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Lessons in our closets, all stacked up

Leher Kala writes: Notably, the pandemic has rendered ‘trends’ entirely meaningless — did fashion actually change every season and how idiotic is that?

Covid has provided a rare opportunity to correct our acquisitive natures.

When I met a friend after a year recently, it just so happened we were both in identical puffer jackets and T-shirts. We had a laugh at our coincidental ode to the ultra-rational design sensibility of Uniqlo. Fifteen months ago, I would have found it alarming, this opting for practical, gender neutral dressing: or that my sensibilities mirror those of a distinctly unfashionable, middle-aged man. I have always resisted the lure of comfort in favour of style but the pandemic broke me. Like everyone else, it was easy to succumb to drab, shapeless rags that matched the volatile mood swings of 2020/21.

This past year has offered too few occasions to get dressed up, leading to all sorts of unsettling discoveries. One, that we own too much stuff. Two, we need very little. Three, after all those months in sweatpants, why have a large wardrobe when you can wear a few items repeatedly — the ones you really like? The uniform approach to style has had a following since innovators like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg famously displayed their contempt for variety by sporting the same clothes every day. Fashions’ fripperies are apparently not for serious men, and after this serious year, this spartan approach is gaining ground with women as well. Notably, the pandemic has rendered ‘trends’ entirely meaningless — did fashion actually change every season and how idiotic is that?

There is a scene in the iconic fashion film The Devil Wears Prada where the formidable editor explains the badly dressed intern’s outfit to her. The gist of it, conveyed in a tone of withering scorn: “You think you chose that sweater? Oscar De La Renta did a collection in Cerulean Blue, copies of which flooded departmental stores, after which it landed in your tragic closet.” The dialogue throws light on the commoditisation of the bloated fast-fashion industry and is a hark back to how so many of us lived, up to 2019. Shopping was woven into the tapestry of our lives, a weekend indulgence to look forward to. Consumerism has many facets, not least of which is the indescribable and fleeting joy of holding something new. That attitude is past its sell by date in the post-Covid world.

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The profound upheavals of the last year have created a permanent shift which will affect everything. Right now everyone is wandering in a fog of philosophical uncertainty, lost, and in search of stable new principles. For example, for a decade, I have been using a cream that costs Rs 4,000 for a tiny bottle. It got over in the last lockdown and needless to say, I look exactly the same. I am horrified when I think of how much money I’ve wasted on rubbish, as a victim of glib and insidious marketing. Like me, too many are realising that clothes and accessories aren’t meant to be worshipped — and that the sensory manipulations of glittering stores must be resisted.

Covid has provided a rare opportunity to correct our acquisitive natures. Possessions satisfy a human impulse but the prevalent obsession for ownership of random things seems to be dwindling. Historically, crisis has always impacted aesthetic preferences and altered perspectives: it was the years after World War-2 that normalised women in pants and jeans, garments previously reserved only for men. Maybe we’ll end up being grateful for these confining days that have provided clarity on much that eluded us before. Mainly, that we can find it within us to look past cheap pleasures, towards beauty and truth.

The writer is director, Hutkay Films

First published on: 11-07-2021 at 03:54:45 am
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