Hype Means Nothing
"Fashion you can buy, but style you possess. The key to style is learning who you are, which takes years. There's no how-to road map to style. It's about self expression and, above all, attitude." - Iris Apfel
I don’t believe in hype. In fact, I adamantly reject it. When others are going mad for the latest fashion craze or TV programme, I stay as far away as I can. To everyone else’s shock horror, I’m not watching Love Island and I refuse to touch any gingham dresses. Truth be told, I actually quite like some of the gingham trends available right now but there’s something in my head that screams “social conformism” whenever I pick a piece up from a shop. Images of all these girls on Instagram wearing the same look flash across my mind, so I break out in mini hives and swiftly create as much distance from it as I can (admittedly I may have fallen prey to one small moment of weakness during the H&M Balmain mayhem two years ago but I jumped on the band wagon very last minute and didn’t even manage to get anything, so it doesn’t really count okay!).
I grew up in a Nigerian household, with a style conscious mother and a showoff, older sister. The culture back home is one that celebrates individuality. It’s the norm to get pieces tailored for church or special occasions and would be deemed near social suicide to be caught wearing the same outfit as another person at such an event. Now living in London, I’ll buy a jacket from Zara and literally be sitting in a tube carriage with 2 other women wearing the exact same thing. Oh the shame!
It perplexes me how so many, varied personalities can all fall prey to the same fashion rules. We'll all wear red this season because some demi-god sitting in his or her platinum Vogue office has decreed that it shall be so. It then filters into all the shops on the high street, each one offering minutely altered versions of the original idea and shoppers gobble it up. Here’s my dilemma. What happens if red doesn’t suit my complexion? What if I don’t actually enjoy wearing red because it brings back horrible memories of having to get stitches as a child? (All hypothetical by the way - I love the colour red but you catch my drift.) If I don’t follow suit, am I some kind of fashion freak to be forever exiled from stylish communities until I decide to play ball again?
The problem with following trends so wholeheartedly is losing the ability to understand who you are and what you like. Having been teased for my big and bushy eyebrows at 13 years old, I decided to pluck them paper thin because everyone else was wearing them that way. Totally irrelevant of the fact that bolder eyebrows actually suited my face shape, I followed the crowd and looked ridiculous! Then Cara Delevigne became a household name and all of a sudden big and busy eyebrows were "in". FFS! I soon realised that I couldn't rely on others to dictate my style any longer. Once my hips and thighs started to aggressively protrude out of my teenage body, I came to understand that a lot of these popular fashion houses don’t create clothes for girls with my shape. I no longer could or wanted to wear the same stuff my friends were wearing - it didn’t fit me in the right way and I felt self-conscious in clothes that were really more about me trying to blend in than stand out. So I changed up my style and decided to set trends not follow them. I learned to love dressing for my body and wearing things that the other girls in my school hadn’t come across. It made me feel special to be repeatedly asked about my outfits and give my answer, knowing full well that they wouldn’t be able to access it so easily.
Now, with the rise of the fibre broadband, fashion is continuously changing at warp speed. This new exposure to a constant stream of potential purchases has meant that retailers feel the need to serve up several micro-seasons in one year for this new age, hungry, consumer crowd. Why hello there, fast fashion! Or are they simply providing so many trends to keep us addicted to repeatedly spending money? Kinda a chicken and egg situation. Regardless, fashion is ephemeral and I have neither the patience or the finances to keep up. I refuse to end up with a heap of clothes that undoubtedly I’ll throw out in a few months time, an endless rotation that we all seem to be caught in.
Therefore, I don’t view myself as a fashion girl. I have no interest in the politics playing out over at Vogue HQ or to read the magazines that dictate the '5 Must Have Dresses for Summer'. Perhaps it partly stems from a bad response towards authority, stretching to even authoritative views over the clothes I choose to wear, however subliminal. This isn't a judgement piece on those who do follow fashion religiously. I’m frankly slightly envious that such girls have the innate ability to keep up with its ever changing cycles. I too fall prey to the clutches of Zara or H&M's latest collections from time to time - hey, when their pieces are as good as they are right now and at such affordable prices, can you blame me? But I am making more of a conscious effort to ensure that before each new purchase, I ask myself “do I even like this or am I just another clone?”. It’s important to continue pushing for individuality and creatively within our styles, something I admire the women back home for. It’s simply quite inspirational. I love the girls who stand out from the crowd, who play by their own style rules, however basic or extravagant their final look is. So wear whatever makes you feel comfortable and happy honey, because all that personal style and confidence looks mighty fine on you!