Last Saturday I was heading to a down town night club for a gin and tonic with my girls. When we got to Fortuny the place was full and I suddenly found myself swinging and swaying, chatting casually with some new acquaintances. Then it happened.

‘So, what do you do exactly?’ a voice from behind me said. I turned and replied ‘I write, I’m a writer’ to that the man behind a slightly astounded face said ‘Ah, and what about?’ ‘About fashion, about new trends in the industry, catwalk reviews, that kind of stuff.’

I might’ve as well said ‘about pretty expensive things to wear and people who like to play dress up’ as all was suddenly clearer, less impressive and I got a ‘well if it’s what you like doing’ comment and that was that.

A notion lingered in the air; somehow writing about fashion makes writing less profoundly relevant and certainly less intellectually engaging just because it’s writing about fashion. That and how I dress had me safely tucked away in what could be called the ‘superficial category’

But how exactly does an interest in fashion label one superficial? I chatted with Cristina Codeso, fashion designers for Corte Ingles, a colleague and a friend, hoping to get to the bottom of the matter.

Wherever there is a debate about fashion an echo of the archetypal question is heard:  Is fashion art or do you have to be superficial to qualify for the industry?

Cris: Fashion is a way of life. The way I dress is a reflection of my feelings and my creativity and it’s not just about clothes, it’s about finding beauty in everything that surrounds you. We all have different ways of expressing ourselves, you wouldn’t call singers superficial for singing and his song is nothing but a way for him to express his creativity and what he is feeling.

Are we defined by what we wear?

Cris: What we choose to wear says a lot about a person but it does not define him or her. Even when we don’t put any thought into what we wear there is a messages in there for the outside world. How we dress shows what our likes and dislikes are whether we want it or not. One expresses his religious beliefs or lack of it through clothes as well.

3. Why do you think caring about appearances and style trends comes across as superficial?

Cris: It’s simple really. We buy clothes and the fact that this expression involves money exchanging hands it looks as if it’s only about consumerism and not about expressing ones personality. People who don’t like fashion choose only to see the consumerism side of it and neglect the creativity and feeling behind it. To the world outside the industry it may seem it’s always about chasing the latest trend but it is a lot more then that. 

Cristina Codeso, designer at El Corte Ingles

 Do you think people outside of the industry see the work as unnecessary?

Cris: Certainly some people do. However, it’s one of the oldest industries out there and body adornment is a basis human need. Like in any line of work, being a professional in this industry evolves a lot of hard work. One relays heavily on inspiration and that doesn’t always come easily. You need to be very resourceful.

What made you choose a career in fashion?

Cris: I always knew I wanted to get into fashion business. The desire to express creativity in some way was always present and designing clothes is the only way I know how to express it. It gives meaning to everything I do and I can’t imagine working in a different industry that doesn’t involve creativity.

 As professionals of the fashion industry have you ever felt people didn’t take you seriously?

Cris: Some people seem to be under the impression it is all about partying and looking pretty which makes them look down on the industry but there is a lot of work that goes into assembling a collection. You need to know your stuff and you need to be capable of continuously reinventing yourself.
 Tell me about a negative experience you had that was related to being judged by what you are wearing.

Cris: I’ve had people make negative comments about what I am wearing. High heels for example, seem to often send a message across that who ever is wearing them is not to be taken seriously but that doesn’t affect me. I see these comments as a reflection of their or personality and superficiality for that matter. It’s a problem of the society we live in.
 What do you have to say to the people who look down on fashion industry?

Cris: For starters, they shouldn’t judge a book by its covers, which is ironic as this is what they feel the fashion industry is all about; judging people based on their exterior.

The more we think about it the more it makes sense. Society has an issue with creativity it cannot hang on its wall, watch on TV or listen to on the radio. It cannot simply turn it off or take it down when it doesn’t like what it’s seeing. It has to settle with coexisting and that can be frustrating. Can we honestly claim that people in fashion are any different than anyone else?

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