billboards around the country. I want to have it stamped permanently on the foreheads of every pretentious git swanning around at the festival. They’re just clothes. Like the clothes you and I wear every day, only much more expensive and far less likely to ever be worn in public by anyone without a severe cognitive impairment. Or who owns a mirror.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with clothes, per se. Anyone who’s ever visited a food court can tell you what a boon to society clothes are. But the fashion industry, that’s something quite different. The fashion industry, at its heart, is a vast, multi-billion dollar enterprise set up for little purpose other than to allow dumpy unattractive men to ponce around the world telling beautiful women they’re too fat.

Although the above only applies to a certain type of "beautiful", given that the majority of fashion models appear to be selected to fit the ideal of feminine beauty held by gay men on ecstasy. And so, this fashion week, as in all fashion weeks, we will see another interminable parade of gangling mantis-people stalking up and down catwalks, dead eyes staring out of their angular, cosmetic-caked skulls as they struggle under the sheer weight of the two and a half grams of technicolour cobwebs wrapped around their fleshless frames, before ducking backstage to meet their coke dealer and lay in supplies for their 14th birthday party.

The worst aspect of the fashion industry is its basic dishonesty. If those in charge simply came out and said: "We’re exceedingly proud of ourselves for finding a way to become millionaires while also being acclaimed as artistic geniuses by making ugly, impractical clothes and encouraging eating disorders", there would be a certain integrity to it. But when they say, as on the LMFF website, that "Fashion’s true spirit is in the magic formula of aspiration and accessibility", or when designer Alex Perry describes a bunch of frocks as "The Alex Perry experience" (available now in David Jones stores Australia-wide), one feels a sudden urge to end it all by ingesting a tube of L’Oreal foundation.

The inherent awfulness of fashion comes spearing into your brain when, in a masochistic delirium, you watch America’s Next Top Model, a show where teenage girls cry bitterly at being told they’re not good enough at wearing things. It hits home when you see one of those magazine photo-spreads of women wearing the latest couture, women who you’re fairly sure are trying to look "sexy", but actually look as if they’ve been smacked in the face with a Rohypnol-impregnated skipjack.

The horror of fashion comes home each time the media insists that you find that great coathanger Megan Gale attractive, each time you hear a phrase like, "He’s doing exciting new things with fabrics", each time the question "Who are you wearing?" conjures up sinister Silence of the Lambs-type imagery. And each time Jennifer Hawkins is made an ambassador of something. What the hell is a "fashion ambassador" anyway? Is there a lot of delicate diplomacy involved in the fashion industry? Are her peculiar skills urgently needed to negotiate important treaties between the EU and the Myer menswear department?

Hawkins’s own comment on the matter is that "I’m looking forward to wearing all of the fashions for the Spring/Summer – I love them all". I’m glad that particular burning geopolitical issue has been cleared up.

And so Melbourne must spend a week in the grip of the hideous kraken that is fashion. But it doesn’t have to be this way. I call on all men and women of goodwill to take a stand right now. It can start with small gestures, like defacing copies of Marie Claire, but we can progress to more ambitious projects, like stealing all the hats at the Melbourne Cup.

We can all work to strike a blow for decency, for intelligence, for eating. It’s time to pull on our Kmart denim and let slip the dogs of war. Let Zampatti-labelled blood run in the streets. Let us march forward, proud, awkward, chubby and passé, bearing our standard and bellowing our righteous mantra: THEY’RE JUST CLOTHES.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.